Election 2019

A bumpy week for the Council; Island Bay Cycleway bites again, more allegations of a toxic culture, Shelly Bay costs uncertain, and apartment values trend negative

Island Bay just won’t die with a judicial review underway in the High Court. The petitioners want the September 2017 Mayor’s “compromise solution” quashed. I have no idea how successful they will be, but here we go again burning a tonne of ratepayers’ money on lawyers.

Now, the best read on the detail of the action can be found on Radio New Zealand who is reporting in a reasonably factual way as the proceedings go ahead.

Opponents of Wellington’s Island Bay cycleway have asked the High Court to review the City Council’s processes in establishing it.

The contentious cycleway runs along the kerbside through the suburb, with car parking outside it, rather than the traditional road configuration with kerbside parking.

The Residents Association’s lawyer, Con Anastasiou, told the Court that Wellington City Council’s handling of the cycleway development breached the Local Government Act, the common law and the Bill of Rights.

Court told of council ‘breaches’ over Island Bay cycleway

It’s an outstanding mess brought on, in my opinion, by a particularly poor consultation at the outset between Council and Community. It has politically activated quite a large section of the Island Bay community who simply will not let this go.

The vitriol from all parties is running high, and the pro-cycle lobby groups are crawling over the various local Councillor’s Twitter feeds. Nothing new there, every time a Councillor posts something on Twitter one of the groups appears to bring up cycling.

It’s ridiculous this has gone on so long and ridiculous that the root cause has not been addressed; that being how the Council consults with the community. It’s the subject of extensive blogs, news articles, and even academic reports, so let’s leave the conversation parked for the moment.

Wellington City Council is back in the press with the word “toxic” in the title again despite continuing to furiously reject any such allegations.

Ratepayers have spent thousands fighting allegations a former Wellington City Council employee was psychologically manipulated and bullied by colleagues who fostered a “toxic” work culture, pushing her to leave her job.

Angela Rampton alleges council managers took part in a bullying campaign, excluding her from meetings, made that exclusion known to other council employees, spread information about her health status, then used a phone to reflect sunlight into her eyes to aggravate a brain injury she suffered while tramping in September 2017.

Former employee alleges ‘toxic’ bullying culture at Wellington City Council

Like the Island Bay issue, this one won’t go away despite the Council trying to stamp it out over the past few years. A quick Google search shows numerous articles going back over the past few years that generally all end with this wonderful sort of statement.

But council lawyer Peter Chemis said the agency denied the “toxic culture” allegations and said the claims were not relevant to Rampton’s case.

Now we all know the sorry saga of the Council and the potential procurement of pandas, but could it be that they have moved onto looking into ostriches as an alternative?

Shelly Bay comes back this week although somewhat muted with all the noise going on around LGWM. Interesting, because Shelly Bay is certainly influenced by LGWM and represents some of the other issues going on around the city.

Three independent commissioners have been appointed now to review another resource consent application, and the fur is already flying.

At the heart of this issue is just how much the infrastructure is going to cost with numbers of $14.5m, $20m, and $100m having been touted over the years.

In the consent documents, Wellington Water modelling manager Ben Fountain said there was “considerable uncertainty around the costs of providing

[water infrastructure]

to Shelly Bay.”

‘Considerable uncertainty’ around Shelly Bay’s infrastructure estimates

Situation normal, a lack of facts still appearing to be the case. I also note that there are still calls for Simon Marsh and Sarah Free, the largely invisible Eastern Ward Councillors, to share their thoughts on Shelly Bay. It can be done as we know because Andy Foster and Chris Calvi-Freeman have spoken quite extensively.

Pro tip Councillors Marsh and Free, the sky didn’t call when others talked about it, and your constituents are wondering if you’ve left the suburb. Not a good place to be in an election year.

Who’d own an apartment?

With news around increased earthquake insurance costs (if you can get any), increased body corporate costs, massive costs associated with earthquake strengthening, and impending climate change (sea rises) on some of the most attractive parts of the CBD you’d be forgiven for thinking an apartment is the last thing to buy.

In an article by Trade Me; “Wellington property market runs hot as buyers look further afield” we can see that apartment values have dropped by an average 1.9% over the past year. When we see double-digit increases in values for other types of properties, this makes for interesting reading.

It’s a problem for the Council who seem intent on jamming as many people as they can a) into the CBD and b) into high-rise apartments. Just this week Councillors Young and Dawson both spoke out against a potential development of townhouses in Taranaki Street asserting that they should be much higher builds.

The city councillor with the housing portfolio, Brian Dawson, said more people need to live on those prime, inner-city blocks.

“It’s disappointing for me because we all know we’ve got very limited amount of land, particularly in the CBD and it’s a shame we can’t maximise what we’ve got. While all new housing you could say is good housing, at the end of the day we could get a lot more in that space,” Mr Dawson said.

Two councillors say low-rise town houses in CBD are “waste of space.”

Many weighed in to support the Councillors.

But I think the problem is that apartments are now such an uncertain investment that developers are changing their tack.

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