Wellington Scoop

A bad month for the regional council

It hasn’t been a good month for the Regional Council, in its role as the guardian and administrator of Wellington’s public transport services.

First came the unprecedented fifteen days (and continuing) of bus disruptions – with scores of peak hour services cancelled every morning and every evening. And why? Because buses were failing safety checks, carried out by a little known unit of the police department, which had the power to pink stick buses off the road if they were unsafe.

The belated apology issued by the Regional Council was less than convincing, as the daily disruptions went on and on. Is anyone counting the total of buses that have been found to be unsafe?

Then came Monday’s derailment of a Ganz Mavag unit at Kaiwharawara, which raised more safety issues – allegations that servicing of the old trains was not all that it should have been. After the derailment, all 26 of the Ganz Mavags were taken out of service for urgent checks, according to the DomPost.

And we had thought that the arrival of the Matangis meant an end to Wellington’s rail problems?

It’s enough to remind us of the calls for abolishing the Regional Council. Kent Duston was one of the first to make this suggestion, when he challenged the council’s role in public transport:

Greater Wellington raises around $130 million in rates and other revenues from local families and businesses each year, and gets about $140 million in subsidies from central government. And around 70% of that income goes straight back out the door in public transport subsidies, a job that certainly doesn’t require a Chair, 12 Councillors and a matching bureaucracy to oversee.

Here’s his article in full, from January last year.

The Regional Council faced criticism on another front this week, when Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy complained about the process of ‘super city’ consultation that’s being driven by the council:

The line of questioning was misleading by not presenting all possible options, therefore manipulating people into selecting one of the two supercity models promoted by the alliance…The alliance (led by Greater Wellington Regional Council, including Porirua City Council, Kapiti Coast District Council, and Wellington City Council) and the group within that are specifically pushing for a supercity, are unduly influencing the consultation process by preventing robust consultation and releasing misleading results.

Let’s not fog these results. Let the people of the Wellington region understand that if the Alliance is going to use these consultation results then they should be clear that they have been manipulated. The public were asked if they want a super city – a super city of one tier, or a super city with two. They received no choice about enhanced shared services across councils. no choice about the creation of multiple unitary authorities, no choice about the status quo!

The three Wairarapa mayors went further. Having agreed that they don’t want to be a part of any Wellington supercity that the Regional Council is promoting, they lodged an application with the Local Government Commission to merge their three administrations into a single council. The commission has acknowledged not only that they are officially the first out of the blocks but also that their application will trigger a process for examining reorganisation in the entire region. Does this mean that abolition of the Regional Council is on its agenda?

DomPost: Regional Councillors debate train derailment


  1. Dave, 23. May 2013, 17:32

    Go Wellington are seemingly unable to provide enough buses for the peak periods, yet trolley buses remain underutilised. Seems a case of GW doing their best to underutilise the trolley buses even though there is a shortage of road worthy diesel buses.
    Go Wellington seemingly has no interest in providing reliable and safe services. Why is GWRC not demanding a please explain and placing pressure on Go Wellington to lift their game?
    Why is GWRC procrastinating over the purchase of more Matangis when it’s well-known that the Ganz Units are either in need of costly overhaul or to be replaced? The longer GWRC take to order more Matangis the greater the risk to the travelling public.
    After Monday, train travellers are likely to have lost confidence in the Ganz Units and this is likely to lead to an increase of private cars travelling into the city,
    The last few weeks’ Public Transport has turned into a fiasco and GWRC seem to be asleep at the wheel.

  2. Brent Efford, 23. May 2013, 19:03

    It’s not just PT operations where the GWRC is falling down. Its planning has also taken a dive since the current leaders and transport managers took over in the mid-2000s.

    Most egregious is its failure to think regionally – just look at the Public Transport Spine Study, set up on the premise that said spine doesn’t extend any further north than the Wellington Railway Station. Tell that to the 75% of the greater Wellington population who live north of WRS!

  3. Ross Clark, 24. May 2013, 1:20

    At the rate things are going, we will end up with two unitary authorities: one for the Wairarapa, including most of the GWRC functions; and another for the five Wellington councils, combining them with nearly everything in the current GWRC.

    The latter option has all the makings of a marriage made in hell. I also think that the LGC should admit that its core philosophy is one of unitary councils; and Auckland was only the start of the process.

  4. pax, 24. May 2013, 18:38

    As I understand it there are considerable “fines” levied by GWRC against Go Wellington for each service that fails to run. Fat chance of getting a copy of that contract under the OIA.

    On the matter of the maintenance of the Ganz Mavag trains: they’ve been neglected for years, many are leaky as seives and during winter reek of *toxic* mould, a hazard for customers and staff alike.

  5. Rufus Sixsmith, 25. May 2013, 8:50

    There are KPI’s set between GWRC and GO Wellington but I have never heard of any fines being imposed for not meeting them.

    It would be interesting to see a list of fines, if any, imposed. Also for the KiwiRail services.

  6. Cr Daran Ponter, 2. June 2013, 18:27

    Of the the issues noted above, the train derailment was certainly the most concerning. Had the train been travelling a bit faster and come off the tracks at a different location we could have had significant injuries and loss of life. The wakeup call to the Regional Council is that we need to be assured that Kiwirail take all the steps necessary to operate our trains safely. The Regional Council cannot be a casual observer where passenger and worker safety is concerned.

    Two reviews are underway and questions are being asked about the processes and procedures that Kiwirail operate to, and the processes and procedures which are followed through on an Accident Investigation Commission Report is delivered.

    The Wairarapa Councils’ lodging of their application for a unitary authority to the Local Government Government Commission certainly took Fran Wilde and her Super City supporters by surprise. It is a very well argued proposition. What Fran and Co need to come to terms with is that the Wairarapa Councils and communities appear to value their sovereignty more than the cross subsidies they receive from Wellington City. If they are making an informed decision, then good on them!