Wellington Scoop

Uncertainties and contradictions among LGWM’s good intentions


by Lindsay Shelton
It’s expensive. It’s full of good intentions for fewer cars and happier and healthier walking and cycling and better buses (somehow.). But parts of today’s LGWM announcement are vague and sometimes contradictory. For example it talks about creating a dedicated mass transit route from the station to the airport. But there’s no decision on what the mass transit would be.

Though a clue perhaps is the reference to “modern high capacity electric vehicles with superior ride quality.”

And it doesn’t seem that the unspecified and unchosen system would reach the airport till after 2029.

LGWM announces a second Mt Victoria Tunnel. But it won’t be started till 2024 and won’t be completed till 2027.

LGWM also announces a second Terrace Tunnel. But this doesn’t seem too likely. It’s noticeably not mentioned by Transport Minister Phil Twyford in his list of the components of the LGWM package. He mentions only the Mt Vic tunnel. And it’s not mentioned in LGWM’s “way forward/next steps” document.

Undergrounding SH1 under a new Te Aro Park is also on LGWM’s list (a great way to fix the horrors of Vivian Street). But again it’s not mentioned by the Minister nor is it in the “next steps” document. LGWM is however persuasively precise on this:

Undergrounding State Highway 1 in both directions on the inner-city bypass alignment. Creating a transformational green space above. Removing state highway traffic from Vivian Street and Kent/Cambridge Terraces and making Vivian Street a two-way city street.

And both tunnels, as well as the undergrounded state highway, have been costed:


Justin Lester says there’ll be no flyover at the Basin Reserve. But LGWM doesn’t agree. It states there will be:

…grade separation between north-south movements, east-west movements, and any mass transit corridor; further investigation is needed once the mass transit route is decided to determine which form of grade separation will provide the best outcomes for the transport network and the community.

(As if such an investigation doesn’t already exist – hundreds of pages are waiting to be re-read…)

Perhaps some of the confusion is explained by the fact that today’s announcement is described as an indicative package which is yet to be considered or endorsed by the LGWM programme partners, who will be responsible for committing funding to the programme, with 40 per cent coming from Wellington rates. “Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and the NZ Transport Agency will now … work to approve the next steps for the LGWM programme.” Will they agree or will there be arguments and dissension? What’s for sure: there’ll be more, still more, consultation.

Leviathan: what are we getting?


  1. Ms Green, 16. May 2019, 18:48

    Is this for real or a joke? There’s a bridge in the (new) picture at the Basin Reserve which the mayor calls an “over-ramp.” And NZTA talk of grade separation. Might that not all add up to a flyover by another name?
    And then there’s four lanes to the planes, more loss of what was the Town Belt in Ruahine Street, and double tunnels..
    Does that not all add up to more vehicles, not “fewer” as the mayor is claiming?

  2. Gillian Tompsett, 16. May 2019, 22:02

    According to Mr Lester’s statement today, the WCC will increase the rates of properties in close proximity to the “mass transit system” when they increase in value after it’s built.

    Following that logic, the rates of we who live and work in close proximity to the noisy, diesel-belching old Euro 3 & 4 buses in service along the No.2 route between Seatoun and Karori for the next 10 years should have our rates cut because of the loss of value/enjoyment of our homes and gardens.

    Yes? Lol.

  3. Light-fail, 17. May 2019, 9:30

    I must say when you peel back all the PR waffle and feel good pictures, this is very underwhelming. Celia campaigned on light rail when she ran for mayor ten years ago and we’ve only arrived at a point where we are still trying to decide what form of mass transit we will use and the route it will take? Surely that could have been well and truly decided by now and the ground ready to be broken after this announcement. Instead it’s some vague start date at least 5 years away. The city will be paralysed by gridlock by then if it isn’t already.

    If the GWRC has any involvement it will be a disaster. The reason the streets are choked with cars now is a direct result of the new and unnecessary bus routes fiasco.

  4. Ben Schrader, 17. May 2019, 10:02

    I agree that the scheme is too indefinite. Let’s Get Welly Moving has been meeting for a few years now and I would have hoped they would have been able to tie things down with more certainty.

    What I don’t get is the very long time frame to deliver it all. It looks like we’re not going to see any real improvement until the mid-2020s, and after that it will take another 15 or more years to get things finished – probably longer. If we can build huge infrastructure projects like Transmission Gully in about a quarter of that time, why is it going to take considerably longer to get light rail (or whatever is chosen) to the airport and put in a comprehensive cycle network in the city? The lengthy time frame also exposes the scheme to government cuts or changes that could deliver an inferior result for the city. We don’t want another Karo Drive.

    It would be my hope that the scheme can be expedited. We’ve spent 60 years debating how to improve traffic flow though Te Aro. That’s long enough.

  5. Russel C., 17. May 2019, 10:36

    How are my rates going up to stuff more people into Wellington? Can’t NZTA just flash “WELLINGTON FULL” and “EARTHQUAKE ZONE” on those otherwise useless $100 million ‘Smart’ Motorway signs?

  6. TrevorH, 17. May 2019, 14:29

    With no expenditure planned until 2024 I find this “Clayton’s” package underwhelming. Wellington’s congestion problems are urgent and there are some obvious fixes like a second Mt Victoria tunnel which could make an early positive impact. I fear we will die waiting however. Meanwhile billions continue to be invested in Auckland’s transport system…

  7. Alan, 17. May 2019, 15:26

    Throw in at least a few more billion. How many projects of this magnitude have you heard of coming in on budget? We might not be paying a CGT but ratepayers will be fleeced well and truly for this grandiose scheme.

  8. Benny, 17. May 2019, 16:26

    I too find this announcement pretty vague. A budget, a vision, but very, very little detail. Some information is confusing too, if not contradictory. I can’t recall who of Mr Laidlaw or Mr Twyford said “we know more motorways won’t work” while, at the same time, unveiling a plan that delivers four lanes to the planes. And all that before the mass transit system will rub its tyres (or wheels) on our roads. Which of the two projects (the 4 lanes or the mass transit) comes first is not clear: Mr Twyford wants the latter coming first, while the recommended program clearly outline an earlier delivery for the second Mt Victoria tunnel.

    I note the plan is leaning on car electrification to significantly cut carbon emissions, a transition the plan does not take part in. Instead, it aims at reducing emissions by a mere 18% by 2036! That is so underwhelming. I understand we face a congestion issue, but to me, it’s secondary to air pollution and climate change. So much could be achieved if the $6B were spent on addressing this. Instead, it’s again considered as a secondary objective. I just hope the mass transit system, whatever that is, is built high above the sea, or it might be a sunk investment very soon.

  9. Guy M, 17. May 2019, 19:47

    Dear Ms Green – a flyover is not being proposed. The previous “flyover” (called a “bridge”, wrongly, by the previous scheme 5 years ago) was over 250m long, was about 7m high up in the air, held up on concrete columns, and achieved grade separation between N-S and E-W routes at a cost of $100m or so. There was no consideration of rapid Public Transport.

    It’s a little hard to see exactly what is proposed as there is little to no detail, but looking at the road in the pictures around the Basin, I certainly wouldn’t call it a flyover. I’d agree – it appears to be a ramp.

  10. Brent Efford, 17. May 2019, 22:19

    Let’s get real:
    “Wellington” is not just a small city of 100,000 served by buses south of Thorndon but a metropolis of nearly half a million, 75% of whom live in an area served by a rail transit spine operated very much like light rail already. However, that rail transit spine stops at the edge of the CBD where 77% of the region’s economic activity happens. That circumstance incentivises the mass car commuting by the 75% which is the cause of most of the traffic congestion.
    And what does the grand LGWM plan do to encourage the majority of the population to switch to using the railway?
    Because they have a phobia about creating a complete, joined-up, rail transit network that is the norm in every other comparable city.

  11. Ms Green, 17. May 2019, 22:27

    Ok It’s an over-ramp Guy.

    What is “rapid public transport”? Is that a fast bus or an aeroplane, or a lot of diesel buses rushing to be on time, or just a line on a map?

  12. Paul, 17. May 2019, 23:10

    As a motorcyclist I wish to know why the council has stated “we do not wish to support an inherently dangerous mode of transport” when questioned about the removal of motorcycle parking in the city. All international studies prove that two wheeled motorized transport creates significant benefit to traffic flow and emission levels. One Danish study showed a 10 percent increase in motorcycle use created a 30% decrease in traffic congestion.
    However the council has been actively removing the number of motorcycle parks in the city and has a heavy-handed campaign of ticketing motorcycles or scooters parked anywhere but the few remaining sanctioned spots. I know many motorcycle riders who are now back in their cars as parking options are just not available. Claiming safety is a concern is somewhat laughable when the council seem happy to promote E scooters on the road without any helmets gloves or rider training. My next motorcycle will be electric; however it won’t be getting used for commuting as there is no guarantee a park will be available and as GWRC made such a mess of the bus routes I am now back in the car.

  13. Russel C., 18. May 2019, 8:50

    Dan – in Bangkok, the Government has sought to reduce 2 stroke motorcycle use because they turn the air noxious blue. We certainly don’t want a plague of these motorcycles in Wellington to add to Harley users who seem to take great pleasure in deafening us. Now electronic bicycles are fine so long as they stick to using roads and not pavements and they adhere to the road rules.

  14. Guy M, 18. May 2019, 13:50

    Ms Green – good question. My answer would be that for a system of public transport to be successful it needs to be safe, affordable, reliable, and speedy – and for it to be speedy, it absolutely needs one key thing: it must run on a separate route from other vehicle traffic.

    So means of transport such as buses don’t cut it, as they get caught up in traffic jams. Vehicles such as heavy rail often aren’t very rapid, as they have a set schedule, while vehicles such as trams, light rail, etc are usually very quick and responsive – running on their own route, faster than traffic. So, yes, Light Rail is absolutely the right choice for a rapid public transport system.

    The big question is : what are “trackless trams” and do they actually exist anywhere, and do they work? Because, to me, the very issue that its proponents say is an advantage (that they can deviate off the track) is the real problem – if they can move into the traffic then the traffic can move into the “rapid” path – and then it’s not rapid anymore.

  15. Ms Green, 18. May 2019, 16:42

    So Guy…you and I are reaching agreement. Light rail seems to cut it if we are talking about rapid mass transit. So why can’t “they” progress this?….after so many years of talk and consultation and talk and consultation and now only pretty pictures and waffle from the powers that be?

  16. Guy M, 18. May 2019, 19:11

    Ms Green – yes indeed, we are in full agreement. Unfortunately, many of the players in the picture are not. There are some people who want the route to go down Lambton Quay, there are other people who want the route to go down the Waterfront. There are some people who believe the route should go around the Basin, others say under the Basin, and still others say just avoid the Basin altogether. Some people want steel wheels running on steel tracks, some people want rubber wheels, some people probably want no wheels at all. Some people will say that a tram-train is the only option, and much better than a light rail system, while other people say that those are the same thing, and they want something different again.

    What Wellington truly needs is someone who really knows what they are talking about, and has the power and the money to put it into practice. Unfortunately, what we have at present is that the people in power have some of the money, but none of the knowledge, and some of the people with the knowledge think they know more than they really do. No one has enough money to say yes, as the project is split at least 3 ways, and more if you count Treasury as well.

    What would solve this impasse and progress things? Personally, I’d hire someone from Spain or Holland who has spent the last 20 years doing this sort of thing, give them the authority to make all the decisions, and give them the budget to fund it. If the current monkeys at NZTA, WCC or GWRC try to do this themselves, we’ll all be extinct before they have made any progress.

  17. Ms Green, 18. May 2019, 19:48

    Many countries have managed to provide a mass rapid transit system that is not diesel buses down the pretend pedestrianized Lambton Quay announced by the mayor, a few days before the multi billion dollar pretty picture announcement by the power men. Guy I like your idea, but it sounds a bit undemocratic…and who would give the instructions to the man (with a bit of luck, maybe to the woman) to undertake this task, and who would pay?? I agree that there is no agreement about what rapid transit is or might be or where…so what is the point of more consultation…just more expensive disagreement from non experts??

  18. Donald T., 18. May 2019, 22:11

    Hey, its only $800 each from everyone living in NZ and Wellington’s transport strangulation is over.

  19. luke, 19. May 2019, 10:23

    If it goes down Lambton Quay, whatever it is it sure ain’t gonna be rapid.

  20. Andrew, 19. May 2019, 12:36

    If only, Donald. This will be a classic case of ‘design by committee’ and will have inherent problems of such a process: drawn out timeframes and compromised designs.

  21. Kerry, 19. May 2019, 13:25

    Luke – It isn’t. LGWM have chosen the waterfront route, leaving buses on the golden mile. This makes sense: speed for rapid transit, frequent stops on the golden mile.

  22. Ms Green, 19. May 2019, 16:57

    Does anyone know what exactly GWRC and WCC will be voting on? Billions of our dollars for what specifically? Pretty pictures? Or real projects? And who will dictate the terms of the project(s)? Who will allocate the funds? Who will have oversight? NZTA or..?

  23. greenwelly, 19. May 2019, 18:57

    @Kerry: I think that is what they are leaning towards (visuals etc). But I’m not sure it’s 100% cut and dried yet.
    Key Issues
    Further investigations needed on:
    -Technology (vehicle type)
    -Route choice and extensions

  24. Karori Pete, 19. May 2019, 20:14

    Kerry – I thought the idea was to reduce buses on the Golden Mile. Are you saying we’ll keep the bus jam on LQ and Willis St but pay 20% extra on our rates to subsidise Light Rail so the reasonably wealthy folk of the south-eastern suburbs have a choice on how to get to work each morning?

  25. Marion Leader, 20. May 2019, 8:22

    Karori Pete, they should have been more careful in what they wished for!
    Having double-deckers does probably reduce buses on the Golden Mile BUT it holds up all the other buses because of the delays caused in disembarking and boarding those double-deckers.

  26. Keith Flinders, 20. May 2019, 9:58

    Karori Pete: The idea is to inconvenience would-be light rail users who work in, or adjacent to, Lambton, Terrace, Willis, and have them get more exercise by walking to the Frank Kitts light rail stop in all weathers. For some it will be quicker to walk to Courtenay Place, or they will overcrowd buses which continue to run through those streets.

    I would have expected light rail to operate where most passengers expect the service to run, and to reduce the number of buses through the Golden Mile. Then by using the capacity of light rail with hubs at the Railway Station and Courtenay Place, linking to buses will dramatically reduce the number of the latter. Extending light rail to Newtown and eastern suburbs is the natural progression from Courtenay Place.

    Anyway for the next 10 years as the city grinds to a halt – countless meetings, and political grandstanding events will be all that happens. Having elected councilors and Metlink anywhere near this process is a recipe for disaster, in respect of Wellington commuters.

    In the interim Karori continues to suffer lack of capacity on the bus services which do run, Northland and Mairangi are even more inconvenienced by the 2018 changes 10 months on.

    As Helen writes, the introduction of double-decker buses has caused more congestion than the larger number of single-decker buses before July 2018. It was not as though the GWRC were not warned years in advance of the issue concerning double-decker buses and what is known as dwell time (loading/unloading).

  27. Kerry, 20. May 2019, 11:23

    Of course the objective is free-flowing buses on the golden mile. It will work very effectively if it is cut back to a sane 50 bus/hr, and light rail can take over most of Wellington’s future ridership growth.

    Too many people still think light rail should go on the golden mile. Perhaps one of them could write a Wellington.Scoop article, answering the questions raised on the FIT website, here.

  28. Michael Gibson, 20. May 2019, 11:37

    Being suspicious of GW’s competence, I have asked them for O.I. as follows:
    “(Relevant to Keith Flinders’ item on Wellington.Scoop) please let me know what the forecast dwell times were for double-deckers before their introduction and what are their actual dwell times. Have any relevant comments been made on this?”

  29. John Rankin, 20. May 2019, 20:21

    @Kerry, I think you meant to link to this page.

  30. Elaine Hampton, 21. May 2019, 9:24

    Just with a cursory look at costs it occurs to me that the $130 million for ‘Basin Reserve improvements’ is more than the original estimated cost of the Flyover, which was one way. Fake News is the phrase that comes to mind. And why $990M for rapid transit, does that include the new tunnel which many feel isn’t necessary? The IPCC said we have 12 years to sort carbon emissions etc, and that last year, so it will be all too late by the time our so called elected representatives get their A into G.