Halfway through the term of our current beloved City Council, it would be appropriate to check progress on the biggest promise that was made at the time of the election, in October 2019. At that time, the hot topic was transport (source: https://www.andyfoster.org.nz/lets-get-wellington-moving-politically-compromised/). So, what has progressed, what has been achieved and what has been stalled since the new team was elected?
In the “has moved forward” category, we find two deliverables from LGWM: safer speed limits, and cycleways. The former has been implemented, the latter has seen some projects make a leap forward. For example, Wellington’s eastern gateway was opened on the 15th of April (source: https://www.transportprojects.org.nz/current/cobham-drive/), enabling people who want to commute on a bike to do it in a safe manner (and even more so when the cycleway along Evans Bay will be complete).
But for the rest, the delivery has been underwhelming, to say the least. Is there a need to keep having a go at Let’s Get Wellington Moving? Apart from the two aforementioned projects, LGWM seems to be at a standstill and has even swamped itself into yet more public consultation (source: http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=134863). Some people have given up completely hoping that it will produce anything any day (“LGWM, doomed to failure”, (source: http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=135948) to the point its name itself is now a sad joke (although this term is not short of bitter irony, hello “First to zero”, hi Shelly Bay).
There are, however, things that the City Council could have done to address transport promises. . It wouldn’t have required many dollars, but much political will would have been needed. For example, a bus service between the airport and the rail station could remove hundreds of cars from the congested highway.. The problem is that no amount of polite requests from the City Council and the Regional Council seem to ruffle the airport’s feathers to allow public transport on its turf (source: http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=134586). Who can blame the airport? Public transport is directly in competition with its car parking business … which is also a source of revenue for the City Council! It is saddening, however, to realise the latter could easily vote a By-law to force any airport business (in this case, WIAL) to provide reasonable access for public transport if they want to operate in Wellington. But that would require political courage and we know the City Council has 2 of the 6 seats at the airport board.
Additionally, the City Council could have surfed the post-lockdown wave of working from home and encouraged people who could do so to work remotely, thus removing cars from the roads. They could have embraced that change, campaigned in that direction, met with government agencies and businesses to support what is now common practice in the US and in Europe. Doing so, they could have also encouraged the rezoning of some business precincts into apartments, addressing the climate and housing crisis at the same time. This transformative, visionary strategy is outlined in Te Atakura (source: https://wellington.govt.nz/-/media/environment-and-sustainability/environment/files/te-atakura-first-zero-implentation-plan.pdf?la=en&hash=40CA389336FB7613E986AE6D878F6F4D2FA522A0, page 12), voted mid-2020 by the City Council. Instead, the Mayor invited hordes of people to come back to the beloved CBD. WellingtonNZ went as far as spending $75,000 to “attract more people to spend money in the CBD” (source: http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=131171).
It seems “sorting out” the traffic is a long-gone goal. No one seems able to undertake the bold, transformative changes required to address Wellington’s growing pains and meet Wellington’s climate change commitments. Meanwhile, we are still stuck in traffic.