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Re-electing Daran and Roger

by Chris Calvi-Freeman
Three of the five regional councillors from the Wellington city constituency will not be standing again in October. That leaves room for at least three new faces with new ideas and energies around the regional council table. Undoubtedly, one of their main priorities will be to get the bus network back to a reliable and fit-for-purpose state, as quickly as possible. Not an easy job!

The Wellington constituency elects only 5 of the 13 regional councillors, so they can easily be outvoted by regional councillors from Porirua-Tawa (2 seats), Hutt City (3), Upper Hutt (1), Kapiti (1) and Wairarapa (1). (Though Tawa is part of Wellington city, the two Porirua-Tawa constituency regional councillors are elected by Porirua and Tawa voters – due to the regional council’s electoral boundaries which combine Tawa with Porirua.)

Regional Councillors from the Wellington constituency (and Porirua-Tawa) therefore need to have strong persuasive skills if they are to represent Wellington city’s interests across the region and ensure we get our fair share of amenities and improvements and pay (only) our fair share of regional rates.

While assessing new contenders, I hope that Wellingtonians will also support the two councillors from the Wellington constituency who are seeking re-election: Daran Ponter and Roger Blakeley.

Daran has done more than anyone to try to fix the bus situation.

I believe he foresaw at least some of the problems before the new network came into place, but was apparently outvoted on several key decisions back in the previous triennium. He has been tireless in attempting to engage Wellingtonians on the bus network and seek their feedback and contribution to bus network planning, both before the changeover took place and right through to the present day. It’s essential that Daran’s energy and experience in this field is not lost in October.

Roger Blakeley is in his first term on the regional council. He was elected after the key bus network decisions had been made. He’s been active on relaying complaints and suggestions from bus users to GWRC/Metlink.

More importantly, Roger has been very active in long-term transport planning, contributing to the development of the proposal for the mass transit route between Wellington Railway Station and Wellington Airport / Miramar.

Although Roger isn’t on the Let’s Get Wellington Moving governance group, he has worked behind the scenes with me and a number of very experienced transport advocates, assessing the various options for the route. This work enabled me to successfully advocate for the single-spine mass transit route between the station and the airport/Miramar via Newtown and Kilbirnie, which has been recognised by LGWM and the government as the only option that will provide a cost-effective mass transit service for Wellington’s eastern and inner-southern suburbs, as it will link many transport “attractors” – Miramar central, the airport, ASB stadium, Kilbirnie, the zoo, Newtown, the hospital, Mt Cook/Basin Reserve (Massey Uni, Wgtn High, Wgtn College, Wgtn East Girls’ College, St Marks, the Basin etc), Te Aro (Taranaki Street / Courtenay Place), the CBD/waterfront/town hall and the railway station – on a single line.

If this is to progress, it’s essential that Roger has a second term on the regional council, which is a partner in LGWM.

Nothing in the above has any direct bearing on the elections for the Wellington City Council, which is of course a separate entity. I will be standing again for a seat on the city council. More about that in the weeks ahead.

23 comments:

  1. Michael Gibson, 22. July 2019, 9:25

    Chris – have you and Roger Blakeley paid attention to the problems of the Western suburbs e.g.
    1/ The buses from Northland now turning left at the bottom of Bowen Street and not turning right to where most residents want to go i.e. Lambton Quay, Courtenay Place and the Hospital?
    2/ Karori buses not going to the Hospital?
    3/ Karori buses being purple, noisy and smelly?
    4/ The Regional Council’s decision to remove seats at the front of Karori buses so that more people could be carried as standing passengers?
    5/ The motivation behind this decision which was clearly to reduce the rates of people from Porirua?
    6/ Whether this would be to the detriment of disabled and elderly Wellingtonians?
    7/ Karori buses being bunched? (Last week I waited for 25 minutes on both occasions I wanted a bus during the day – an empty bus went past, then three arrived together.)
    8/ The pathetic Regional Council reporting e.g. saying that it has now scheduled more buses when this simply means that, after reducing peak-hour services from Karori from 18 a year ago to 10, there are now 14?
    9/ The equally pathetic reporting about the number of complaints not increasing when we are all fed up with making them and have stopped? (For instance I was too fed up to report last week’s four-buses-together nonsense.)
    10/ The hopelessness of the electronic signage?
    11/ The failure to liaise with the Airport bus on the grounds that it is a “commercial service”? Why is it allowed to hold up the rest of us in Lambton Quay?
    I will send a copy of this direct to the Councillors you are supporting on the Regional Council and expect a reply from each of you. At the least I trust that the City Council expresses its shame when it is summoned to explain to Thursday’s Select Committee why it has failed to be an advocate for its citizens in something which has so badly affected so many of our lives.

     
  2. Tony Jansen, 22. July 2019, 10:18

    Here, here Michael! Tired of councillors propagandising for their mates. I am sure Roger can campaign without Chris’s endorsement and vice versa. The Bustastrophe has been a litany of lies from go to woa and all councillors regardless of whether they made the original decisions or not, need to take responsibility.

     
  3. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 22. July 2019, 12:14

    Hi Michael. I am very aware of the bus problems in the western suburbs, just as I’m aware of those throughout the city. As a former regional councillor, you will know that, as the regional council’s first manager of public transport nearly 30 years ago I led the team that developed and introduced the last big bus network change in Wellington (July 1991 when the industry was “deregulated”), and that the 1991 network served Wellington pretty well, with only relatively minor changes in the intervening 27 years. So I do know a thing or two about buses. As does Anthony Cross, who was my 2IC in the regional council for that project, then went on to mastermind the successful Auckland bus review which has seen Auckland overtake Wellington in terms of public transport patronage growth in recent years.

    Anthony has now been engaged by the GWRC to provide independent advice including the development of new route proposals. He’s started in the eastern suburbs where I believe the problems are even greater than the west, and has produced some options which are available for perusal at drop-in sessions in the eastern suburbs.

    What have I done about the GWRC’s bus network problems? I’ve done everything I can (and more) as a city councillor: Cllr Sarah Free and I recognised at least some of the impending network problems a year before the new network came into being, and saw through some of the spin promulgated by the GWRC’s network change project director (who has since left GWRC). Sarah and I attended GWRC sustainable transport meetings (in the audience; there are no city council reps on that committee) and made our concerns known. We have, (alongside several other city councillors) actively participated in joint GWRC/WCC public transport workshops that were introduced to try to help with the bus network transition. And we’ve heard the same promises that buses will be restored to reliable, on-time running and that the old buses will be replaced by brand new ones, etc.

    The problems 1-11 that you’ve listed are all within the GWRC’s responsibility, not the WCC’s, but you’ll be aware that in your area WCC councillors Diane Calvert and Simon Woolf have taken the lead in pressing GWRC to acknowledge and address the service shortfalls, while Sarah Free and I have primarily concentrated on the pressing problems in the east. Over to regional councillor Roger Blakeley to let you know what he’s been doing.

    City Councillors face a community backlash across Wellington from residents who either don’t understand the different responsibilities of GWRC and WCC or simply want to “punish” anyone and everyone even remotely connected with the “bustastrophie”. But I can assure you that I and several city councillors (named above) have been extremely active in assisting, cajoling, pressuring and demanding that GWRC resolve the bus problems apparent in all quarters of Wellington. I think the review that Anthony Cross is working on gives the best chance of positive change, but it would be fanciful to think that major change could happen overnight, given that GWRC has signed multi-million dollar multi-year contracts with bus operators.

    And yes, I was at the September Select Committee hearing and will be attending Thursday’s hearing – not to express shame but to express frustration and dismay that GWRC’s bus changes have let so many Wellingtonians down.

     
  4. Keith Flinders, 23. July 2019, 10:09

    Even if we voters threw out all current GWRC councillors from across the entire region in October, what would change ? Very little, as it is the GWRC we need to have radically changed. Electing people with no experience who once elected then start micro managing their portfolios is the root cause of the issues, not only with the GWRC but other councils as well.

    We have at the GWRC an overstaffed – some 500 on the payroll – organisation which suffers from the lack of proactive and professional management where it is needed. Case in point being all those involved in the bus shambles are still employed and have still to to address the bus issues which have cost Wellington City hundreds of millions in lost productivity. All these costs carried by individuals and private businesses.

    Daran and Roger may well be re-elected but we need to ask them why they are not being more vocal about the pollution from the old diesel buses the GWRC allows NZ Bus to continue importing from Auckland, now nearly 2 years on from the demise of the trolley buses. 50 trolley buses languish in storage in Kilbirnie and are apparently suitable for conversion to battery operation, yet the GWRC sees no priority to negotiate with NZ Bus a deal to carry out the conversions. The lame excuse “we are considering if we should buy new battery buses instead” is an obvious smoke screen.

    In the meantime the plight of residents of Hector Street, Seatoun, whose street is now effectively a bus depot for old diesel buses arriving and departing every few minutes 18 hours a day, has not been addressed. Why is this when solutions to partially alleviate the problems are available ?

     
  5. Neil Douglas, 23. July 2019, 11:25

    Keith Flinders for GWRC! A man for all seasons!
    One thing that GWRC does well is Akura nursery just north of Masterton. I’ve bought well over a thousand dollars worth of plants there in the last two months. The plants are relatively cheap, look healthy and have good root systems. So Akura is something I can definitely recommend about GWRC. I’m just waiting for a few nice days to plant them out.

     
  6. steve doole, 24. July 2019, 7:59

    Chris, you mention GWRC has signed multi-million dollar multi-year contracts with bus operators, without indicating involvement by NZTA or other public body in draughting these contracts, or tying council hands by restriction of funding to certain types of contract. Normally if parties to contracts agree, major change is possible. What is your understanding of how much room to move GWRC actually has?

     
  7. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 24. July 2019, 9:33

    I don’t know, Steve. The contracts are between GWRC and the bus operators and don’t involve the district councils or NZTA (even though NZTA is part-funder). You would have to ask GWRC, but yes, one would hope that by mutual agreement, changes could be made, especially if the deliverables (service kms, peak bus requirements etc) were similar.

     
  8. Tony Jansen, 24. July 2019, 12:28

    Speaking of contracts…now that we have had more than a year of sub standard, often not fit for purpose, old, polluting and noisy diesel buses from NZ Bus, is there any way to force them to introduce new buses? If not, can we terminate their contracts and utilise other providers? I am sick of NZ Bus treating Wellington with total disregard. Where are the electric bus conversions and where is the once ebullient Mr Fulljames, whom in the past we couldn’t keep quiet nor out of the media?
    If we cannot get out of these terrible PTOM contracts then at least try to remove those players whom are not delivering the terms agreed.

     
  9. John Smith, 24. July 2019, 12:33

    @Chris, surely in the 7-year lead time to the implementation of the new GWRC bus model, the WCC could have been doing work to ensure the smooth flow of bus traffic (at a priority over other traffic)? Over that 7-year period, the WCC could have changed their roads to ensure many more bus-only lanes; many more traffic lights giving priority to buses; remove on-street parking(!); and other measures to ensure the smooth flow of buses through the city. This could assist with avoiding the bunching issues, and buses not being able to keep to schedule…it’s not just a GWRC problem.

     
  10. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 24. July 2019, 18:14

    Tony, these are questions for GWRC not WCC.

    John, WCC put in a big tranche of bus lanes about 6-7 years ago: Courtenay Place, Kent & Cambridge Terraces, Adelaide Road, and of course Manners Street and Willis Street (Golden Mile section) are car-free in one direction and part of the other. The Government’s Transport Select Committee has invited WCC to attend a meeting tomorrow morning to talk about this and related issues, so I won’t comment further in advance of that meeting.

     
  11. Roger Blakeley, 25. July 2019, 16:53

    Michael. I will give you a brief answer to your questions, and we can follow up if you want more information. I will copy your question below and give you my answer:

    1/ Your question: The buses from Northland now turning left at the bottom of Bowen Street and not turning right to where most residents want to go i.e. Lambton Quay, Courtenay Place and the Hospital?
    My answer: Yes, that is what #22 does and we are acutely aware a lot of commuters don’t like it. It can be addressed as part of the Bus Network Review, which has started in the Eastern Suburbs and will then move to other Wellington suburbs.

    2/Your question: Karori buses not going to the Hospital?
    My answer: same answer as 1 above.

    3/ Your question: Karori buses being purple, noisy and smelly?
    My answer: Yes there are still NZ Bus Euro 3 diesels in service. We are keen to get rid of them as soon as possible. This is related to next steps on electric buses. GWRC has been looking at how best to replace the 57 trolley buses, either with refurbishment of trolleys into full battery electric buses, or replacement with new full battery electric buses. That is under negotiation with NZ Bus.

    4/ Your question: The Regional Council’s decision to remove seats at the front of Karori buses so that more people could be carried as standing passengers?
    My answer: That decision was made by operational staff wanting to add more capacity.

    5/ Your question: The motivation behind this decision which was clearly to reduce the rates of people from Porirua?
    My answer: The motivation had nothing to do with rates of people from Porirua – see 4 above.

    6/ Your question: Whether this would be to the detriment of disabled and elderly Wellingtonians?
    My answer: I and other Councillors were very concerned because of the detriment to disabled and elderly. We asked to have the seats put back. How recently have you seen this and on what route?

    7/ Your question: Karori buses being bunched? (Last week I waited for 25 minutes on both occasions I wanted a bus during the day – an empty bus went past, then three arrived together.)
    My answer: Yes I know that is very frustrating and I and other Crs have asked our staff to raise this with the bus operator to do everything possible to avoid bunching. They have done that and will continue to monitor it and review with bus operators.

    8/ Your question: The pathetic Regional Council reporting e.g. saying that it has now scheduled more buses when this simply means that, after reducing peak-hour services from Karori from 18 a year ago to 10, there are now 14?
    My answer: it is not just a matter of the number of buses. The capacity of the buses is also important. There are more double rear axle buses on the peak-hour services from Karori, which have higher capacity of 75 passengers compared with previous single rear axle buses.

    9/ Your question: The equally pathetic reporting about the number of complaints not increasing when we are all fed up with making them and have stopped? (For instance I was too fed up to report last week’s four-buses-together nonsense.)
    My answer: I know what you are saying and I frequently make the same point in our discussions at council – that we are not able to measure the number of people who are so fed up they don’t complain anymore.

    10/ Your question: The hopelessness of the electronic signage?
    My answer: I know there are problems with the RTI system. That is an issue where we may need to upgrade the technology.

    11/ Your question: The failure to liaise with the Airport bus on the grounds that it is a “commercial service”? Why is it allowed to hold up the rest of us in Lambton Quay?
    My answer: The Airport bus is a “commercial service” and the reality is we have limited leverage over them, but our operational staff work with them to try to improve operational difficulties.

     
  12. Roger Blakeley, 26. July 2019, 21:31

    Keith. You have asked why I am… “not being more vocal about the pollution from the old diesel buses the GWRC allows NZ Bus to continue importing from Auckland…” I have already replied to a similar question in the same thread from Michael Gibson. I would like to give you the courtesy of a reply also:

    Yes there are still NZ Bus Euro 3 diesels in service. We are keen to get rid of them as soon as possible. This is related to next steps on electric buses. GWRC has been looking at how best to replace the 57 trolley buses (as you are aware, I opposed the demise of the trolleys), either with refurbishment of trolleys into full battery electric buses, or replacement with new full battery electric buses. This is not a “smoke screen” as you assert. It is under negotiation between GWRC and NZ Bus. I and other councillors consistently ask the CE for reports on progress in these negotiations. As you are also aware, NZ Bus is going through a sale process and that is an obvious factor affecting resolution of contractual issues. I will continue to push hard for a resolution as quickly as possible that will give us, one way or the other, over 50 full battery electric buses. In the meantime, Euro 3 buses that serve commuter passenger needs are better than no buses, but only just!

     
  13. Michael Gibson, 27. July 2019, 8:04

    Roger – a brief comment on your reply to Keith Flinders (whom I hope to meet sometime):
    it is all very well that “councillors consistently ask the CE for reports on progress in these negotiations”. Why aren’t the public made aware of what is going on (or not going on)?
    Such reports should be made public, at any rate in a summarised form, at every meeting of GW’s Transport Committee. The public deserve greater re-assurance than we are now getting.
    Re your kind reply to my concerns: I hope you will assist me as I prepare a plea about the operation of the bus contracts for “Public Participation” at the next available opportunity. Nicola Willis asked repeated questions about this at Thursday’s Select Committee and GW’s failure to give answers was lamentable.

     
  14. Roy Kutel, 27. July 2019, 8:51

    Roger – Surely the way forward is to have a CEO who knows and has a passion for transport operations and engineering and is not a bean counter. After all, 75% of what GWRC is supposed to do is govern public transport.

     
  15. Roger Blakeley, 27. July 2019, 13:40

    Michael. You asked for information about public transport issues to be made available at every meeting of GW’s Transport Committee. You will find a lot of information about bus and rail issues on the agenda of every meeting of the GWRC Sustainable Transport Committee. See this link from the most recent meeting on 19 June 2019 and in particular the agenda items
    7 Public Transport Operational Performance; and
    11 General Manager’s Report for Sustainable Transport Committee.

    It does not include items that are subject to commercially confidential negotiations. As you know, the LGOIMA Act allows for such negotiations to be conducted in confidence. The Council will make the outcome of such negotiations public as soon as they have been completed.

     
  16. Goofy, 27. July 2019, 14:38

    Roy it’s a double up at best isn’t it. GWRC Councilors knowing nothing about public transport etc thus the big messes and failures. Bus scheduling isn’t rocket science. You don’t ignore scheduling problems and instead buy a fleet of diesel buses and electric signs as that does not do anything to address the problem.

     
  17. Michael Gibson, 27. July 2019, 17:08

    Roger – can you tell us in broad terms what progress is being made in the negotiations “to replace the 57 trolley buses …. either with refurbishment of trolleys into full battery electric buses, or replacement with new full battery electric buses”. Are they going well? Or would it be breaching a commercial confidence to say “it’s all hopeless.”

     
  18. Roy Kutel, 27. July 2019, 20:32

    I doubt GWRC has much leverage with NZBus and virtually none with respect to trolley bus conversion.

     
  19. glenn, 29. July 2019, 11:19

    personally i’m voting for anyone who isn’t currently on the gwrc. the current lot are inept.

     
  20. Georgina Campbell, 29. July 2019, 16:52

    GWRC’s Paul Swain has confirmed he’s not seeking another term. He’s the fourth regional councillor to hang up the boots joining Chris Laidlaw, Sue Kedgley and Ian McKinnon. [via twitter]

     
  21. Helen, 30. July 2019, 8:49

    I wonder who will be standing for GWRC? You’d have to brave (or in need of $60,000) to want to take on the mess that the current lot have created.

     
  22. Keith Flinders, 30. July 2019, 11:33

    My hope is that the others complicit in the bus fiasco: Brash, Donaldson, Laban, and Lamason will all do the right thing now and not stand in October. They don’t have the confidence of the electorate.

    We need fresh and younger minds directing the GWRC in the future and holding the permanent staff to account. Standing as an independant and not having had a career in professional sports, etc., is a decided handicap, especially trying to cover the entire Wellington GWRC electorate when campaigning.

    This I know from first hand experience when I unsuccessfully stood in 2016, and as I am now over 70 I concede that this city/region needs younger representatives. Join me in voting for new and younger candidates who would have a hell of a task to emulate the massive mistakes visited upon us by those elected in 2014 and prior.

     
  23. Paul, 30. July 2019, 13:05

    @ Keith, Unfortunately Barbara Donaldson has confirmed she is standing again. She won’t spray and walk away, she’ll stay, continue to F@#k things up and refuse to meet the plebs that pay her salary.