Wellington Scoop

Trolley buses, light rail, and votes

NZ First should pick up some extra votes in Wellington after the news that its policy for the elections supports retention of trolley buses and light rail to the airport.

As we reported last week.

NZ First’s transport spokesperson says it would retain Wellington’s trolley buses and renew the buses’ electricity supply. He also says it wants Wellington Airport served by light rail.

And this policy could bring results. Transport economist Neil Douglas explains:

If NZ First gets enough seats, then they could make trolley bus retention and upgrade of the power supply a condition of supporting a National or Labour Government, with detailed project planning via a tender to the private sector for light rail to Wellington Airport starting immediately. This would be the Canberra solution whereby we could get light rail in five years, and paid for by Central Government.

The other parties havent yet announced their transport policies.

The Greens responded to our report by pointing to their policy for the 2015 local elections

“Better and more affordable public transport is at the heart of what Green councillors will work to deliver for Wellington, including clean all-electric buses and light rail from the CBD to the airport,” said Wellington Regional Council candidate Sue Kedgley.

They also pointed to a 2015 press release from Gareth Hughes when he asked the Regional Council to keep the trolleys (and then a majority of councillors voted to scrap them.)

Labour’s transport policy is still being developed, so the response from Grant Robertson was a personal one.

… I personally strongly support electric buses in Wellington. In the medium to long term these should be battery powered as that technology develops. We should retain the trolley buses in the meantime while the electric fleet is developed. I also remain a supporter of light rail across the city, initially to the hospital and then on to the Airport. The costings done at the time the decision was made for the Rapid Transit bus service proposal need to be re-assessed in light of new technology. I think we will find light rail is now a much more cost effective option.

As the Wellington.Scoop community has made clear for many months – the decision to get rid of trolley buses doesn’t have much support. And the arguments in favour of light rail do seem to stack up in terms of reducing midcity congestion.

So let’s see if NZ First policy really becomes influential after the votes have been counted.


  1. Victor Davie, 4. July 2017, 17:42

    A pity Labour’s Grant Robertson comments “We should retain the trolley buses in the meantime while the electric fleet is developed”. Just what electric fleet is he talking about? Trolleys are the only 100% electric fleet on earth. Sounds like Grant is becoming fooled by the Regional Council.

  2. Henry Filth, 7. July 2017, 5:22

    Fast rail to the airport? Please?

  3. Rollo, 8. July 2017, 2:36

    Light Rail = Heavy Engineering

  4. Neil Douglas, 8. July 2017, 19:06

    Is Grant Robertson (and any other central government politician) a representative on Lets Get Welly Moving? If not why not?

    LGM raises the question as to why we need a Regional Council since political representation could be from city councils plus central government. Think of the savings…

  5. Casey, 9. July 2017, 19:37

    Neil. At the time the Super City was floated by Fran and the GWRC, many said they had it back to front. The GWRC needed to be consigned to history, with constituent councils made to work smarter and co-operate more with each other. Instead we got a continuance of the same, but there appears to be more dialogue between the councils, finally.

  6. andy foster, 10. July 2017, 11:05

    Casey – with the inevitable demise of mass mergers of Councils, we did have a proposal and some meetings involving all 9 councils and NZTA under the auspices of the Local Government Commission about establishing a Wellington Regional Transport Agency. NZTA indicated it was up for putting its local decision making into the mix, all the Councils seemed game. This would essentially have meant little need for a Regional Council (its core activities are Transport (by far the biggest), Water (already with Wellington Water), Flooding, Regional Parks and Consenting – all of which could have been handled by one of the TA’s
    However a key stumbling block was what I assume to be a Central Government dictate, which was that there be no elected members on the Board of that agency. I think we all know how local, vocal and passionate people (everywhere) are about transport. Handing decisions about local streets and big picture planning over to an un-elected body was never going to fly. It would also have probably created a huge disconnection with urban planning.
    You are right too that the relationships between Councils are generally very good.

  7. Michael, 11. July 2017, 19:59

    But what would be the point of leaving it up to the WCC – they don’t seem to be objecting to the hundreds of smelly polluting and noisy diesel buses we are all going to have to put up with soon.