Wellington Scoop

Sarah Free standing again for “a very special part of Wellington”

Media release from Sarah Free
Councillor Sarah Free announces she is standing again in the Eastern Ward. She says it has been a privilege to represent the people of the Eastern Ward for the last six years.

“This is a special part of Wellington with an outstanding natural environment, plenty of history and strong and active communities”, she says. “I love living here, but the reality of climate change means we need to move to transform transport and protect our coastal environments. Transport is responsible for around half of the city’s emissions, so I’ve always had a focus on that”.

Sarah says the “bustastrophe” has been extremely challenging, although bus timetables, routes, hubs and contracts are the responsibility of the Regional Council.

“In the beginning, people didn’t understand the difference, and as city councillors we received a lot of complaints from distraught residents” she says. “I want residents to know that I’ve tirelessly advocated on their behalf to the Regional Council – and I’ll continue to do so until we have the bus services we need. We’ve had some wins, including an early review of eastern suburbs services, but there’s more to be done”.

Sarah says the City Council as the road controlling authority can and will improve bus priority through the city to achieve greater consistency in travel times – and under her watch, in partnership with the Regional Council, more is being done to get new bus shelters around the city.

Sarah has held the walking and cycling portfolios for three years and says the rollout of a new network of cycleways and walkways for Wellington is a big achievement.

“Councillors and staff have worked really hard with local communities and other stakeholders to plan these cycleways and understand the issues. They have been generally well received, but the jewel in the crown will be the stunning new cycleway/walkway from Oriental Bay to Miramar which is underway now – lots of residents have told me they are excited to see it finished.”

Sarah also notes that the city council has continued a solid programme of footpath improvements including attention to some of our hillside walkways.

If re-elected, Sarah will also prioritise investment in water infrastructure and coastal protection, new housing done well, and building strong and resilient local communities and businesses.


  1. Benny, 15. August 2019, 16:07

    Thanks Sarah for presenting your candidacy. I read your announcement carefully, which aligns very much with the results of the survey recently published by Enterprise Miramar. Great. However, there are specific topics that will need a specific, detailed, clearly articulated position.

    Shelly Bay first. The resource consent process should reach its term in September. This should put a term, too, on the Council self-imposed silence. What will be your position then? Given what we know now on the impact on traffic, residents would probably like to know if the person they vote for will allow this project to pursue its reckless act of destruction on the landscape and local democracy fabric. Of course, if the consent is turned down, perhaps things will be easier, but I don’t want to under estimate Mr Cassels’ determination. It will be important for me to give my vote to people who will bring reason and dialogue back in this project.

    Question: If the consent is granted, will you advocate at the Council table to go down every possible avenue to fight this project, and bring it back to a reasonable size? How do you intend to do this?

    Also, there is the regional park, North of the peninsula, which has been touted for a few years. Given the recent survey on the peninsula, there is no doubt in my mind this park is eagerly anticipated by the local community.

    Question: Do you support the creation of this park? If yes, what can be done to make it happen?

    On the airport extension, its runway but also its footprint on the peninsula, what is your official, public stance on it? You have indicated in the past you see the ever-expansion of the airport as a problem. We own a third from the airport so surely some reasoning can be done from the inside. There are other options, such as bylaws.

    Question: What can and will you do to set a definitive limit on the existing ground? On the runway extension?

    Speaking of the airport, there is an issue around its emissions, but the ones coming out of the planes (not the airport itself). The climate emergency has been signed, and now actions need to follow. You indicated in the past you were favouring a flight tax to reflect the true cost of flying. That is good but it is defaulting on the government or cross-countries agreement to regulate this, whereas Wellington can and should set its own limit. What about setting a cap to the airport emissions (including ones coming of the planes) at its current level? This would force airlines to bring clean planes to Wellington, which admittedly, the technology has not delivered yet. This would go against airport planned growth, but be aligned with our shared understanding that climate takes precedence against everything else, while making Wellington an environmental beacon on the world stage. This would too, limit the airport expansion (see point above) and increase the cost of flying from/to Wellington, which aligns with your idea that cost of flying does not really reflect externalities. So here is a measure that we, in Wellington, can do: setting a cap on airport emissions to today’s level.

    Question: Is it something you would advocate for? If yes, how would you suggest it is implemented and legally binding? Note: the airport states they want to reduce their emission by 30% by 2030, which is good, but does not include airlines’ emissions.

    Finally, the buses. Yes, it’s a GWRC prerogative, but I believe WCC could have done way more to prevent this. You will be aware of how much the Eastern Ward has been impacted. I know you have advocated for better services. But what else can be done to fix the service? What can be done, too, to remove diesel buses (some very old and polluting), to force the transition to electric public transport?

    Question: Would you consider supporting a policy, at the Council table, to ban diesel buses from Wellington streets at a 10 year horizon?

    All these questions, in all fairness, should be asked of the other candidates for the Eastern Ward, and will be in due course. I truly hope you will help voters like me make informed decisions.

    And one final question: do you support a traffic light or an overbridge on Cobham Drive for pedestrians?

    PS: funny that I don’t feel I have to ask questions about LGWM as it seems we won’t see any benefit from it in decades.

  2. Simon “Swampy” Marsh, 16. August 2019, 12:56

    Hey Sarah, good luck with the campaign it has been a pleasure to share the Eastern Ward with you. I can’t wait for that bike path around Evans Bay, getting the money for that was proof that being told you can’t do it is incentive to find a way to make it happen.
    Do not forget that partnership with business and a strong economy bring alternatives to continually increasing rates.

  3. Barbara McKenzie, 17. August 2019, 13:30

    Thank you Sarah for inviting comments and feedback. I have a couple of questions:

    1) What is the justification for Wellington Councillors declaring a “climate emergency”. The last major climatic event in Wellington was when it snowed in 2011.

    2) Human activity is responsible for 3-4% of total atmospheric CO2; NZ’s share of that is 0.1%. How can zero carbon policies in New Zealand make a difference to global CO2 levels?

    3) Why did the council decided to move from trolley buses to battery-powered vehicles? There are already questions over the environmental implications of producing batteries, and their safe disposal could turn out to be extremely problematic.