Wellington Scoop

Street demonstrators call on mayor to save the trolley buses

Press Release – Kate Day
Paddling through the city in a cardboard ‘kayak bus’, a group of young Wellington residents is today calling on Mayor Justin Lester to stop the destruction of the trolley bus network.

“Will we have to wait until sea levels rise to get zero-carbon transport in Wellington?” asks spokesperson Kate Day.

“We are here because replacing trolleys with polluting diesel buses is ridiculous. As Wellington begins consulting on the Get Welly Moving plan, we invite Mayor Lester to stop the trolley wires coming down to preserve electric trolleys as a genuine option for the future.”

The group, calling themselves Wellingtonians for Non-Ridiculous Transport, say they are putting the ‘bus’ on the road to highlight the irresponsible direction of Wellington transport.

“Greater Wellington Regional Council’s decision to scrap trolleys, which are near carbon neutral, and lock in contracts for hundreds of diesel buses is irresponsible and unhealthy and the façade of a few battery buses won’t hide this fact.

“The GWRC’s decision flies in the face of New Zealand’s commitments under the Paris Accord, and will hinder the city’s compliance with any new Zero Carbon Act. It is also unhealthy; pumping more diesel fumes onto our streets, including into air vents that condition our office buildings.

“Since Wellington City Council has control over the wires, Mayor Lester must intervene.” Kate Day said.

Mayor Lester has so far not stepped into discussions about the fate of the trolley buses. While GWRC has responsibility over bus services and routes, WCC controls the trolley wire network, which is owned by council-controlled organization Wellington Cable Car Ltd.

“We invite Mayor Lester to stop the wires coming down and to use this time to sit down again with Regional Council Chair Chris Laidlaw and Transport Minister Phil Twyford to find a way to move towards an electric public transport fleet in Wellington.”

“Minister Twyford’s past decision not to save the trolleys was made on one of the first days he was in office. Now that he has had time to consider the government’s transport and climate action vision, no doubt he will now understand the need to support electric transport in Wellington,” Kate Day said.

The protest comes as consultation begins on the Get Welly Moving Plan outlining transport options for the city.

“If Mayor Lester will not delay destruction of the trolley wires, then the Get Welly Moving consultation is tokenism. What if Wellington residents ask overwhelmingly for better low-carbon options? Mayor Lester owes it to Wellington people to preserve the infrastructure that would make this possible.”

The group calls on the Mayor to halt destruction of the trolley wires during the consultation, and if people express demand for low-carbon transport, to have the conversations necessary to make this happen.

The group also calls on Wellington residents to use the Get Welly Moving consultation to call for low-carbon transport options for Wellington.

The kayak bus arrived at 8:45am at the Civic Square side of Council buildings. The group invited Mayor Lester to comment. They then paddled to the offices of Regional Council Chair Laidlaw and Minister Twyford in Thorndon.

Read also:
100% diesel – the cheapest option
How to keep the trolley buses running


  1. Boaz, 21. November 2017, 12:57

    Brilliant stuff. I applaud these young people. They have the right idea. Now it’s time the Mayor and Government listened and put the brakes on the junking of the overhead. Scrapping the clean electric trolley buses is totally insane and for the reasons stated by the Group with the Cardboard Bus. The trolleys are not being replaced by an all electric fleet, they are being replaced by 114 diesel buses being built in the UK as we speak. Also, the stated cost to maintain the trolley system of $54 million is incorrect. Please see Alan Nielsen’s report. According to Alan, the likely cost to maintain trolleys for another 10 years is only about $15 million. Ironically the regional council have spent close to that amount having the clean electric trolley system torn down. It’s disgraceful. Time for a rethink Wellington!

  2. Stop Trexit, 21. November 2017, 14:40

    Well done Kate Day and her young friends and colleagues – let’s hope that loads more get in behind and help paddle their kayak to Parliament and get the old diesel heads of GWRC, WCC and Labour Government Minister Phil Twyford to change their carbon crusted minds.

    It’s time to stop ex Manus Island Processing Centre Managers Broadspectrum making more money ($11 million) from switching off people’s electricity – this time Wellington’s 68 year old 100% electric trolley bus system.

  3. Citizen Joe, 21. November 2017, 14:57

    Mayor Justin Lester; Are you back from China yet? Well, ‘captain’ you have a mutiny on your hands with young Wellingtonians aghast at your ineptitude regarding Wellington’s trolley buses. Please stop supporting memorandums of understanding to put more concrete into the sea to encourage more jets to emit tons of CO2 into our atmosphere, and start doing something to cut back CO2 emissions NOW!

    Your first task is to put a stop work order on taking down Wellington City’s trolley bus system. It’s Wellington City’s – not GWRCs! Order the Hong Kong billionaire who operates and maintains our electricity system to modernise the trolley bus infrastructure. Ask him to make a day trip to Shanghai where trolleys have been brought back because the battery buses failed to perform.

  4. glenn, 21. November 2017, 15:35

    Think you are all a bit late, if you hadn’t already noticed, they are coming down, as you speak.

  5. Keith Flinders, 21. November 2017, 15:51

    As a 70 year old Wellingtonian who has been arguing since 2014 for the retention of the trolley buses I am delighted to read that younger residents are petitioning for the same. But expecting any action from Mayor Lester is not going to get very far. Only councillors Chris Calvi-Freeman and Sarah Free have shown support for the trolley buses; the rest would rather see residents poisioned by the noxious fumes from diesels than make waves, or so it seems to me.

    The new 230 fleet of diesel buses will emit substantially less NOX and other nasties, granted, but are not clean by any measure. Plus the overall carbon dioxide emissions will be higher than when 57 trolley buses ran. Wellington ought to be doing better in a quest for climate protection.

    We are to see 10 battery double decker buses that will have to spend hours off the road each day being recharged. Not an efficient use of vehicles costing $1.2million each. Overseas the next generation of trolley buses get recharged whilst under the wires, and can run 50 or so kms off the wires. Poles are detached and reattached by the driver without leaving his/her seat. This is the system Wellington ought to have adopted and modified existing buses to in the interim. Instead a decision made in 2014 without a business case, without any idea of cost of replacements. A decision that would not be reviewed by GWRC councillors that term or this.

  6. Neil Douglas, 21. November 2017, 15:59

    Glenn – we could stop the central bit being taken down which could be used to charge up onboard storage batteries – beats waiting 10-20 mins at each end to charge up.

  7. Shaun, 21. November 2017, 16:11

    It is correct that damage has already been done to our trolley overhead lines network, but only limited so far. Wires have been removed from Victoria Street (one way outbound for 7 and 9) and from the Kilbirnie – Airport roundabouts and to Caledonia Street, with work underway now to wreck them through the junction and towards Miramar and Seatoun.
    Most of the network remains intact and very little of the stuff removed to date could not be put back easily. Wires and some spans are gone but all the attachments remain intact. Karori – Railway Station – Newtown – Island Bay – Kilbirnie and Lyall Bay remain complete and continuous. But every day that passes without intervention does indeed make the job harder and more expensive.
    With battery buses almost certain to be a failure, the trolley overhead is Wellington’s only real option for powering practical heavy duty electric buses in the next decade, be these pure trolleybuses or trolleybuses with batteries that charge while running off the overhead, to allow non wired destinations to be served.

  8. Daryl Cockburn, 21. November 2017, 17:38

    Well done the young people making a stand for their future. Come on Justin back from China just in time to save the trolleys. Wright speed are not going to work and we think you know it. The young will remember you

  9. Pseudopanax, 21. November 2017, 19:47

    Well Dunnit Kay and crew! Good to see the young standing up to last century thinking. Justin came out of the closet in China re the airport extension so I am guessing he is for four lanes to the planes also.
    Where is the political leadership to stop the roading juggernaut?