Wellington Scoop

Lambton Quay without vehicles – at last, it’s being investigated

lquay nicola
Stantiall’s Studio Ltd

by Lindsay Shelton
Who’d have thought that pedestrianisation of Lambton Quay would be officially investigated at the request of our elected councillors? Not however at the request of the city council. The plan has come from the regional council.

It was announced last Saturday in a brief message to Wellington.Scoop from Daran Ponter who told us:

Earlier this week my fellow GWRC councillors gave unanimous support for a motion requesting that the GetWellyMoving Project investigate issues and options for dedicating Lambton Quay for public transport, cycling and walking. Thanks to Chris Laidlaw for seconding this motion.

Not entirely vehicle free. But a first move towards it.

Five days after we published the news, the DomPost ran with the story, quoting Chris Laidlaw, who said a car-less Lambton Quay needed to be considered urgently, as it was one of the most difficult corridors to deal with “in the country, if not the Western world”.

Pedestrianisation of the CBD has been a topic that wellington.scoop has discussing since 2009, when Sir Bob Jones was challenging Mayor Prendergast to make the Golden Mile a pedestrian-only zone. He said:

“I’ve been to about 150 countries and observed cities which plainly have living appeal. The one particular characteristic of all vibrant and appealing cities is pedestrian malls.

That was the time – remember? – when most of Manners Street was a pedestrian-only mall. But in the 2010 election campaign, both the mayor and mayoral candidate Wade-Brown supported the backward-looking plan to reopen the street to buses.

During that campaign, Sir Bob vigorously maintained his advocacy for a pedestrian-only Golden Mile. But though there was talk of planning consultants being hired to consider the idea, it came to nothing.

Sir Bob, however, didn’t let up. Writing last month in NBR, he recalled his efforts to promote the pedestrianisation of Lambton Quay two elections back, with a “positive feedback from sophisticated retailers and people such as the capital’s leading CBD retail leasing agent, Ty Dallas of Colliers.” But …

Conversely, it elicited some mind-boggling stupidity, none more so than from John Milford, then manager of the city’s only department store, Kirkcaldie, who told the Dominion Post he was opposed as his customers like to park outside. Pointing out that there were no parks outside Kirks made no difference……Nobody has more to lose from Lambton Quay pedestrianisation than me (if I’m wrong), my company owning the most Lambton Quay buildings and far and away the most CBD shops. But I’m not wrong, as the worldwide evidence is compelling.

Several weeks before the NBR article, mayoral candidate Nicola Young was also advocating for a vehicle-free Lambton Quay, with front-page coverage in the DomPost. Sir Bob observed the less than enthusiastic reaction of her mayoral rivals:

Jo Coughlan opposed it, she being in the Milford camp and wanting to park there when shopping. Keith Johnson expressed his love of the city’s worst blight, namely buses, Nick Leggett endorsed it, albeit with a childish crack about candidates not being traffic engineers, Justin Lester made the extraordinary claim that buses “bring vibrancy to cities” and Celia Wade-Brown said the idea is not new. Nor is oxygen Celia but you’re right, it’s happening everywhere.

First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson says the pedestrianisation idea needs to be led by the city council. He wants the regional council plan to be expanded. Retailers, he says, would like to see buses removed from Lambton Quay, or at least travelling one-way along the Featherston Street spine.

All of which is strong support for Nicola Young’s plan to banish the buses, tear out the traffic and hand control of Lambton Quay to people on foot.


  1. KB, 18. August 2016, 11:28

    Agree with Bob & Nicola 100% on this one. Any mayoral candidates opposing this will get no votes on my ballot.

  2. Wellington Commuter, 18. August 2016, 12:31

    Chris Laidlaw has been representing Wellington City on the Regional Council since 1998 and has been in charge since Fran Wilde (who also represented Wellington City) resigned. During his time, the GWRC has done nothing for the city’s bus service except raise fares … no investment and still no integrated ticketing. So it’s a bit rich for Chris to now claim “a car-less Lambton Quay needed to be considered urgently” … perhaps facing re-election for the sixth time he feels the need to actually say something about the city he represents?

    Anyway, while he publically professes to want the GWRC to review move the buses off Lambton Quay, the council he leads is about to issue tenders for multi-year bus contracts that are based on buses operating on routes along Lambton Quay. This is just another local politician running for re-election who is long on “vision” and short on answers to difficult questions.

  3. The City is Ours, 18. August 2016, 13:58

    It will eventually happen anyway; the increase in population in Te Aro alone is showing that pressure on pedestrian networks will give no choice but to pedestrianize. The entire Golden Mile or nothing.

  4. luke, 18. August 2016, 16:38

    Hurry up and do it already. Cities are for people not cars.

  5. Morris Oxford, 18. August 2016, 16:49

    I had forgotten that it was Sir Robert Jones who first pushed for vehicles to be banished from Lambton Quay. Thank you for reminding me.

  6. Hayley Robinson, 18. August 2016, 16:52

    Pedestrianisation would be wonderful. As for parking, there are hardly any left on the Quay so how is that a major? I think it’s more than ten years since I’ve found a park on Lambton Quay. Encouraging or directly building a parking building/conversion nearby would be a good sidebar though. The current parking buildings are low on ‘public’ parks. A significant number are permanently rented out. Last year in one building I counted 7 publicly accessible parks out of hundreds. Pretty frustrating if you have to use a car. (Yes, there are people who have to use them due to distance, injury or disability, even when we believe in public transport).

  7. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 18. August 2016, 16:57

    Heaven forbid that “the city’s worst blight, buses” (or for that matter bicycles) should be allowed to get nearer to the shops than motor cars! We all know that only car drivers have any real spending power in Lambton Quay shops, don’t we?! In fact, contrary to comments made on this subject, progressive European cities and even North American cities have now realised that people who come to town by bus or bicycle spend just as much, if not more in the shops, partly as they are not harried by time-limited parking. (The exception of course is grocery shopping, but people don’t drive into the city centre to do this.) The days of only the poor and dispossessed riding buses or bikes are thankfully well gone – if they ever really existed in New Zealand.

    So, what does this mean for Lambton Quay? Pedestrianise it at your peril. While the southern end is a bit too narrow for comfort and should be looked at carefully, there is plenty of space in the middle and northern sections to widen the footpaths and discourage or restrict private through traffic, without chucking the baby out with the bathwater. We simply don’t have a large enough population to spill out across all of Lambton Quay. All you’ll achieve is tumbleweed!

    If I’m fortunate enough to win a seat on the City Council, I’ll be voting to develop some options aimed at getting the best possible streetscape without doing anything that the city might otherwise live to regret. There is no need for headlong rush for change here, despite what someone in the GWRC might say. Let’s think carefully, consult honestly, and get it right in due course.

    Chris Calvi-Freeman
    Independent candidate for City Council, Eastern Ward.

  8. Pam, 18. August 2016, 18:53

    I don’t see the point of pedestrianising the Quay. More spots for coffee bars to create outdoor seating? Is everybody forgetting the weather? On a rainy day people won’t even walk on the side of the footpath that’s not covered by verandahs – are they going to amble down the middle of the Quay? It will mean a longer walk from the bus, which will be less convenient for anyone with shopping or children. [The Regional Council plan is to keep buses in Lambton Quay.]

  9. Cr Daran Ponter, 18. August 2016, 21:17

    Good article Lindsay. With respect to the comments by Chris Wilkinson, I agree that this is an initiative that should be led by the WCC, and if it gains traction, it will be. In the meantime the Get Welly Moving Project (which involves WCC, GWRC, and NZTA) presents itself as a useful vehicle to better assess issues and options. The main thing that always seems to have been missing from this discussion is analysis – I’m hoping that Get Welly Moving will be able to deliver some of that.

    With respect to the proposal to shift buses onto Featherston St, or beyond, this was widely rejected by submitters when it was proposed as part of the Wellington bus review. With approx 160 bus movements an hour each way in the peak I venture that Featherston St would grind to a halt.

  10. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 18. August 2016, 22:46

    So, the basis of the Lambton Quay “pedestrianisation” scheme should be: widen the footpaths, provide plenty of seating and planters, keep a lane for buses (each way for most of the Quay), better bus stops and passenger waiting areas (not obstructing the footpaths), provision for cyclists (riding through and stopping to shop), limited access for couriers, delivery lorries for the shops and other business servicing, side roads linked together to prevent dead ends and stuck lorries, relocated taxi ranks, restrictions on entry by private cars (no general through traffic), access for emergency vehicles…. Easy peasy. Anything else?

    Now all we need is a team of urban designers and traffic engineers etc and we’re cooking with gas. But not full pedestrianisation. Okay? CCF

  11. Victor Davie, 19. August 2016, 8:15

    Councillor Ponter. Nothing would “grind to a halt” if common-sense occurred. Ever watched the tremendous waste of fuel and jostling of buses at peak time and the frustration of bus drivers and passengers? Light rail transporting people to bus hubs based at the train station and Adelaide Road is all that is required. This will overcome the absolute mess in having overcrowded footpaths and people often missing buses either by not seeing where their bus is or is already full and cannot be boarded.

  12. Casey, 19. August 2016, 18:08

    Thorndon Quay is even now getting choked in the morning peak hour because Featherston Street is running at over capacity. Try adding 100 or so buses per hour to it and the traffic will be backed up to the Hutt Road.
    Removing private cars from Lambton Quay isn’t going to make any noticeable difference; removing all commercial vehicles will but then the city will die.
    Mass people movers like trams, as we once had, through Lambton Quay will be possible solution, but who is going to pay the $800million price tag.

  13. CC, 19. August 2016, 22:10

    Casey – $800m that repays itself sounds like a better option than the $150m building for two movie moguls and a conference centre that is scheduled to take up to $4m of ratepayer subsidy per annum, or a $300m+ runway extension that will benefit a few businessmen who can’t be bothered transitioning at an NZ hub.

  14. Casey, 20. August 2016, 9:54

    $800million based on what other cities worldwide are paying for the introduction of light rail (also known as tram) services might sound a massive cost, but most of its infrastructure will last 60 years or more. The passenger cars will need replacing twice in the life span of the system. Diesel and hybrid buses have a life of about 12 years and are a lot more expensive to maintain throughout their working life on commuter routes, and of course need carbon based fuel added to their operational costs. From 2017 all buses passing through the CBD will be using carbon fuel for most of the peak periods.

    Light rail which is almost totally non polluting would cost $14 million a year for its capital cost based on it’s life span. However new and smarter ways of laying the tracks for light rail are seeing the installation costs plummet and the disruption to businesses on the routes minimised. Talk to your Regional Council candidates about a sustainable public transport service for Wellington, a service they seem hell bent on destroying with the introduction of multiple providers from 2018. Off peak bus services are not profitable, so when cuts come it will be these.

  15. Cr Daran Ponter, 21. August 2016, 15:54

    @ Casey You have to see this initiative as part and parcel of a move to more efficient public transportation through the Golden Mile. At the moment that is buses. In time I have no doubt that will be light rail. We need to take initiatives now that would benefit buses and light rail, noting that at this stage we are seeking better analysis of options and costs.

  16. The City is Ours, 21. August 2016, 20:21

    Casey and Daran: the 2010 pre-construction safety audit of the Golden Mile improvements by Darrell Staham citing WCC policy suggested the following regarding buses and pedestrians;
    “A Central Business District PT corridor, by default, is also a pedestrian corridor. Thus pedestrians have an equal weighting to PT along the Golden Mile and … should be accommodated accordingly”.

  17. Casey, 22. August 2016, 16:55

    No disagreement there The CityIsOurs, just the method needs agreeing to. Even if private cars were not allowed into the corridor, there’ll be too many buses in peak periods and they can’t be re-routed through The Terrace, Featherston Street or Jervois Quay which are all running at capacity. The corridor still needs to be used by service vehicles though.
    Light rail with a bus terminus each end perhaps. Moving walkways? Convincing people to work glide time?

  18. Chris Laidlaw, 31. August 2016, 13:47

    Let’s be clear about the “pedestrianisation” of Lambton Quay. The option of removing buses is not on the immediate. horizon. The most important thing is to prepare the way for the most efficient option or combination of options and that is where the focus of the Get Welly Moving exercise will be.

  19. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 31. August 2016, 14:08

    Thanks for making that clear, Chris. I think most people will be prepared to wait while that process works its way through the various long-term transport options. There’s no need to foist a major change on Lambton Quay in the near future.

    However, I don’t think most people will be equally patient with the ongoing congestion at the Basin Reserve. We need a new design (sympathetic to the local environment), a new consultation and hopefully agreement to commence work as soon as reasonably possible. We need the second tunnel, and it must have superior walking and cycling facilities, as Mt Victoria has been a barrier to efficient and sustainable travel between the city and eastern suburbs for far too long. NZTA has the cash; the city needs the willpower.

  20. Chris Laidlaw, 31. August 2016, 15:34

    That may well be the outcome from the process but let’s get the numbers right first!