Wellington Scoop

The alternative vision for the Golden Mile

Three years ago, Sir Robert Jones said that central Wellington should become a traffic-free zone. His vision was a refreshing change from the policies being pushed by the city council. And it’s become relevant again with the deputy mayor’s statement that the twice-reconstructed Willis Street is “flawed and dangerous.”

Sir Bob proposed his plan when moves were being made to wipe out the Manners Mall. But he didn’t just want to save Manners Street. He challenged the council to get rid of all traffic in Lambton Quay and Willis Street and in Courtenay Place as well. What a wonderful city he was envisioning. What a contrast with the city leaders’ vision of a central city dominated by buses.

“I’ve been to about 150 countries and … the one particular characteristic of all vibrant and appealing cities is pedestrian malls,” said Bob Jones in 2009.

He was right. Wellington would become a more pleasant place by having more pedestrian-only streets, rather than less of them. (And we haven’t got many – there’s Cuba Street, and . . .)

It couldn’t be hard to work out new bus routes which were one block away from the pedestrian-only streets. For the Golden Mile, the gains would be enormous. Pedestrians and buses would no longer compete with each other. Willis Street would be rid of the bus fumes and would regain some humanity instead of being a canyon for traffic. In Lambton Quay you wouldn’t have to look in all directions before crossing the road.

But the Jones vision didn’t get any official support. Both councils continued their hard-sell campaign for buses to run through the CBD, with consequences that are now clear to everyone. The city council continued to claim that opening Manners Street would make buses “quicker and more reliable,” which was a dubious statement when statistics showed the worst delays were at the northern end of Lambton Quay. And the council has since given up on its “quicker” concept, by insisting that buses go slower instead of faster.

“People and motor vehicles don’t mix,” said Bob Jones in 2009. “Traffic, in particular buses, introduces an abrasive element to city living. People love shopping and strolling … and watching the passing parade.” His vision may have been ignored three years ago. But with elections next year, it deserves to be considered again.


  1. The City is Ours, 10. October 2012, 11:06

    It was Sir Robert Jones who encouraged the City is Ours to persist with our vision for a traffic free city. The City is Ours was incorporated in 2009 for that purpose and to minimize whereever possible vehicular traffic and the effects thereof, through promotion of car-free zones particularly in the CBD.

  2. Rebecca Ream, 10. October 2012, 13:21

    Yes, Yes, yes ! Wellington central is a pedestrian place, normally I wouldn’t agree with Robert Jones, but this is such a fantastic idea!

  3. Trish, 11. October 2012, 9:25

    Bob Jones for Mayor. Again.

  4. Robert Miles, 11. October 2012, 16:20

    My memory is that Jones suggested a tramway be put in instead of the dodgem buses. Four kilometres of double track 4feet gauge tramway from the railway to Courtenay place and possibly extended along Oriental Parade or to Hataitai might well be possible for no more than $55 million with the refitting of the 12 original 1930s and 1940s Wellington trams in existence in Auckland and Wellington museums.
    My inclination always was that the rebodied trolley buses are far too big for Wellington streets and that modern train trams would be likewise. On my visits to Melbourne in the 1980s I noticed the Z class trams could run thru malls without incident and I can’t recall any pedestrian casualties in the twelve years the Christchurch tourist trams operated thru malls and streets.
    Putting the trolley buses thru Manners mall was always going to be a disaster. The Wellington city council wants urbanity on the cheap.
    It’s heartbreaking the relentless anti tram nonsense of Fran Wilde. No one’s claiming trams will be cheap – but the priority must be short distance inner city commuting rather than thru ways for long distance buses. It would be relatively easy to extend a tramway thru Hatatai-lyall bay to the airport- say another $50 million -plus $20 million for second hand trams
    I recently discovered that the LA yellow car tramways were somewhat updated in their last years of operation from 1956-63 with new narrow gauge 3 feet 6 inch gauge PCC cars, which indicates that any manufacturer could have produced trams to Wellington’s gauge.

  5. Ron M. Oliver, 18. October 2012, 12:02

    I rather suspect that when Go Wellington bus owners Infratil recommended the changes along the golden mile along with the private consultants Opus to a rather compliant local Council, that they had in mind oil sales and the profit spin off in getting more cars into and through the city. Slow traffic through the city as most people know means that you use up much more petrol. Infratil of course has a vested interest in traffic having already purchased Shell petrol service station outlets with the NZ.Shell Oil consortium’s blessing. There would likely also be other types of persuasions. Not to worry most of those councillors will be gone soon with the new arrangements that our present government plans to put in place for local government organisations. Hopefully that government also will not be around too long.
    It seems our local Council as usual gave their approval to this design, despite strong opposition to the changes that they had recommended.