Wellington Scoop

They want to be told


The Regional Council says it wants us to tell them what matters. The question turns out to be part of their long-term planning process. But the council isn’t waiting for our suggestions – it has already decided what matters, and has made a list of five key priorities.

“We can’t create the region you want if we don’t hear your voice,” says the council. Yet it seems to be more interested in what we think of its list than wanting to hear about any other concerns.

Hard to deny that the council’s five priorities are all in the “what matters” category. And two or three seem to have been handled well.

Water Supply: the bulk water infrastructure consistently delivers high quality drinking water to the four cities.


Biodiversity: Our region contains healthy plant, bird and wildlife habitats …

and, perhaps

Resilient infrastructure: core infrastructure is resilient in the face of adverse events (including flooding and drought). It provides essential services to our communities, and facilitates economic growth.

There’s a lot crammed into those two sentences. And we know that work is being done on core infrastructure.

However, for the other two priorities that are “things that matter,” the council’s success levels are challengeable. Consider:

Freshwater Quality: the quality of the freshwater in our rivers, lakes and streams is maintained or improved.

One of the worst problems faced by the regional council is toxic algae in the Hutt River, which is dangerous – even life-threatening – to dogs and their owners. The poison arrives every year, yet the the council doesn’t seem to be able to find a way to stop it. More than a year ago the council offered clues about what causes the poisonous substances, but didn’t seem to be able to follow up with a remedy. This is certainly something that matters … and needs fixing.

Then there’s the sad state of Porirua Harbour, where much work is being done to reduce pollution, with an action plan introduced more than two years ago. But a survey last year showed three continuing concerns: an increased level of mud in the Pauatahanui Arm, a decline in the health of streams, particularly the Porirua Stream, and poor water quality at swimming beaches and shellfish gathering areas. Again, these are issues that matter, with problems that are not being improved.

And don’t forget the 3000 tonnes of sediment flowing into the harbour from the construction of Transmission Gully, an amount which was identified by the board of inquiry. It may be beyond the control of the Regional Council, but it’s something that matters to all of us.

Then there’s public transport. Hard to believe that the council needs to ask us to tell them whether we feel it matters …

Public transport: We provide a high quality and reliable public transport network

The council has a recent record of failing to respond to prolonged public concerns about the demise of the trolley buses. It’s a loss that matters to many people, but not so much to the Regional Council which refused to review its decision. We told them the trolley buses mattered. The council refused to hear the concerns.

As for quality and reliability – that’ll be something that many people will be telling the council about in response to its invitation.

The Regional Council lists two other topics on which it wants us to tell them whether they’re in the “what matters” category.

Climate change
We will take a leadership role in reducing regional greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change

Definitely something that matters. But the council has gone backwards on this one, by its decision to replace trolley buses with 100 per cent diesels till the second half of next year. We’ve published many detailed criticisms of this plan, and recent comments have been aimed at Cr Donaldson who chairs the council’s transport committee. The views obviously didn’t matter to her. She has failed to reply.

And finally

Economic development … we will take a leadership role in continuing to develop the economy of the region and look for new opportunities

This one is confusing, as the Regional Council is one of the partners in the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, which was formed with exactly those aims. Why such duplication by the Regional Council, when there’s another organisation that’s supposed to be doing the job? The Regional Council is advising us: Your input will ensure that we are making the right choices. So we’ll need to help them decide whether or not its aim of economic leadership is something that really matters, or something which is a wasteful duplication of a job that’s being done elsewhere.


  1. Marion Leader, 28. November 2017, 11:16

    Transport is totally out of hand. One of the reasons is the attitude of councillors to getting reports about how contracts are being fulfilled. How are the buses and trains performing? Has the standard (say 99% punctuality) been set by GW? Or is it done by methods created by the operators (departure times which can be up to five minutes late for instance)? Can you see out of the windows or have they been turned into revenue devices for the benefit of the operator only? Why is the bus to Highbury being discontinued? Do any of the Councillors actually use buses or trains?
    What was the voting on the last report about these things?

  2. Traveller, 28. November 2017, 11:37

    Does the council actually have control of water and transport? Aren’t they run by separate independent organisations?

  3. Concerned Wellingtonian, 28. November 2017, 12:44

    Traveller – the answer to both your questions is No.
    GW needs a HUGE shake-up.

  4. Ms Accountability, 28. November 2017, 16:54

    It all matters..a lot. But does it really matter to the Regional Councillors or are they just counting on nobody watching?
    Greenhouse emissions? Diesel buses yeah right.
    Water. Irrigation? Water standards?
    Climate change – Regional and Coastal Plan etc. etc.
    Which regional councillors are proactive on these issues and how?

  5. Peter Barlow, 30. November 2017, 6:37

    With another train strike on Friday, what progress with CentrePort has been made for a planned cycleway along Aotea Quay? This requires vision.

  6. Chris Laidlaw, 7. December 2017, 10:35

    I notice there’s a reference in this article to the presence of toxic algae in the Hutt and other rivers and that GW needs to fix this. The writer should surely have known that there is no intervention available to prevent the development of toxic algae. It is a completely natural process generated by high temperatures and low flows in rivers.

    GW has a comprehensive programme, community based, to deal with the water quality of the few rivers in the region that fall short of national minimum standards. Details of all this are on the council’s website.

  7. Paul, 7. December 2017, 18:30

    Low flows arise in the Hutt River from GW water takes upstream…

  8. Boaz, 9. December 2017, 11:18

    There are no electric buses capable of handling the hills. If there were, then San Francisco would have replaced trolley buses with such technology. But they have not. Instead San Francisco has just invested in a new fleet of trolleybuses. And for good reason. No sensible transport operator junks hundreds of millions of dollars worth of overhead for a fallacy. It’s a shocking indictment on the regional council that they are supposed to be about environmentally sustainable transport, yet refuse to fund a functioning extant trolley bus system.

  9. Dave B, 10. December 2017, 2:41

    Recently went to Lausanne (Switzerland), a city smaller than Wellington. Lovely fleet of modern trolleybuses running there, which certain councillors here would have us believe are outmoded.

    Oh, and they have light rail and heavy rail too.