Wellington Scoop

Wellington’s transport plan is “political deal,” says National MP

News from NZ National Party
Reports of underhanded tactics used to force a political deal on Wellington’s transport plans show they were gutted for the sake of the Labour-Greens relationship, says Wellington-based National MP Nicola Willis.

“Wellingtonians will be rightly shocked by reports of manipulative tactics used against city councillors to secure their support for the Government’s preferred Let’s Get Wellington Moving plan.

“First we have Green MP Julie Anne Genter using her Ministerial role to write secret letters pushing her personal political demands about what should be in and out of the plan. Now we learn that local representatives were led to believe that same Minister had veto-rights over the final Let’s Get Wellington Moving plan.

“Councillors are charged with advocating for the people they represent, but it appears they felt they had no choice but to accept the package as dictated by Genter and Transport Minister Phil Twyford.

“This reveals an appalling politicisation of what was billed as a collaborative and consultative process between central and local government. It calls into question the legitimacy of the $6.4 billion package and the sequencing of projects within it.

“It shows the transport priorities that were decided for Wellington were more about coalition politics than what the people really wanted.

“It’s also clear the Government has been misleading the public by claiming the Let’s Get Wellington Moving plans have universal support.

“We’ve now heard councillors at both WCC and GWRC vent frustrations, including Labour’s regional councillor Daran Ponter who said: ‘the things that have arrived on Wellingtonians’ plate … are certainly not the things that they identified as projects they wanted’. Wellingtonians deserve better when it comes to their transport future.”

Ombudsman investigating letter


  1. Traveller, 8. August 2019, 22:35

    Nicola Willis, a politician, complains that transport policy is decided by politicians? How does she think that political decisions should be made?

  2. glenn, 9. August 2019, 6:22

    They should be made on what’s best for the ratepayers of the city, not on the puppet having his strings pulled by his masters.

  3. Marion Leader, 9. August 2019, 7:24

    Traveller, was it “decided by politicians”?
    If so how can we tell and what reasons were given?

  4. TrevorH, 9. August 2019, 7:33

    So much for consultation. This is another example of why it is foolish to vote for members of any national political party in local body elections. They serve their party’s interests, often in the hope of being selected as an MP. Wellington’s needs are secondary.

  5. Ian, 9. August 2019, 8:31

    Nicola should acknowledge that it was the poor transport policies of the earlier National Party politicians that have been compounded into our current transport mess. I am grateful that the present government, steered and pushed by the Green Party, will get us back on the light track.

  6. Ms Green, 9. August 2019, 8:46

    This is a very strange statement from Nicola Willis.

    Take politics out of politics? Or is it take politicians out of politics?

    Or maybe she means take the National Party out of everything and especially take the National Party out of transport solutions which for them seems to be four lanes to the planes, through the Town Belt and the more roads the better…

  7. Harry Welsford, 9. August 2019, 8:47

    It’s foolish to vote for the WCC. Unless voting is for a no confidence vote, as this article proves there is no democracy in the Council with all its puppetry.

  8. Andrew S, 9. August 2019, 10:16

    Agree with you Harry. See how Ministers and Central govt distances itself from local govt failures. I feel the Councilors always have acted like they were puppets.

  9. Local, 9. August 2019, 11:38

    Well spotted Andrew, Harry and Glenn,
    We do indeed have a puppet master standing to be mayor. Or is it two – one pulling the strings, and the other being pulled by the strings?

  10. Ralf, 9. August 2019, 11:56

    Politics will always be political. And LGWM was always politically loaded. The original proposal showed four scenarios with roads, more roads and a lot more roads. The feedback from ratepayers was that, instead, the focus should be public transport and other modes (walking has the lowest carbon footprint). This was then translated into a plan to build roads and sometime later this century also add some public transport. The government was then asked for money.

    I suspect the intention was always to start building roads and then later cancel the public transport investments (to save money, not to mention that the additional roads will increase traffic (law of induced demand) and hence more roads will be a higher priority again).

    The current government doesn’t want more roads. Which, looking at the feedback the LGWM plan got, seems to be inline with what Wellington people want (though possible not with National voters in Wellington). It certainly is with me.

  11. Dave B, 9. August 2019, 18:18

    Are Nicola Willis and others who are complaining about ministerial influence over the Let’s Get Wellington Moving process, really just upset that the plan is steering away from the historical norm of road, roads and more roads? Or put another way, if Ministers Genter and Twyford were pushing for 4-lanes-to-the-planes instead of mass-transit would Nicola Willis et al be happy?
    In which case it’s not political interference per-se that is their problem, but rather that the process may not deliver what they want? I can understand their disquiet and sympathize with their frustration. I felt the same 10 years ago when former Transport Minister Steven Joyce over-rode sensible transport-planning and poured $billions of taxpayers’ funds into National’s Roads of Extravagance. I am happy that this madness has stopped, and we can now get on with some much-needed re-balancing.

  12. Madeleine Simpson, 10. August 2019, 5:48

    The Council agenda has always been top down and central govt political. Driven by those who want to make more money off the ratepayers (slushfund). Central Govt Ministers should have no place in local govt. Their agenda is not ours though they make it sound like it came from us. Who said we wanted a race to Zero? XR? We just want great cost effective core services.. but these services have mostly all been sold/contracted out at very high costs .

  13. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 10. August 2019, 13:43

    The current media beat-up over who said or wrote what to whom in parliament is just “stuff & nonsense”. The LGWM governance group (comprising the CEO & another senior NZTA officer, chair & deputy chair of GWRC and Mayor & myself from WCC) mutually agreed on the “Recommended Programme of Investment”, which comprises: the single-spine mass transit route from the railway station to the airport/Miramar via Newtown; the various medium-long term roading projects; and the short term “early improvements” designed to support better buses, walking, cycling and placemaking.

    The government has agreed to fund its share of all the above, except for those roading investments that are at the long-term end of the spectrum. This allow us all to get on with the funded works, subject of course to detailed designs, consents and individual business cases. This we will do. Much water will flow under the proverbial bridge before we reach a stage where further consideration needs to be given to the longer term projects including a second Terrace tunnel which was always seen as something to be considered as and when the higher priority improvements had been introduced, for logical reasons.

    What LGWM has done is establish an agreed blueprint for transport investment, secure Wellington’s fair share of national transport funding (via the NLTP), and (partly as a result of my ongoing advocacy over the past 2.5 years) introduce and elevate the mass transit proposal to a key component of the highest priority investment in the city’s transport infrastructure.

    Now, although I’m an independent WCC councillor, I’m happy to coin a certain PM’s expression: “Let’s do this”!

  14. Glen Smith, 11. August 2019, 4:35

    Chris Calvi-Freeman. Congratulations on your hard work in advocating for the allocation of significant central government towards Wellingtons PT needs. However I again have to question whether planning has been undertaken in a truly rigorous and professional manner.
    The demonstrably cheapest, shortest, fastest and least destructive way of achieving the required increased transport capacity to the airport and eastern suburbs in all modes (rail/road/cycle/pedestrian) is via a large bore stacked multipurpose Mt Victoria tunnel (see my article of 8 Feb) which should be on the short term funding list. It is clear this option has never been properly considered (I have previously asked for costings and feasibility studies for this and none have been forthcoming, I am sure because none have been done).
    The decision to choose a Newtown route (which doesn’t appear to be open to any logical challenge or scrutiny by the public or their elected representatives) appears to have been made at a closed workshop meeting on 5 July 2018. The qualifications and biases of the participants are not given and none of the underlying evidence is presented. The decision appears to have been made on a subjective and arbitrary basis. It notes that
    “When evaluating the two remaining options.. [mass transit via Mt Victoria or Mt Albert].. the first stage of mass transit from the railway station to southern Newtown/Zoo was assumed as a given. A direct comparison was therefore difficult as the options did not start and end in the same place.”
    Really? Do you think this is a logical decision-making process? Why was a mass transit corridor to Newtown and the zoo ‘assumed as a given’ when Newtown sits naturally on the Southern PT lines which will continue to be bus based and these lines can adequately service Newtown. A mass transit line to Newtown imposes potent transfer penalties onto all southern bus commuters and forces them onto a Quays route rather than a Golden Mile route with almost certainly longer trip times than simply staying on their buses and travelling the extra couple of kilometres to the CBD via dedicated bus lanes. Frankly it is a stupid network design. To try and justify this, the report says
    “The assumption around the first stage to Newtown was tested by asking whether the LRT/LLRT route option via Mt Victoria would stand up on its own. It was considered unlikely given the limited urban regeneration potential through this part of the corridor compared with Newtown. So the question for evaluation was confirmed as: extend via a single spine from Newtown; or, extend to the east with a new branch from the Basin”
    Really? Why would it not stand up on its own when the prime purpose of the eastern line is to get the large population of the eastern suburbs to the CBD and beyond in the fastest and most convenient way. By this logic the Tawa 1 and Tawa 2 rail tunnels should never have been built because slowly winding the main trunk line via Johnsonville and Tawa clearly had greater ‘urban regeneration potential’. Do you think commuters from Kapiti would use a service that takes this slow detour route? Do you think the residents of Tawa and Johnsonville would appreciate a major through rail line running down their main streets?
    The report then notes
    “The route option via Mt Victoria Tunnel and Ruahine Street was acknowledged to be slightly shorter and more direct, and with less side friction. Journeys from the airport/Miramar were therefore likely to be around 2-3 minutes quicker via this route, however this was not considered to outweigh cost and deliverability factors.”
    Really? So some comparative costings have been done? Please present them because the evidence I have seen is a direct route would be cheaper. And what are ‘deliverability factors’ because again a Newtown route is far more logistically and consentably challenging and so far less ‘deliverable’. A Newtown route produces inferior outcomes for both eastern and southern commuters while being likely more expensive and difficult to achieve. This is such an obvious fundamental network design error that I am gobsmacked at its stupidity.

    Central Government is right to question the agenda of LGWM which has consistently shown itself to have a strong road bias and be unable to competently examine all available options. It is very reasonable for them to put roading components, such as a second Terrace Tunnel and Te Aro changes, much lower down the priority list based on their elected policy position – fixing PT is clearly the top funding priority. However if the stupid decision to run rail via Newtown rather than a direct route via a multipurpose tunnel has anything to do with the forced central imposition of a fixed blinkered pretermined agenda then (as an unabashed paid member of the Green Party I choke on the following words) National is right and local councilĺors should be free to make their own independent assessment of options.
    I suspect this isn’t the case. I suspect that the fault is with LGWM in that the only option they have presented to Central Government is mass transit via Newtown and road via Mt Victoria (ie they have never properly examined or presented the logical option of a combined Mt Victoria route) in which case the Coalition are quite justified in placing the road component (Mt Victoria Tunnel) further down the funding priority list based on their policy position.

    Time for you and other LGWM members to present your clients (the public), their elected local representatives and Central Government with a more thorough and comprehensive range of options, both on the route and on ways of removing the potent transfer penalty at the station to achieve a seamless regional network. Sadly I don’t think LGWM are capable of this.

  15. TrevorH, 11. August 2019, 10:02

    @ Chris Calvi-Freeman: Wellingtonians including the many who contributed to the Let’s Get Wellington Moving consultations have a right to know whether the Associate Minister of Transport made a substantive intervention that altered the outcome. Her letter was signed by her in her capacity as Associate Minister on official letterhead. Her refusal to release the details is a denial of transparency and accountability. But maybe it’s okay when the Left do it?

  16. Patrick Morgan, 11. August 2019, 19:54

    @Glen Smith: in my view, the point of mass transit is much more than providing a fast route to the airport. It’s also a major urban development opportunity for housing, employment, retail, hospital etc. along the route. It’s a jobs engine. The fixed route provides the certainty investors need to build housing and businesses. Twyford, Genter and Lester understand this, hence their support for modern mass transit that connects the CBD, Massey, hospitals, Newtown, Kilbirnie and Miramar. We’ll love it.

  17. Kerry, 11. August 2019, 19:56

    Glen. I am having trouble with you claim that
    “the demonstrably cheapest, shortest, fastest and least destructive way of achieving the required increased transport capacity to the airport and eastern suburbs in all modes (rail/road/cycle/pedestrian) is via a large bore stacked multipurpose Mt Victoria tunnel”. Large-bore tunnels are never cheap, and you admit that it has never been costed; perhaps it was rejected because it looked pricey.

    FIT Wellington came up with a proposal much the same as chosen by LGWM, and it is a reasonable guess that they used similar thinking:

    — Mount Victoria is an important route and — other things being equal — is the shortest and fastest, but it is a much lower-density route, making it unsuited to mass rapid transit (MRT). The MRCagney study put out by LGWM shows it being well-used as an alternative to MRT, for use by passengers who would otherwise have to use MRT and change twice.
    — The best route for MRT should consider speed, but also residential and business density, as well as key destinations. Three key destinations are Wellington Hospital, Miramar (housing & employment) and the Airport, which suggests a LGWM-style route.
    — Other considerations by FIT were that a Zoo-Kilbirnie tunnel can be single track, because traffic will be relatively light in the outer suburbs. Space can be left for a second tunnel if ever needed. With only one tunnel on the route, timetables can be designed so that vehicles will pass one another at the Kilbirnie and Zoo stations, maximising tunnel capacity.
    — LGWM have rejected the Coutts St route because tunnelling under the runway would be too difficult, and Coutts St wouldn’t be easy either. Stations 12m wide in a street 15m wide, property-to-property, would also be messy.
    — MRCagney have proposed that all bus routes south of the MT Vic tunnel and east of Adelaide Road and Island Bay Parade should terminate at a MRT hub: Miramar, Kilbirnie or the Hospital. Passengers would get a faster run into town, and other bus options to avoid having to change twice.

    That is a lot of passengers on MRT, relieving severe bus overloading on the golden mile. The biggest remaining problem seems to be delays in implementing MRT, and without it the golden mile can only remain overloaded.

  18. Wellington Commuter, 11. August 2019, 23:25

    @Kerry Is the MRCagney that LGWM had design the proposed hub-and-spoke Mass Rapid Transit network from the CBD to the airport the same MRCagney that designed the new hub-and-spoke bus network we use today ?

  19. John Rankin, 12. August 2019, 9:36

    @WellingtonCommuter: the proposed mass rapid transit design is a trunk and feeder network — a topology which pretty much every successful (ie high ridership plus transit-oriented urban development) rapid transit network uses. In fact, MRCagney did not design the bus network we use today, as GW did not implement the design MRCagney produced. MRCagney did design the very successful new bus network which Auckland Transport recently implemented.

    From my reading of the LGWM technical documents, the initial network concepts which evolved into the current mass rapid transit design were produced by Ian Wallace Associates and reviewed by WSP Opus. MRCagney then expanded this design to revamp the bus network in light of the proposed mass rapid transit line. The result is a classic and entirely uncontroversial trunk and feeder network topology.

  20. Glen Smith, 12. August 2019, 23:33

    John Rankin. A ‘trunk and feeder’ design is exactly what the bustastrophe imposed and exactly what we don’t want for a city the size of Wellington. It assumes a single central ‘spine’ which all commuters are forced to transfer to, imposing potent transfer disincentives on a large percentage of riders (as Kerry says ALL commuters from the East and South) while forcing them along a Quays route (when most probably want to go to the Golden Mile). FIT somehow thinks this is will somehow encourage people to use PT.

    The best design is a ‘radial connective’ design (see my previous ‘transfer’ article of 2nd April) which has multiple lines each starting from a peripheral destination traversing the city and continuing to another peripheral destination. This is the design that essentially every successful city rail system uses world wide- I encourage readers to pull up the metro map of almost any city (London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow etc) to confirm this. This design means any rider on any major regional line can get to the CBD without transfer and to any other location on any other major regional line with one transfer.

    Patrick Morgan. Who said mass transport via a multipurpose Mt Victoria tunnel was just to supply the airport? It would service the whole eastern suburbs (over 35,000 east of Mt Victoria). The question is where these people want to go and the best way to get them there. Hint – very few want to go to the Zoo.

    The purpose of PT is of course to service ‘housing, employment, retail, hospital etc along the route’ (well duh) but these don’t have to be (and can’t all be) on the same line. Trying to put everything onto one ‘spine’ leads to illogical design. If you took this to its conclusion you would run the Hutt line to Petone, then out to Porirua, then slowly wind it via Tawa, Johnsonville before heading to Northland and maybe Kelburn before heading to the city.

    If instead you assume a ‘radial connective’ design with multiple lines, then you look at how the peripheral suburbs are naturally grouped (to determine where each ‘line’ should start from), then look at more central suburbs to see where the line should naturally run. So Upper Hutt forms a natural peripheral destination and topography means the line runs naturally via the southern Hutt Valley (not Porirua). The Kapiti coast forms a natural peripheral destination and topography means it naturally runs via Porirua/Tawa (not Petone). Karori forms a natural peripheral destination…..

    South of the city there are two main natural peripheral areas, the East and the South, separated by the large hill range of Mt Victoria to Mt Albert. Each has enough population to justify a major line (not just one spine for both). Newtown sits naturally on the Southern line, this line has to run through here, and it is adequate to service this area so we don’t have to run the eastern line through here. The easiest, fastest and most direct route for getting from the eastern suburbs to where most people want to go (the CBD and beyond) is via a SH1 route/ Mt Victoria tunnel (this is why our ancestors chose this route) and Kilbirnie/ Hataitai and southern Mt Victoria, (each with a population that rivals Newtown and each just as viable for housing intensification as Newtown) sit naturally along this route. Trying to service all southern and eastern suburbs via a single ‘spine’ that takes a long convoluted route which commuters are then forced to transfer to is fundamentally flawed network design.

    Kerry. My assertion that a large bore multipurpose tunnel would be cheaper is based on the advice of a world tunnelling expert. This was of course taken off average costs worldwide rather than Wellington’s specific scenario and the best solution would be a comparative costing. I welcome this and wrote to the NZTA, GWRC and the WCC in 2013 encouraging them to take up Ramboll’s offer of a feasibility study which would likely have included basic costings. In fact the tunnel could probably be built by now. This didn’t fit with their predetermined road agenda so was ignored (just as it doesn’t suit FIT’s rail only agenda now so is ignored).

    Wellington Hospital is a key destination but should be on the major North South and East West bus routes, not the rail line, since most hospital patrons come from areas served by bus.
    Miramar is a major destination which should have its own line direct to the CBD rather than forcing most Miramar residents to transfer to your ‘spine’ at the Miramar shopping centre.
    Coutts street was never viable as a rail route due to inadequate width. Rongotai Road is the logical route.
    Tunnelling under the airport probably is the best solution rather than trying to cram all Miramar commuters travelling via all modes into the small climate change/ storm surge vulnerable narrow strip of flat land north of the runway, a plan that will inevitably lead to an ever escalating quagmire of congestion until the waves claim it back. This would shave about 1.8 km off the airport rail line which would almost certainly pay for the tunnel while allowing direct access for the airport to develop the western (Bridge St) side of the runway rather than stealing golf course green space on the East like they stole Stewart Duff Drive.