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Dirty diesels make Lambton Quay as polluted as a clogged motorway

Report from RNZ
The air quality on Wellington’s golden mile is as bad as some of the worst polluted sections of clogged multi-lane motorway networks in the country.

The information comes from NIWA which is updating its national road transport air pollution map which uses samples from 1000 sites around the country.

NIWA scientist Ian Longley said the most polluted areas in New Zealand are the places where there is lots of traffic with stop-start driving. These include Auckland’s central motorway junctions and the state highways in Hamilton.

Dr Longley said what is surprising is that the air quality on Lambton Quay and Courtenay Place is about as bad as those places – despite having just a tenth of the traffic volume of the major arterial routes.

“It’s this combination of a small number of diesel vehicles and tall buildings which are sheltering the street and stopping the air dispersing.

“It’s really striking that that really does have a big effect.”

Dr Longley said relatively small changes like getting diesel buses out of the inner city would make a big difference.

He said the old diesel buses and trucks were preventing the country from having some of the lowest urban air pollution levels in the world.

New Zealand had a relatively large number of old dirty diesels, he said, and these had a disproportionately negative impact on air quality.

However, there was no doubt that even the country’s most polluted areas were better than comparable places in Asia and Europe.

“Given our isolation and windiness we really should have the best urban air quality of almost anywhere in the world,” he said. “That’s a realistic goal for us.”

He said New Zealand’s natural geographic advantage meant New Zealand may be complacent about the fleet’s emission standards.

NIWA will be releasing the air-quality maps for all the country’s towns and cities on its website in the new year.

29 comments:

  1. Patrick Morgan, 29. December 2019, 21:39

    Another myth debunked: “Wellington has clean air because of all that wind.” We’ll be healthier with fewer cars and trucks. [via twitter]

     
  2. K, 29. December 2019, 21:46

    Thanks Regional Council. Nice job poisoning Wellingtonians and its visitors at a national leading rate! I’m so proud.

     
  3. michael, 29. December 2019, 22:42

    These statistics clearly show the impact of the Regional Council’s ill-advised decision to get rid of the trolley buses and introduce second-hand Auckland diesel buses to the city, and something needs to be done urgently to resolve this. According to data from Auckland regarding their buses (of which we now have their cast-offs) “diesel vehicles are estimated to be responsible for 81% of all vehicle-related air pollution health costs, with the annual health costs estimated at $466 million”.

    Given that Wellington’s inner-city has surpassed Karori to become the biggest suburb in Wellington, it is appalling that residents (and city workers) are being subjected to this kind of pollution. But let’s face it, nothing will be done, no one will be held responsible, and city residents will continue to be exposed to harmful pollutants and health issues, while the WCC and the government continue to prattle on about climate change and greenhouse emissions with little evidence of being serious about it.

     
  4. Roy Kutel, 30. December 2019, 8:15

    It’s the ‘Dirty Diesel Mile’ thanks to the Regional Council who got rid of our 100% electric trolley buses and replaced them with old diesels Auckland didn’t want. Please can we get rid of the Regional Council in the new year?

     
  5. KT, 30. December 2019, 8:30

    Given the volume of buses along there, I’m not surprised. It’s a shame the Regional Council couldn’t get itself sorted with electric buses. People need to move, it’s not just about reducing cars – although we will – it’s also about clean public transport alternatives. [via twitter]

     
  6. Ben, 30. December 2019, 8:46

    I remember the time, in 2018, when the Regional Council claimed the air pollution had come down thanks to the introduction of the new bus fleet. Yes they did. Glad they’ve since acknowledged they were wrong, thanks to Revolt Wellington’s efforts. [via twitter]

     
  7. Iona Pannett, 30. December 2019, 8:51

    We did try to save the trolleys didn’t we, Sue Kedgley, Paul Bruce, Roland Sapsford and Gareth Hughes! [via Facebook]

     
  8. Elaine Hampton, 30. December 2019, 11:17

    Where is the anger from the businesses along Lambton Quay, because I won’t shop there any more. I would have thought they have a vested interest in making the area attractive. But no I haven’t heard a word from them or the Chamber of Commerce.

     
  9. michael, 30. December 2019, 12:59

    @ Elaine: I am staggered at the pervasive apathy from some many sectors of the community and government in this regard. A 2015 report to parliament from the Parliamentary Commissioner stated that “particulate matter from diesel engines is considered to be particularly toxic” and this “can cause a range of effects on human health, from minor irritation through to significant disease and shortening of life”. This is now becoming a real concern as, since the “old” diesel buses arrived in Wellington, apartment balconies, cars, shop fronts, and bus stop seats along the “Golden Mile” are covered with black carbon or soot. And we are also being exposed to many other gas pollutants we can’t see.

    Surely the government should be the first to raise this issue as the cost to public well-being and the health system is frightening, but no . . . nothing . . . as we descend towards 3rd world pollution levels.

     
  10. Keith Flinders, 30. December 2019, 13:39

    The response from the WCC in trying to save the trolley buses was pathetic and without conviction. The 2016 – 2019 mayor’s response was “we have to be pragmatic about the decision”. Cr’s Calvi-Freeman and Free were the only councillors who took a stance but they were not supported by the rest of the team.

    Current Mayor Foster was a director of Wellington Cable Car Ltd, a wholly owned WCC subsidiary which owned and operated the overhead trolley infrastructure. WCCL were openly in favour of ridding themselves of the trolley bus infrastructure but still continue with 9 senior staff members operating just the one service, the cable car.

     
  11. Rumpole, 30. December 2019, 14:44

    The previous mayor and councillors were responsible for the loss of the trolleys and all infrastructure. Hilda and I are unamused to read councillor Iona Pannett’s comments: “We did try to save the trolleys didn’t we”. How pathetic!

     
  12. TrevorH, 30. December 2019, 15:32

    The loss of the trollies was and continues to be a disaster, especially as they have been replaced by old diesels of which most do not appear to meet Euro 5 or Euro 6 emissions standards. My recollection was that the decision to scrap the trollies was taken allegedly because of the estimated cost of upgrading the electricity system to support them which had been privatized by a previous Council. What we have now is the cumulative effect of foolish decisions made over the years by politicians who are only interested in putting their names on vanity projects like the absurd convention centre. Local government in Wellington has a very sorry track record. Reform must come from central government starting with the appointment of commissioners as soon as possible.

     
  13. Neil Douglas, 30. December 2019, 15:47

    Well said Keith – it is a pity you are not a Regional Councillor as you are one of the very few who both care and know what they are talking about. There again, even if you had been a Councillor you’d have been outvoted. And the City Council? Well, what a pusillanimous bunch they proved to be!

     
  14. Ruth, 30. December 2019, 15:59

    I no longer shop in town and I feel very sorry for people who have no choice but to be in town. What is the legal responsibility of WCC and WGRC to provide a safe environment particularly for workers along the ‘Golden’ mile? Not to mention their moral responsibility!

     
  15. michael, 30. December 2019, 17:26

    My question to everyone is – what can we do about this? So far our concerns have been ignored by those in power, from the “well-being” government down. No point complaining to the Regional Council as they seem to believe their website which claims they are “building a world standard, low emission public transport network to make greater Wellington even greater”. I would laugh if the problem wasn’t so serious.

     
  16. Michael Gibson, 30. December 2019, 19:04

    Jenny Condie was asking WCC officers whether the City Council could ban diesels from the Golden Mile. This was two or three weeks ago so, as a Councillor, she should get the answer in January sometime (hopefully).
    I shall be interested to see what happens then.

     
  17. Dan Tosfery, 30. December 2019, 20:01

    I frequent Unity on Willis – our last superb book shop. But there is a noisy, smelly polluted bus stop outside thanks to GWRC and their decision to axe the trolley buses. The over-paid people who run our city transport would not last a week if they were running a private sector business like Unity!

     
  18. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 30. December 2019, 20:16

    Michael, Jenny Condie doesn’t need to wait for an answer as it’s immaterial, at least in the short term. Whether or not WCC has the power to ban diesels from the Golden Mile, it would be political suicide to do so – imagine the uproar if almost all buses had to cease overnight! But just maybe WCC could declare that it will ban diesels from the Golden Mile from, say, 1-1-2025. That might sharpen GWRC’s “resolve” to convert to an all-electric fleet.

     
  19. City Lad, 30. December 2019, 21:13

    Chris Calvi-Freeman: did you appose dismantling the trolley bus overhead wires throughout the eastern suburbs?

     
  20. michael, 30. December 2019, 21:29

    @ Chris: If the WCC does try to ban diesels from the Golden Mile in 5 years, are we expected to hope that this might sharpen GWRC’s “resolve” to convert to an all-electric fleet, and then wait years for that to happen, while our health and well-being deteriorates. Not good enough! We need positive action and decisions to remove these old polluting Auckland buses now! It appears that the abundant rhetoric from both council and government regarding sustainable and safe transport is hypocritical.

     
  21. Albert Saxy-Coburg, 30. December 2019, 22:55

    Why political suicide Chris CF? Jenny Condie would still have 2.5 years remaining till the next election.

     
  22. Michael Gibson, 31. December 2019, 10:15

    Chris – with great respect you should know the answer to the question about WCC being able to ban diesels. It is pathetic that something isn’t being done about the regional council’s ludicrous decision to sign a contract which seems to allow operators to lumber us with smelly and noisy old relics left over from Auckland.
    The time to have acted was in the last triennium. I am only too pleased if a new Councillor begins to make noises about this.

     
  23. Helen, 31. December 2019, 11:49

    Parp parp to that Michael! Oh for some councillors prepared to make some noise about clapped out diesel buses adversely affecting our health courtesy of the regional council and their out-of-town and out-of-date councillors.

     
  24. Dave B, 2. January 2020, 13:27

    @ Chris C-F. Here’s my blueprint for banning diesel buses on the Golden Mile:

    1) NZTA make the Inner-city bypass – Karo Drive – Arras Tunnel route 2-way immediately, as-per the Terrace Tunnel’s 2+1 configuration. There is enough width for this on the rest of the route. It doesn’t need any major construction. Encourage this as the main through-traffic route and reduce general traffic along the Waterfront.

    2) Re-direct diesel buses via the Waterfront, and improve pedestrian-access across this road, now possible due to the reduced traffic from step 1) above. The distance from potential bus stops along the Waterfront to destinations on the Golden Mile rarely exceeds 300m (5 minutes slow walk). There is no reason why buses have to run via the G-M. After all, rail-users are faced with a much longer walk than this to get to any part of the G-M.

    3) Pedestrianize the whole Golden Mile. Run more buses via the Terrace – Ghuznee St – Taranaki St to better service this side of the CBD (and make these buses all-electric).

    4) Just do it. Starting with 1).

     
  25. Kara Lipski, 3. January 2020, 14:05

    No surprise regarding what NIWA has discovered. We told the previous GWRC councillors (and Metlink) what the removal of trolley buses would do to our city when replaced by diesels. But supposedly they knew better. And providing token gesture electric double deckers (a massive minority in the fleet of diesels) means the canyon effect along Lambton Quay and Willis St is going to be injurous to respiratory systems for a while to come.

     
  26. Sarah Morgan-Brown, 8. January 2020, 9:02

    I am in support of Lambton Quay being traffic free. But not Willis Street. As a Brooklyn resident, I am sick of being left out of any traffic decisions. A car free Willis St as part of the golden mile would send me 2 kms in the wrong direction from my trip. Brooklynites have been disavantaged with Karo Drive being the priority for traffic into the city from further afield.
    The Terrace isn’t suitable for much more traffic than it has.
    It is laughable that the trolleybuses were deemed to be so slow going down Brooklyn hill that diesel and electric buses were needed. Now there are double decker buses that, because of their size, are no faster than the trolleys with the same build up of vehicles behind. A bike is faster than both.

     
  27. James, 8. January 2020, 13:13

    I would be curious to know how the Regional Transport Committee could report in December (in its annual monitoring report) that the average emissions per bus per km had decreased by 58% between 2014 and 2019, with the biggest drop coming in 2018/19. This seems to be due to the removal of ‘Euro 1’ buses.
    The measure is supposed to be a proxy for ‘improved quality of public transport’ but it completely ignores the shift from trolleybuses (they are not mentioned anywhere in the report).

     
  28. Gillybee, 8. January 2020, 13:38

    James, it’s because they ignore CO2 in their calculations. Aka fudging the numbers.

    http://www.revoltwellington.co.nz have a lot of good info on this on their website.

     
  29. Keith Flinders, 8. January 2020, 17:23

    James: Obfuscation is what the GWRC excel at.
    CO2 emissions are up and as Gillybee mentioned they aren’t included in their figures as a tailpipe emission.

    Overall the amount of particulate matter, and other nasty emissions other than CO2, are down over the ENTIRE region due to the phasing out of diesel buses pre Euro 3 specification. However, and as the NIWA report highlights, there is an increase in diesel buses traversing the Golden Mile, including many Euro 3 ones, and they are impacting those who need to be in or pass through that area.

    Trolley buses did assist in keeping all the Golden Mile tailpipe emissions lower than has been the case since they were withdrawn. The graphs sourced from the GWRC at the Re-Volt web site tell the story.