A bumbling year for the previous Council and not much hope for the next as the year starts to close. In a city with some serious issue’s, priorities are still skewed, and the hand wringing has begun in advance of the next general election rapidly approaching.
Transport, housing, shelly bay, the airport expansionism, and climate change were all the hot topics for the last twelve months, and little or no progress has been made. Instead, the city has been off on flights of fancy with a local body election effectively shutting down any movement forward for months.
This will be the last missive until mid-January barring any great event that will be interesting enough to get me off the beach. You’ll have to get me off the beach. A bit of a personal wander over the year, more so than usual, and an early Xmas card to you all.
My partner and I are quitting the rat race early this year and downing tools at the end of this week. For Karene, it’s been a tough year in the movie industry, working on feature films and continuing a hard training regime that a stuntwoman must keep up with.
The movie industry hit full steam again and I lost her for 17 or 18 hours a day at times, returning bruised, excited, tired, for midnight debriefs on the day’s work with the stars, only to see her roll out the door for wardrobe at 5:30am again.
Eastern suburbs is pumping, and I’ve noticed a few things over the year trending. With so much activity out here because of the film industry and ever-busy airport the traffic is far, far worse than previous years.
Many of us who used to work in the city have now opted to work at home, a growing trend. It’s cheaper, less stressful, and more productive. Tradies are being driven nuts by the now normal 45 – 60 min commute at either end of the day with tailbacks heading deep into Miramar and Seatoun at peak.
There’s no relief in sight for that. With a very broken bus system, the number of workers who have gone out and bought a $1,000 car to get where they need to go has skyrocketed. Mechanics out east have never been busier with more and more cars on the road each week. You can expect a week wait on a Warrant of Fitness these days and another week if anything needs to be fixed.
Housing prices and rent are now rapidly changing the demographics of the suburbs. People cannot afford to buy here generally and those rent increases are pushing lower-income families and individuals out of the area. If you want an idea of the madness of the increases, then look no further than my property to highlight it.
A modest, 100 square meter, ex-state house on the edge of Strathmore that we bought a few years back, my property has increased in value by over $100k this year. It had a $20,000 increase in the last month. Prices aren’t slowing, they are super-heating, and it can’t be sustainable. Of course, that’s all trapped capital that can’t be used.
If we were buying today, it would be up the coast or in the Wairarapa. It would be impossible, even with a decent wage, to buy anything other than a single bedroom unit.
The cost of living has increased significantly as well, I suspect right across the city. Some of that is due to wider national factors however anyone who pays a rates bill will be hurting with some properties attracting multi-thousand dollar increases this year.
Wellington is becoming one of the most expensive places to live and work in.
All that price pressure is changing the demographics of the area, with lower-income families pushed out the door and those with money moving in. While the central government is creating more housing where it can, it’s a minuscule amount in terms of the demand here.
Council has no control over this or chooses not to control it. Untangling the district plan development rules to allow more housing is not going to help when those houses are unaffordable to most people. It’ll only get worse.
Unfortunately, as money moves in, it seeks to retain the capital it has invested in housing, so we can expect that any plans to introduce infill housing, affordable housing, or any other similar measures to meet with very stiff opposition.
Shelly Bay continues to slowly fall into the harbour with no easy resolution in sight. Everyone in the city wants something to happen with the site, but no one wants a block of incredibly expensive apartments dominating what is a pretty little bay. Worse, the tangle around development, who bought what, which Councillors voted or didn’t, and the ongoing struggle of Mau Whenua have created a bird’s nest that won’t be unravelled for a decade.
Hunter S Thompson once said; “Never create anything, it will be misinterpreted, it will chain you and follow you the rest of your life.”
Never has this been truer than the Council’s horribly ill-thought-out declaration of a Climate Emergency without an actual plan to do anything. The declaration now haunts every press release, every story, every move that the Council makes. It has made them seen entirely hypocritical and will be used as a beating stick at every opportunity by the entire political spectrum for years.
And it is hypocritical. You can’t declare an emergency when you own a third of the airport, when you are encouraging more and more tourists to visit, subsidising Singapore Airlines, allowing development in areas that will end up underwater, spending over a hundred million on a 1950’s convention centre, not sorting out traffic, and a host of other activities that are the very antithesis of the pledge you made.
That Thompson quote was number one of seven that he wrote as advice to everyone. The Council has adopted Thompson’s fifth rule, which is; “If ever asked to look at yourself, don’t.”
Transparency has bottomed out this year in an ugly way. Leaking has become the norm and the infighting at times boiled over into the media. Consultation is now considered to be the biggest joke in the city and when given the opportunity to examine their own processes, Shelly Bay as an example, the Council has chosen to vote it down.
Except for some good operators and the hope that some new faces bring, the Council has been quite the failure for the city this year, in my opinion. They are going to suffer the fires of a general election next year, which is already looking ugly. Social media trolls, bullies, and those on the extreme left and right are already active, and I’d be encouraging people to tune out as early as possible.
It is time for a revolution, though we all know that won’t happen.
My prediction is that National will form a government post the next election. I have no political allegiances of my own, over the years I have worked with and been consulted by most major parties other than NZ First, who I am quite sure think that technology is witchcraft. The writing is on the wall with central government and barring a minor miracle we’ll see a swap end of next year.
That will drag the house prices down, sure enough, as the government is culled back. It will also affect Wellington’s economy in general, as costs are cut. Mind you; if they win, then construction will certainly be back on the agenda with more motorways and tunnels mooted.
Next year for Karene and myself is one of change. Both of us grew up on and around farms; some of my earliest work was as a farmhand. We’ve decided to fly the coop and find a block of land somewhere in eastern Wairarapa.
Not an easy task as it turns out. Half of Wellington is looking at the same thing as the city becomes a less attractive and more expensive place to live. We could sit on a lot of locked-up capital or we can release it and try and make the world a better place at least on a minor scale.
Growing sustainable food, living sustainably in general, not being stuck in traffic, and putting some good back into the country is appealing.
So, here is to you and yours, I genuinely hope you have a decent break over the holidays and thank you for your support and patronage this year. I am constantly surprised by the readership numbers that I have, along with Wellington Scoop, and the consistently positive, if sometimes challenging, comments and feedback.
You are all helping me to become a better writer, and I have to single out Wellington Scoop’s Lindsay Shelton, who has continued to patiently edit my work at no cost, buy me lunch once in a while and mentor me, while inspiring me to keep creating content.
See you next year.