Wellington Scoop

Moving slowly


by Lindsay Shelton
Let’s Get Wellington Moving, now in its fourth year, is continuing to move … slowly. It has reached agreement on a “vision:” the need to move more people through the city with fewer private motor vehicles, and the need to spend money on better public transport, walking and cycling. But there are few specifics.

In spite of the fact that the details are vague, the Wellington city council was today asked to endorse the LGWM vision and investment programme. (Councillors agreed to give their support.)

It was the Regional Council’s turn yesterday, and all regional councillors also did the right thing and voted to endorse the vision. But there were some quibbles. The DomPost reported that Councillor Ogden said: “At the moment it’s just a mirage.” And Councillor McKinnon expressed concern at the speed with which it was progressing.

There was no danger however that councillors would reject the plan, because (in the words of Lester and Laidlaw) the money committed by the government is “significant” — $3.8billion from the government. Dependent on $2.6billion being provided by the two councils, to be sourced from an “appropriate balance between rates, user charges, and individuals or businesses who stand to benefit from the investment.” Both councils’ longterm plans will have to be amended to provide for the extra money. Then there’ll need to be more public consultation to get community support for the details of big spend. When they’ve been worked out.

And how to spend such a huge amount?

LGWM confirms that everyone agrees there must be “high quality mass transit” (also described as rapid transit) from the railway station to the airport via Newtown. But unexpectedly there’s no decision yet on what it will be.

Light rail was expected to be the choice, till advocates of trackless trams started pressing their controversial case.

So now: the preferred mode for mass transit will be “established by a business case”, after “detailed investigation”. Only when this has been done will there be a start on the “design, staging and sequencing of other interventions,” and how to minimise disruptions during construction. (Construction? When might it start?)

LGWM reckons it can complete the business case(s) for mass transit by the middle of the year after next, after collecting “considerable additional information.”

And what then:

The completion of the business cases are (sic) anticipated to unlock funding for the subsequent phases of the programme development, being consenting, design development and construction.

So there’ll be nothing to see for years. And it’s not only council planning systems and the LGWM bureaucracy that will be involved. The components of the package are also expected to “go through the normal NZTA project business case process.” Slow and slower?


There is however some easier stuff that LGWM reckons it can deliver quickly:

Slower speeds for CBD traffic; improvements for pedestrians not only in the CBD but also a crossing on Cobham Drive; bus clearways; cycleways … (these last two are likely to require the removal of some long established on-street car parking).

The clearways are particularly appealing to the Regional Council, because it believes they may solve some of the issues which are still being faced by travellers on its less than perfect new bus network. Chris Laidlaw said hopefully last week: “…bus priority measures [are] the key to unlocking a better bus network. Genuine bus priority measures will create much greater reliability and better travel times.”

Everyone wants more reliable buses … they are top of the list in LGWM’s summary of what Wellington people have told them:

 Support for better public transport: now and long-term
 Universal support for less congestion
 Widespread support for walking and cycling
 Opposition to new infrastructure increasing car use
 A regional, integrated approach
 It is time to act, while being mindful of cost
 Future-proofed solutions
 Basin traffic flow issues need solving but with no clear view identified

But as has been pointed out by numerous wellington.scoop readers, not all the LGWM plans meet these objectives. For example, a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and the widening of Ruahine Street and Wellington Road seem to qualify as “new infrastructure increasing car use” which is listed as unwanted.

And as for “time to act,” sadly it’s years away for the mass transit that everybody wants. (A mirage, in the words of Councillor Ogden.)

Justin Lester’s trackless tram “junket” to China


  1. Katherine Stephens, 26. June 2019, 9:51

    Let’s hope they get the #14 Roseneath issues sorted as part of the early intervention stuff. [via Facebook]

  2. All talk, 26. June 2019, 10:48

    Sounds like they’ll spend millions on consultants before they even break ground on anything.

  3. Groggy, 26. June 2019, 13:03

    How many million have they spent so far? To come up with no concrete proposals and what is essentially a rehashing of the original terms of reference framed as a “plan”. Four years (highly paid) salaries and consultant costs for zero progress. The Govt is safe committing billions, they know it won’t ever be spent as by the time LGWM makes a decision we will all be underwater.

  4. Ms Green, 26. June 2019, 13:26

    Now here’s a thought..where is the “Vision” for future and current water/harbour transport?

  5. Russel C., 26. June 2019, 13:30

    Well said Groggy! I bet the consultants and contractors in LGWM have made themselves a small fortune. I’d love to see who has been paid what and what they delivered! Is there a breakdown anywhere, or do we have to submit a freedom of information request?

  6. All talk, 26. June 2019, 14:00

    Good point Ms Green – a larger ferry service similar to Sydney harbour transporting people to/from Eastbourne, Petone, Miramar to Queens wharf. The wharves etc are already there. Just need a bit of upgrading. More bang for your buck than cycleways and bendy buses I’d think.

  7. Benny, 26. June 2019, 14:25

    And to add to Ms Green’s suggestion: no risk of being impacted by sea level rise!

  8. Manny, 26. June 2019, 15:42

    I see big problems with the LGWM think tank. How can they imagine they will address the population-related issue of congestion after a mega blowout on road infrastructure?

  9. John Rankin, 26. June 2019, 16:07

    If everyone agrees there must be high quality rapid mass transit from the railway station to the airport via Newtown, why take a further 2 years to investigate the preferred mode? Is there no sense of urgency?

    FFS just get on with it. Write a tender setting out the rapid mass transit requirements and call for proposals to design, build and operate a compliant service. If the so-called trackless tram wins through an open, contestable process then so be it. Or choose “the same as Auckland”. Write the business case in parallel and deliver the case and preferred supplier at the same time for a decision.

    It’s a pity our elected representatives didn’t take the opportunity to impose some time constraints on the LGWM process. Now that everyone is in violent agreement, it’s time to get LGWM moving faster.

  10. D.W., 26. June 2019, 16:33

    Apparently, the east by west ferry is getting electrified!
    I won’t want to be onboard when the battery goes duh.

  11. Joise Talofi, 26. June 2019, 16:43

    I don’t need to get from the railway station to the airport urgently. I don’t need the urgent removal of parking either. Just because the Councilors want it and you do too, it does not mean we all agree.

  12. Ben, 26. June 2019, 16:45

    The consultation process captured “opposition to new infrastructure increasing car use” and yet LGWM will be delivering a new tunnel and four lanes to the planes. Why do they bother consulting, honestly?

  13. Conor, 26. June 2019, 17:18

    Hard to know how this weak programme took four years to deliver.

  14. Hel, 26. June 2019, 20:30

    Hard to see how the past three years have been anything but a waste of time and money. Are we really any further forward? No real plans and no real action.

  15. Trevor H, 26. June 2019, 21:18

    Let’s Get Wellington Moving has morphed into Let’s Stuff Wellington. It has clearly been hijacked by minority lobbyists.

  16. glenn, 27. June 2019, 6:41

    The real reason it has taken so long to get anything concrete put in place is down to the zealots and nimbys. As soon as any type of proposal is aired, it’s shot down. Far as I can see the solution is simple…….buses, or more specifically electric buses, oh and a couple more roads. Anyone noticed that buses can go a lot more places than light rail/bendy buses. And you’re gonna get a lot of them for 2 billion dollars.

  17. michael, 27. June 2019, 9:20

    As I see it, the problem is the GWRC are out of their depth. Until a transport authority is set up with experts who know what they are doing, all we are going to see is the same dithering and no real action.

  18. Andrew, 27. June 2019, 9:54

    Really Glenn? I think it is more down to a lack of strong leadership and decisive decision making. Why couldn’t LGWM/WCC/GWRC/GOVT have already figured this stuff out; business cases, routing etc? Were they too busy commissioning renderings and artist impressions? I think a lot of people were hoping for a clear, decisive, DEVELOPED proposal.

  19. Ms Green, 27. June 2019, 9:57

    Oh no! More buses! Any drivers?
    More roads? Four lanes to you know where!
    Who would have guessed?

  20. Newtown, 27. June 2019, 13:54

    Can we get some Aucklanders to run this programme? They seem to know how to kick things (like the City Rail Link) into action, taking a talk less do more approach.

  21. Dave B, 28. June 2019, 18:09

    Wellington needs a City Rail Link too. Len Brown, please come down here and be mayor.

  22. Brendan, 29. June 2019, 7:25

    @Dave B – the cost over-run for Auckland’s city rail link is up another billion to $4.4b for just 3.5kms. Len Brown? Please stay where you are and don’t come to Wellington as we can’t afford you!

  23. Bhs, 29. June 2019, 8:29

    Dave B – why don’t you go and live in Auckland and travel on the new city rail link when it’s built? It would be cheaper for all concerned. I would not be able to afford to live in Wellington if We built one here.

  24. Traveller, 29. June 2019, 9:52

    Brendan. You are being unfair when you imply that the costs of Auckland’s city rail link are relevant to Wellington’s hopes for light rail. The Auckland project involves enormous amounts of tunnelling under the city’s CBD – not so for Wellington’s light rail.

  25. Brendan, 29. June 2019, 12:40

    Traveller I know that, but Dave B wants heavy rail tunnelled onwards to wherever.

  26. mason, 29. June 2019, 14:16

    Heavy rail would be cheaper than four lanes to the planes; urban highways are mega expensive.

  27. Geoff, 29. June 2019, 16:07

    I second heavy rail to the planes. It’s not just Wellington that use the airport. The whole lower north island does.

  28. Brendan, 30. June 2019, 7:12

    Have you got $17 billion handy mason and Geoff because that is what it would cost to have heavy rail from the railway station to the airport based on Auckland’s city rail link.

  29. mason, 30. June 2019, 10:27

    Where do you get those figures from Brendan? How much is four lanes to the planes going to cost?

  30. Brendan, 30. June 2019, 12:09

    Mason, the figures are from real life rail tunnelling costs per km in Auckland. I don’t have figures for ‘4 lanes to the planes’ but given two lanes are already there, I doubt it would be anywhere near $17 billion – plus you could toll the road and make money rather than subsidise rail passengers at 50 cents in the dollar of operating costs (best forget even attempting to pay a cent back of the $17 billion).

  31. mason, 30. June 2019, 13:48

    I also don’t have figures but suspect you could build a lot more rail per per dollar than you can highway. Perhaps we could use the cost of Auckland’s proposed east west link to get a four lanes to the planes building cost. It’s also strange you say the road could be tolled to cover its cost but rail cannot.

  32. Brendan, 30. June 2019, 18:26

    Mason > rail passengers only pay 50 cents of each dollar of operating costs. That is a fact! Road users pay more than a dollar for the dollar their use costs. That’s a fact! The excess road users pay goes to subsidise rail. That’s a fact! And then there is the crown funding of rail capital costs eg Matangi trains. So rail is a pit for throwing public money. Has been since the advent of the affordable car and will continue to be.

  33. Pseudopanax, 1. July 2019, 21:56

    LGWM was hijacked by a minority lobby all right..the Asphalt and Petrol Head industries, carrying on a longstanding tradition in our local and central governments of doing whatever possible to accommodate the private motor car. Huge tracts of our heritage, valuable land, and quality of life have been given over in my lifetime to the combustion engine, ripping the heart out of the city and yet they still want more. More cars more parking more tunnels more houses lost more congestion more pollution more collateral damage… If LGWM had a serious vision for the future at the same time as learning from the past, it would have a Light Rail network planned, costed and ready to go by now!

  34. mason, 1. July 2019, 22:59

    Where do you source all your facts from Brendan? These money making roads are fascinating.

  35. Andrew, 2. July 2019, 6:35

    I would not trust someone’s figures if they are costing a Wellington rail project based on what it costs to tunnel through bassalt!

  36. Brendan, 2. July 2019, 8:24

    Check your regional rates bill mason, assuming you are amongst the property owners of the Wellington region. I pay hundreds of dollars a year for rail and bus services I don’t use.

  37. mason, 2. July 2019, 8:59

    I can read my rates bill for information easily, Brendan. I’m particularly interested in the money-making roads you have facts about.

  38. Brendan, 2. July 2019, 9:41

    Mason – here is a good starting point in finding out how much roads in NZ make in relation to their financial cost. Enjoy! You’ll see that not only does petrol excise, vehicle licensing, RUCs etc pay for the upkeep and upgrade of the roads but the funds also contribute to … rail, paying around a quarter of the ongoing passenger costs (the other quarter being yours and my rates bill) and paying for some cycling initiatives. The good old altruistic motorist!

  39. mason, 2. July 2019, 12:40

    All that shows is roads are funded from a variety of sources.

  40. Brendan, 2. July 2019, 18:26

    Yes mason and if you add it all up, the total exceeds the amount spent on roads. Some of the excess is spent to subsidise rail.

  41. mason, 3. July 2019, 10:46

    You’ve added up all the costs, have you? I doubt the NZTA looks at local roads, which are largely funded from rates. I’m not convinced the NZTA are looking at the total cost across society of even the roads they are responsible for.

  42. Brendan, 3. July 2019, 14:13

    mason > I’m talking dollars and cents financial, not the fairy gold of economic appraisals. Buses use local roads as well and so effectively get subsidized twice.

  43. Dave B, 3. July 2019, 17:20

    Brendan, a substantial chunk of my WCC rates goes towards roads, most of which I don’t use. What is your point when it comes to subsidizing public transport?
    PT comes out of my Regional Rates contribution and is only a small component of the total bill.

    As regards doing more with heavy rail to serve the ‘missing quarter’ south of the CBD, I respectfully suggest that this is about the only thing that will be effective, however much it costs. Providing more roading capacity will not reduce traffic at-source, which is what is needed for Wellington’s congested confines. On the contrary, it will encourage more traffic. Extending the existing rail system (which can be built at-grade and covered-over, at least along the waterfront) will provide a real alternative to more traffic. Check its effectiveness on the rest of the region that it already serves. A roads-only solution, or even roads plus a disconnected light-rail system, will not provide the traffic-beating connectivity that extending the regional rail system would. I say again, this is our best chance.

  44. Brendan, 3. July 2019, 18:15

    Dave B – my point is that public transport is a financial black hole. Roads are needed by everyone including you – admit it. Does your house have road access or a railway siding?

  45. Dave B, 4. July 2019, 12:14

    Ha ha! My house has a train stop within walking distance so that’s the next best thing to my own railway siding! But seriously, public transport is both cost and benefit, just as are roads. Both can be assessed as financial black holes if that’s how you choose to view them. There are many roads that I will rarely or never use, so should I proclaim them financial black holes? (Looking at you, Transmission Folly!). As Mason points out above, until we move to direct tolling of roads, there is no financial return from them. Many lightly-used roads (and certain highly-expensive new ones) will never cover their costs in strict accounting terms but we deem them worth it for the benefits they bring. So kindly desist from lambasting public transport on this basis. It brings massive benefits, even to non-users.

    And at least PT-users pay fares! By contrast roads are free at-point-of-use so no charging-mechanism exists to deter the many low-value or unnecessary vehicle journeys that contribute to traffic problems and societal costs. Same with free or under-priced parking – another subsidized privilege that has for-long benefitted vehicle users.

    Sure, Wellington could manage without PT, if it spent a much larger fortune on turning itself into a sprawling mid-west-American type of city that runs on cars and motorways alone. I would much rather it followed the European or Scandinavian mid-sized city model with well-funded public transport and sensible limitations on car-use. Let’s agree to head that way!

  46. steve doole, 6. July 2019, 3:51

    Dave B is correct. Imagine Wellington if all people who commute by public transport switched to cars – about 20,000 extra cars each morning. Longer journey times, longer peak hours, more pollution, and higher levels of frustration. High capacity transport is needed for Wellington to grow as a city.  A light metro railway as far as the hospital will be more effective for carrying people than buses or motorway extensions.

  47. Brendan, 6. July 2019, 10:02

    Steve D – we’d get an extra motorway lane or two from converting the railway tracks which could be used for express buses (trackless trams?) or freight in the off-peak and think of all that flat land around the railway station that could be used to house the extra 80,000 who would then be able to walk to work.

  48. Leviathan, 6. July 2019, 17:57

    The key thing that needs to be done first is that a proper Public Transport system needs to be installed and implemented. Not install extra roads first. That way when congestion in cars gets too much, then people have a decent alternative to go to. If you try to “fix the roads” first, you never get the Public Transport that you deserve.

    At present we have a crazy system where all people outside Wellington have a highly efficient train PT system to use, and all the people inside Wellington have only a clogged bus PT system. It all comes crashing together at the Wellington Railway station. To get a smooth transition from one to another, we need overlap, and that means able to take a train from outside Wellington right into the heart, and not just to the edge of the city. Its a basic, fundamental concept that LGWM are at last realising.