Wellington City has voted 11-4 in favour of new building rules for the waterfront, in a final vote on the issue on Wednesday night.
Public consultation has been required for any building planned along the waterfront, but the council has voted to change that for three sites near the Wellington railway station.
One of the sites is being eyed up by the Hilton Hotel chain.
The public won't now have a say about proposed buildings up to six storeys high on the three sites.
Councillor Helene Ritchie says just one of the 49 submissions received on the issue supported the change, and that was from the council's waterfront company.
The group Waterfront Watch says the decision will allow private companies too much control over the area.
Councillor Andy Foster, the council's urban development leader, says proposals will still go through many checks and balances, including the council's approval process.
He says the vast majority of Wellington's waterfront will remain as open space.