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Continuing concerns: transport, rates, housing …

by Ian Apperley
Last week was more or less the same as previous ones, with the Let’s Get Wellington Moving campaign under fire again (face it, it’s on fire), housing ideology, rates rises, and more climate change issues for the Wellington City Council.

It’s not been a good period recently for the WCC, which has lurched around with the Let’s Get Wellington Confused transport campaign that is not only starting to look more and more like the Emperor’s New Clothes but is also looking like those clothes are a clown suit.

Councillors broke ranks last week, alleging that the LGWM plan was watered down to suit the Greens. Now, putting aside the leaking, sneaking, and then attempts at hiding information in what was supposed to be one of the most transparent governments ever, it is astounding that councillors allowed themselves to be rolled, if these allegations are true.

We seem to be entering an era of “Voting Regret” where councillors are publicly stating that if they had the vote again on a number of key issues, they would change it. But, when questioned by residents on their stance on said key issues, they either redact, vanish, or have nothing to say.

Election year indeed.

The latest councillors to have a crack at this are mostly independent and have consistently dragged the Labour Party councillors out into the open kicking and screaming – perhaps in an effort to point out that Central Government has far more of a hand in local issues than is obvious.

Perhaps it’s a retaliation in a war that started in the Western Ward where Labour is trying to unseat incumbent independent councillors in an effort to get more voting power around the table. Rumours are that’s getting messy.

It’s a shambles, with no hope of transport being fixed in decades and Wellington not getting what it wanted in order of priority. The city deserves better and it’s a classic case of taking some good ideas and stabbing them to death with ideology and political point scoring.

An interesting, comprehensive, and well-written article on LGWM popped up this week on Architecture Now, It’s worth a read.

For the last few decades, Wellington transport investment hasn’t played to its advantages. Despite a compact mostly flat CBD, regional rail to one end, the town belt, the harbour and initiatives purporting to “fix traffic” with expanding road space have seen the capital city on the way to being a car-jammed, poorly-walkable, barely-bikeable mini-Auckland.

Then there was the Wellington.Scoop article by Andy Foster who wrote about the rates increases. In a typically fact-filled and interesting article Andy spelled out a number of issues, raised some serious questions, and covered the fact our rates are slowly heading through the ceiling for little return.

People have started contacting me to ask why their increases are as large as they are. It even came up in a friendly way on the football pitch yesterday. I’ll use ours as a ‘modest’ example – city rates up 4.6% and regional rates up a staggering 15.7%. Overall that’s 6.2%. Other people, undoubtedly with greater proportionate rises in Capital Value in the revaluation, have even higher numbers. Normally I don’t get this level of immediate feedback on rates. . . The bad news is that there is a lot more proposed.

There are a lot of comments following his article about the increasing cost of living in Wellington given rates and insurance rises. It certainly is getting more and more expensive and the old Council adage that “rates are just the same as a daily cost of a coffee” are starting to sound more like “rates are just the same as the cost of a daily brunch.”

Again, we see the WCC bulldozing costs into outlying years, still chasing vanity projects, not dealing with the likely immense cost of Civic Square, and not funding enough basic infrastructure to keep the city resilient.

But you knew that already.

Trying to hit the housing button again last week, the Mayor and Social Housing Portfolio holder Brian Dawson came out with a very confusing policy promise that is most likely unworkable.

Mayor Justin Lester and councillor Brian Dawson want “Mum-and-Dad” property investors to lease their houses to the city council so they can be turned into affordable rentals. “We need to intervene, we need to act and we think we can,” Lester said. Dawson said Wellington could become a “middle class ghetto” if rents continued to skyrocket and diverse groups were no long able to live in the city. Houses would be leased for 10 years then rented out at a rate starting at 5 or 6 per cent below the market rate with annual rent rises limited to inflation.

This is a wonderful piece of ideology that would only appeal to “Mum-and-Dad” investors who were prepared to take a hell of a risk and who held the same charitable ideology.

For house owners who are worried about their retirement, increasing rates, far more expensive insurance, health requirements, and other rising costs, I’m not sure they are going to be up for minimising the amount of rent they can take.

Housing is the second highest issue on the election trail this year and having some real initiatives, like releasing land, like speeding up the consent process, and so on, would go down well right now.

Back in climate “emergency” land, the airport wants to buy land owned by the Miramar Golf Club, to (you guessed it) put in even more parking for cars and planes.

Wellington Airport has offered Miramar Golf Club $31 million to take half of the club’s land and turn some of it into a zone for parking planes. The move will help pave the way for “future passenger growth”, with an aviation industry expert saying it’s also likely to help cater for more intensive screening on regional flights.

So while we can’t give up golf course land in other parts of the city for important things like housing, we can potentially pave over a lot of green space for more parking.

The WCC has really got egg on their face over the climate emergency fiasco and this isn’t helping when they own a third of the airport. It looks more like ‘do as we say and not as we do’ and repeated calls from residents across the city on councillors’ stances around the airport continue to go unanswered. Makes your brain hurt.

First published on Inside Wellington

8 comments:

  1. TrevorH, 13. August 2019, 11:19

    The WCC recently declared a “climate change emergency”. Expanding the airport, especially in its present location, makes no sense. It is on land that is extremely vulnerable to sea level rise for which the Council has drastically revised upwards its planning projection. The airport is also a major contributor to the city’s escalating congestion and emissions problems. It’s time to bite the bullet and start working towards its relocation north of the city, perhaps as far up as the Horowhenua. Transmission Gully and the expressway to Otaki will make this more attractive. A rail spur could also be constructed to connect the new airport to Wellington, Palmerston North/Whanganui and the Hawkes Bay. The airport would be far better placed to meet the airfreight needs of exporters in the southern half of the North Island. Perhaps Shane Jones can provide some seed money from the Regional Development Fund?

     
  2. Concerned Wellingtonian, 13. August 2019, 11:26

    What is the Council doing about the Climate Emergency? [PCGM wrote about this: an emergency with no urgency.]

     
  3. PCGM, 13. August 2019, 12:26

    Concerned Wellingtonian – Based on my reading of WCC’s current annual plan and policy announcements, it would be wrong to say they are doing nothing about climate change. In fact, they appear to be going out of their way to actively make things worse.

     
  4. HR, 13. August 2019, 12:56

    Don’t the WCC part own the airport? It feels like they say one thing With their WCC hat on and do another with their airport hat on. Where’s the consistent leadership?

     
  5. Local, 13. August 2019, 16:15

    Wayne Eagleson (John Key’s former Chief of Staff) and Cr Andy Foster are the Council’s representatives on the Airport Board.

     
  6. Guy M, 14. August 2019, 8:10

    Trevor H – you’re talking nonsense. The airport land is not vulnerable to sea level rise – the runway is about 5m above sea level. Auckland Airport is though – it is only about 2m above sea level, so perhaps you should target your campaign against them up there – suggest that Auckland should move its airport to a better, safer, higher, more inland location, and see how well you get on there.

    Wellington’s Lambton Quay, on the other hand, is as low as 2.4m above Average Mean High Water Springs (i.e. what we often refer to as “sea level” although it is a moving target) and so Lambton Quay is the part of Wellington that is most likely to suffer if/when the levels rise. Perhaps you would be better suggesting that Wellington’s CBD look to move up Ngauranga Gorge as well?

     
  7. Shrinking violet, 14. August 2019, 9:47

    Venice comes to mind again; but then so does Holland. I think we should all retreat to above ground bunkers – say on Mt Victoria or some other Town Belt height. Would that save us from impending doom and destruction? It might save us from further bustastrophe …no more CBD, no more buses?

     
  8. TrevorH, 14. August 2019, 13:59

    @Guy M. Fair enough, the runway may remain floating majestically above the waves but under many projections the access routes from the city will likely be cut. We have had a foretaste of what is to come during storm surges around the south coast. Auckland can look after itself.

     

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