Wellington Scoop

$9m disappears, so Adelaide Road won’t become a grand boulevard after all

Some of the Wellington City Council’s grand plans for Adelaide Road in Newtown came tumbling down this week.

The council has been consulting since 2007 about the idea of making Adelaide Road a grander avenue. There’ve been community meetings and a design workshop, followed by a Framework with a long-term vision which included “getting funding for key actions”.

But the council hasn’t succeeded with the “getting funding” bit.

It planned to widen Adelaide Road and to plant trees on either side and in the centre. Two extra bus lanes were to be created, to be shared, carefully no doubt, with cyclists. A redesign was to make the road “more vibrant, attractive, better connected, accessible and safer.”

Without paying much attention, I understood the council would need to buy land before it could widen the road. The council can’t have been paying much attention either. It believed it would get money from the New Zealand Transport Agency (the one that’s planning changes around the Basin Reserve, with consultation to begin soon.)

But councilors were told this week (in a document headed Appendix Z and buried at the bottom of a pile of reports) that the expected Transport Agency subsidy of $9million would not be available because the changes would not significantly reduce travel times and the benefits would be worth less than the cost. There’s a possible subsidy of only $1million, to try to fix the growing congestion where John Street runs into Adelaide Road and where a new supermarket with 236 new carparks is planned. Congestion isn’t the only problem at this intersection – property owners are not willing to part with land which the council wants to use for extra traffic lanes.

A consultants’ report observes what anyone can see any time they drive along Adelaide Road – there’s no room for any more cars, and increasing travel demands in this part of town can only be satisfied by more buses, which can easily be accommodated by removing on-street parking to create bus lanes. After reading this, a cynic could say that $9million of widening wasn’t necessary anyway.

While the council is having to give up its grand plan for Adelaide Road, there’s another part of town which it still hopes to improve. Last September it announced that Taranaki Street was to be made a processional route to the war memorial. It planned to spend $3.5million planting pohutukawa trees in the middle of the street. No doubt the traffic lights will be turned off, and pedestrians will be held back, when processions start to flow up Taranaki Street past the car yards. Even if cars are still parking on both sides of Adelaide Road.


  1. Trish, 4. March 2010, 10:50

    You would think that the council could work closely with a twin bureaucracy like NZTA, even if they find it hard to relate to the public. Maybe what happened here is that the planners got in charge (they ran a really good process) but the traffic engineers failed to engage on the Adelaide Rd project. I had my doubts when I saw all those pretty pictures of bus lanes, parked cars and street trees that were put up by urban planners rather than engineers.

    WCC is a classic old-fashioned organisation with people working in their own silos. There was no evidence that the “community engagement” section was involved either.

    The sad result is that the public will be thoroughly disappointed after becoming engaged in the Adelaide Rd project and committed to what looked like a great concept. They would now be justified in losing faith in the council if even their best-run public engagement effort has fallen flat on its face. WCC seems totally incapable of engaging effectively with the public, in this case because their internal competencies have not stood up to the exposure. Perhaps it is time for a change in some of the senior staff who councillors should be able to rely on to get these things right.

  2. M Scott, 4. March 2010, 12:22

    Typical “community action”.

  3. Kent Duston, 4. March 2010, 12:58

    Declining the Adelaide Road improvements because they don’t produce a positive return on investment: $9 million
    Approving Transmission Gully despite the fact that it doesn’t produce a positive return on investment: $1 billion
    Watching the NZ Transport Agency tie itself in knots trying to prove that Transmission Gully is a good idea while Adelaide Road is a bad idea and that somehow a negative return on investment doesn’t always mean what we think it does: Priceless.

  4. Stephanie Cook, 4. March 2010, 18:41

    What we were told yesterday is that the project did fit the criteria under the previous Labour government, but not under the new National Government. Same criteria, different interpretation. HMMM??

  5. Trish, 4. March 2010, 20:37

    Thanks for that insight, Stephanie. Perhaps I was too harsh on the council staff if it is the government that has changed the subsidy rules from public transport to cars.

    Perhaps if we closed the Mt Victoria tunnel and sent the traffic through Newtown then Adelaide Road would become part of the “Road of National Significance” linking Levin to the airport and qualify for the National government subsidy.

  6. andy foster, 4. March 2010, 21:21

    We lose a bit but I don’t think we lose too much from the revised option – essentially we lose approx 4 metres in width – 2 metres was carparking on one side of the road so that’s gone (leaves carparking on one side only). The bus /cycle lanes are reduced from 4 metres to 3 each. There will undoubtedly be some more thinking about the optimal layout within the available road width but we will still be able to get the key elements of amenity improvements (trees / boulevard), PT and vehicles separated. The balance between cycle/bus lane and residual on street parking and the width of the median (2.5 metres) are worth having a bit more thinking about.

    Re Steph’s comment. It’s been pretty obvious that the new Government’s GPS (General Policy Statement) has redirected transport spending priorities. They are focussing enormous resources on RONS (7 Roads of National Significance), which is affecting the level of funding support for things like cycling, walking, local roads (even maintenance) etc. The previous Government was deliberately aiming at mode shift in favour of sustainable transport. The current Government’s view is that congestion relief in these areas is essential to economic performance. Some of the roads do make sense, but it does seem a bit of a long bow to draw to suggest that investments with benefit cost ratios well below 1 will assist economic performance but that appears to be politics ! Peak pricing (especially favouring critical freight) which would be economically rational and almost certainly avoid the need to invest in many of those lowest benefit investments which really only help for a couple of hours a day disappointingly seems off the radar as politically too hard. Can’t see these low B:C investments helping us ‘catch Australia’ ! Suppose we can always compete in the cricket !

    Warmest regards

    Andy Foster
    Urban Development Leader
    Wellington City

  7. Brent C, 5. March 2010, 0:45

    I was never a fan of the Adelaide road widening proposal. While improvements need to be made along this section of road such as…
    – permanent bus lanes
    – better cycling facilities
    – safe pedestrian access
    – improved access to hospital
    This project was all about widening the road, something that didn’t need to happen if lowering the speed limit occurs. Widening the road would have separated the different sides of the street and meant pedestrians would have more road to walk on when crossing, increasing the risk factor. Also by widening, this project would have led to the destruction of the frontages of the existing buildings, which would change the character of the street. Is that what we really want?

    Easy and cheap solution

  8. Trish, 5. March 2010, 9:14

    I could not disagree more with Brent C. The public design workshops led by Kobus Mentz were all about making green spaces around more housing and an efficient road. The strategy was to do it on a low budget within existing public land rather than a pie-in-the-sky grand plan. Most of the buildings are already set back thanks to a planning building line, with only a couple that would need to be chopped. The acquisitions relate to the empty front yards. Key to Kobus’ design was that cars parked in bays between trees were to be used to separate the roadway from the footpath to create quiet pedestrian space. Now we are back to walking beside the roaring traffic.

  9. Shelly Court, 5. March 2010, 10:11

    Well whilst I do like good urban design, I really don’t like wide roads for the reasons given by Brent. My 7 year old quite happily crossed standard local UK roads , but come back to NZ and there’s no way he will cross them without an adult. Until we design places that children are safe to walk on their own, we are following the wrong design principles.

    And with regard to money – I reckon the rule is don’t rely on national funding for local roads. You local guys and gals do a better job in terms of delivering good returns on investment than they ever will nationally.

  10. Brent C, 5. March 2010, 16:42

    Trish- The widening of Adelaide Road was going to effectively serve as a parking subsidy to those who drive their car. At $9M, that is a high cost to plant a few trees and supply extra parking. Widening the road and urban impovements are completely different. We don’t need decision-makers who believe we need to widen the road in order to plant trees along it. Also traffic speeds need to be slowed down along this road if it is to serve as an effective high/medium density residential area; then we won’t have traffic roaring down the street.

  11. Jacinta, 5. March 2010, 17:14

    Lowering the speed limit is unnecessary. If you want this road to function properly it is relatively simple in its current state surely. Ban cars parking on either side of the road at all times. Most businesses along here have off street parking already which is under utilised. There must be the odd area along here the where the council could create more off street parking as well by buying land for under $9m. There is already an unused horrible old car yard storage area near the john st intersection which could be used.

  12. Neil, 21. March 2010, 19:48

    how about we just pull down the basin reserve and put an overbridge to the motorway, then the traffic will be more than catered for in the whole area. Those of you who wish to comment on removing parking on adelaide rd should consider business owners and building owners before making stupid remarks about taking parking away, those who dont own property in this area should keep their opinons to themselves. The councilors who spend unnecessary time and money on dumb ideas should focus their attention elsewhere. The private owners of these buildings don’t need council staff or urban developers who have invested nothing in the area telling them what to do .