Wellington Scoop

Johnsonville left out in the cold

by Kerry Wood
The Regional Council is consulting on a new public transport hub at Johnsonville. After seeing the papers, I didn’t bother: no adequate options and no opportunity for debate.

But something is needed. The present-day Johnsonville hub has minimal weather-protection, crowded shelters, few seats and poor access, for both buses and pedestrians.

The WCC’s 2008 Johnsonville Plan traced railway station improvement plans back to 2003 and understood the need for action:

> The redevelopment of the town centre provides a unique opportunity to better utilise the investment in this transport infrastructure by increasing the population catchment around the rail station and by building public transport usage into the design of new facilities.

Fortunately, upgrading is simple: buses can use the existing stop area, raised to railway platform level, with entry and exit at either Broderick or Moorefield Roads.

Unfortunately, that option was closed last January, when the WCC issued a resource consent for Johnsonville Mall.

Three options are offered, all on-street, with buses stopping on both sides of two busy roads. Walking distances are too long, and facilities are minimal. Stops are potentially dangerous because passengers will be hurrying for connections, but all crossings are at traffic signals, with the long waits traditional in Wellington.

The consultation document states ‘there is a 200m (2 minute) walk between Johnsonville Road and Moorefield Road’ through the Mall. Transfer distances are as as much as 150m further, in Johnsonville and Moorefield Roads. Some passengers will have to walk over 300m: six minutes for the slowest 10% of passengers.

Best-practice changes in a public transport hub can be made reliably in 2–3 minutes. Some authorities accept five minutes, but a change needing a six minute walk is a long-term commitment to bad practice. Connections can only be made one-way, because the alternative would be both buses waiting far too long.

Auckland and Christchurch are building excellent hubs, and Wellington’s much older Waterloo hub remains adequate. So why are passengers using the busier Johnsonville hub being left out in the cold?

In the short term nothing can be done, and any quality options will now be very costly:

— No space for a proper hub, with everything close together and under cover.

— No space for a second platform (to allow more frequent trains).

— No space for light rail (which would need double track). The opportunity to future-proof good access to the Lincolnshire Farms area has been lost.

— Little or no space for park-and-ride (the revised concept plan page on the WCC website is inconsistent here).

The best remaining option seems to be purchasing a block of developed land south of Broderick Road (13,000 square metres) and relocating the railway station some 150m further south. This area is much the same as Auckland’s Otahuhu hub, and will be far more costly than following up the 2008 Johnsonville Plan.

At some stage we must replace more-roads-at-any-cost with more efficient and much cheaper use of existing roads. All it needs is fewer cars and more walking, cycling and public transport. Strong responses to climate change are now urgent and Wellington is at a turning-point. As the new Congestion-Free Coalition puts it:

Will Wellington continue to be a city built around the needs of cars or will we start to re-design it in a way that puts the needs of people first?



  1. Ian Shearer, 20. July 2017, 7:55

    Thank you for this succinct critique Kerry. How can our transport planners get things so wrong? Are they trying to kill public transport completely?

    Excellent public transport transfer facilities are an essential component of an improved public transport system. We are all going to have to do more transfers when the new bus schedules start in 2018. This does not auger well for the planning of other new public transport options.

    Why are the options laid out in the WCC 2008 Johnsonville Plan not being offered to the public in this consultation? Who dropped the ball? WCC or GWRC planners or councillors? Is it a cost issue? Is it a land-owner issue?

    Come on Mayor Lester and councillors – you owe us an explanation of what went wrong. Send this design back to the planners with a fail mark. We must do better.

  2. Gordon, 21. July 2017, 16:05

    It’s not only Johnsonville. Next year the city gets new bus routes with interchange hubs where commuters will be pushed off buses to stand in the rain to wait for overcrowded buses that will probably be full beyond capacity. All this because they want to break up the system for contracting purposes,

    I also note the point re the too-long waiting times at pedestrian crossings at Wellington lights. These are compounded by the extremely short periods when it is legal to commence crossing. – at best under 5 seconds. This morning when crossing the quays I was about 3 metres back from the road but by the time I got there the light was already flashing red.

  3. Daran Ponter, 22. July 2017, 17:28

    @ Gordon: Yes, the 1 July 2018 new bus network will mean new routes in some instances – and more people will have to change buses to get to their destination – but not significantly more people than currently make such transfers. And other commuters will experience more direct services and will not have to transfer, where they currently do. In addition, from 1 July 2018 the following fare fare products are likely to apply (subject to final Council approval):

    – free fare transfers between buses;
    – 25% off-peak travel discount; and
    – 25% peak discount for students.

    @ Ian – Yes, frustrating. But with the current bus hub at the Johnsonville Mall denied to GWRC, the only options in this vicinity were on the road. At this stage, I understand that more than 130+ submissions were received on the Johnsonville Hub (200+ on the Kilbirnie Hub).

  4. doug watson, 23. July 2017, 8:13

    A good summary of utterly inept planning by all concerned. The situation has been reached where the public have a much better appreciation of what needs to be done than the politicians and so called professionals – how did this happen?

  5. Daran Ponter, 23. July 2017, 14:59

    @ Doug It might be called landbanking! The Johnsonville Mall has been stagnant for years now, and is only getting worse. Meantime, the Mall owners periodically run out new proposals for development. Their latest proposal, for which they have resource consent, now excludes the possibility of hub facilities in the general location of the existing facility (acknowledging that that facility is far from perfect ). As a consequence the transport planners have had to look for on-road options.

    Planner did look at other land in this area, but to no avail. As you will appreciate Johnsonville Central is very physically. constrained.

  6. Tony Randle, 23. July 2017, 20:39

    Sorry Daran, re your claim that ” transport planners have had to look for on-road options,” the truth is that GWRC and WCC transport planners never considered anything but the on-road options for Johnsonville now being put to the public. They only budgeted $150,000 to build the bus stops now being proposed … keeping the bus hub would have cost much more than their budget (although likely less than the $10M the GWRC recently spent on the new Upper Hutt Railway Station). They put so little thought into the possibility of keeping the bus hub beside the railway station they didn’t even bother asking KiwiRail about the possibility.

    In fact GWRC and WCC planners don’t even consider keeping the bus hub within the Johnsonville Triangle important. One only has to read the Mall Resource consent to see the removal of the bus hub was not even mentioned as a concern. The WCC planner considers the effect from moving the off-road bus hub to on-road bus stops to be “less than minor”.

    Finally, it must be mentioned, after all the current talk about community consultation, that the GWRC and WCC cooked up these options without any consultation with the Johnsonville community … though consultation was promised. The first the community found out that the Bus Hub was to be dismantled was when it obtained a copy of the draft Mall Resource consent under the OIA.

    Johnsonville (and Wellington) commuters need to understand that the GWRC attitude is to spend as little as possible on the bus service … and this is the plan into the future. Chris Laidlaw claims that $1.3B is being spent to improve our transport services but only $31M is for “Bus Rapid Transit”. The regional council, after spending almost nothing over the past decade, will direct just 3% of future transport investment to improving the Wellington bus service. When it comes to our bus service the councils couldn’t do less without actually doing nothing.

  7. Ian Shearer, 26. July 2017, 20:58

    Clearly if no land other than roads is available for a public transport hub, then it should be built on the publicly owned roading land. All access for private vehicles to that section of roading (other than disabled access), including vehicle access to the J’ville Mall from this public owned land, must be stopped and a roof for weather protection installed over the new public transport hub. New shopping facilities, in competition with J’ville Mall, should also be installed in the new transport hub. There are more ways to solve this than we have seen offered to date.

  8. Daran Ponter, 26. July 2017, 22:05

    @ Tony Randall – As you know, the Mall land is almost entirely private land, so the Mall owners had no obligation to retain the bus hub. The bus hub essentially had squatters’ rights. I agree with your comments about consultation and I have raised this again today with GWRC councillors and staff. These are my words:


    You know that I have always been keen on active engagement with communities. I don’t feel we have had that on the bus hubs. We seem to be very reticent to engage. We then appear aloof and/or arrogant. I know that there is a lot going on but I would have preferred that:
    A) we had met with community groups before finalising the options; and
    B) called two community meetings (one for each area) on the options.
    We seem to have developed a real aversion to face to face engagement and I am struggling to understand why that is.

  9. Mike Mellor, 27. July 2017, 10:43

    Spot on, Daran – GWRC’s consultation and communications style certainly needs to change, and the bus hubs consultation is just the most recent example. Neither the Johnsonville nor the Kilbirnie proposals are simple, and to put it bluntly the documentation makes a pig’s ear of presenting them, with incomplete, contradictory and missing information. For instance, the essential background information about the new routes is not there – e.g. how easy will be the interchange that will be required on nearly all journeys to/from Strathmore Park, and between the eastern suburbs and the hospital? – and the statement that the Airport Flyer’s stops will be “as now” when at least one of its current stops disappears in every option is clearly ludicrous.

    Unfortunately this is not the only example of poor GWRC communication. As it well knows, there is no clear information at Wellington bus and train station (the region’s most important transport hub) about how to get to important places like Kilbirnie, Karori, Brooklyn, Lower Hutt or Newtown; and timetables for train-replacement buses are largely works of fiction, listing unachievable times (across the Rimutakas or through the streets of Lower Hutt at an average of 90km/h, anyone?) at stations that the buses do not actually serve.

    Sadly, no-one with the ability to change these things seems particularly interested in doing just that.

  10. Tony Randle, 28. July 2017, 9:11

    @Daran: While it is great to have at least one regional councilor prepared to publicly discuss concerns with what is happening in Johnsonville, your response that Johnsonville is getting road-side bus stops because “… the Mall land is almost entirely private land, so the Mall owners had no obligation to retain the bus hub” misses the point.

    The real question is: Why didn’t the Greater Wellington Regional Council approach the Mall owners and Kiwirail with a view to purchasing some of the land beside the railway station (that GWRC also owns) on which a quality off-road bus hub could be built? The GWRC has purchased private land for public transport facilities several times in the past … for example it purchased the Waikanae Hotel in 2015 to expand the park and ride carpark beside the railway station (https://tinyurl.com/yd5wgwhc).

    I will repeat that the real reason for Johnsonville and Kilbirnie getting cheap and nasty on-road bus stops is the GWRC transport planners never even tried to do anything else. For example, the Waikanae station cark park expansion has a budget or $1,700,000 (https://tinyurl.com/yb9uob46) yet Johnsonville has a budget of just $150,000 to relocate one of the busiest bus interchanges in Wellington … less than 1/10th that of a car park!

    The GRWC obviously prioritises providing parks for cars at its rail stations to be much more important than providing safe and comfortable facilities for real people wanting to take the bus … and our regional councillors are either defending this or (mostly) silent.

  11. David Bond, 28. July 2017, 13:43

    Can GWRC not simply *compulsorily purchase* the land required to retain the off-road bus/rail hub? Compulsory land purchases never seem to be a problem when roading schemes require it.

  12. Daran Ponter, 28. July 2017, 18:02

    @ David Bond Yes, the option of using the Public Works Act 1981 to compulsorily acquire land for a transport hub at Johnsonville is available to both the WCC and GWRC. But this is not a tool that should be used lightly.

  13. Daran Ponter, 28. July 2017, 18:11

    @ Tony Randle The GWRC planners will need to explain their actions. I arrived to this issue rather late, with many decisions already made behind closed doors. I know it beggars belief but councillors sometimes have no better luck getting rational responses to issues than you do. If it had been me, I would have definitely been in contact with Kiwirail and attempted to work through an approach that delivered a truly integrated interchange facility (recognising that Kiwirail is not the easiest organisation to work with either).

    I agree there is an apparent inconsistency in message about what we are doing on park and ride and station/hub upgrades across the region – hence my call for a comprehensive park and ride strategy (noting that aspects of the Public Transport Plan are also currently being reviewed as well).

  14. Kerry, 31. July 2017, 7:43

    A short video on how to do it properly, at:


  15. Mike Mellor, 31. July 2017, 13:00

    Daran, GW needs more than just a park and ride strategy – that’s arguably the most expensive and least sustainable way of getting people to/from public transport. What’s needed is an Access to Public Transport Strategy, including all ways of getting to/from the station/stop, and implementing those that are the most effective. (It would be interesting to see how P&R would rate.)

    There’s some very cheap low-hanging fruit to be picked. For instance, there’s negligible signage to/from some railway stations, particularly along walkways – Johnsonville line stations spring to mind, where good walking routes to/from Box Hill, Khandallah and Raroa stations are completely anonymous. Fixing these (and others) would cost a fraction of just one P&R space.

  16. Luke, 31. July 2017, 13:46

    I like the idea of improving walk the catchment, A station between melling and western hutt with a bridge over the hutt river into lower hutt. A walkway directly off Cuba st into ava station when they finally get around to replacing the earthquake destroyed one, a subway under the quay at wellington station to the waterfront.

  17. Tony Randle, 31. July 2017, 21:19

    @Daran Irrespective of whether anything comes from your claim that “The GWRC planners will need to explain their actions” (which I sincerely doubt will happen), Johnsonville as a major public transport hub is still STUFFED … all the GWRC options on offer are much worse than what we have now as pointed out by Kerry in this article (thanks Kerry).

    I also agree with Mike Mellor when he says ” GW needs more than just a park and ride strategy” … IMHO we need a proper Regional Bus Plan through which everyone can engage and agree how to improve the most important and most used PT service in the region. The GWRC has long had a Regional Rail Plan (http://www.gw.govt.nz/regionalrailplan2013-2/) through which it has channeled literally hundreds of millions into improving the Wellington Rail Service (e.g. millions for park and ride … but only for rail commuters). Having no GWRC Regional Bus Plan means transport planners can do what they want which is usually as little as possible … hence the dismantling of the Johnsonville Bus Hub.

  18. Neil Douglas, 1. August 2017, 14:41

    Tony Randle, re the Waikanae Hotel: Putting my economic rationalist hat on, I make the $1.7million Waikanae Hotel purchase + say $1million (cheap?) for car parking construction (lights, tarmac, footpath, gates etc) equal to an annualised capital cost (240 spaces) of $820 per car space (6% discount rate for 30 years). Per day (250) the capital cost would be $3.30 per car space. If normal funding rules were to apply, with NZTA (petrol) and GWRC (rates) generously chipping in 25% each, the car parker users (assuming 100% occupancy) would pay the remaining $1.65 each per day.

    The typical return trip fare to Wellington is $20 (10 ten trip) so car and park rail users would pay $21.65(+8%) in total. That’s excluding an O&M costs for the car park. Seems fair to me or should we continue to subsidise ‘sprawl’ across the golden fields of the Kapiti Coast?

  19. Mike Mellor, 1. August 2017, 22:29

    Tony R: it’s not just the Johnsonville Bus Hub that’s being dismantled, it’s the Johnsonville Transport Hub – don’t forget the trains!

    Neil D: and there’s the opportunity cost of that piece of that piece of real estate being sterilised by a carpark that is of zero economic benefit to Waikanae, if it is used as intended – people will go straight from car to train and vice versa. It could well be that people going to Waikanae will use this car park, eg at weekends (similar to what happens at Petone), so GWRC will be subsidising local as well as commuter parking. Does that make sense?

  20. Luke, 2. August 2017, 10:58

    I don’t see why those who get dropped off/walk/cycle should subsidise those who want to store their car at the station. Seems parknride should be an additional charge; heck I pay $100 for a cycle locker but drivers get to store their cars for free.