Wellington Scoop

People or cars – what’s best for the CBD

c place new look

by Lindsay Shelton
The petition to make Courtenay Place vehicle free is an appealing idea. It’s been around for ages, but successive councils have failed to take it seriously. Now could be the time.

The petition was launched on Friday, and by last night it had been supported by almost 600 people.

The organisers said:

This is a great opportunity to revive what could be one of the best entertainment districts in New Zealand. It would create safe spaces that can be enjoyed by all ages during the day, with no traffic, more walking and cycling, and a much more diverse entertainment offering not solely focussed on late nights.

Back in 2009, Sir Robert Jones was the first to make this suggestion, as part of an engaging plan for the entire CBD to become vehicle free.

Sir Robert advanced his plan when the council was regressively preparing to destroy Manners Mall, and to turn it back into a bus route.

He said

“I’ve been to about 150 countries and … the one particular characteristic of all vibrant and appealing cities is pedestrian malls.”

And more

“… people and motor vehicles don’t mix. Traffic, in particular buses, introduces an abrasive element to city living. It’s not necessary.”

But the city council went ahead and abolished the pedestrian-only Manners Mall, put back the buses into the street, and did nothing about the Jones proposal.

cbd quay traffic free

Seven years later, the regional council started investigating the idea of making Lambton Quay vehicle free. Well, not entirely vehicle free, but a first step. Daran Ponter told us:

Earlier this week my fellow regional councillors gave unanimous support for a motion requesting that the GetWellyMoving Project investigate issues and options for dedicating Lambton Quay for public transport, cycling and walking. Thanks to Chris Laidlaw for seconding this motion.

A few weeks earlier, mayoral candidate Nicola Young had made the same proposal, and Bob Jones had revived his 2009 suggestion, saying it had brought a positive feedback from sophisticated retailers and people such as the capital’s leading CBD retail leasing agent, Ty Dallas of Colliers.” But …

conversely, it elicited some mind-boggling stupidity, none more so than from John Milford, then manager of the city’s only department store, Kirkcaldies, who told the Dominion Post he was opposed as his customers like to park outside. Pointing out that there were no parks outside Kirks made no difference …… Nobody has more to lose from Lambton Quay pedestrianisation than me (if I’m wrong), my company owning the most Lambton Quay buildings and far and away the most CBD shops. But I’m not wrong, as the worldwide evidence is compelling.

That was five years ago. Since then, Wellington continues to ignore the world-wide evidence.


  1. Helene Ritchie, 18. May 2020, 15:03

    I believe the council is making Courtenay Place vehicle free as a trial from 11 pm until 4 am on Friday and Saturday nights. What a great post Covid initiative. It should be made permanent, day and night.

  2. Kerry, 18. May 2020, 16:07

    Two cautions:
    — Courtenay Place is still the best bus route
    — Wellington’s golden mile bus route is badly overloaded and must not be made any worse. A crucial redesign feature needs to provide enough stop-width for buses to overtake.

  3. P Barlow, 18. May 2020, 17:38

    With vision Courtenay Place should be all people and no vehicles.

  4. Lindsay Shelton, 18. May 2020, 18:40

    LGWM received 1600 responses to a survey at the end of last year asking how the Golden Mile could be improved. The most common suggestions were removal or restriction of private vehicles, better bus priority, less crowded footpaths and better cycle facilities.
    But are they taking action? Not really. They say:
    “The Golden Mile team has used this feedback to develop and assess a long-list of options for improvements. The team is now considering stakeholder input and working towards a short-list. We plan to ask for your feedback on these in the coming months.”
    Feedback on the feedback. Sounds like no hope of anything actually being done.

  5. Wendy, 18. May 2020, 21:24

    In the event of pedestrianization, it would seem unlikely in the current environment that more retailers or cafes would move into Courtenay Place.
    Wakefield Street is extremely congested in the evening and without any other route for traffic, gridlock will be a likely consequence of increased traffic. Currently Courtenay Place serves the St James, two medical centres, a paediatric dentist, a dentist , the lab and a hearing clinic, services which require to be accessed by many people including older persons, families and the disabled. Courtenay Place has already seen the loss of the ANZ Bank, Reading cinemas and several retailers. Service providers will be likely to relocate if access becomes more challenging.

  6. Local, 19. May 2020, 8:08

    Same old same old. Wendy – Wakefield Steetr is a construction site with a narrowed roadway. Jervois Quay? Light rail through Taranaki? Oh well, paralysis prevails. More consultation! Let’s keep grotty Courtenay Place just as is. Drunk non-distancing patrons spilling out of uncontrollable bars, on to smoke-filled footpaths. We cannot be more sophisticated than that?

  7. Rich, 19. May 2020, 12:08

    Courtenay Place is not living up to its potential. It would be so nice to have it pedestrianised! Those who think it would impact retail negatively have never traveled?! Melbourne, a lot of European cities, they all have pedestrianised part of their inner cities and retail definitely doesn’t seem to be worse off than the current Courtenay Place.

  8. Ralf, 19. May 2020, 15:04

    I think LGWM are being a little bit dual-faced here. They want to “pedestrianise” the Golden Mile, but they also want this to the be the bus spine with more buses at a higher speed (not so much top speed, but average speed of course). These are conflicting goals. Either this is a Bus Rapid Transit Route, in which case it becomes hostile to pedestrians (there is the idea to fence off the road from the sidewalk, which of course is the opposite of a pedestrian zone), or it becomes a pedestrian zone, potentially with some public transport through it, but that won’t be faster than today (if it has to respect people crossing everywhere all the time). And you wouldn’t want a bus every minute either in such a scenario.

  9. Pseudopanax, 20. May 2020, 8:50

    John Milford should retire along with his 20th century taste for being able to drive wherever and whenever he likes and be able to park his private car, ideally right outside his destination. We need to listen to young people with a vision for the 21st century that prioritises zero emissions and a green built environment. Wellington has destroyed much of its infrastructure to suit car use, it’s time to put public health at the forefront of future planning. Pedestrianising the Golden Mile connected by a light rail system would be a good start.

  10. luke, 21. May 2020, 22:50

    An endless stream of boy racers with loud stereos, lowered suspensions and tinted windows add nothing to Courtenay Place. Pedestrianise it now. Buses excepted.

  11. Michael Pringle, 23. May 2020, 15:16

    Cities all over the world post-Covid are removing cars from their centres and creating cycling and walking paths and public transport. We can do this here too if there is the will to do it.

  12. David, 23. May 2020, 15:52

    Those boy racers are irritating but produce nothing like the emissions of those horrible diesel buses; after 4pm the whole area stinks. Make it vehicle free permanently and I will consider eating there again.

  13. Northland, 24. May 2020, 8:41

    It would be nice for Wellington to have some more pedestrianised areas in addition to Cuba, and similarly to other cities in the world. I would favour Lambton Quay, but it could be Courtenay Place. It would surely enhance shopping and retail.

    But I agree with others here that such areas need to be both car and bus free. Pedestrians and such vehicles do not mix well. Has everyone forgotten the horrendous number of pedestrian / bus accidents within the CBD streets in recent years?