@GeorgeKCampbell eats the Dominion Post’s lunch over local reporting, tram junket canned, transport musings, Shelly Bay bites again, and elections issues continue to be shoved out to next year

Georgina Campbell at The NZ Herald continues to get the scoop on the Dominion Post that is doing a pretty poor job of covering WCC news and events this week.

She reports that the tram travel “junket” to China has been canned. It was widely panned by GWRC Councillors who are no doubt feeling sore over their continued inaction and the appalling results of the bus rejig.

A controversial trip to China to investigate trackless trams and light rail for Wellington has been pushed back until after this year’s local body elections.

The trip follows the $6.4b Let’s Get Wellington Moving transport package announcement.

The plan prioritises mass rapid transit at an estimated capital cost of $2.2b, but what technology will go on the route is yet to be decided.

The “study tour” proposal sparked by Wellington City Council copped criticism from some regional councillors when they received the plan to visit Beijing and Zhuzhou at the end of this month.

They expressed concern about the lack of detail and sending councillors on a trip so close to the election in October.

Controversial trip to China to investigate trackless trams postponed

Frankly, we thought the trip wasn’t a bad idea, provided the composition included actual transport professionals including some outspoken critics of the trackless trams. Now we wait, like the rest of LGWN, for many more months before the opportunity can present itself to reschedule.

Georgina also got the scoop this week on the first mayoral candidate to declare against Justin Lester, with zero news being filed by the Dominion Post on what was an important turn of events and entirely newsworthy.

Wellington’s vibrancy is under threat, Hill said in his first official press release.

“Homes and rents are unaffordable. The transport system is broken. Wellington’s cars and draughty homes contribute to climate change. Pensioners, young families and refugees can no longer afford the rent, or handle the congestion.”

Housing and transport polices would be announced in the coming weeks, he said.

Hill didn’t waste time in having a crack at Lester.

“We have a mayor who can announce a climate change crisis one week, and open a petrol station the next.”

Wellington mayoral race: Blogger Conor Hill throws hat into ring against Justin Lester

Game on we say. Conor is an independent and has some interesting ideas that will no doubt be subject of debate over the coming months.

Then, Georgina Campbell again, reported that a regional transport authority for Wellington is being pushed.

The authority would manage infrastructure for local roads, rail, bus, ferry and cable car services and seek to provide a joint and consistent transport planning approach.

Assets would remain with each individual council as well as their ability to set policies and control rates and user charges.

A representative from each council would sit on the joint governance committee and provide oversight of the authority.

Mayor Justin Lester said he was keen to explore the option.

Regional transport authority on the cards for Wellington?

Sounds like another level of bureaucracy in a system that has gone completely insane. Our pick, it’ll never happen.

Shelly Bay reappeared this week in a giant, stinking cloud of confusion with moves to start going backwards on the development at a great rate of knots revealed.

Wellington City Council is set to revisit one of its most contentious deals in years by reopening the decision to sell land at Shelly Bay.

Council chief executive Kevin Lavery on Tuesday night responded to a move by councillor Andy Foster and confirmed councillors would be able to vote again on the sale and lease of the land.

Decision to sell council land at Shelly Bay could be undone

Under pressure then.

Well, about time we think. Frankly the entire process has been a shambles of fantastic proportions and more than one Councillor has privately expressed to us that if the vote were to be taken again, they’d change their position. Some felt that the information provided prior to the first vote was not up to par and they regretted the way they had voted.

In over the top of all of this comes the Mau Whenua group, which has finally launched a legal challenge against PBNST.

High Court papers have been filed in a bid to return Shelly Bay to its previous iwi owners, who claim it was sold without their permission.

A group of “disenfranchised” iwi members has launched the legal attack on the $500 million Wellington harbourside development, and say a caveat has been placed on any further sale of a parcel of land owned by Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust (PBNST).

Mau Whenua, the group, has filed papers hoping to overturn a previous sale of three parcels of PNBST land at Shelly Bay in the Wellington High Court. 

Made up of former PBNST members, Mau Whenua had opposed an initial sale in 2017 of land parcels to companies largely owned by developer Ian Cassels.

Iwi members mount legal challenge to reclaim Shelly Bay from developer

In other news, rather than taking responsibility for the raft of project blowouts and abject failures, the WCC “changed the way it costs projects” instead. So let’s brush the tens of millions of dollars under the carpet and just carry on, with no responsibility taken for some massive screw ups involving ratepayers cash.

Wellington City Council has changed the way it costs projects after a raft of cost blow-outs on major projects, chief executive Kevin Lavery says.

The Town Hall’s strengthening costs, including a contingency, increased from $43m to a reported $130m, Omāroro reservoir from $30m to $58.2m, and the St. James Theatre nearly doubled from $17m to $33m – all were based on rough estimates slotted into 10-year plans that hadn’t kept up with construction price increases, Lavery said.

After multimillion dollar cost blow-outs, Wellington City Council changes its methods

And the Convention Centre wasn’t even mentioned.

Lavery then continues to the push to avoid the tender process where possible, which will lead to far less transparent decision making and flies in the face of wider procurement changes across all of government that could be of benefit, if the WCC chose to adopt them.

But that ain’t going to happen, because these guys know better than everyone else.

The graveyard that is Civic Square is going nowhere in a hurry. No doubt anxious to avoid it being brought up in election year, the WCC has shoved any decisions out another year.

In what was a very awkward and strange press release the WCC said;

All of this work will ultimately inform a report back to the Council on the options and a recommended way forward. It will be a rigorous process and will take well over a year to complete.

Central Library “high priority,” but no decisions for a year

It’s another issue high on the list of election pain points that is being pushed out past the polling in what is no doubt an effort to kill off the questions as the campaign trail gets rolling.