Wellington Scoop

Transport issues: Justin Lester

We’ve been asking mayoral candidates to tell us their views about transport issues in the city. The questions were prepared by the Transporting Wellington blog. Here’s the second response, from Justin Lester.

1. In what ways do you think transport in Wellington will change over the next twenty years?

In 20 years time almost all vehicles will be electric and we’ll have an electric charging network across Wellington and New Zealand. I expect a large proportion of vehicles will be self-driving, autonomous vehicles too, particularly if the current rate of technology advancement continues.

Currently 37% of Wellingtonians commute by car to work; 17% by bus, 4% by train, 17% walk and 4% travel by bike – the remainder either work from home or do not work. In the last 15 years the city’s CBD population has grown by 45% so I expect the number of people walking to work will increase and our CBD’s streets will be busier. To sustain or improve the current ratio I firmly believe a balanced approach to investment in roading, public transport, pedestrianisation and cycling routes is required. Any successful, modern city is taking this same approach. If we don’t take a balanced approach, we will see a disproportionate number of people driving, which will only lead to further congestion. Continuing public transport investment and encouraging people to walk and bike is very important.

Our state highway artery from Ngauranga will need to be prioritised for private vehicle and bus lanes. The three major congestion points are: (1) Ngauranga Gorge; (2) the Terrace Tunnel; and (3) Basin Reserve / Mt Victoria Tunnel, all of which will need to be addressed by 2025. I would like to see the Petone to Grenada Link Road completed and a second tunnel at both the Terrace and Mt Victoria. There are current priorities within the Regional Transport Plan and I will ensure they are completed.

2. Do you believe there is traffic congestion in Wellington? If so, to what extent does it affect Wellington residents and the wider economy?

There is congestion at peak times across the city, it is busy around schools at a mini-peak at 3pm and on the weekend we are seeing increasing problems at the Terrace Tunnel, Mt Victoria, Ruahine St and Cobham Drive. The three major congestion points are: (1) Ngauranga Gorge; (2) The Terrace Tunnel; and (3) Basin Reserve / Mt Victoria Tunnel, all of which will need to be addressed between now and 2025.

Wellingtonians’ ability to move around the city is incredibly important. It is important for business owners and for quality of life, both of which have a direct relationship to the local economy and job creation. We don’t want to be another Auckland where a major focus of their daily life is how they get from place to place.

3. People believe it is unlikely major transport projects in Wellington can be completed without the help of Central Government. In what ways have you shown you can work constructively with Central Government to deliver on major projects?

I have been working with NZTA and the Greater Wellington Regional Council on the ‘Get Welly Moving” transport programme. The tri-partite approach is a vast improvement on the previous attempt by NZTA on the Basin Reserve improvements. I am confident of success on this project.

I have also been involved in creating the Housing Accord with the Minister of Housing and regular monitoring of the special housing areas. While I personally believe more needs to be done in this area (in particular, Government and Local Government construction of housing), the amended policy settings should add to construction supply in Wellington.

4. In Wellington’s Urban Growth Plan 2014, there was a transport hierarchy where some people inferred cycling would be given higher priority than public transport and roading. Do you agree with that transport hierarchy? In what ways have your actions in Council supported your views on this?

I support a balanced approach to Wellington transport and that includes walking, cycling, private vehicles and public transport. I’ve supported the urban cycling framework, submitted in favour of more affordable public transport (and pledged to work with GWRC on this as Mayor) and transport improvements to the Johnsonville Triangle, Westchester Drive in Churton Park and the Petone to Grenada Link Road.

Over the next three years we need to make the most of the Government’s cycling fund and I think this will benefit the city and in particular families and children who want to able to bike to school safely.

5. Do you support the airport runway extension? Will your support or opposition change depending on how it is to be funded? Why?

In short, I think the airport extension needs to be explored. WCC has committed funding for the resource consent and the application is being considered currently.

There are some caveats: (1) the consent needs to be approved; (2) we need firm commitment from an airline; and (3) we need an appropriate finance structure and significant financial contributions from Wellington Airport, Central Government and the region’s territorial authorities (which they have already agreed in principle).

For the project to proceed, the biggest issue is likely to be funding and we will need significant contributions from Wellington Airport and Central Government. Without these, the project is unlikely to proceed. The airport’s contribution would need to be far in excess of $50m for the project to proceed.

6. What would you like done to improve movements for pedestrians, bikes, buses and cars around the Basin Reserve?

I would like to see enhanced connections between Pukeahu to Mt Victoria tunnel and improved (separated) walking and cycling facilities through the second Mt Victoria Tunnel.

In time I would also like to see a boulevard along Cambridge and Kent Terrace, which is budgeted within the current long term plan and would help transform that area.

7. What do you believe should be done with the Island Bay Cycleway? Why?

I think improvements can be made to the design to get a win-win situation. I’ve been working with residents and cyclists to get them to work together, supported by WCC, to achieve that.

8. For cycling, given the choice of prioritizing either CBD cycling routes, suburban cycling routes or the Great Harbour Way, what order of priority would you choose? Why?

I think it needs to be a mixture of each to connect the city and users. The Great Harbour Way is an excellent project and could help transform waterfront access for tourism and recreation, but it only serves part of the city and doesn’t take in school routes. Therefore I favour a broader approach.

9. In what ways would you improve public transport in the Wellington area? Why?

My approach to improving public transport in Wellington includes:
freezing bus and train fares at current prices for the next three years
introducing integrated ticketing as a priority
moving to a fully electric bus fleet and buses with higher capacity
introducing student concession fares to encourage greater student use of public transport
introducing accurate, real-time bus and train passenger apps to improve the reliability and information relating to public transport services.

10. In a world where funds and political support is of no issue, what one transport related project or policy would you choose to approve?

A light rail network from Wellington railway station to Wellington Airport via Newtown and Kilbirnie.

Tomorrow: Keith Johnson


  1. Laidbackchap, 13. August 2016, 8:07

    If you somehow win the mayoralty, for the sake of all Wellingtonians DONT freeze public transport fares, as catchup hurts even more. Might be frozen for 3 years. But operating costs and inflation don’t freeze. Year 4 will therefore hurt hard and will be most likely 39.6% fare increase to cover the freeze and to catchup.

  2. Will, 13. August 2016, 9:31

    Hear hear Laidbackchap. Fares freezes are damaging for investment – and for the general ratepayer. Struggling to work out what Lester is going to do to sort out Island Bay’s awful cycleway, which he rammed though. This piece offers no insight on that.

  3. CPH, 13. August 2016, 10:40

    Don’t be so harsh on Justin! His opinion piece is the nicest set of platitudes I’ve ever read.

  4. Tracy, 13. August 2016, 12:29

    Working with residents and cyclists to get them to work together…Actually cyclists are residents too and it is NOT about cyclist vs residents but about community wanting a cyclway that is a good design and works well for everyone…not the haphazard mish mash poorly designed versin that has been rammed down our throats. Huge waste of money and is still draining money as tweaks are being made still. Family all cycled just fine in the lane and road that was there before…now we all avoid the Parade unless hunting for parking to get sick people to the medical centre.

  5. Concerned Wellingtonian, 13. August 2016, 13:15

    Under the control of most local bodies it is indeed true that a freeze is never put on costs nor do any of the candidates for WCC seem to be worried about this. (Why not?) However a fare freeze would undoubtedly increase patronage and easily justify more buses and trains thus increasing the number of fare-paying passengers. In turn this should lead to having a decent time-table at last. I look forward to the sight of Keith Johnson trumping Justin Lester,

  6. prambo, 13. August 2016, 16:07

    Student concession fares to encourage greater student use of public transport? Don’t most of them walk or bus already? Also I hear that fewer young people have a driver’s licence these days. So will providing cheaper fares for tertiary students really lead to any greater uptake of public transport and decrease in car use, or is it just a ploy to get their votes?

  7. IanS, 13. August 2016, 16:55

    Tenders for the train service have “saved” $10m per year, and this gives GW some confidence they can freeze fares for a period (by not passing the train savings back to the users). They will be hoping that the bus route tenders squeezes a similarly large saving out of the competing bus companies. The issue now is, will WE be happy getting what GW is prepared to pay for?

    Clearly a new culture of transferring to faster, higher capacity, spine services is coming our way. I predict such a change will fail unless we get integrated ticketing including free-transfers (coming), the ditching of BRT (supposedly coming) to light rail (not yet on the 10 yr plans), plus all-door loading (not coming) and passengers being responsible for having the correct fare and big fines for not having a ticket (not coming).

    The 2018 bus route timetable changes will dismally fail to encourage more patronage without a huge PR campaign. I am not sure the other changes needed for success will happen.

  8. Ellen13, 15. August 2016, 17:06

    Thank you Justin – separated footpaths for pedestrians. This will work well with your PT focus but there is bus congestion along the Golden Mile that is much more important to fix than faster car travel!

  9. Nicola, 16. August 2016, 10:27

    These questions and answere are all very well, but much of the real action rests with the Regional Council – even though Nick Leggett claimed sole responsibility for delivering Transmission Gully on TV the other day! Are you planning a similar series of Q&A for Regional Council candidates? Particularly interested to see how Ian McKinnon answers.