Wellington Scoop

LGWM: it wasn’t a referendum, but the results are clear


by Lindsay Shelton
Now that LGWM has released the results of its public feedback, let’s remember: the preferences are not votes – it isn’t a referendum. Many people who selected a preference also wanted changes to their preferred scenario.

These are the words of LGWM’s Barry Mein, in yesterday’s announcement which showed no clear majority for any one of the four scenarios.

He went further in an interview with RNZ, in which he said the Basin Reserve was being treated with caution after flyover plans were scuppered by the Board of Inquiry in 2014.

“The feedback showed that people saw that as a problem area to be addressed but there was no clear consensus, as I guess you would expect, on how that should be done. So it is obviously an area we’re going to have to approach with a great deal of care.”

Which means things aren’t as simple as suggested by John Milford, speaking on behalf of five Chambers of Commerce, who responded to the LGWM feedback by changing the subject and quoting a survey of members which showed 90 per cent wanted grade separation at the Basin. (Only one of the five Chambers of Commerce is in Wellington city.)

A reader of Wellington.Scoop kept to the point yesterday:

It’s fair to say that only 40% of respondents who expressed a preference want to go as far as Scenario D (635/1604). If you include respondents who were ‘unsure,’ it’s only 32%.

The feedback released yesterday represents 1,994 online and hardcopy-form responses, 147 letter/report style responses (including 55 from stakeholder groups), and 35 Facebook posts. The four urban design and transport scenarios on which people were invited to comment were developed after a 2016 process involving extensive transport data and feedback from more than 10,000 people gathered via surveys and meetings. Next, LGWM will recommend a programme of investment, on which a third round of public consultation will be sought later this year.

The research company report which assesses the latest public feedback contains cautions:

Each of the 2,176 community and stakeholder contributions has been read and categorised into appropriate topics to prepare findings in this report. Similar ideas contained in different comments were organised into common topics. Most comments contained many points. In total, over 49,000 individual points were made by respondents. Note that there was variability in the number of comments provided by respondents, and points made do not evenly represent the number of participants who contributed to the initiative. For example, the points made by those who commented on multiple topics were included many times within the analysis. Whereas, those who made a small number of comments – possibly because they predominantly agreed with the Scenarios – informed the findings with only a small number of points.


the findings present the depth of opinions held on a broad range of transport-related issues, and the mood for change within the community.

The number one area of concern: public transport. The report gives more detail of what is wanted:

Public transport that delivers network improvements through greater reliability; shorter travel time; reduced fares; better routes and timetables; dedicated lanes; and integration of different transport modes, including payment systems, were sought. Often walking, cycling and public transport were grouped together as a collective future solution.

A large number of respondents suggested changes to improve the existing bus network, including: encouraging increased passenger use, possibly through reduced fares; better connectivity between the bus service and the wider public transport network (buses and trains); more and better routes, particularly to the North and East; improved passenger and pedestrian comfort and safety, and; improved reliability and efficiency.

For many, mass transit is a congestion-reducing solution that will contribute to modernising Wellington. Note that the majority of respondents selected a Scenario (B, C or D) which included planning for Mass Transit, and a significant number, through advocating for Scenario A+, sought light rail to be added to Scenario A. Many respondents want planning started immediately to meet the predicted demand in 10 years’ time. Light rail was the most commonly discussed solution, generally preferred over bus mass transit. Many respondents referred to light rail generally, while multiple stakeholders presented its merits in detailed submissions.

Congestion was the second most important concern:

One of the key discussion points across the whole project was opposition to the prioritisation (current and future) of private vehicles, as they were considered the main contributor to Wellington’s traffic congestion and harmful to the environment. Faster, cheaper, and more reliable transport alternatives were sought… The balance of opinion fell overwhelmingly in favour of reducing the number of cars in the city, through reducing the dependency of people on their vehicles. Although, the issue was raised, particularly by those travelling from the north of the city, that direct access is required to the airport and hospital by vehicle.

A lot of what was liked about the scenarios (in relation to cars) was the reduction of traffic volumes. Whether through more people using other modes, through creating a whole network solution, or the interventions the scenarios proposed to restrict access by car, people liked the idea of less cars and traffic in the city.

This networked solution would include: a safer cycling and walking network, to encourage more people to make city trips by active modes; and a public transport system – particularly buses and trains, which are faster, more efficient and cheaper than private vehicles – becoming the preferred transport option and reducing the number of cars entering the city.

And there’s no doubt about the support for walking and cycling:

Prioritisation of walking and cycling is overwhelmingly supported, with many claiming that this will develop vibrant, safer and people-friendly spaces; promote healthier lifestyles; reduce carbon emissions; and relieve congestion throughout Wellington. It is felt that emphasis should be placed on these modes (walking and cycling) because the investment is relatively low and their uptake benefits all.

Facilitation of private vehicles through additional roading infrastructure is considered an ineffective, long-term congestion solution by a large number of respondents. The majority believe that Wellington cannot add to private vehicle infrastructure provision and expect reduced congestion. However there’s a strong direction for the planners:

If, however, roading infrastructure is developed to alleviate specific … challenges, then tunnels are preferred over flyovers. This is because tunnels have fewer visual impacts and provide public space opportunities (if land above can be accessed), are considered less detrimental to surrounding amenities and heritage (land and buildings), and will not segment the city or create derelict spaces underneath (city) bridges.

Which is what the Save the Basin campaigners have been saying for the last ten years.

The report identifies the public’s continuing focus on the Basin:

A very large number of comments identified that congestion at the Basin Reserve needs to be solved. The issues raised, and solutions proposed and opposed, were a microcosm of the whole project. Over 1,800 individual points informed the discussion covering many different issues… A majority of participants supported maintaining the Basin Reserve, or protecting the character of the area, and
only making road improvements that do not impact the aesthetic or heritage values. A number of groups provided submissions outlining detailed support for protecting the Basin. Some that were in favour of low-impact solutions favoured tunnels over flyovers – tunnels were considered to have low visual impact – although a substantial number opposed either intervention.

There’s much more in the report, if you’ve got time to read it.

Chris Laidlaw “heartened”
Save the Basin: Invest in mass transit


  1. Lindsay, 14. March 2018, 13:58

    The DomPost’s report this morning (“Wellingtonians appear open to the idea of a new highway being built near the Basin Reserve”) is more than misleading, because the LGWM survey (above) states clearly: Facilitation of private vehicles through additional roading infrastructure is considered an ineffective, long-term congestion solution by a large number of respondents.

  2. greenwelly, 14. March 2018, 14:48

    A very large number of comments identified that congestion at the Basin Reserve needs to be solved. So they needed 4 years and how many meetings/committees/consultants to work this out? At the rate LGWM moves, it will be 2020 before we even see a proposal to do something at the Basin Reserve…. even longer before it is implemented. I think the original proposal said demand to justify mass transit was about ten years away; well the way this crowd move, they should get the shovels out now, because by the time they plan, consult, propose, consider and finally decide it will be 2028.

  3. Conn G, 14. March 2018, 20:34

    It’s now March 2018 and regarding LGWM it can be compared to Donald Trump’s famous saying “Fake News.”

  4. James, 14. March 2018, 23:13

    The frustration in the ‘findings’ of this latest consultation is that they seem to be exactly the same as the first round of consultation two years ago: Wellingtonians still want better public transport, more support for active modes, less congestion, and a human-centred city. How many times does LGWM need to ask?

    The other thing that needs to be looked at closely is precisely how many people favoured Option D because they think a tunnel under the Basin is possible. The scenarios were so vague and light on detail that the results of this latest ‘consultation’ can easily be misinterpreted.

    Until actual tangible options are presented by LGWM, I suspect we won’t really find out what people want.

  5. michael, 18. March 2018, 23:18

    I have lost the plot over all of this.
    It seems to have been going around in circles forever and each time another expensive report is required.
    If/when LGWM eventually decide what should happened, we will most probably need another external report which, given the lack of comprehensive details in the proposals, will advise us it will be too expensive and so back on the circular treadmill for the next 5 years we all shall go.

  6. Ellen, 21. March 2018, 21:54

    Once again Wellingtonians and even some in the regions opted for a walkable compact city (think Towards 2040) even more clearly saying solve congestion by ditching private cars. Couldn’t be clearer.
    What is also worth noting is the number of region submitters (ie not Wellingtonians) who wanted option D. This is the problem with getting the out-of-towners involved in having a say on our neighbourhoods and communities – they don’t have to live with the results.
    Let’s Move on – fix the bus congestion and get us some walking improvements, we have waited long enough.

  7. glen, 23. March 2018, 8:00

    Actually 2,000 odd, out of a few hundred thousand, does not confirm that “wellingtonians” want a walkable city.

  8. Chris Horne, 5. April 2018, 10:33

    May I suggest that the fundamental flaw with the LGWM set-up is having the NZ Transport Agency as one of the three partners? The NZTA is primarily devoted to building more roads. How else could it keep its hordes of highly paid roading engineers employed? The NZTA appears to be:
    1. desperate to maintain its control of the future of land transport to keep all those engineers busy;
    2. unconcerned about the need to protect the livability of our capital city;
    3. ignorant of the nation’s ratification of the COP21 Paris Accord, which commits NZ to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, which must entail reducing the use of motor vehicles;
    4. unaware of the fact that it is impossible to reduce traffic congestion by building more roads. Increases in road-network capacity are soon negated by ‘induced traffic’, as existing drivers drive more often, and public transport users forsake buses and trains to travel by car instead.