Wellington Scoop

LGWM at risk of failure: “not set up for success”

Report from RNZ by Charlotte Cook
A scathing review into Wellington’s $6.4b Lets Get Wellington Moving transport programme has found it is at risk of failure, has a detrimental culture and was under-resourced from the outset. The internal report, titled a Health Check, looked into LGWM and its plans to develop a better transport system for the city.

LGWM’s aim is to ease the capital’s congestion by building rapid transit from the city to the airport, improving public transport and cycleways and easing traffic choke points on arterial routes.

However, the review found it’s at risk of failing to deliver an integrated, cohesive, prioritised and outcomes-driven package.

It described the programme as “being process-driven” with a “bottom up approach”.

“Capability gaps and under-resourcing have exacerbated the problem. There is no single point of failure, but critical improvements must be made across several areas.”

It said the team was never adequately resourced and key roles have remained vacant or are only filled on a temporary basis.

“Our principal finding from a people perspective is that the programme was not set up for success from the outset.

“The programme’s current brand value in the market has meant that attracting and retaining talent is challenging.”

The report said LGWM’s brand is diminished due to perceived lack of delivery and future uncertainty.

The report also noted there was a proven lack of experience within the team which had no expertise in delivering a complex, large scale programme and a “strategic leadership vacuum”.

The Health Check described the current culture as “detrimental to a collaborative and productive working environment” between the partners involved in LGWM.

It said people working on projects had an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality and described the culture as combative where they were wary of putting their views forward.

The report says LGWM needs to pause to enable proper discipline to be implemented, and to be better resourced.

“We note that the recommendations in this report will lead to an adjusted LGWM programme in terms of timeframes, scope and cost. However, we consider this is preferable to the risk of failure to deliver the desired outcomes under the current approach.”

The review said the programme, which is a joint initiative between the government, Wellington City Council, the Regional Council and the Transport Agencym lacked trust.

“A consistent finding across the interviews is that trust and confidence in the programme governance function is low. There is a universal view that there are too many layers; the structure is confusing; and the decision-making is fragmented.”

It said LGWM needed to act now if it wanted to succeed.

“There is one politically and publicly tolerable chance for the programme to refresh and refocus. The time is now, while intervention can add value to the current phase of the programme, rather than put it completely off track.”

Transport Minister Michael Wood has told Let’s Get Wellington Moving’s board members any further delays to the project are “unacceptable”.

He said Wellingtonians had waited too long for progress on the city and further delaying the project would not restore public confidence.

“It is my view that pausing to reconsider those objectives will only cause further delay in the programme,” he said.

“The only way we will restore public confidence is by making progress.”

The minister has given officials two weeks to come up with a plan to address the problems outlined in the report. “My expectation is that the Transport Agency will work with Wellington City Council and the Regional Council to support delivery on a timetable that helps to build public confidence and a sense of momentum.”

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster was not surprised by the concerns raised in the report.

“It is clear LGWM was not set up in a way that could effectively deliver what our city needs, and I was therefore pleased with the leadership by my CEO and the LGWM Board in commissioning this Health Check which addresses this and other issues.”

However, Foster said the city council remained “fully committed” to the vision and delivery of the programme.

Actions had been taken to address many of the concerns the report raised, he said.

“I know our community wants to see Let’s Get Wellington Moving providing the vision expected of a world-class capital city,” Foster said.

“What is most important is that there has been a lot of great technical work done on actual project packages, which I look forward to … put before the public soon.”


  1. Northland, 12. February 2021, 22:27

    It is clear that LGWM has become a vehicle for consuming ratepayer and taxpayer money, abandoning all ambition to achieve anything of any worth.

    It has become paralysed by too much choice, too much consultation, and the fear of actually making a firm decision

  2. Not a Boomer, 13. February 2021, 6:14

    I was enjoying the thoughts of moving Wellington on a semi permanent basis in the future as i eased into retirement. However following the discussions in this forum and the ineptitude of Council and Government to get anything moving, wellington is off my list now as a desirable place to live. This process is a reflection of a failure of governance, the lack of a cohesive plan, interference by central government – don’t we remember the letter from Julie Anne Genter. No one seems to be accountable – the board will probably get sacked, no one in their right mind would take on the job unless paid mega bucks.

    So good luck wellington. Unfortunately as a ratepayer of the region we’ll be helping you out so you better get it right from now on.

  3. Mike Mellor, 13. February 2021, 9:05

    Not a Boomer: actually, in this case “interference by central government” (which is paying 60% of the bill!) consists of the Minister not accepting delays, telling LGWM to get on with it.

    Isn’t that a positive?

  4. Wellington Inc, 13. February 2021, 9:25

    As long term Wellingtonians know, its being going on a lot longer than 20 years. St Pat’s Town was moved in the 70s to accommodate a Basin Reserve solution and it was being discussed for years prior to that. Wellington’s transient nature means this is not well known by people newly appointed and elected to resolve this issue. They give it a go for a couple of years and then move on to something else and meanwhile the farce continues. Weve had several “pauses” over the decades. The creation of LGWM itself was the result of a pause. Another one is more than just “unacceptable”. Its time for the Minister to act, replace the three programme partners with a centrally appointed decision maker and just do it.

  5. Jock Chan, 13. February 2021, 9:45

    I wholeheartedly agreed with Mayor Foster’s aspiration of Wellington becoming what’s expected of a world class city. My hopes have been rather small and easily achievable. I would like to put up this challenge to the Council:

    How about strengthening the delivery and reach of free wifi in the whole of Wellington City, especially along the bus routes in the cbd? I’ve spent the last 5 years or more wishing and hoping that I will pick up free wifi on public transport from Wellington Train Station along the Golden Mile to the end of Willis Street. Never, ever succeeded.

    2 bars of signal strength in front of David Jones for about 5-10 seconds and 1 to 3 bars in front of New World Metro for about 20 seconds at the most. Yes, that’s as good as it get for a world class city aspiring to be a world leading internet-driven business hub. So sad.

    It would be so good if Mayor Foster could consider some improvements on a little neglected part of Wellington public transport – so please Let’s Get Wellington Moving .. a little.

    I’m a rates payer of more than 30 years. I’ve lost access to the great Wellington Central Library. Free wifi is a let down. What’s next? Please improve on the small things and make minor rates payers like me smile a little. Thanks so much for your consideration, Mayor Foster.

  6. luke, 13. February 2021, 11:32

    My opinion is LGWM was set up to kick the can down the road after the flyover was defeated until a more road building friendly government was in power. Basically to stall any of that pesky public transport that might actually reduce car dependance untill the serious business of building motorways could resume.

  7. Kara, 13. February 2021, 13:32

    I have always wondered who LGWM was to benefit. Certainly not those of us who plan our travel and use public transport.

    Stop wasting funds on this fruitless venture and concentrate on what is really needed.

  8. Toni, 13. February 2021, 23:51

    The total estimated cost of LGWM is $6.4 billion, with local government picking up $1.3 billion of that. FOR WHAT? WCC appears to have very little say in what goes on so lets kick LGWM into touch and put that money into our failing infrastructure.
    And what are our local MPs doing about this mess? It’s time they started doing their job and looking out for our city.

  9. IanS, 14. February 2021, 9:39

    Commentators here do not seem to realise that our local politicians are sucking up the criticism and fury as they wait for the Government to offer far more funding to make this project work at minimal cost to ratepayers.
    Stage 1 has to be acceptance that the light rail solution is at least 90% funded by taxpayers not ratepayers. We need the Auckland offer. Get the route notified and the planning finalised this year. Complete build within 4 years.
    As part of stage 1 designate the transport hub locations along the route so that land is reserved and planning allows higher commercial and residential developments around the future hubs.
    Delays are costing opportunities – eg the now empty Caltex site on Adelaide Rd should be where the ‘lightrail tunnel’ from top of Taranaki St should come out, avoiding the slow wiggle around the Basin.

  10. Keith Flinders, 14. February 2021, 10:53

    The structure of LGWM precludes it from ever making a positive binding decision, as it comprises too many elected local politicians who have one eye trained on the the short three year election cycle.

    I agree with the comments IanS makes about getting the route notified, not that I think the one proposed by FIT is the right one. Having light rail where it is convenient to most intending passengers will be the key to getting motorists to see leaving their cars at home is a better option.

    Will I live long enough to see light rail back in operation in Wellington? I think not but live in hope.

  11. Kara, 14. February 2021, 11:27

    WIM equals Wellington IS moving or hasn’t someone noticed.

  12. Andrew Bartlett, 14. February 2021, 17:06

    I do wonder how an intergovernmental committee representing intersecting layers of government that each have 3 year electoral cycles was ever expected to get much done.

    However 2021 may be finally the year, I’m told there are some quite well advanced plans soon to be published, and neither local nor national elections are scheduled for this year (unlike the previous two), so they might get a clear run. I certainly hope so.

  13. Mike Mellor, 14. February 2021, 17:09

    Keith F: “The structure of LGWM precludes it from ever making a positive binding decision, as it comprises too many elected local politicians who have one eye trained on the the short three year election cycle” – as I understand it LGWM is not a decision-making body: its constituent bodies (GWRC, NZTA, WCC) make the decisions based on its advice, hence why (for example) consultation on the 30km/h central city speed limit happened twice, first by LGWM (resulting in a report to WCC) then by WCC (resulting in a decision). But be that as it may, all decisions, whether local or national, are ultimately made directly or indirectly with one eye on the three-year electoral cycle.

  14. John Rankin, 15. February 2021, 20:10

    @KeithFlinders: if “light rail where it is convenient to most intending passengers” is code for along the Golden Mile, rather than LGWM’s proposed Quays / Taranaki St route, remember that LGWM’s project is for “mass rapid transit”. The only way I can see to run rapid transit on the narrow, pedestrian rich Golden Mile is to put it underground (ie, a light metro). Which is better value, build surface rapid transit to the eastern suburbs and airport or, for the same price, build an underground light metro half way there?

    What will get motorists to leave their cars at home is service that is frequent, fast, and reliable. Many cities that build light rail run it underground through the city centre, so they can put rapid transit as close as possible to as many people as possible. I would have liked Wellington to consider the option, but I doubt there is appetite to spend the money it would take. Meanwhile, LGWM’s proposal is probably as good as it’s going to get and we need to get on and build it.

    Perhaps some brave politicians will run next year on a platform of building mass rapid transit to the eastern suburbs and airport in less than 6 years (2 terms). I live in hope.

  15. TrevorH, 16. February 2021, 10:51

    Like LGWM, mass transit to and from the CBD is an idea whose time is passing. The herds of office-workers once observed beating a path from home to office and back again over 3 hours each day are dwindling thanks to technology and COVID. As for other folk, mass transit is of limited use to tradespeople or shift workers or hospital staff who work irregular hours and are concerned for their safety after dark. It also is unlikely that the fleets of SUVs disgorging their precious cargoes at the school gates each morning and returning around 3pm to collect them will ever surrender their charges to public transport.

  16. Mike Mellor, 16. February 2021, 22:19

    John R: it may make sense in terms of vehicle speeds for rapid transit to run along the quays, but in terms of total transit time, missing the largest economic activity centre of the region while substituting a catchment that’s half water, separated from the city centre in one direction by a six-lane highway will do little to attract passengers. Running down a transit mall at the heart of things, as is common overseas, probably makes more sense.

    TrevorH: mass transit is not for everyone, just as cars aren’t – substantial proportions of the population have no licence or no vehicle – but it’s good for most people, including non-users (and few people travel for three hours each day), and travelling by public transport is about ten times safer than travelling by car. The fleets of SUVs would soon reduce if their owners were responsible for the full costs that they impose on the community, and were aware of the negative effects on their child passengers.

  17. Ross Clark, 17. February 2021, 0:18


    Like LGWM, mass transit to and from the CBD is an idea whose time is passing. The herds of office-workers once observed beating a path from home to office and back again over 3 hours each day are dwindling thanks to technology and COVID.

    Exactly! And this is already becoming obvious in the UK. We will still need city centres, but people will not commute to them in quite the way they have.

  18. John Rankin, 17. February 2021, 10:51

    @MikeMellor: on LGWM’s proposed route along the Quays, stations at the Railway Station, Frank Kitts Park and Te Aro Park would put every point on the Golden Mile within 400 metres of a rapid transit station. By all means run mass transit vehicles and buses in the same space on the Golden Mile (with only 2 available lanes between Panama St and Taranaki St), but this would not be rapid transit.

    In practice, I suspect you could run mass transit vehicles on the Golden Mile, or buses on the Golden Mile, but not both. So those who want surface mass transit on the Golden Mile have to figure out where to put the buses (about 40 per hour according to LGWM). To me it makes more sense to leave the slower buses on the Golden Mile and put rapid transit elsewhere, which pretty much means the Quays.

    Yes, a station at Frank Kitts Park would need a design that keeps passengers away from the traffic sewer on Jervois Quay. I suggest a second city to sea bridge, with a station platform in the middle of the street, but other designs would be possible. Let’s see how LGWM proposes to deal with this issue.