Wellington Scoop

2017 – counting our losses

by Lindsay Shelton
It was the year when we lost our trolley buses – the Regional Council chose instead to gift us with eight months of an all-diesel fleet.

We published persuasive arguments by a range of experts who all explained why the trolleys should not be lost. But the Regional Council wasn’t willing to reconsider. Not even willing to engage with a doctor concerned about health issues.

Cr Donaldson said we should congratulate her for the all-diesel era. We said she should apologise.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. The trolleys were dumped eight months before 228 new buses are due to arrive – with a promise that ten of them (ten!) will be electric, but all the rest will be diesels. There had earlier been a promise that refitted WrightSpeed buses would replace the trolley buses this year, but this promise came to nothing.

It was also the year when we lost the Paramount Theatre (after a hundred years as a cinema) and the city council did nothing to intervene. We may call ourselves the cultural capital, but the council couldn’t have cared less.

We also lost some of the unique panoramic views from the city to the harbour – blocked by the emergence of Willis Bond’s enormous new waterfront building on Site 10 at Kumutoto. And the city council was keen to approve a further loss of views, as it considered another Willis Bond plan for another big new waterfront building on the nearby Site 9, though it couldn’t provide any reason why the building was needed.

The Town Hall continued to be lost to us – it’s shamefully now in the fifth year of closure. But the Music Centre plan took a step forward, with commitment from Victoria University as well as the long-established support from the NZSO. Uncertainty, however, continues: will the university and the city agree to the Music Centre occupying the council municipal building next to the Town Hall, and who will pay for the upgrade?

We seemed to have lost the movie museum before work had started, with Peter Jackson sending an angry letter saying he had 55 areas of disagreement with the city council – after two years of negotiating.

Some people wanted Wellington to lose the Gordon Wilson Flats. But the heritage building – now owned by Victoria University – had authoritative defenders.

WREDA lost its chief executive, but attracted a crowd of job seekers during its international looksee campaign.

The city lost its new Urban Development Agency – approved by the council last year, and cancelled by the council this year. One independent entity too many?

Wellington Hospital lost another chief executive, with the resignation of Debbie Chin in July. By the end of the year, no replacement had been found for the impossible position.

Newtown is to lose its Post Office, as well as its Westpac Bank branch. The Marion Street Post Office became a furniture store. The Post Office in the Readings complex was one of the first to be closed; its tasks were taken over by a chemist shop, with confusing competition between prescriptions and postage.

Wellington lost power in September. The Hong Kong owned Wellington Electricity company failed to explain the blackout and failed to acknowledge that there could have been serious consequences in suburban streets.

We thought we’d lost plans for a Basin flyover, after the ugly NZTA proposal was twice rejected in legal proceedings. We were wrong – the Transport Agency, disregarding public opinion as well as the legal rulings, came up with not one or two but three “scenarios” including flyovers. It didn’t give a clue about what these structures would look like, no doubt remembering how we were appalled when first images of the original flyover plan were released.

We’ve certainly lost faith in the NZTA, and we were also in danger of losing faith in the Greens and NZ First. Before the election, each party said it supported light rail from the station to the airport. Since the election, when they’re now part of the coalition: silence.

And is the airport runway extension a lost cause? The city council doesn’t think so. As well as committing $90million to help pay for it, its representatives watched approvingly as the airport signed the city’s second deal for Chinese involvement in construction. But like the first deal, it’s an obscure agreement. Some people think it will result in Chinese companies coming here to work on the project. But most people feel that local construction companies would never agree to forego such a huge job. If it ever receives resource consent.


  1. Conn G, 19. December 2017, 16:19

    A well written, but sad article. Buildings, transport, I have always compared Wellington to a sort of mini South Pacific version of San Francisco. Steep hills with double storied villas built on them, the cable car and the unique trolleybuses, whose premature loss is an environmental crime in today’s climate change. The councils seem to be controlled by people who hate the very fabric and the nature of what Wellington is all about. Apart from various social media sites, mainstream media is consistently silent.

  2. Paul, 19. December 2017, 17:14

    You forgot that we also lost the Sevens after the failure of a woefully misguided attempt to rebrand it. There is one success I can think of, some new concrete boxes are rapidly appearing in Hankey/Hopper street to boost our social housing stocks. Of course you can offset that with another potential loss, Shelley Bay disappearing into a haze of high priced apartments and traffic.

  3. TrevorH, 20. December 2017, 6:45

    It’s high time we “lost” the Wellington Regional Council.

  4. Farmer John, 20. December 2017, 7:56

    And don’t forget the Wairarapa rail line which has lurched from mishap to malfunction, delaying passengers by hours at a time. And let’s not forget striking train drivers and unhappy bus drivers courtesy of GWRC’s competitive tending and 600+ page legal contract documents.

  5. Pauline, 20. December 2017, 8:08

    So much more, as Jack Ilott Green is under threat again, and as you have reported a Site 9 building for whatever purpose could totally close the harbour and hills out for locals and visitors. And of course we ratepayers are involved in more expense as volunteer groups will be fund raising to fight the Council.

  6. Traveller, 20. December 2017, 14:01

    You forgot the loss of Farmers in Cuba Street – which has left a blank space in this lively precinct. And don’t forget the inexplicable (but temporary) loss of Te Papa’s art section – it’s been impossible to explain to overseas visitors why the national museum has no art on display. Of course, till this month visitors could be sent to the City Gallery. But it’s closed now too. Can we really pretend we’re the culture capital?

  7. IanS, 20. December 2017, 23:11

    Another failure: the Local Government Commission has waded in to criticise the poor Wellington regional transport planning and operation mechanisms. GW’s Regional Transport Committee mechanism has failed to provide modern, sustainable, non-polluting and affordable public transport for Wellington regional residents. Is the regional local government model totally broken?


  8. Still Grumpy, 21. December 2017, 0:53

    I think we just lost all remaining faith in our elected representatives and their closed-door, closed-mind methods of “resource management”.

  9. Marg, 21. December 2017, 10:07

    I agree that Wellington’s claim to be the culture capital is hollow when the world class auditorium in the Town Hall remains closed for years, and the national art collection has no permanent home. A culture capital should have several art galleries with permanent collections ob display: a national gallery, a gallery of contemporary art. Wellington has none of these, just selections from the main collection that can sometimes be seen at various locations. And none of the decision-makers seem to care.

  10. Pauline, 21. December 2017, 16:53

    I cannot believe the size of the building on Site 10, seems to still be growing all ways. And then I saw numbers of families having fun on the Frank Kitts Park playground amphitheatre – with the return of the wind, the area was relatively sheltered…..so PLEASE leave it alone….not to waste ratepayers’ money yet again.

  11. Loss leader, 21. December 2017, 19:08

    Lost a civic centre? No Capital E for children, no CAB for staff, half the MOB building for some staff, empty pools and waterfalls (remember them?), no Town Hall for the public, no City Gallery.

    What’s left? Some artificial turf for the pigeons? Even the beanbags have gone.

    Let’s use the airport extension money and the Convention Centre funds to first maintain what we have (or had?). Where are the mayor’s and Councillors’ priorities?

  12. Pseudopanax, 22. December 2017, 11:13

    It appears this year the Mayor finally came out of the closet re the runway extension, after being non committal during the election. Sloping off to Beijing for the signing of Infratil’s MOU with with a huge Chinese construction behemoth seemed pretty sneaky!

    In the WCC (and GWRC) is a lack of leadership and vision on transport policies fit for the 21st century. The Council and Mayor seem to be impotent and powerless. Scrapping the Trolleys is a scandal. Allowing the Same Old Same Old Roading Agenda of the NZTA/GWRC to hijack the LGWM consultation is a disgrace and dereliction of duty to future generations. Petrol-Headed Roading Engineers of a certain age need to go away and hand over to the next generation…