Greater Wellington Regional Council

LGWM voted on, and first steps likely to slow Wellington down more. Meanwhile the GWRC throws a bucket of rocks through its collective glasshouse windows

Two votes this week on LGWM, one at the GWRC and one at the WCC. Both passing easily leading the way to the very start of work, which is likely to take decades to deliver.

The GWRC was first up to vote and seemed to criticise the plan rather than support it with some confusing statements coming from that ill-operating machine. As far as they were concerned the second tunnel and getting State Highway 1 across the city sorted out was the top of the priority list.

Fair enough. With a lot of travel across Wellington’s CBD by outlying residents to the city that makes sense. Of course, this vote doesn’t mean a great deal of anything, much like the Climate Emergency declared last week, it is a bit of an exercise in flag-waving without any substance other than the commissioning of no doubt more expensive reports.

But is a step forward.

Regional councillor Ian McKinnon said unblocking congestion around the Basin Reserve and digging a second Mount Victoria tunnel was well overdue but councillors were essentially being asked to vote for more reports.

“So it’s the vision, it’s further investigations, it’s a business case – and people are saying ‘Let’s Get Wellington Moving?’. Let’s just get it moving,” he said.

Regional councillor Daran Ponter said the tunnel and Basin Reserve projects were the most important ones for residents who lived outside the city and needed to get across town to the airport.

A majority of councillors asked their chief executive to work with the LGWM partners – Wellington City Council and the Transport Agency – to see if those two projects could be fast-tracked.

Multi-billion dollar plan to fix Wellington’s traffic woes criticised

Missing a massive opportunity it turns out that undergrounding State Highway 1 through Te Aro is not funded, meaning that if it were to happen then funding would have to found elsewhere. It’s an epic fail given that removing cars completely from that part of the city, where they effectively slice it in half, would have made for a far better pedestrian experience.

“I think the most transformative thing would’ve been to underground Karo Drive,” she said.

“You’d have had a wonderful city park [above Karo Drive] where you have lots of walking, cycling, recreation – it would’ve just transformed the city, so that’s really sad that can’t happen,” she said.

Barbara Donaldson

What happens from here is “detailed investigations.” Read, nothing for at least the next four years. The process by which business cases will be written will take at least two years, if not longer, and then will be followed by more voting and politicking as proposals return to the table.

So now: the preferred mode for mass transit will be “established by a business case”, after “detailed investigation”. Only when this has been done will there be a start on the “design, staging and sequencing of other interventions,” and how to minimise disruptions during construction. (Construction? When might it start?)†

Moving slowly

Given the volatility of New Zealand politics, the many lobby groups involved, the relationship between Councils, and the fact that in ten years technology may be completely different to what is available today, it will be years before we see any progress.

Never mind that, said the WCC today, who voted unanimously on the LGWM, highlighted their areas of priority, which were noticeably different to the GWRC. I.e. The second tunnel was not high on the list.

“I’m very pleased that Wellington City Councillors showed their unanimous support for the LGWM package,” says Mayor Justin Lester. “The decision today unlocks funds already set aside for LGWM in our 2019/20 annual plans and commits the Council to fund their share of the next phase on a 60:40 basis between central and local government.

†

City councillors unanimously vote to support LGWM traffic plan

It is likely that the WCC priorities versus the GWRC priorities will lead to some clashing of heads over the next couple of years. Nothing new there. Unfortunately, the prioritised activities by the WCC are likely to get Wellington more choked up in the short term until the long term, in particular, mass transit, solutions can be adopted.

Reading between the lines it looks like the WCC intends to drop driving speeds across the entire city including the route to the airport, probably go ahead with getting rid of cars from the Golden Mile, put a new crossing on Cobham Drive, and fiddle with the Hutt Road configuration, which has not been great to date.

Removing vehicles from the CBD is a popular exercise, with a lot of cities having a crack at this right now. However, when you push traffic out, it has to have the capacity to go around the CBD, or you snarl the city even more.

We could create bus priority lanes tomorrow, by removing car parking on at least one side of many arterial routes. While some of these are already clearways in the mornings, you frequently see them jammed with parked cars that take time to be towed.

The cost of an overpass, or underpass, on Cobham Drive, will run into the millions and what we know is that the WCC generally chooses the cheapest option, so I bet that they will go with a standard crossing, which will increase congestion and most likely accidents.

But the WCC has little power to do anything else, as does the GWRC, because the big-ticket items are years away from being chosen, let alone sized, and business cases are written.

Then other news today, it turns out that the WCC is off to China to have a look-see at Trackless Trams. Makes sense. I’d expect officers to not only be looking at that technology, but also trams, light rail, and other mass transit options as well.

The GWRC blew up today labelling the trip a “junket” and getting their knickers in a terrible knot.

Regional councillors have expressed their shock at a Wellington City Council plan to fly Mayor Justin Lester and city council staff to China on a $5500 per person tour to investigate trackless trams.

Greater Wellington Regional Councillor Paul Swain labelled a plan by the city council to send Lester, senior staff, an unnamed city councillor, and Associate Transport Minister Julie-Anne Genter as “unbelievable” and not meeting the “sniff test”. “This can only be described as a junket.”

Swain’s fellow councillors have also raised transparency issues around the trip.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/113748293/trackless-tram-junket-to-china-for-wellington-mayor-justin-lester-rejected-by-regional-councillors

Trackless tram ‘junket’ to China for Wellington Mayor Justin Lester rejected by regional councillors

Extraordinary.

Given that the GWRC has single handed destroyed the Wellington bus service, in my opinion, and created problems of astounding proportions as a result, you think they’d be laying low.

Nope, rocks thrown through several glasshouse windows in a hissy outburst, especially when they were invited to travel with the WCC.

Meow, we say.

We also say, put up or shut up. If there are issues with transparency and process, release the data proactively, as you have done before.

Anyway, the GWRC shouldn’t be travelling anywhere until it fixes the awful stuff up that is our bus network. Then we might let them near any future decisions on public transport.

Given the now glacial process that will kick-off, I think we can all park, pardon the pun, LGWM, for at least the next five years, if not longer. Maybe we’ll pick it up for the next election.

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