Wellington Scoop

She won’t spray and walk away

by Lindsay Shelton
On the same day that Barbara Donaldson announced she will be standing again for the Regional Council, an on-line survey showed 91 per cent dissatisfaction with the new bus system for which she’s responsible as chair of the council’s transport committee.

Why isn’t she resigning in the face of her bustastrophe? Because, she told the NZ Herald, “I believe you have to stay and make sure things work as they’re intended.”

The online survey was organised by city councillors Diane Calvert and Simon Woolf. They had 469 respondents, 49 per cent of them from Karori. The results are damning – 91% said say their experience of the new bus service is worse than before July 2018, and 72% are considering alternative options to get to town, with the majority considering cars.

Barbara Donaldson, however, doesn’t seem to be worried by these results. Because of the ward system, she’s confident that she won’t be voted out by unhappy bus commuters. Wellington voters can’t vote against her. The Herald reported:

She was aware people were threatening not to vote for those who oversaw the bus network rollout but said it wasn’t a particular issue for the constituency she was standing in, being Porirua and Tawa.

Anyway, unlike the 91 per cent, she believes that everything is getting better.

“It’s true we had a bad start but it is improving. We’re now looking route by route at what changes we can make without disrupting the whole network so that’s continuing and I don’t believe in spraying and walking away.” Donaldson said she was confident under her leadership things could be put right.

And there’s more: she says she is “open” to being chosen as chair of the regional council after the election. Leadership, anyone?

Chair Chris Laidlaw, however, has decided he’s had enough. But his first reason for leaving, as quoted by RNZ, may not tally with your expectations:

He said the main reason for stepping down was that he wasn’t able to spend enough time on the land and water environmental issues he was interested in, and which had initially attracted him to the regional council. The Wellington bus debacle was also a factor, he said. “That’s part of it, it’s tended to monopolise people’s attention, understandably. It is tough stuff. There are no easy answers, there never have been, but we are now making the sort of progress that I’m convinced will produce a worthy bus service for Wellington. And I’m confident we’re well on the road to doing that.”

Ian McKinnon and Sue Kedgley are also leaving – giving an opening for three new regional councillors to break into what has for years seemed to be a closed shop.

The Council. inviting nominations, describes how it sees itself:

Regional councillors are at the forefront of change on key subjects such as delivering public transport, protecting and enhancing the environment, managing flood protection, enhancing water quality, safeguarding our water supply and responding to climate change – the big issues that matter to the people of the region.

Big issues that matter. Such as the buses.


  1. Roy Kutel, 20. July 2019, 10:21

    I guess she needs the money – probably not retirement age yet. Attend a dozen meetings for $70,000.

  2. Michael Gibson, 20. July 2019, 10:51

    The people from Porirua have had the utmost benefit from the ruination of Wellington City’s bus services. A far smaller share of the costs is now borne by the people who have voted in Porirua’s regional councillors. At the same time, our own representatives have been extraordinarily weak in examining the way in which rates are apportioned and our comparatively exorbitant fares are levied.
    One typical example of our treatment by the people elected from Porirua was the removal of several seats from buses to allow more people aboard – standing of course and regardless of disability and age. It is typical of Wellington City’s Regional Councillors that they allowed this to happen. One cannot blame the voters in Porirua when this sort of thing is being allowed to happen.

  3. Alan, 20. July 2019, 11:51

    Well said, Lindsay. The big question is whether anyone will stand in the Tawa/Porirua electorate to offer an alternative. It’s no good the likes of me living in the electorate just not voting because in the end she’ll just get back in, come what may. And now Ms Donaldson is “open” to being chair of the GWRC. Heaven help us.

  4. Henry Filth, 20. July 2019, 15:42

    Just examine her record and vote according to how you rate that record. It’s not rocket science. . .

  5. Traveller, 20. July 2019, 15:55

    Where (or what?) did she spray?

  6. Keith Flinders, 20. July 2019, 19:56

    Ms Donaldson said: “I believe you have to stay and make sure things work as they’re intended.” In that case she can step down now and enjoy retirement, as the the changes to the buses she helped implement are working exactly as planned, albeit to a poorly rehashed design countering advice from experts. The flawed design using hubs is never going to serve Wellington City commuters as well as the pre July 2018 timetables did for decades. Twelve months on from implementation, a few tweeks by the architects of this massive miscalculation have not improved the service to any marked degree.

    We citizens of Wellington City should be taking a class action against all councillors who in 2014 voted to rid this city of pollution-free public transport and replace it with 20-year-old second-hand Euro 3 diesel buses belching particulate matter and other noxious nasties. Ms Donaldson was one of those who voted to get rid of the trolley buses, thus impacting the health of residents.

    Will Paul Swain now do the right thing and not stand again ?

  7. Lim Leong, 20. July 2019, 20:33

    This is more proof why the GWRC is a waste of ratepayers’ money and does not deserve to exist. We have elected councillors who are clueless about their portfolio, their governance role and most important of all, they take no accountability for how their decisions impact the lives (in some some cases livelihood) of Wellingtonians.

  8. Michael Barnett, 24. July 2019, 18:29

    Roger Blakeley and Daran Ponter. Vote them both back in and let one replace Laidlaw as Chairperson and the other oust Donaldson as committee chairperson. That’s what I have to say.

  9. Roy Kutel, 24. July 2019, 18:43

    Well said Keith! I wonder if anyone watched TV1 last night on how not to get cancer: (1) Avoid getting sun burnt and (2) avoid inhaling diesel fumes. Given GWRC got rid of our 100% electric trolley buses and allowed them to be replaced by old ex Auckland black farting diesels I am supportive of Keith’s idea of a class action against all the GWRC Councillors who allowed this to happen.

  10. Newtown, 24. July 2019, 21:37

    Good news for Waiheke – it is getting electric buses. They’re walking the talk with their forward-thinking:
    “…having high-profile electric buses circulating on the island would be a powerful signal to others about the shift away from diesels.”
    “It will have a profound effect – modelling in a visual way this move from diesel to electric.”

  11. Ms Green, 26. July 2019, 8:42

    While we get their old polluting noisy belching diesel diesels?