Wellington Scoop

A never-ending story


by Lindsay Shelton
What went wrong? Last year Let’s Get Wellington Moving said it would announce a recommended programme for Wellington transport improvements in the middle of this year. But instead, 18 months later, they’re starting another round of consultation.

Asking again what we want – though we already told them in considerable detail during two months of consultation two years ago.

And it’s not as if they don’t know. They’ve been telling us (several times) what we have told them. Here’s what they said in March last year. Then three months later they told us the same results again.

Four months before the consultation began two years ago, LGWM claimed to have solutions – 150 of them, it told us – to get Wellington moving. (Has anyone seen any of these solutions being carried out?)

Six months before it announced all those solutions, it had been running workshops, “for the community to provide insight.”

And let’s not forget that at the start of 2017 they’d been given 10,000 public responses telling them what was wrong with transport in Wellington.

Yet none of this flood of information has been enough for them to decide what we want or what we need.

Hence another round of consultation, with no results till next year. That’ll be more than five years since they started consulting us.


  1. Fustin Joster, 11. November 2019, 9:27

    Perhaps they intend to keep consulting until we give them the predetermined outcome they actually want?

  2. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 11. November 2019, 9:35

    Yes, the mind boggles. Paralysis by analysis. Constipation by consultation.

  3. Conor, 11. November 2019, 9:46

    Andy’s 150 day plan has 33 things on it. About 20 of them are about setting up talking shops, or consulting.

  4. Brendan, 11. November 2019, 11:04

    Wellington is the ‘do nothing option’ capital of the world. Why? It’s the number of politicians, bureaucrats and consultants hanging about who love to talk but do nothing. The thing that is making the situation unbearable is allowing more and more people to live here. It’s a disgrace.

  5. Concerned Wellingtonian, 11. November 2019, 11:35

    The same “guiding principles” have been adopted for the Metlink “consultation” about giving us a Network Review. This was originally promised two months ago but even the much-vaunted updates on the Metlink website aren’t available. Can Daran report to the next Council Meeting about this please?

  6. Wellington Commuter, 11. November 2019, 12:54

    Having now actually looked at the two LGWM consultations, I am going to say this detailed level of consultation IS required because it enables the many affected stakeholders (eg business along the Golden Mile) to outline issues with specific proposed changes. For example, many said we wanted lower speed limits in the CBD. But how does the public have a say about specific streets? Should Taranaki Street traffic be slowed to 30kmph? Should the waterfront roads (Aotea/Jervois/Cable) be kept at 50kmph or also reduced to 30kmph?

    And while most of us support both improving the bus service by creating dedicated bus lanes (including removing parking) and also improving walking in the CBD, what about the specific ideas such as should Willis Street have wider pavement or more space for bus stops ? We do deserve a say on what, in practice, will change in our CBD to improve our ability to get around this most congested part of the region.

    BUT, while LGWM get marks for trying to get detailed engagement to get the public’s view on these long overdue improvements, they have missed the mark in three key areas:

    1) While a consultation based on a map graphical view is useful, anyone interested in submitting is presented with what is essentially a blizzard of ideas such as “The Grey Street bike rack is already full in the mornings, and is only getting busier. We need several more of these in the Lambton Quay end of town alone.” and “Wellington is such a pedestrian friendly city. I’d like to see Lambton Quay paved and turned into a pedestrian mall similar to Rue Sainte-Catherine.” Where is the overview or text-only version of these ideas because it is doubtful that most will try and click every map icon to comment/vote (that many of the icons are on top of each other such that you can easily miss one doesn’t help).

    2) There are no higher level options proposed with supporting benefit/cost information. How many drive bus, walk and cycle along each of our CBD streets? Do the public want to bus priority, pedestrian access or active modes because each comes with its own set of sometimes contradictory changes? Do we want cyclists sharing bus lanes or dedicated bus priority lanes? Instead we are likely to get people clicking “Like” on every icon on better bus, pedestrian or cycle improvement and “Dislike” on every driving one which means LGWM will get another set of often contradictory submissions on proposed changes.

    3) Last but most importantly, we already know LGWM have also engaged with consultants who will develop the business cases for improving these areas. I would assume this public engagement is supposed to provide input to these business cases. However, the business cases still to be developed by professional planners will decide what is actually to be done and there is no planned public consultation on them. The fear is that again the LGWM planners will complete this ideas engagement exercise and then claim they have consulted the public when they have not proposed any specific funded plan for the Golden Mile bus/pedestrian improvements or for reduced CBD speed limits. This is what happened last time when the public were “consulted” on ideas for LGWM improvements and then the backroom politicians decided that Wellingtonians were to get light rail but no 2nd Mt Vic tunnel.

    The LGWM should have enough feedback to propose clear, focussed options for the Wellington “Early Improvements”. By now they should have proposed four or five packages of ideas from which the public can understand and provide feedback. It is crazy that we still being asked to consider ideas like “pedestrianise Lambton Quay” when we should be seeing LGWM options for how to get better bus stops along this street . That we have yet another consultation on ideas for improvement does show LGWM is still dominated by, as Chris C-F says, “Paralysis by analysis. Constipation by consultation”

  7. Henry Filth, 11. November 2019, 14:34

    Consultation should be ongoing, but it must be punctuated by action.

  8. Jonnah W, 11. November 2019, 14:59

    Not wrong action though Henry. Consultants can be wrong – this is especially true when they are commercially biassed or have been paid with the understanding they are to support a Council project.

  9. Manny, 11. November 2019, 16:05

    The Council can make haste when it wants to like in the cases of the Island Bay cycle lanes, yellow sticker fever, the Bypass, doing and then redoing Manners Street etc. So the repetitive consultations are punctuated by wrong action.

  10. Alan, 11. November 2019, 16:56

    Has anyone thought about how much these people are costing? Note that I didn’t say earning. The longer they keep consulting the longer their snouts are in the trough of public money. No wonder they want this charade to be long long lasting.

  11. Kerry, 11. November 2019, 21:32

    I am not convinced that anything did go really wrong, with a process that could never be perfect.

    The government introduced an all new Government Policy Statement on Transport in 2018, much-needed but throwing everything into reverse, and yes, it did graunch a gearbox or two. The NZTA in particular have been really struggling, but there are now some very promising signs. One of them, on the Monday evening news, was Ports of Auckland moving to Marsden Point. The railway was a hell of a mess, and a project that looked very sensible ten years ago is now going ahead.

    LGWM have done a great deal of work, necessary to gather evidence for a change of direction. Their earlier surveys are now a solid basis for fundamental policy: More people in fewer vehicles.

    Yes, plenty of consultants have been called in, and again it is a good outcome. Some are very good and some needn’t be disturbed again.

    There is a clear need to move away from old, discredited policies, and follow the much safer, cheaper and more effective policies used in many other cities:
    — Reduced carbon emissions
    — Safer roads
    — Paying real attention to road users other than drivers
    — Quieter and more pleasant streets
    — Much better public transport, walking and cycling

  12. Northland, 11. November 2019, 22:00

    Since when did we decide to run local politics via a never ending consultation process? Don’t we elect the Mayor and Councillors to make decisions and implement a program of work?

    Endless consultation is a mirage, a fantasy to make decision makers feel good about their decision making. But the reality is that once whatever changes eventually get made, there will still exist exactly the same cohort of opposition, a good example being the Island Bay Cycle Way.

  13. John M, 11. November 2019, 22:03

    The “Let’s Get Welly Moving” mob really have been a stunningly hopeless outfit, so bad it belies explanation. I realise they were put together to appease every left winger in the city, achieve nothing and fend off the council’s responsibility of addressing traffic chaos. Now, we are 5 or so years down the track having achieved nothing (their job I would remind you was probably to do just that because we all know how much the left hate roads and “the means justifies the end” shambles. When crisis arrives, go on a witch hunt, we must find who to blame….It’s the public’s fault!) Really, but the cost! Cost is the least of “Let’s Get Welly Stalled Forever” concerns. How could it ever be – we work on a far higher plane, compensate us fairly for the creativity, the diversity, the new ideas – stretch it out over Christmas and the New Year, have a real bonanza.

  14. Henry Filth, 12. November 2019, 5:48

    Jonnah, how can you know if it’s right action or not?

    Wait for hindsight?

    Or just wait. . .and wait. . . and wait. . .

  15. PCGM, 12. November 2019, 6:25

    Forgive me for being cynical about Let’s Get Wellington Snoozing, but I think the purpose of this round of consultation is to try and find a way out of the core conundrum – that the $6.8 billion plan as proposed is basically unaffordable. No-one in their right mind is going to throw that sort of money at Wellington, and it’s not even close to being financially viable for ratepayers, so the project team needs to dream up a way of back-pedaling on the hugely expensive light rail bits … and the best way to do this is to cherry-pick a few more affordable things out of the LGWM lolly-jar on the basis that they’re popular with people.

    This isn’t consultation on an integrated transport network or even a program of work – it’s the equivalent of Dancing With The Stars, where everyone watching at home gets to vote on their favorite couple. But hey, if we all give the thumbs up to the pedestrianisation of Lambton Quay, it might actually happen – primarily to distract us from the fact that the light rail won’t.

  16. Keith Flinders, 12. November 2019, 7:19

    Conor: Unfortunately the electors tend to vote for people who are not as pragmatic as you come across as being, and hence we get a series of talkfests that seldom lead to any action. A case in point being LGWM which after 4 years has yet to come up with a practical option for the ever increasing congestion impacting public transport.

    In reply to another opinion piece recently you suggested either light rail or buses for mass transit in Wellington. My question to you: how many buses per minute through Lambton Quay are too many? With a growing population and a greater uptake of public transport when the GWRC finally gets its act together, then the Golden Mile – even with dedicated bus lanes – might require bus movements every 15 seconds. For such, almost continuous bus stops will be required.

    Light rail or similar would seem the option to carry 300 people per vehicle, being about the same as five buses.

  17. Jonnah W, 12. November 2019, 9:10

    Glad you asked Henry, right action always comes from understanding and right thinking. Without fully understanding the problems they can’t be solved and that is exactly where the Council are at.
    And another problem with the Council: they never admit they have made mistakes – always try to blame others and so have never learnt. Imagine a person who made mistakes never admitting them and so never learning from them … they are doomed to keep repeating .
    The good intention has to be there and it can’t be an action based on a syndicates’ or business roundtables’ financial gains. If the Council was acting on behalf of the ratepayers and people of WGTN, then their actions would’ve been quite different.

  18. Kerry, 12. November 2019, 14:06

    John M. You say that ‘… we all know how much the left hate roads and “the means justifies the end” shambles….’ That would be laughable in most or all european cities, and a growing number of North American cities. In NZ it is also laughable to those who have taken the trouble to read and understand either the 2018 Government Policy Statement on transport, or the detailed reports released by LGWM. Even in Houston, Texas, some people are beginning to see the joke. A 46 km section of Interstate 10, the ‘Katy Highway,’ was overcrowded and wasting 25 million commuter hours a year. It was widened, at a cost of US$2.8 billion, to 23 lanes, then the widest in the world. (data here) http://cityobservatory.org/reducing-congestion-katy-didnt/
    The job was completed in 2011, and by 2014 travel times were up by 23-25 minutes. It may now take 110 minutes. In several cities, including Seattle, Sa nFrancisco and Seoul, main highways have been closed without ill-effect. It works if public transport is adequate.
    In Wellington, the worst traffic chaos ever ($5 million a day) was when the Hutt railway line was washed out in 2016. This is consistent with the ‘Downs Thomson Effect,’ that “the travel time by car tends to equal that of public transport.”
    This is why LGWM are promoting ‘more people in fewer vehicles.’

  19. mason, 12. November 2019, 18:15

    LGWM was never anything more than let’s grow Wellington’s motorways in disguise but a change of government meant the road builders at NZTA and the council transport ‘experts’ needed to stall everything.

  20. Dave B, 12. November 2019, 19:27

    The Board of Inquiry rejected the Basin Flyover proposal as a flawed way ahead. LGWM was set up to explore alternative strategies.

    Could it be that the reason it has taken so long to settle on a firm, alternative plan, is that a vociferous group is still agitating for a motorway to the airport. LGWM’s mistake has been to listen to this group. They have had their say and they had their day. The BOI rightly rejected their so-called “solution”. That should have been the end of it and the time to move on with a mass-transit alternative.

    Instead, LGWM tried to placate this group and has delayed doing anything at all. Whose fault is this? Those who still insist that adding more traffic capacity will solve Wellington’s problems! Drop this disproven idea once and for all, and let “Let’s get Wellington Moving” get Wellington moving.

  21. John Rankin, 12. November 2019, 19:32

    @PCGM: you say that light rail won’t happen because it’s unaffordable, but what is your alternative proposal? Whenever I do back-of-the-envelope calculations on what will actually work in Wellington, I come back to light rail-based rapid transit as the only practical solution (at least until the day “trackless trams” are a proven alternative). As far as I can tell, all the alternatives either won’t provide a durable solution to Wellington’s problem or will cost even more than light rail.

    I’m waiting for the business case LGWM has commissioned to show us how to pay for it. In the mean time, how do you propose to “move more people with fewer vehicles” given Wellington’s geographic constraints and projected population increase?

    My conclusion is that Wellington needs to find a way to fund light rail, hire people who have done it before and get on with it, because the price will only go up and the problem will only get bigger. What we do now will shape the city for the next 50 years and more. PCGM, if you have a better solution than light rail, I’d like to hear it.

  22. Ms Green, 12. November 2019, 21:30

    John you are so correct as usual. At what point in a “consultation” is enough enough? Let’s have a Light Rail Authority with its own legislation (like we used to have Airport Authorities each with their own Act.) Let’s get on with light rail now. The answer’s been obvious for nearly fifty years when Mayor Robbie tried to introduce it in Auckland..and in 1995 when the Government report said light rail was economically, environmentally and socially appropriate.

    Somebody/ies have to be held accountable for this waste of taxes, waste of rates, waste of time, waste of space, waste of resources, waste of fossil fuels idling away in ever increasing congestion…,… Just who is going to make sure that Wellington might be able to get moving? The mayor? The chair of the Regional Council? The Chair of NZTA? The Minister?

  23. Cr Daran Ponter, 12. November 2019, 23:55

    @ Concerned Wellingtonian – A Report on the recent community consultation on the Wellington bus network is coming to the Regional Council meeting on 12 December.

  24. Ralf, 13. November 2019, 8:40

    LGWM is in a holding pattern. They never wanted LR and they don’t know how to implement it anyway (and neither does NZTA). They also know that our new Mayor wants more roads. Their hope is that there will be a government change next year and, once National is back, they can get to building more roads (the only thing NZTA knows how to do anyway).

    This doesn’t solve the issue that Wellington doesn’t want more roads. I guess they want to forward them their preferred scenario Number 4 again: highway tunnels through the city. But it has the drawback of costing a ton of money and I doubt that a National government would be willing to spend that much. Though possibly they could pull another Transmission Gully where the road is privately financed and taxpayers have to pay it off for 25 years on 8% interest.

  25. Northland, 13. November 2019, 20:33

    Ralf that doesn’t make sense. “Our new mayor wants more roads” and “Wellington doesn’t want more roads” – and yet our new mayor got the most votes from the Wellington electorate. If you live in Karori you’d definitely want better roads so that the bus you’re sitting in can have its own dedicated lane all the way from the city to the suburban center. Imagine that.

  26. steve doole, 17. November 2019, 5:53

    PCGM – do you know how much is spent on transport in Wellington each day?
    Costs of Rail, light rail, and other public transport proposals can easily be covered by the amounts spent now by all of us. The trick is to find ways to change current spending and money flows. As Canberra, Nantes, and cities smaller than Wellington have transit systems, perhaps the problem is really in our heads.