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A year in review

by Ian Apperley
A year has passed since the new Wellington City Council was formed. It’s been a year of continued Pollyanna media releases interspersed with smart social media campaigns. However, when you dig below the surface, little has changed, and while there is a great deal of activity underway, tangible outcomes are missing.

The WCC election issues were simple. Transport, housing, the local economy, the environment, consultation with residents, infrastructure issues, and the long-term plan were all cited as important to voters.

Sadly, progress has been slow, and despite the shiny façade of a united Council emboldened by clever PR, overall results have been disappointing in my opinion. It’s time we called the honeymoon over.

Transport has made little or no progress, and congestion is getting worse. The Eastern Suburbs commute according to Google can now see peak traffic jams of twenty or more minutes with traffic backed from airport to motorway.

The CBD has a lack of car parks. The WCC has made some progress here; they raised the price of public parking. Anecdotally, this is driving locals to shop in outlying centres where parking is free, stinging CBD retailers who must be at the point of high frustration.

Public transport seems to be going from bad to worse, and while this is not the sole responsibility of the WCC – the Regional Council is in charge – I don’t see a wholesale revolt from Wellington on the appalling state of the buses and the network. This week they’ve started to get rid of the trolleys, and more reject replacements from Auckland have arrived, belching diesel fumes with an ear-aching screech.

Parking in the Eastern Suburbs around the airport was something the Council got involved with. But creating a 24-hour zone has done little to reduce the issue – simply pushing people to park outside the boundary zone. Who would have thought?

Then there is cycling, or lack of cycling. While efforts of new councillors have been strenuous in this space, it is as if the WCC is happy to engage with the public and then throw their wishes out the window. No more so than Island Bay where after extensive consultation the Mayor rolled in a compromise option that was never on the cards.

Add Shelly Bay to the mix. It’s now completely confused. We think the Council sold something. The Council refused to answer questions that they should have answered. The Ombudsman launched an urgent investigation in July.

How is the public expected to engage in consultation when transparency and lack of information and a lack of data are significant issues? It undermines confidence in the Council and people are tired of the usual excuse, “we’re reviewing our processes”.

The long-term plan appears to have stalled. In fact, I will almost guarantee that we are at the point where the process of planning will be starting again, and delivering the same result.

The airport extension has faded from view (thankfully), and the Movie Museum and Convention Centre are no closer, along with several other projects. I guess we should be thankful for lack of progress in some respects, given our ever-increasing rates. Adding more burden to residents seems unkind.

The economy remains resilient, though I would suggest that this is little to do with the Council. WREDA has had an awful year, and as it’s supposed to provide the mechanism for driving forward high-value business, this does not bode well. Missed opportunities around attracting business to the city, supporting the high-tech industry, and other low environmental impact high-return services continue to be disappointing.

Infrastructure is still an issue as we know: every time it rains in Wellington, problems arise.

“You’re moaning Ian!” I hear the Council say. Well, no, I am pointing out what a lot of people think. It’s important that the Council is held to account and after a year we should expect better. Councillors, you may now comment below with a list of achievements (not activities, there is a difference) and counter-debate, which I welcome.

If I were to give the Council a mark, in old-school terms, it would be a “C Minus.”
In the report notes I would say; “Needs to pay attention in class. Prone to sudden moments of brilliance. Slightly delusional view of own ability. Given to exaggeration. Needs to focus more on key subject content. Should learn to accept criticism graciously. Does not always interact in a friendly way with other classmates. Has excellent potential. Should consider sharing lunch with others more frequently.”

7 comments:

  1. Henry Filth, 12. October 2017, 6:01

    Nice to see you writing again

     
  2. Concerned Wellingtonian, 12. October 2017, 8:04

    One of the most revealing comments recently was made by Simon Woolf when he was criticising the officer who had ripped into councillors about tackling fag-ends being scattered around our streets. Simon said the officer had not even been at the Committee meeting where the decision had been debated so he could not know the arguments.
    Precisely.
    That is the point about the Shelly Bay decision and lots of others being made when we have been kicked out. It is also the point about councillors fixing things up in workshops, where advice from officers is not shared with the public.
    The new mayor is running the Council like a private plaything rather than a public body. The only consolation is that our local newspaper is beginning to follow Scoop’s example and report some of what is being perpetrated.

     
  3. Cr Calvi-Freeman, 12. October 2017, 10:15

    Concerned Wellington – you have the wrong end of the stick here, I’m afraid. The cigarette butt issue was discussed in about five minutes, as part of a discussion on the periodic review the of the whole public places bylaw. This bylaw includes all sorts of other issues including freedom camping, begging and on-street advertising. The purpose of the discussion was to establish what should go into the new draft, to go out for public consultation, as required by law. No new bylaws were made, and we didn’t all meet just to consider cigarette butts, although people could perhaps be forgiven for inferring that from the DomPost report. The meeting was an open public meeting, attended by the media and a few members of the public who were sufficiently interested in one item or another to attend. The agenda with the full reports was publicly available on the web, as are the minutes. The officer concerned was not involved in this issue and would not have been present even if he hadn’t been overseas that day. So, no huge waste of time, and no secret agendas, just routine local government process as required by law.

    Ian – you don’t seem to be aware of a lot of the stuff happening in the transport sphere. I’ll update you and your readers as soon as I get a few minutes.

     
  4. Concerned Wellingtonian, 12. October 2017, 14:38

    Cr Calvi-Freeman, the report says: “Simon Woolf when he was criticising the officer…said the officer had not even been at the Committee meeting where the decision had been debated so he could not know the arguments.”
    Also – are you proud of discussing Shelly Bay after kicking out the public back in April?

     
  5. Cr Calvi-Freeman, 12. October 2017, 15:11

    Yes, that’s correct, he wasn’t there, as I said.

    Re Shelly Bay, the vast majority of the land upon which the Shelly Bay Company had resource consent to build apartments was already owned by them. If we hadn’t agreed to sell them the small parcel to complete this proposal they would simply have been able to rejig their development and proceed anyway and we would probably have lost the ability to have a jointly funded improvement to the public spaces along the waterfront, which of course remain in public ownership. The Shelly Bay Company wanted a confidential negotiation in the first instance, and this is what we had, although I would have preferred that it was all discussed in public. We did our best to negotiate a deal that would benefit the people of Wellington and I believe this is what we achieved. The final debate and decision took place in public.

     
  6. Paul, 13. October 2017, 16:15

    @ Cr Calvi Freeman:
    Will you be able to meet Ian’s challenge; “Councillors, you may now comment below with a list of achievements (not activities, there is a difference)” because aside from the Regional Council successfully increasing pollution not a lot else has been achieved in transport over the past year.

     
  7. Cr Calvi-Freeman, 15. October 2017, 21:50

    Hi Paul and Ian.

    WCC transport achievements in the last 12 months:

    • Kept the city moving after the November 2016 earthquake and the major slips caused by the excessively wet winter of 2017. This was a huge undertaking and consumed hundreds of staff hours in the planning and implementation of necessary measures.
    • Increased safety and resilience by constructing major retaining walls on Ngaio Gorge and at the Northland tunnel portal.
    • Negotiated and secured funding for the complete replacement of the entire city’s outdated sodium streetlights with low-energy LED lighting and commenced the one year programme of installation of the new lights.
    • Negotiated and let the street maintenance contract for Wellington’s south and east to Fulton Hogan, and achieved an immediate improvement in street cleanliness and maintenance.
    • Adjusted CBD parking charges for the first time in 13 years.
    • Resourced and improved parking enforcement, city-wide.
    • Resolved the long-standing airport parking issue in Miramar south.
    • Installed safety measures on Rongotai Road to address issues relating to two pedestrian crossings.
    • Converted hazardous zebra crossing to lights-controlled crossing on Wallace Street south of Massey University (switch-on imminent).
    • Supported an app to assist people to locate vacant disabled parking spaces and to report misuse.
    • Addressed issues with obstructive parking at many suburban locations to address safety concerns and allow traffic to flow more easily.
    • Commenced the Hutt Road and Cobham Drive cycleway schemes (under Cr Free’s watchful eye).

    Turning now to “process”, as planning is a necessary prerequisite to any worthwhile achievements, we have:

    • Positively influenced the work being done by the joint NZTA/GWRC/WCC Let’s Get Wellington Moving initiative to devise measures to greatly improve Wellington’s transport infrastructure over the coming decades. Consultation will be undertaken next month.
    • Progressed the planning and public engagement for a major programme of cycleway schemes across Wellington and agreed a way forward for the Island Bay cycleway. (Cr Free leading on this)
    • Worked with the Greater Wellington Regional Council on planning for bus hubs and other necessary infrastructure works to support GWRC’s new bus network commencing July 2018. (Cr Free)
    • Responded to and positively influenced GWRC’s proposed public transport fares review process. (Cr Free)

    Speaking personally, I don’t think that’s a bad record for the first year of the new council, especially given the time commitment of the engineers required to address the earthquake issues.

    CCF

     

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