Wellington Scoop

View from Karori: time to refocus LGWM

News from KRA
Karori Residents Association is concerned about LGWM and believes that it is urgent that WCC asserts its position as the planning authority for the city and seeks a significant re-focus of the work of LGWM.

When the Wellington foot-hills motorway was built in the late 1960s, the intention was to swing eastwards after passing through the new Terrace tunnel, and to cross over Aro Flat to meet the both the old (1931) and a newMt Victoria tunnel. The new tunnel was to be built slightly to the north of the existing tunnel. The land had been surveyed, and the city had already driven a two-metre heading shaft right through the hill to assess the geology and water inflows that might be encountered.

In the early 1970s, the NZ economy struggled following the “oil price shocks” when the oil producers of the Middle East banded together to break the hegemony of the western nations’ oil companies. Crude oil prices soared, impacting all economies that had a heavy reliance on oilfor industry, electricity production, and transport fuels.

As part of economic measures taken to cope with the much higher oil prices, most government projects were re-appraised,and many were shelved. The completion of the motorway connection to Mt Victoria tunnel, and the second tunnel, were among projects that were stopped.

A second project that did not proceed was a second tunnel to augment Karori tunnel and thus improve road access to the western suburbs. First advocated in the early 1950s by the City Engineer, this project was endorsed by consultants De LeuwCather (DLC) in the early 1960s. KRA has researched newspaper reports of the period and reviewed the DLC report. It seems evident that the City Engineer was following two important principles:

1.Main arterial and highway routes should bypass the CBD as much as possible; and
2.Traffic that needed to enter and leave the CBD should be dispersed through several access points as far as practicable.(The City Engineer had taken a similar approach when considering a second western suburbs access tunnel. Recognising that the current Karori tunnel distributed traffic between Glenmore Street and Kelburn Road, he proposed that a second tunnel should head towards Aro Street or Abel Smith Street.)

KRA believes that the concepts being followed by the City Engineer were basically correct.

However, nearly 70 years later, the solutions proposed then now require review.

The Present Position

In the 1960s, the southern edge of Aro Flat was probably not considered to be part of the CBD1.The proposed route to the Mt Victoria tunnels was well clear of Manners St and Courtenay Place and their immediate side streets. The same cannot be said today. The use of Vivian St as a major west-to-east arterial route does not fit well with the activities of the CBD. Karo Drive, the relatively new east-to-west arterial road, can be considered to be close to the southern fringe of the CBD, but KRAbelieves that Karo Drive also obstructs potential growth in the area it passes through.

Karo Drive is not yet complete. It is still linked to the impossible snarl of traffic around the Basin Reserve. The overpass proposal was defeated by the procedures of the Resource Management Act and the lack of clear and direct Council input.

The use of the Basin Reserve is around two 5-day Test Matches per year, plus maybe five 1-day fixtures, a total of 15 days. It seems to KRA that a better solution would have been to create a New Basin Reserve venue elsewhere and to have freed up the current land for a well-designed traffic interchange. This would have “fitted” well with the proposal for the second Mt Victoria tunnel, and could have improved access to Newtown and the southern suburbs. Too late; we are where we are.

Fresh thinking is needed. Following the decision to disapprove the overpass proposal, a “partnership” was formed by Greater Wellington Regional Council, New Zealand Transport Agency, and Wellington City Council. They established a new planning body which is called “Let’s Get Wellington Moving” (LGWM).

The opening page of LGWM’s website proclaims: What’s our vision for Wellington? A great harbour city, accessible to all with attractive places, shared streets and efficient local and regional journeys. To realise our vision we need to move more people with fewer vehicles. How did we get to our vision? We started with the kind of city and region our community wants, and defined the transport system needed to enable that.

KRA believes that LGWM’s “aspirational” goals are mostly unmeasurable and incapable of being assessed by cost-benefit analyses.The “guiding principles” are particularly unsuitable for project definition and design work. KRA believes that it is possible to define guidelines that are clearer and more precise.

KRA makes these points about LGWM’s seven projects:

1.None of the projects directly improve traffic or public transport problems in theNorthern, Western, or Southern suburbs of the city.

2.Lowering central city speeds and “reviewing” State Highway 1 speeds east of the Mount Victoria tunnel are very minor issues that hardly deserve the label of projects.

3.Mass Rapid Transit connecting the Railway Station with Newtown and the Eastern suburbs is limited in scope, and while it might benefit commuters who arrive in Wellington by rail, it does nothing for the Western or Southern suburbs residents, nor does it help Northern suburbs commuters who cannot easily use the single line Johnsonville Line(which does not qualify for the term “mass rapid transit”).

4.None of the projects specifically recognise the traffic and parking problems associated with Wellington Hospital, the major hospital for the entire region. KRA contends that Wellington Hospital needs much better access to and from SH1 and SH2 than it has now.

Where Do We Go fromHere?

1.Wellington City Council is the planning and roading authority for the city. By entering a “partnership” with GWRC and NZTA, Council has weakened its grip on issues that are vital to the residents and businesses of Wellington.
2.Council should limit its involvement in LGWM to providing advice, guidance, anddirections on its requirements for transport works and public transport services within the city.
3.NZTA should accept responsibility for improving the SH1/SH2 links to Wellington Airport and Wellington Hospital, in accordance with the requirements of the Spatial Planand District Scheme of Wellington City Council.
4.GWRC should arrange public transport services that meet the needs of Wellington City (as part of its responsibility regionally) as defined in conjunction with Wellington CityCouncil.
5.KRA believes that Wellington City Council needs to boost its urban planning and transport planning capability to ensure that the city’s needs are met.

Design Principles
1.The design of transport projects and services requires a thorough understanding ofthe users:
a.The purpose of travel
b.The origin and destination of travel
c.The nature and capability of vehicle
d.The need to park, including place and length of time.
2.Commuters (persons making a journey to and from a single place of employment) are the most important group to persuade to switch to public transport to achieve “more people in fewer vehicles”.
3.Most commercial activities cannot switch to public transport.
4.Customers/clients of retailers and services are vital to the maintenance of commercial activities, and only a proportion of this group can use public transport.
5.The concept of the CBD is outmoded. Council is projecting a significant rise in the population of the inner city over the next 30 years. The area traditionally known as the Central Business District will also have a large apartment-dwelling population, a trend that is already well-advanced. In 1972, when the Terrace Tunnel was opened, Vivian Street was south of what was then the CBD, but this is no longer true. A better term is either Inner City Precinct, or Inner-City Wellington (ICW). The boundaries of ICW are still under study, but the preliminary concept is for them to run from The Terrace to the waterfront between the Railway Station and Kent Terrace, closing on the southside through Abel Smith Street, Willis Street, Webb Street, Taranaki Street, Karo Drive and Buckle Street.
6. Dispersal of critical transport activities can reduce congestion and should be considered in design:
a.Commuter carparking outside of ICW may encourage the use of public transport into and around ICW
b.Arterial and major roads should bypass ICWas much as possible.
c.Public transport within ICW needs a thorough review. If many apartment blocks are built without off-street parks for occupiers’cars (note the recent government policy statement on urban development) then easy public transport circulating within ICW seems essential. Public transport should be routed close to but clear of densely congested areas of commercial activity.
d.Traffic queues (congestion) should be controlled to occur on major roads and off-ramps rather than within the CBD. (From this point on, the term CBD is dropped, and ICW used instead.)
7. Wellington Hospital and the medical precinct nearby require special considerationinrespect of transport and parking.
8.Parking is a critical facility for the support of commercial activities.
9.Very regular public transport should be amply provided within ICWand commuter carparking areas.
10.The use of public transport should be encouraged rather than forced, by making it regular, reliable, and convenient. Fares should be affordable, especially for commuters who are otherwise tempted to continue using their cars.
11.Public transport must have either exclusive routes or well-designed and enforced priority lanes on existing routes.
12.Public transport routes that have a loop design are desirable for covering a greater area of residential areas, and for resilience (when roads are blocked for any reason)


KRAbelieves that the role of cycling in satisfying transport demands in Wellington needs further study. In particular:

•What are the main purposes of cyclists? Are they commuters, leisure-seekers, clients/customers, or engaged in commercial services?
•Do cyclists take up less road space than motorists, both while moving, and while stationary in queues?
•Do cyclistswho are commuting take up less road space than commuters who are travelling in buses (when calculated on the basis of road lane length per commuter)?
•What is the sensitivity of traffic congestionto an increasing proportion of cyclists on major roads?
•Are cycleways proving to be a cost-effective solution to traffic congestion in Wellington?

KRAnotes that the Council has produced no plan for urban cycleways in Karori (or anywhere in the Western Ward), and that Karori Tunnel is hazardous for cyclists.

A Route for SH1/SH2 to the Airport

KRAbelieves it is essential that SH1/SH2 traffic heading to and from Wellington International Airportand Wellington Hospital must bypass ICW and all adjacent areas that are likely to be considered as ICWover the next 30 years. .Wellington City Council has recently released a draft Spatial Plan that envisages a growth in population in ICW of around 18,000 people. KRA believes thatSH1/SH2 mustbe re-routed out of Vivian Street, Kent and Cambridge Terraces, and the existing Mt Victoria tunnel. Diagrams currently published on the LGWM web site do not do this.

KRA notes that Karo Drive, only a few years old, already appears to be at or near capacity for much of the day. KRA believes a totally new proposal is required . KRAenvisages these elements:

1.A second Terrace tunnel, longer than the current tunnel, extending to a point above Aro Street. The southern portal could be close to or just below Abel Smith Street.This tunnel would carry SH1/SH2 traffic travelling to Newtown and the airport.
2.An overpass across Aro Street and lower Brooklyn Road.
3.A mixture of tunnel and road(to be determined) that protects the Town Belt and reaches a point near the southern end of Wallace Street.
4.An overpass over Adelaide Road.5.The second Mt Victoria tunnel, commencing somewhere between Government House and Wellington Hospital. This tunnel would be curved to have the eastern portal near the corner of Ruahine Street and Cobham Drive.
6.A limited number of on and off ramps to enable connections to the hospital precinct, Newtown, and southern suburbs.
7.On and off ramps near Bowen Street to allow improved access between western
suburbs and the airport.
8.On and off ramps that allow improved access to SH1/SH2 and the southern suburbs without requiring passage through ICW.

Public Transport and Parking

1.KRA supports the principle that as many commuter journeys to and from ICW as possible should be by public transport.
2.However, KRA recognises that it is not feasible for all commuters to use public transport directly from their homes, and probably never will be.
3.KRA believes that car parks for commuters, and customers/clients of commercial, professional, and government services in ICW must be considered as part of any solution to the problems of traffic and parking congestion in Wellington. KRA envisages a network of such car parks in the suburbs, and near the outer fringes of ICW.
4.The network of car parks should be well-served by public transport. KRA envisages loop routes within ICW, perhaps (and preferably) with zero fares.
5.KRA has already advocated for commuter car parks (with “kiss and ride” lanes) in Karori at Appleton Park, near the Town Centre, and near Karori Park.
6.Bicycle stands and lockers should be incorporated with commuter car parks.
7.KRA believes that public transport serving Karori will be provided by buses for the foreseeable future. Rail transport, even if feasible, would be expensive and hard to justify
8.Public transport must have either exclusive routes (preferable) or priority lanes onexisting roads. If public transport transit times are significantly slower than the times for private cars, then commuters will remain incentivised to take their cars.

What is the Cost?

KRAdoes not know what this proposal would cost. Many feasibility studies and design work are necessary before any estimate can be prepared. KRA is confident that the benefits would be much greater than the current concept of a mass transit system (perhaps “light rail”) between the Railway Station and the airport. The benefits would be greater because they would involve all suburbs and ICW and would be shared with businesses right across the city and the region. The short mass transit scheme now vaguely proposed provides little for the northern, western, and southern suburbs, and little for businesses.


This paper has set out a proposal for a major road project that enables the bypassing of the ICW for traffic from SH1/SH2 that does not need to enter ICW. The design principles and goals are clear, and both public transport and commercial traffic needs are considered. The proposal also includes suggestions for improving traffic flows between all suburbs and ICW and SH1/SH2.

KRAis working on a separate proposal to improve transport access to the western suburbs. It complements the proposal presented in this paper. Taken together (and perhaps enhanced by ideas from other suburbs) they represent a Real Initiative to Get Wellington Moving.

KRA believes that a reorganisation of the Let’s Get Wellington Moving structure is essential.

The key issue is that the Wellington City Council should assert its statutory role as planning and roading authority of the city and ensure that a sound and realistic transport infrastructure is provided for all suburbs and ICW. KRA cannot see how the current projects championed on the LGWM web site can achieve this objective.


  1. Mal, 2. March 2021, 22:06

    LGWM simply isn’t going to help with peak hour bottlenecks and build up. Council need to find a way to go around the city, not through it – thus creating more build up.

  2. Dave B, 2. March 2021, 22:13

    Some good comments from Karori Residents’ Association, but an absence of consideration of the regional perspective. While KRA’s focus is rightly on Karori, its view of the region’s wider transport-needs are askew.

    KRA mentions some of the roading proposals from the 1960s which did not go ahead. But KRA makes no mention of another project which was a vital part of the De Leuw Cather recommendations of 1963 and 1966 – to extend the rail system.
    Please allow me to quote from De Leuw Cather’s report of August 30 1966, titled “Final Report – Wellington regional Transportation Study” (page 17):

    “It will be essential to provide the extension of the suburban train services into Wellington City as recommended in our 1963 report to provide needed service to the Wellington central Area. If this improvement is not provided, at least two additional traffic lanes will be required on all motorways serving Wellington City from as far north as Porirua and Upper Hutt. Our preliminary calculations indicate that the number of train patrons who would be dissuaded from using the suburban train services if the extension is not provided and who would travel to Wellington by car would approximate 2,000 during the peak hour in the peak direction in 1986. This would be equivalent to one additional motorway lane in each direction on the above-mentioned routes. An additional requirement for downtown car parking facilities would have to be met, as pointed out in our 1963 report to Wellington City.

    “It is recommended that planning for the proposed railway extension into Wellington City proceed immediately. The time required between the commencement of preliminary planning and operation of the proposed extension will be approximately 10 years. Therefore, rights-of-way should be reserved as early as possible to insure that the facilities can be provided when plans have been developed and financing has been obtained. Every effort should be made to insure that the recommended railway extension is operational by 1976.”

    Like Wellington’s transport decision-makers back in the 1960s, the Karori Residents Association today seems happy to cherry-pick De Leuw Cather’s roading recommendations and completely ignores this vital, ‘non-road’ aspect of what the consultants proposed. The way forward for the region is not about designing more motorways principally for cars, and then hoping that buses will somehow slot in with a few priority lanes here and there, which is the likely outcome of what KRA is suggesting. We have had 50 years of this and it has led to a hugely-undesirable level of car-dependency. While more of the same might have to suffice for Karori, it is important for the rest of the region to get back to what else De Leuw Cather had to say.

  3. John Smythe, 2. March 2021, 23:13

    Nice to see someone focusing on getting Wellington Moving rather than bringing back trams under the guise of narrow minded light rail mantra. Did the Councillors ever think what would happen to light rail in an earthquake?

  4. Keith Flinders, 3. March 2021, 10:15

    John Smythe: Take a look at what happened to the tram system in Christchurch 10 years ago, and how the relatively minor damage it sustained was easily fixed. Alas the main issue there were all the buildings that fell on to it otherwise it could have been operational much sooner than it was.

    When we get through this COVID episode and life returns to normal, whatever the new normal will be, then Wellington will need a mass transit system of some type. At present light rail is a clear winner as BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) requires two dedicated traffic lanes in each direction to work effectively. Six lanes, two for other traffic, through Wellington isn’t going to happen.

  5. I blame remuera, 3. March 2021, 11:16

    People need to read up on the Katy Freeway and induced demand – no more space and no more money should be wasted on private cars. The answer to traffic congestion is toll all roads through and into the central city. Most of this seems to be a complaint that not enough money is being spent in the “leafy suburbs” that house few people compared to the more central areas that will be served by light rail. While I’m as disappointed as anyone with the lack of progress on light rail and I’m curious to see what could be done with extending the system north beyond the train station, it needs to happen soon. The proposed routes serve areas where bus patronage is already high and the bus system is struggling to cope. It would serve major destinations through the central city and Newtown and, if the council sees sense, growth areas for housing under the spatial plan.

  6. bsmith, 3. March 2021, 11:30

    Keith Flinders. “Wellington will need a mass transit system of some type”. Really? With the continual rates rises, how many ratepayers will be left to use it? And why do there have to be bus lanes in both directions?

  7. Mike Mellor, 3. March 2021, 11:55

    John S: as Keith F says, plus it’s worth noting that the rail line along the Kaikoura coast was back operating months before the parallel road was; and Japan, one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, has extensive rail networks, both light and heavy.

    “Did the Councillors ever think what would happen to light rail in an earthquake?” – when the time comes, I’m sure this question will be asked, and answered.

  8. William Guest, 3. March 2021, 12:30

    Responding to Dave B, of course there were selected extracts from the De Leuw Cater report, which is very long. The term “cherry picking” is pejorative and seems to arise from a pro-rail prejudice. In the 1970s and 1980s I worked for railways, and I recall that after the introduction of containers, when it was apparent that the old wharves would be up for redevelopment, the Department suggested to the city that this would a good time to build a rail line at least to the bottom of Taranaki St. The city expressed no interest. Polite hostility, even.

    Rail transport will not carry one kilogram of freight, nor any tradesperson, or any service provider who has to move around the city in the course of their work. Urban rail transport is only useful for commuters – but so long as it will not serve western, southern, and northern suburbs, then there is no chance of carrying more than a small proportion of commuters. It is time this option was knocked on the head!

  9. Mike Mellor, 3. March 2021, 14:29

    William G: public transport in general and rail transport in particular will not meet absolutely transport needs – just as private cars aren’t for the many people who don’t own one or don’t have a licence – but they carry many more people than just commuters, as off-peak loadings show (and Karori benefits from the most frequent off-peak bus route in the region!). Every one of those people who would otherwise be driving creates space on the road for those groups of people that you refer to, a very important but under-appreciated benefit of high-quality reliable public transport such as urban rail, which is one of the good reasons why cities worldwide are investing in it.

    It’s time that the notion that road building will fix urban congestion was knocked on the head!

  10. John Rankin, 3. March 2021, 15:31

    William Guest says “Urban rail transport is only useful for commuters”. This may or may not be true of Wellington’s suburban rail network, but it is demonstrably false in every city I have ever lived in. I can assure WilliamG that in cities with mass rapid transit, the services are frequent and busy all day, every day. Rather than positioning commuter service as the primary product, with off-peak secondary, as WilliamG proposes, MRT needs to focus on all-day travel, 7 days a week, with peak service to supplement the base product. LGWM’s proposed route does exactly this.

    Has WilliamG carried out a climate impact assessment? The above proposal does not mention climate change. I would have said that the proposal has come straight from the 1960s, except that the city where I used to live had figured out by then that it could not build its way out of congestion and started to invest in a high-performing public transport network. When I last visited, pre-Covid, its long term plan signalled that all future population growth will occur along its rapid transit lines.

  11. Keith Flinders, 3. March 2021, 17:58

    bsmith: I can only work from the predictions re population growth in the Wellington region, and the resulting need for a greater density of accommodation. More people in compact areas without them being reliant on cars, is the aim. Perhaps those promoting the spatial plans have got it all wrong and Wellington will stagnate, or return to the quiet backwater it was when I came here in the early 1970s.

    Humans are social “animals” and will return to gatherings for both work and play as COVID becomes a distant memory.

    BRT requires the extra lanes so that buses can leap frog around each other thus speeding the journey, rather than being the slow convoy they are now at peak times. Pre COVID, peak hour bus numbers were almost at maximum along the Golden Mile.

    As for cost – look back at what the city planners of over 100 years ago saw in the potential for the tram systems that were built at a relatively higher cost per head than now.

  12. Bsmith, 3. March 2021, 20:13

    Keith Flinders, sorry don’t agree, all they need is a pullover area, like a bus stop. I don’t believe its that hard.

  13. Peter S, 5. March 2021, 17:36

    Gosh KRA, did you know we are in the 21st century, not the 1960’s? The chances of a new motorway being carved through Wellington are virtually nil. Admittedly, some optimisation of the SH1 route through the CBD is in order, but it must be accepted that we cannot have growth in traffic that matches the growth in population density. The only solution to congestion is to reduce dependency on private car usage, especially work commuters. And the only way to do that is to significantly improve public transport. We live in hope that LGWM will deliver on that.

  14. Keith Flinders, 6. March 2021, 3:26

    Bsmith: Perhaps one of those experienced in public transport operations/design requirements, including Brent Efford, Dave B., Kerry Wood, Mike Mellor, and who contribute here will explain to you and others why BRT needs the road space it does. From an engineering stand point I see the rationale, otherwise I am just another interested observer.

    What we need to be wary of are politicians including local ones especially, making uneducated statements asserting BRT is the only way for Wellington to improve its public transport system along with a second My Victoria tunnel. Either or both won’t serve this city into the future post COVID.

  15. Mike Mellor, 6. March 2021, 16:40

    bsmith/Keith F: for BRT design standards and the reasons behind them, see this, or this, or this.

    As you can see, for BRT to work properly it’s a lot more complicated than “all they need is a pullover area, like a bus stop”; and as for “I don’t believe it’s that hard”, few things in transport planning and operation are easy. Incidentally, the BRT option as proposed by the Public Transport Spine Study some time ago would have struggled to meet even the lowest standard specified above – it was really just bus priority, not BRT.

  16. Matr, 7. March 2021, 0:00

    This is bad.

  17. John Rankin, 7. March 2021, 10:41

    @MikeMellor, @KeithFlinders, @bsmith: from Brisbane via the Greater Auckland blog, a BRT picture worth a thousand words. Good luck building one of these in Wellington. My old boss Hartmut had a saying: whenever someone new to public transport got that sinking feeling, things are not as easy as they appear at first sight. “Welcome to transit.”

  18. luke, 7. March 2021, 10:46

    The Karori Residents Association plan sounds like a 1960s mono-modal roads-only ‘solution’ that doesn’t fix the problem, merely entrenching car dependence.

  19. TrevorH, 7. March 2021, 14:37

    The Karori Residents’ Association is to be congratulated for a thoughtful paper with a refreshingly different and important perspective. “Mass transit” is not a panacea. The CBD will be increasingly irrelevant and something to be bypassed. I reluctantly agree with the recommendations regarding the Basin Reserve – it is a major contributor to congestion for people heading to and from the region’s main hospital, the airport and the East. It if cannot be moved then either a flyover or a tunnel system is essential. LGWM needs to be wound up and central government must fulfil its responsibilities towards improving SH1 including new tunnels.

  20. Hel, 7. March 2021, 20:20

    Sorry just couldn’t get past the statement that Basin Reserve is only used for 15 days a year. Nothing like blissful ignorance or just making stuff up to support your views. Dinosaurs have been sighted in Karori.