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The year that ended badly

dont-swim

by Lindsay Shelton
What a way to end the year – millions of litres of sewage flowing into the harbour, and questions about why Wellington is using sewage pipes that are 90 years old or more. (A 110 year old pipe was used in the rescue process.)

When the overflow was stopped (after three days), and the rahui was lifted (after seven days) new mayor Andy Foster went swimming in Oriental Bay to demonstrate that all was well.

But a ban on swimming remains around the dive platform on Taranaki Wharf – because of sewage contamination that the council-owned Wellington Water is unable to explain, and which it has failed to fix for years and years.

If anyone was wondering whether enough attention was being paid to our city’s ancient sewage pipes, the new mayor responded a tad defensively:

“We spend about $180 million per year on infrastructure, that’s the three waters. Over a period of time we’re looking to increase that, because as the pipes age then you need to replace more of them.” Foster said there were lessons to be learnt from the overflow, “particularly around the frequency of inspection of critical pipes. It helps us to learn as governors to be able to ask some more questions of Wellington Water and of our asset managers.”

The sewage overflow contradicts the claim on the Wellington City Council’s website that

Wellington’s sewerage network has been continually improved over the years to reach the high standards we have today.

And in case anyone is questioning definitions: the Wellington Water website confirms that wastewater = sewage. The DomPost estimated that the total amount of poo that poured into the harbour was equal to two Olympic-sized swimming pools. Not good for Wellington’s image, even if the new mayor’s poo-free public swim was intended to reassure us.

And why did Andy defeat Justin Lester? Gordon Campbell reckons it was because the Lester-led Council failed to live up to expectations. Others thought the Shelly Bay saga was an issue. Whatever the reason, only 39 per cent of us bothered to vote.

Wellington doesn’t only have a new mayor.

ELT Portraits and Group Shot

The city council also has a new chief executive, chosen from within its ranks. Barbara McKerrow, the council’s former chief operating officer, made special mention of the staff when her new job was announced:

“I am proud to work for Wellington, the communities we serve and the talented staff in our organisation. It is a privilege to be entrusted to build on the strong foundations put in place by Kevin Lavery, and to support our Mayor and Council to shape the successful future of our beautiful city.”

courtney

Also chosen from within the ranks is the new chief executive at Te Papa, Courtney Johnston. She also had something to say about the staff – feeling they needed some tender loving care. And unlike her predecessors, she said she did not plan a restructuring.

There was no change of chief executive at the regional council, but there are a number of new members and a new chair Daran Ponter who’s taking a stronger and more active role to try to fix the bus problems. He wants Wellington to have eighty more electric buses (they’ll be “doing a disproportionate amount of the lifting on the city bus network”) by the end of next year, with the aim of a 100 per cent electric fleet by the end of the decade.

But till more electric buses arrive, pollution from diesel buses in the CBD – we learnt before Christmas – will continue to be as bad as a clogged multi-lane motorway. A direct legacy of the foolish decision to get rid of trolleys.

The regional council approved an “action plan” for buses, with fewer transfers and more direct services. Not to be overlooked, the city council joined the new era with a plan for bus priority lanes on eight corridors. This is an idea that’s been talked about for years. Maybe this year it will happen. (Helped by the fact that LGWM is also claiming the credit.)

The two councils voted in favour of the LGWM transport plan, which offers them $3.4billion from the government, with a big contribution (yet to be budgetted) from ratepayers as well. Andy talked about “really starting moving” and Daran said it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” But actual plans were hard to find, as LGWM just went on consulting. In October, it was evident that any specific plans were a long way off. After five years, there wasn’t even a decision on whether mass rapid transit would be light rail, or the untested trackless trams. Either way, either system will need its own route, free of other traffic.

Back in May, LGWM was full of good intentions with a big announcement about a “step change in transport.” But parts of it were vague and sometimes contradictory. It included some big fails – most notably failing to do anything about the dismal fact that State Highway 1 runs through the centre of town on Vivian Street, satisfying neither pedestrians (who wait forever at intersections) nor drivers (stopped at every intersection by traffic lights.) Confusion reigned: the LGWM document talked bravely about “undergrounding State Highway 1 in both directions through Te Aro,” but when Transport Minister Phil Twyford released his list of what the government would pay for, the undergrounding had been deleted.

Throughout the year, Wellington.Scoop published a convincing series of articles in which contributors amassed all the evidence to show that building more lanes for traffic does nothing to resolve traffic problems. An internationally recognised fact of transport planning, most recently and persuasively summarised for us in a December article by Guy Marriage. But the National Party chooses to ignore this reality, as shown by Nicola Willis’s blue posters around the Mt Victoria Tunnel.

Andy Foster gave hope that there might be information, instead of silence, on some of the city’s major crisis areas. He promised reports on the Central Library and Civic Square in the first two months of this year. We’ll be ready and waiting for them.

central-library-closed-in-march

The abrupt closure of the Central Library left a gap in the lives of thousands. Way more than thousands – it was visited by more than a million people a year. The most popular building in the city. The most-visited building in the city. Knowing its unchallenged popularity, it was strange to hear conversations that its uses should somehow be changed when it is reopened or rebuilt.

The city’s architects believe it should be strengthened and reopened, not replaced. After Justin Lester said that demolition was likely, the Institute of Architects called a public meeting and the chair of the institute’s Wellington branch Angela Foster said:

“Saving and rehabilitating the library is one of the options. It may well be possible to do this, and because adaptation of an existing building is a more sustainable solution than demolition and replacement, this option would be consistent with the Council’s goal of a ‘zero-carbon capital city’.”

At the packed public meeting, a leading architect and a leading structural engineer both insisted that the library could be strengthened and reopened. And they estimated a cost considerably less than the $100million that had been stated by Justin Lester. We reported from the meeting:

Architect Gordon Moller said: “It has not been damaged. It can be remediated.” Structural engineer Adam Thornton, with 40 years’ experience in multi-storey seismic design, said the hollow-core floors would be “an easy mode to repair,” by adding bracing which would be relatively straightforward to install. He said base isolation would not be complicated to add, as the library has a basement which would provide suitable space for the new technology.

It was however pointless to argue that the council’s $154million budget for a convention centre would have been better spent on a new library. (There’s no way that a convention centre will attract even ten per cent of the library’s users.) By the time of the closure, Willis Bond were starting construction on what many of us believe will fit into the category of a white elephant. A very expensive one.

But let’s demand that the city council doesn’t procrastinate over a library decision, as it did over the beautiful 110-year-old Town Hall. Closed in 2013, and empty and abandoned ever since. Till – in February – councillors agreed (it was their fourth unanimous vote) and then work actually started to strengthen it. It’s not due to reopen till 2022 – what a disgrace that it will have been closed for ten years.

Also agreed during the year – a final deal for the Town Hall to be part of a new Music Centre, which the city will share with the NZSO and Victoria University’s School of Music. This plan has also been years in the making, with Victoria University first pulling out of a deal to buy the adjacent Municipal Office Building, but then signing a deal to lease it. Leaving the council to pay the necessary strengthening costs.

The Town Hall isn’t the only major entertainment venue closed for performances. The St James Theatre – another of the city’s great heritage buildings – has been closed all year, as restrengthening began, causing scheduling problems for next year’s arts festival. (Which has already been constrained without the Town Hall.)

The former Paramount cinema, the original home of the Wellington Film Festival, completed its dismal conversion into offices. And the Readings multiplex complex stayed closed, with no indication of what its American owners are planning. Nevertheless the Film Festival overcame the shortage of seats and recorded its second highest attendance numbers. (The record was set when Readings was still open.)

Bill Gosden, who led the extraordinary expansion of the film festival for almost 40 years, stood down because of ill health. His achievement was recognised with an ONZM in the New Year Honours.

The per capita attendance at our film festival is one of the highest in the world. And we have a world reputation as a movie capital, which was strengthened as James Cameron started work out at Miramar on not one but two sequels to his record-breaking Avatar. The first sequel is due for release at Christmas 2021, and the second at Christmas 2023. So there’s lots of time for an immense amount of Avatar work to continue to involve hundreds of skilled people, headed by the now world-famous Weta Digital.

But Wellington doesn’t get to make the TV version of Lord of the Rings. There’s no space for it. So the series is being based in Auckland.

In spite of the shortage of venues, Wellington continued to offer a huge range of music and theatre.

Orchestra Wellington, under the inspired leadership of Marc Taddei, attracted record audiences for its season last year. Even competing, successfully, with the NZSO when it strangely scheduled one of its Shed concerts to compete with the local orchestra. Also Wellington based, the NZSO presented some massive works, as well as a sold-out presentation of one of the Star Wars films, with the orchestra playing the score by John Williams.

Wellington audiences were fortunate to see not one but two of the great musicals by the American composer Stephen Sondheim. First came Merrily We Role Along performed by an impressive cast of students from Te Whaea. Then just before Christmas, the little-known Footlights company presented an equally fine performance of Company. Two memorable nights at the theatre. And non-stop through the year, Circa and Bats sustained a challenging schedule with highlights including new work by NZ playwrights.

And the media? Georgina Campbell distinguished herself with more Wellington coverage than usual in the NZ Herald. (Though I wish she’d stop writing about “the failed Basin flyover…” More correct to say it was defeated, or rejected.) Tom Hunt, Damian George and a couple of their colleagues did some good work at the DomPost. But their Wellington reports were often invisible online, as both papers’ websites offer a dismal clutter of junk news, driving away potential readers with aggravatingly noisy video advertising which blasts out unstoppably.

Wellington.Scoop attracted record numbers of readers – in a 30 day period mid-year, we exceeded 100,000 pageviews for the first time. But Scoop’s financial resources remained stretched, limiting what we would like to be able to achieve. And the DomPost, put up for sale by its Australian owners, failed to find anyone who wanted to buy it. Do you want to own a newspaper? Do you want to sponsor a news website? Could be a good deed for the new year. Happy new year.

Dave Armstrong: The Wellington Basil Awards

45 comments:

  1. TrevorH, 1. January 2020, 12:52

    So Scoop is convinced “building more lanes for traffic does nothing to resolve traffic problems”? What a strange political moment we are in where latent demand for something is a reason not to increase the supply. On that basis we should not build any more houses because it only increases demand for more houses. The driver in both instances is Wellington’s and New Zealand’s rapidly expanding population. This significant increase has happened alongside inadequate investment in infrastructure or services which have fallen behind. While immigration can contribute to an increase in total GDP, in New Zealand’s case the more important measurement of per capita GDP has remained static. We are becoming poorer as congestion increases, sewers burst and the environment is degraded. Improved roading among other investments contributes to increasing productivity and our quality of life. Happy New Year.

     
  2. Dr Jennie Condie, 1. January 2020, 13:54

    Wellington has the chance to design and build a city that makes cars unnecessary for most trips. The next few years will be critical. We know what works. We know what we need to do. We need the courage and determination to do it. [via twitter]

     
  3. Traveller, 1. January 2020, 15:26

    Great to acknowledge the new era for two new chief executives. New Zealanders instead of non-New Zealanders. A younger generation instead of an older one. Hired from inside each organisation rather than brought in from outside … And, each of them, a woman.

     
  4. Gillybee, 1. January 2020, 19:16

    @ Trevor H: can you point me to the empirical studies which support your (repeated) argument that building more roads “contributes to increasing productivity and our quality of life”?

     
  5. Kerry, 1. January 2020, 20:31

    Trevor. Your comment looks superficially sensible, but is really nonsense.
    Housing is not a single market, with different types of living-space and a very large price-range. Cars are even further from a single market. They compete to attract people, with walking, cycling and public transport of all kinds. They also compete for road-space with trucks of all sizes.
    New Zealand has traditionally funded roads, subsidised public transport a little, and ignored other needs. Railways were privatised and asset-stripped. Walking and cycling was deterred by pollution, noise and risk. Now we are, at last, beginning to see the downsides.
    Cars use road-space very inefficiently, causing traffic jams and polluting cities. Several cities have relieved congestion by closing roads. People get the message, and make the changes they have long been thinking about.
    Copenhagen, Amsterdam and many other cities move more citizens on less road-space, because most people do not use cars. Walking and cycling are much safer, more relaxing, and good exercise, in much cleaner air. Some cars are used, and many tradesmen need vans, but most people prefer other modes of transport.
    Buses are much more effective when they are not delayed by cars. Light rail is even better, and trains better still for long distances. London is building cycling super-highways.
    In Wellington, LGWM surveys show that most people want change, and LGWM has adopted the objective ‘more people in fewer vehicles.’ Wellington’s narrow streets effectively demand such a policy.
    Fewer cars reduces pollution, climate change and emissions, (cars kill twice as many people with emissions as in crashes), increases safety, improves health (more exercise). City streets become much more desirable places to be. City businesses flourish, and people get to know their neighbours.
    More cars reverse all these processes, at very high cost; road-building is costly and the space is used very inefficiently. Car-use is heavily subsidised. Half of city roading costs come from rates (which cyclists also pay), and parking is another money-sink.
    The best returns on transport investment are safe cycle routes, because people use them, with massive health gains.
    “Why should I give up my car?” You don’t have to, but when you pay true costs, and see the benefits, you will probably want to.

     
  6. Marion Leader, 2. January 2020, 7:21

    Dr Jennie, the first thing is to stop those diesel buses from polluting the centre of Wellington. Since the pollution is noise as well as fumes I am very pleased that you are working on it.

     
  7. Mike Mellor, 2. January 2020, 11:06

    Excellent comment from Dr Jennie. Let’s Get Wellington Moving does give us that opportunity, which we must grasp. Let’s hope that GWRC, NZTA and WCC stick to what they’ve already agreed and don’t get diverted by politicians who seem to be more aware of political slogans than tough realities.

    But we must beware of unintended consequences. Banning diesel buses from central Wellington would mean reducing the number of buses capable of operating there to just 10 (and no buses at all from the eastern and western suburbs), which would be catastrophic for the city.

    So it is vital that GWRC (assisted in every possible way by NZTA and WCC, its LGWM partners) gets its act together and speeds up the long-overdue replacement of the worst dungers (many of which have had slogans on them for nearly 18 months proclaiming that they will be replaced “soon”!). This must be at the very top of their New Year Resolutions.

     
  8. Henry Filth, 2. January 2020, 13:53

    Well said Trevor. All those bicycles, electric cars, e-bikes, trams, hydrogen trucks, e-scooters, battery buses, Segways, and the like have to go somewhere. None of them belong on the footpath. . .

     
  9. BHS, 2. January 2020, 14:16

    Half the buses are empty. The average occupancy must be about 6 in the CBD. Better to go by car especially an electric one, and even a petrol car is better in terms with of emissions and size. More people should walk along the diesel mile and buses should be cut to a skeleton service.

     
  10. TrevorH, 2. January 2020, 14:40

    @Gillybee: since you asked here’s a recent study that shows the strong contribution made by new highways to improved productivity, increased international competitiveness and higher living standards in the US.
    @Kerry: you seem to have gone down a rabbit-hole with my analogy. But in brief if Wellington was a sleepy little out of the way fishing village at the end of nowhere, the transport modes you favour might be appropriate. But it isn’t. It’s a capital city that sits across the main route to the region’s airport, hospital and freight hub for shipping to the South Island and points beyond. Cycle routes are not relevant to these functions. Our highways are mainly funded by fuel taxes and road user charges. Everyone benefits from safe, fast well and engineered motorways.

     
  11. Traveller, 2. January 2020, 16:19

    TrevorH: are you saying that a fast motorway through the centre of Wellington would be good for the city? Would it really result in higher living standards and increased productivity? This is really hard to believe.

     
  12. Lindsay, 2. January 2020, 16:20

    I forgot one major event at the end of the year – the disappearance of the Westpac Stadium and its replacement, overnight, by a Sky Stadium.

     
  13. Gillybee, 2. January 2020, 16:31

    “So it is vital that GWRC (assisted by NZTA and WCC, its LGWM partners) gets its act together and speeds up the long-overdue replacement of the worst dungers…”

    Mike, couldn’t agree more. The “worst dungers” as you put it, comprise the vast majority of the buses NZ Bus ply on the No. 2 route – one of the two high-frequency routes that operate on Wellington’s bus network.

    An OIA from the GWRC dated July 2019 provides the following information:

    Euro 5 = 23
    Euro 4 = 11
    Euro 3 (a standard so old the buses are free to pollute at will) = 66 (!)

     
  14. Dan Tosfery, 2. January 2020, 16:39

    It’s a pity the Sky Stadium hasn’t been earthquake stickered. If it had been we could build a decent rectangular one in its place for rugby and soccer (with a roof on please). Whoever designed the ‘cake tin’ should be tried for crimes against sports fans!

     
  15. Gillybee, 2. January 2020, 19:10

    @ Trevor, my response to the link you provided:

    Any report from a body calling itself the “US Federal Highway Administration” in competition with other agencies for scarce Federal funding is hardly going to advocate for building public transport is it? Their report reads more like a lawyer’s case to justify their existence and should not be confused with anything resembling analysis, as no other form of transport gets a mention. This earth-shattering observation in the summary takes the cake:

    “Clearly investments that improve access, reliability, and intermodal connectivity have a positive economic impact.”

    So…light rail Trev? 😉

     
  16. Northland, 2. January 2020, 20:35

    @Kerry how would you improve the commuting between Karori (for example) and the CBD without improving (or even using) a road? Do you suggest that we install light rail to Karori? What would be your solution for this part of the city’s infrastructure?

    The top of Glenmore St and the narrow Karori Tunnel are major choke points at the moment.

     
  17. luke, 2. January 2020, 20:48

    Agree, the caketin is not fit for the football codes.

     
  18. Northland, 2. January 2020, 21:01

    @Dr Jennie Condie – Wasn’t the whole Bus Review (aka BusTastrophe) in mid 2018 Wellington’s golden chance to promote public transport over private cars?

    What happened? Incompetence and several steps backwards instead of forwards. Electric buses have continually been deferred. Older diesel buses continue to crawl through the golden mile. Meanwhile light rail is nothing more than a glint in the eye. The only bright spot has been driven by the private sector – the introduction of e-scooters that has allowed some more ‘clean’ journeys to be made (though probably mostly this is replacing walking / cycling, not car journeys).

     
  19. Alana, 3. January 2020, 0:17

    Thanks, Lindsay, for this thoughtful analysis of the year in Wellington and the recent hopeful changes. It’s good to have this reminder to help us keep watch in the next year.

     
  20. Concerned Wellingtonian, 3. January 2020, 7:04

    Thank you for the exact figures, Gillybee. 66 Euro 3 buses now roaming around Karori! As you say, this is “a standard so old the buses are free to pollute at will”. No wonder Auckland wanted to get rid of them.
    What is truly astounding is that the regional council’s contract with the operator has allowed this to happen. Is anyone who allowed this still on the council or working for it?

     
  21. Greta, 3. January 2020, 8:28

    @Northland – Karori had a 100% electric trolley bus system that could have been upgraded instead of scrapped. GWRC is stealing my future!

     
  22. TrevorH, 3. January 2020, 9:21

    Wellington needs to plan for its transport future from the perspective of improving its connections to the wider region and enhancing its position in the national economy, especially with a view to attracting investment. The LGWM process however appears to take as its starting point the predilections of Wellington’s inner city dwellers, who appear to believe they would stand to benefit from light rail to the airport and that everyone else should use this form of transport or cycle lanes.

    @Gillybee: the peer-reviewed study is one of many available. It assesses the rate of return on investment in the US Federal Highway system over 40 years which it finds has been substantial and of benefit to national productivity and living standards.

    @ Traveller: SH1 runs through the centre of Wellington, currently in a chaotic and congested format. Geography would not appear to permit a ring-road or bypass. Ideally SH1 should be four-laned and trenched between the Terrace Tunnel and Mt Victoria, providing an uninterrupted dual carriageway together with grade separation at the Basin. This would reduce congestion and emissions and improve safety, efficiency and Wellington’s economic performance.

     
  23. Kerry, 3. January 2020, 9:29

    Northland, an interesting question.
    Karori isn’t big enough for light rail, and conventional buses would be fine if they weren’t delayed by the cars. Two lanes for cars and two for buses would be ideal, but pricey.
    Now that bus priority traffic signals are on the golden mile agenda, some sort of three-lane layout might do the trick, with buses in the peak direction using the third lane. It will need some thought about bus stops, where the third lane goes (not necessarily in the middle), traffic signals, turning traffic and so on, and will need extra width in places.
    Even the Karori tunnel might be manageable, because it is short. A two-lane city-bound approach would be easy enough, and a bus could be given priority a few seconds before it reached the signals, to give time for the tunnel to clear. Karori-bound would be harder, but extra width might do the trick.

     
  24. Glen Smith, 3. January 2020, 10:15

    Trevor H. The article you reference simply states what is self evident – that a country requires a functional road network. Extrapolating this to say every road in any circumstance is justified (as you appear to do) demonstrates childlike analysis. Research in fact shows higher road supply in cities in the USA is associated with lower economic productivity – see graph 17 page 42 in this excellent Victoria Transport Planning Institute article.
    Transport network design (and hence funding allocation) should aim to optimise overall transport efficiency. As the article wisely points out, this should be “based on overall accessibility (people’s overall ability to reach desired services and activities) rather than just mobility (travel speed).” This should include all transport modes and the mode mix will depend on circumstances. One of the key factors is size and density of the population (see figure 14 page 38 of the article). In rural areas population is low (so unable to sustain PT) and distances are larger (making cycling and walking less viable) so optimal road share is high. In contrast in large dense cities demand is high (sustaining high efficiency PT) and distances are shorter (making cycling/walking more viable). As Kerry points out, allocating too much space in cities to roads restricts more efficient modes (PT, cycling, walking) and leads to lower overall accessibility. As the graph indicates road share in large dense cities is optimally less than 20%.

    So given limited funding will overall accessibility for the people of Wellington be increased increased more by investing in extra roads? or in more efficient alternative modes? The clear cut answer is alternative modes. Again this doesn’t say extra roading isn’t justified in individual circumstances. E.g. I support extra roading to the east immediately because with projected growth this will inevitably be required and the cheapest and least destructive way is to combine this with the other essential modes (dedicated PT corridor, cycling, walking) in a large bore multipurpose second Mt Victoria Tunnel which should be a top priority.
    On the other hand there is no way that a second Terrace Tunnel or undergrounding SH1 across Te Aro, while on the ‘nice to have’ list, can be justified compared to the increased accessibility that would be achieved by investing the same money in the most pressing need – a high quality rail based across town rapid transit corridor – and Phil Twyford and the Labour/ Green/ NZ First coalition are right to place these further down the funding priority list.

     
  25. TrevorH, 3. January 2020, 15:23

    @ Glen Smith: Thank you for the Victoria Transport Planning Institute article. Nadiri and Mamuneas who are referenced in the Victoria study found that while the initial contribution to productivity gained from establishing a highway network was large, additional investments produced impacts which were not of the same scale but which nevertheless remained important. This is stated in the US Federal Highway Administration article I provided previously.

    I am pleased you agree there is an urgent need for extra roading to the east and that a second Mt Victoria Tunnel should be a top priority. Reportedly the NZTA originally recommended the second tunnel should proceed before work might begin on a light rail connection in order to minimize disruption from the latter’s construction. It is of concern that this advice appears to have been rejected.

     
  26. Glen Smith, 3. January 2020, 16:22

    Trevor H. I didn’t say that there was an urgent need for increased roading to the east – the urgency is for high quality dedicated PT (preferably rail), cycling and walking. These, if implemented well, could negate the need for increased road capacity for many years. But based on long term growth, extra road capacity is inevitable and, since the best way to achieve this is a single multi purpose tunnel, this should all proceed together rather than having to retrospectively add additional road capacity later. Hopefully planners are objectively assessing this option (don’t hold your breath on that one).

     
  27. Just an Observer, 3. January 2020, 18:42

    Perhaps it’s time to give the Regional Council a break on the question of Euro 3 buses [a number have recently been sold or transferred north as the NZ Bus double decker fleet came on line]. The previous management of NZ Bus played silly buggers for almost two years, firstly dragging the chain on signing the DAU contracts (signed in March 2017 when the PTOM legislation allowed 90 days from the signing of the tendered unit contracts) and then by proposing that they should be allowed to convert the trolley buses into hybrids (the “Wrightspeed” solution) and then, when that proved a failure, coming up with a second proposal to convert obsolete buses with 40 year old running gear to pure electric and classify these as their “new” fleet in order to meet the PTOM requirement of 50% brand new.

    I’m not privy to what the financial proposals were but I’ll bet that these were unacceptable to both GWRC and NZTA and hence the long convoluted negotiations.

    Technically the GWRC could have withdrawn the DAU offer after the 90 day period ran out but, possibly because this may have been politically unacceptable – and certainly it would have brought Infratil into the battle – or because they felt they had to bend over to assist the unsuccessful incumbent [remember that NZ Bus had not tendered for the Hutt or Porirua because they didn’t want to risk exceeding the 60% rule so confident were the old management that they would clean up the three Wellington City tender units].

    And virtually the first decision of the new owners of NZ Bus was to dump the trolley bus conversion proposals as unsustainable. Presumably NZ Bus are now negotiating with international suppliers for the new fleet (around 55 buses I believe) but it still means that 2 1/2 years will have passed between Tranzit, Uzabus and Mana/Newlands placing their orders for new vehicles and NZ Bus doing so.

     
  28. Ross Clark, 4. January 2020, 3:31

    Ok, instead of a new Mt Victoria tunnel, how about a reconfiguration of the motorway on- and off-ramps such that they help car traffic to bypass the city, instead of encouraging car traffic to come into the city? This would allow public transport to concentrate on its natural comparative advantage, which is getting people into and out of central business districts.

     
  29. jamie, 4. January 2020, 6:16

    Once again a sewage problem in Wellington. Great look in the middle of summer and not fixed by the mayor in the harbour. It is not acceptable to put treated waste water in rivers in Provincial NZ yet fine to dump it in the sea in the cities. This should be recycled to land or back into the cities’ water supply if you want to be a world class green city rather than one that relies upon 100 year old pipes. Yep it will cost but same for the transport network.
    Farmers aren’t allowed to claim that it is old pipes, so time that the playing field is levelled.

     
  30. Roy Kutel, 4. January 2020, 8:59

    @Just and Observer – the system and the key planners are at fault and it won’t be rectified until GWRC is abolished and a Public Transport Authority created with experienced professionals in charge with political representation from the city councils. Getting rid of the trolley bus wires was a GWRC decision and for this alone the organisation should be condemned to the history books.

     
  31. Farmer Bill, 4. January 2020, 9:00

    Well said Jamie – townies create far more shit than farmers do.

     
  32. Concerned Wellingtonian, 4. January 2020, 9:45

    Wonderful thinking, Just an Observer. Are you sure that the Regional Council is enforcing the contracts which it has agreed with the operators?

     
  33. GrahamCA, 4. January 2020, 10:14

    Wrong Roy Kutel – the decision to terminate the trolley bus operations was made by the Regional Council after consideration of a very detailed review of the state of the network – overhead, underground, supply and vehicles prepared by a tripartite working group from Wellington Electricity, Wellington Cable Car and New Zealand Bus and signed off jointly by the chief executives of those three organisations. The report was presented by those 3 companies to the chief executives of both the WCC and GWRC who no doubt then ensured it was thoroughly vetted before making recommendations to their councils.

    So while the Tramways Union and some individuals in NZ Bus subsequently put considerable effort into blaming the Regional Council for a unilateral termination, the decisions were based on advice that NZ Bus had fully endorsed.

     
  34. Keith Flinders, 4. January 2020, 12:17

    Just an Observer contends that NZ Bus played silly buggers for almost two years. What they did as an organisation run by astute business people was to adhere to the rules, instructions, and opportunities granted to them by the GWRC and its interpretation of PTOM legislation. NZ Bus being a private business has its first responsibility to its shareholders, as they are not a charity. As to whether NZ Bus are good corporate citizens, that’s another matter.

    On the other side we had the GWRC governed by 13 part time councillors with not a jot of successful business acumen between them (well none that I have been able to find) making decisions on things they did not understand the consequences of. Added to which they made wild non researched unsubstantiated engineering and environmental claims.

    Regional transport needs to be run properly as the multi million dollar a year business that it is, not by 13 part time elected councillors who appear to appoint officers as ill equipped as themselves to make decisions. Civil servants are the last people to be let loose running commercial operations. The councillors and officers are required to protect the health and safety of their citizens, but what they did with the bus debacle was to imperil the health of those who frequent the Wellington CBD. The air quality was bad enough before the trolley buses were withdrawn, as shown by the recordings the GWRC referenced. What they did was to look at the region as a whole and extrapolate the effects of the replacement of diesel buses outside the Wellington CBD and contend that it would be to the advantage of all everywhere in the region.

    A rational argument, and risk analysis, would have seen the need to replace the trolley buses with pollution free ones before they dismantled that system. Euro 3 buses ex Auckland were being introduced as early as 2015 when extra capacity on the then 3 route was pointed out to Metlink by brassed off commuters. The numbers of these old buses increased from that time as trolley buses were taken out of service rather than be given extensive maintenance.

    Will we see the promised 80 electric buses running Wellington City routes by the end of 2020 if most have yet to be ordered? Somehow I doubt it.

     
  35. Keith Flinders, 4. January 2020, 12:27

    When the finger pointing stops as to who caused the collapse of the 80 year old sewer tunnel, who will get the blame ? Will it be the managers of Wellington Water and its council owners, will it be their contractor’s managers, or will it be a low paid digger operator just following instructions without reference to a risk assessment plan.

    How the sewer tunnel came to collapse is an issue we who are paying for the replacement of need to know. What steps will be taken to ensure that another such event will have the risks mitigated prior to gung ho “repairs” ?

     
  36. Gillybee, 4. January 2020, 12:31

    There was an ideological component to the decision to terminate the trolley buses too Graham, which shouldn’t go unmentioned.

    The 2013 PTOM legislation from the National government further corporatised public transport by cutting NZTA funding, which pushed up fares; and forced competition onto bus routes. The trolley buses with their fixed wires across the city didn’t fit the picture, so had to go. Rogernomes like Fran Wilde and Paul Swain fell in line.

    The “state of the network” a bit like our sewage pipes, was the inevitable result of lack of investment/regular preventative maintenance, like so much of our infrastructure. You’d never treat your car the way we have treated infrastructure in this country, over the last 40 years at least.

     
  37. Roy Kutel, 4. January 2020, 14:58

    Wrong GrahamCA? GWRC made the decision to axe the trolley buses, not the City Council or anybody else. The trolley bus wires etc would still be in place had it not for GWRC deciding to pull the wires down. An act of environmental ‘vandalism’.

     
  38. Kara, 4. January 2020, 17:14

    Euro 5 diesel was superceded in 2013. So Euro 3s would have been disallowed way before that. Any Euro 3 buses being driven in Wellington contribute CO2 and hydrocarbons – neither of which we need.

     
  39. Mike Mellor, 5. January 2020, 11:52

    Northland, a few days ago you asked “@Kerry how would you improve the commuting between Karori (for example) and the CBD”?, and Kerry gave a response.

    The draft response of WCC and GWRC is here, with appendices analysing each of the eight corridors that they have identified: Appendix 4 (p140) covers the Karori route.

     
  40. luke, 5. January 2020, 13:21

    I often observe buses stuck in traffic congestion from about the botanic garden to Bowen St in the mornings while there is vehicle storage on the road that I reckon would make for an ok part time bus lane.

     
  41. Mike Mellor, 5. January 2020, 17:25

    luke, the WCC/GWRC Wellington Bus Priority Action Plan “recommends that initial public engagement on bus priority opportunities goes ahead early in 2020 as part of wider community engagement on other LGWM proposals. People’s views will help to inform detailed planning of improvements so funding can be secured”, so you’ll be getting an opportunity to provide feedback such as that.

     
  42. Guntao Stem, 6. January 2020, 10:18

    More feedback? I’ve had a gutsful of bad plans, consultation and ‘feed-back’. The process is there to keep bureaucrats, lawyers and consultants in well-paid work funded by ratepayers.

     
  43. PCGM, 6. January 2020, 10:51

    Guntao Stem – While all these reports do indeed keep the bureaucrats and lawyers and consultants busy, I suggest the real reason for the endless paralysis-by-analysis is so that our local body politicians can avoid the risk of actually making a decision or demonstrating leadership.

    No matter what they decide, it’s going to make someone unhappy – and you don’t get elected by making people unhappy. The best idea is to not decide anything, whereupon no-one will be unhappy, whereupon you’ll get re-elected. And the best way to pretend that you’re doing something when you’re heart-set on doing nothing is to call for another report.

     
  44. Casey, 6. January 2020, 12:35

    PCGM your analysis could have well been spoken by Sir Humphrey of Yes Minister.

    Reading through the Karori section of the draft Bus Priority report strikes me as something written by an accountant. Very good at telling us where we are at, but apart from a few minor teaks offers nothing much as to the required solutions. Seemingly the hope is that one of us armchair traffic experts will come up with the answer as to how to get a quart into a pint pot, (a litre into a 500ml bottle for those of the younger readers).

    The things that remain as the problems to address are 1. More cars sharing the same roads as buses at peak times and weekends, 2. More people living in the city suburbs, 3. More potential users of public transport when it gets sorted.

    Karori should become an area of higher density housing and in fact the WCC has done a report/outline scheme, so hence its public transport requirement will grow. This change will require the present at maximum capacity sewage system to be expanded, and more importantly the Karori tunnel to be replaced or duplicated. Neither likely to happen any time soon.

    I was most surprised to see the high number of Karori cyclists listed in the draft report, far higher than my observations have been to date.

     
  45. Ruth, 6. January 2020, 14:35

    MORE feedback!! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I do know I’d be rich if I charged by the hour.