Wellington Scoop

Manners Mall: the council knows best

by Lindsay Shelton
Friday’s decision favouring buses instead of pedestrians in the Manners Mall isn’t really a surprise, even if some of the more vigorous campaigners were hoping for a last-minute change of heart.

The Wellington City Council first voted for buses in June, disregarding consultation showing 74 per cent opposition. (Their announcement didn’t mention the opposition; instead they quoted support from organizations including the bus company).

The mindset was evident even earlier. In February, when analysis of 722 submissions showed the strength of the opposition, a council officer said derogatorily that this was “more a pedestrian’s view of the world.”

On Friday the mayor chose her words more carefully. She said she knows “not everybody will be happy with the decision”. But the council knows best and made an expensive decision to give priority in Manners Street to buses rather than pedestrians: $11.1 million is to be spent on the changes, and about $7million of this will come from the rates.

Six years ago the cost was only $1.6million when councilors decided Manners Mall should be improved with new paving and flashing lights. But they don’t like their improvements any more. Councilor Pannett condemns the mall as “an ugly strip full of fast food chains.” If she’s quoted correctly by the DomPost, she believes that bringing back the buses is part of an “environmental initiative.” Sure. When the buses arrive, the fast food chains and the French crepes shop will all be looking for a more pleasant environment.

Credibility is similarly lacking from the mayor, who wants us to feel compensated because – she claims – changing lower Cuba Street will make it easier for pedestrians to find Civic Square and the waterfront. She has however given up on two other doubtful claims – that buses are needed in Manners Street to make Wellington more internationally competitive and to make it easier for people to find the bus stops.

The biggest delusion comes in her statement that “as more people need to get around, the most efficient way will be by public transport.” This generalisation ignores the fact that the CBD is an area where you can walk from end to end in no time. You don’t need buses to get from Lambton Quay to Willis Street, or from Courtenay Place to Manners Street. That’s one of the reasons why Sir Robert Jones’ vision of a pedestrian-only Golden Mile will be popular next year. But the idea that Mayor Prendergast should join his team doesn’t ring true – she’s the one who’s leading the plan to let buses into the Golden Mile’s only traffic-free zone.

Not that her council can bring itself to admit that the pedestrian mall is a goner. In all the carefully chosen words of its announcement, there’s no mention that Friday’s vote means an end to a pedestrian-only space which has served the inner city well for 30 years.


  1. Gustav, 12. December 2009, 19:20

    Interestingly enough, all this decision does is move the choke point to the intersection of Manners and Willis Streets – the short light and traffic congestion from the lights at Mercer Street will take care of any “speed” the council is trying to gain from this move.

  2. Traveller, 12. December 2009, 21:57

    What is this strategy which says the best way to get from Ngauranga to the airport is via Manners Street?

  3. Bertrand Brown, 13. December 2009, 13:19

    We are blessed to have Lindsay Shelton speak so well about the public interest.
    Can we have the names of those who voted to open the Mall to the buses?

  4. Lindsay Shelton, 13. December 2009, 13:27

    In reply to Bertrand Brown, I’m advised that the vote on opening the Mall to buses was:

    Kerry Prendergast Yes

    Ray Ahipene-Mercer (Eastern) Yes

    Ngaire Best (Northern) Yes

    Stephanie Cook (Lambton) Yes

    Andy Foster (Onslow-Western) Yes

    Ian McKinnon (Lambton) Yes

    John Morrison (Onslow-Western) Yes

    Iona Pannett (Lambton) Yes

    Celia Wade-Brown (Southern) Yes

    Jo Coughlan (Onslow-Western) No

    Leonie Gill (Eastern) No

    Rob Goulden (Eastern) No

    Bryan Pepperell (Southern) No

    Hayley Wain (Northern) No

    Helene Ritchie (Northern) Didn’t vote (conflict of interest)

  5. Mike, 13. December 2009, 14:19

    The conspiracy theorist in me sees this proposal as being a clever way for the car lobby (John Morrison et al) to turn pedestrian and public transport proponents – usually allied – upon each other. It begs the question: why did a better flow of public transport have to be achieved at considerable expense to pedestrians?

    Did Pannett and Wade-Brown, supposedly Greenies, not investigate restricting parts of the existing bus corridor (Dixon, Cuba and Manners Streets) to bus only?

  6. Polly, 13. December 2009, 17:16

    Traveller questions the strategy of the best way to get from Ngauranga to the airport, not to mention the indoor sports centre on Cobham Drive. Manners Mall at $11.1 million is just one part of the strategy….there is of course the Basin Reserve flyover, suggestions of another Mt Victoria tunnel, not to mention the widening of Ruahine Street. (more millions of dollars). And now we read of “plans afoot for a city casino, luxury apartment block and a gondola” at Shelly Bay.

    Perhaps we should copy Auckland and plan for a tunnel under the harbour, from Ngauranga to the airport, and leave Manners Street, the Basin Reserve and Hataitai alone…….and set aside the millions in the current budget and go cap in hand to government for the rest. Or just settle for a flyingfox from Point Jerningham to Shelly Bay for the gamblers.

  7. Adam, 13. December 2009, 21:25

    Please read the full proposal in detail if you get a chance.
    Dixon St will have improved pedestrian access, Victoria St, lower Cuba, and Mercer St too. The whole system looks like it could be more efficient and a better pedestrian space.

  8. Councillor Rob Goulden, 14. December 2009, 11:00

    I did not support the revocation of the status of Manners Mall for the following reasons.

    1. The cost. There are other greater priorities for the city at this point and especially during the time of a economic recession. We really have to watch what we are spending money on.
    2. The effect on local businesses. I suspect there will be major loss of custom to a number of businesses.
    3. The claims of saving up to 2.12 minutes every trip are outrageous and ridiculous given that the Council at the same time is slowing down other parts of the network.
    4. Some of the bus companies had not even provided proper information about the dimensions of their buses. There will be a greater proximity to pedestrians.
    5. The loss of public space without vehicles in it. Up to 5,000 people use this a day as a meeting place or thoroughfare.
    6. The lack of compensatory space for what will be lost. The lower Cuba Street upgrade will not provide for this.
    7. Public transport is about affordability and reliability. This project will not add one extra bus to the network.
    8. There are many other less expensive alternatives that could have been used to improve the times and the network .
    9. Poor process and consultation over the whole issue.

  9. the City is Ours, 14. December 2009, 20:26

    Someone forgot to tell those voting for the revocation of Manners Mall that they will subsequently inherit 87 new carparks, 52 of them in Dixon Street. The bus lane is making way for more traffic in an already densely populated area, so you choose:

    A. You prefer to get hit by a bus? go to Manners Mall
    B. You prefer to get hit by a car? go to lower Cuba Street

  10. Bryan Pepperell, 15. December 2009, 13:56

    With the final passing of the revocation of pedestrian status of Manners Mall and creation of shared space in lower Cuba Street at the Council meeting on Friday, December 11, one battle has ended. I suspect this unequal contest between dedicated activists and the Council is now headed to the Environment Court and another battle. There have been accusations and counter claims of a pre-set agenda and talk in the public domain of conflicts of interest. Those issues have been referred to the court of public opinion. One anxious and over cautious councillor exempted herself on the grounds of conflict of interest. Some have argued that others should have joined her. In this situation perception of a conflict is more than enough to exempt one from participating, Leaving that to one side it can be argued that the democratic process was found wanting. Democracy is never just the rule of a majority but balancing protection of minority interests and sharing the benefits also.

    In the process of weighing up all the issues, the rules of consultation excluded a substantial group of citizens. The e-petition and the two facebook groups (one with a membership of 4737 and the other with 596) were excluded from the formal process on the grounds that they were not in possession of all the information that Council had in the consultation. I reminded Council that regardless of the rules such a body of opinion should not be ignored. The people had spoken loudly and overwhelmed those who participated in the formal process. Their exclusion will do nothing to build confidence in a system that has only minority support. Let’s face it Council hasn’t had a majority mandate from those eligible to vote for many years. One thing we do know is that cynicism is well established across all ages in the population. With elite agendas often running counter to public opinion, faith in local government won’t be growing any day soon. Given the way elected representative ignore public opinion you can understand the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the voters. It’s not that the Council isn’t aware of the issue. It took a public meeting with over two thousand citizens attending to call a halt to Variation 17 on the waterfront. Some people are saying, with justification, that Variation 11 has replaced variation 17. Waterfront Watch is going to the Environment Court.

    While the formal submission process on the revocation of Manners Mall might have been finely balanced between those for and those against, there was a flood of opposition by way of the e-petition and the Facebook social networking site. When the silent majority stir, the Council excludes them. We have had workshops where the new ways of networking and expressing opinions have been discussed. However the old power paradigm still dominates outcomes. Elites and minorities continue to rule us and public opinion continues to express itself in letters to the editor supervised by gatekeepers. When this happens, activists and the disgruntled are apt to take more extreme actions. This we have seen lately.

    What we have lost in Manners Mall with the Council’s latest decision is the loss of pedestrian friendly open space with a raft of activity that goes with such a space. The Mall provides a valuable place for the residents of Manners Street who live in the high rise apartments. It has one of the highest pedestrian counts in the City with small businesses making their living off the foot traffic. Gone will be 30 years of sense of place and heritage. It will be replaced with a higher carbon footprint at a cost of $11.5 million and more cars. Who said the city had aspirations of carbon neutrality?

  11. Mike, 15. December 2009, 15:59

    One of the ‘great benefits’ the council keep referring to throughout this whole debacle is the time savings for commuters – 2 – 3 minutes appears to be the number Council has plucked from the air.

    With the one hourly bus on my route (Mon-Fri only, no weekends & no public holidays) normally running between 25 – 50 minutes late (if at all; un-notified cancellations are common too), this claim of all-important time savings is the latest sad joke from the Council.

    Maybe they should first demand performance from the bus company – god forbid that Service Standards and schedule adherence be mentioned, much less enshrined in an SLA – and after monitoring this performance, use that data to make their decision. Then they might even go as far as to listen to their communities, rather than send the Mayor to Copenhagen – even as she pushes forward a plan that will INCREASE Wellington’s CO2 emissions.

  12. Bertrand Brown, 15. December 2009, 16:05

    Thank you Lindsay for your prompt response on the revocation vote of Manners Mall. I have nothing but contempt for the badged greens on that council . It is not the first time greens have gone with Mayor Prendergast. Where did I get the idea that the Green party was on the political left ?

  13. the City is Ours, 15. December 2009, 22:56

    It was Kerry Prendergast in her mayoral speech when she was re-elected for her third term, yes I was there, who spoke about striving towards a carbon neutral city. This is why the City is Ours will see her in court and hold her to it.
    The Greens voting for the demise of the Manners Mall pedestrian precinct – with Celia Wade-Brown the worst offender as she was up until June the president of Living Streets Aotearoa – are trying to stop together with Iona Pannett the unstoppable motorway extension to the airport. They never made sense and they still don’t even now. Wake up Wellington!

  14. ViV, 16. December 2009, 15:28

    EXCUSE ME. Two councillors, in this forum, on this topic are publicly saying they have concerns regarding the “consultation” process. A short time ago Iona Pannett made similar comments. I am aware of at least three other councillors who have similar opinions.
    Why are you councillors not working together to “fix” the problem. Or are you all as impotent as you appear.
    Councillors YOUR CEO has appointed a DIRECTOR Of citizen engagement. Why are you not questioning him or her instead of writing long missives on what WE already know. In short, get off your posteriors and protect us from the abuses of officers.

  15. Tom, 17. December 2009, 9:39


    Things get written in forums like this because it is the clear perception of many in the public that making submissions to Council in any format is a waste of time. “They (Council staff and Councillors) don’t listen and when there is any engagement, it is telling the public what Council’s stance is and telling the public that they (again council staff and Councillors) know best what he community wants and what is best for the community.

    Look at the numbers, at many votes of councilors, there are the same councilors voting in their blocks.

  16. Trish Janes, 18. December 2009, 9:02

    I agree with Viv. The problem is inside with the council staff whose job it is to arrange and carry out the consultation processes. But these are not one-off exercises. Credibility and relationships carry a lot of baggage and take years to establish. There needs to be a champion in the staff who knows how to nurture the journey. A good place to start would be to ask the people who have tried to “participate” about their experience and put in place a quality improvement process.

    However leadership does matter. And it is very hard for any staff person to listen to the public when the CEO is a faceless risk-adverse financial auditor and the mayor has said publicly that she wants to see the second Mt Victoria tunnel built regardless of what consultation might say.