The fine art of consultation

Following years of standstill, of unending consultations, it seems Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) has now taken a different approach to deliver. A radical one. They came forward with a solution to deliver a safe crossing over Cobham Drive, and started “the consultation”, which can be summed up as: “my way or no way”.

See for yourself: you have until Wednesday the 28th, 5 PM, to take part in the consultation, and this happens here. You will be going through a couple of screens telling you how important a safe crossing is required (and who can disagree with that?), and that the traffic light is the best option ever. And the worst too because you don’t get to choose between this one or another. So the question you are asked to answer is:

Do you support a safe crossing over Cobham Drive (agree, disagree, etc)?

It’s a real shame because, I, for one, had been chasing Wellington City Council, and LGWM repeatedly to see this consultation out. I was keen to see how it would shape up after rumours a decision on a traffic light has already been enacted. I was also curious how this petition favouring the bridge option would be baked in the consultation. So when it started, there was some relief: At last: LGWM starting to plan pedestrian crossing, with traffic lights, on Cobham Drive. But boy, there has been as much consultation here as Airport Flyer since 2019: none.

It’s also interesting, as LGWM can offer options to choose from when they want or care. For example, the public got presented with three options to get traffic off the Golden Mile. This is proof that when they want to be creative, they can. But it seems the $10M for a bridge is way too much for the Eastern suburbs, which continue to be let down. It will be interesting to see how the thought of diverting Mass Rapid Transit to the South, instead of the airport, will be socialised. Unsurprisingly, Fleur Fitzsimons, Southern Ward Councillor, finds the idea makes sense.

The consultation hasn’t been any better in the few public meetings LGWM bothered to organise. Here are a few direct quotes from the team who came to “listen” to the community:

(…) We do not think this is going to increase congestion substantially, we are already queued and stopped now (…)

(…) We have a finite budget; Mass Rapid Transport is not going to be cheap. The main concern is around safety and the second is around congestion (…)

(…) Consultation is no referendum, consultation is feedback on the proposal to date (…)

(…) The crossing will likely go ahead with construction beginning December, (…)

Some arguments LGWM put forward went beyond safety. They suggested the traffic light was also introduced to reduce reliance on cars. This, for the author of this blog, is gold, and cannot happen soon enough. But what are the alternatives today? Buses? The Airport Flyer? The Mass Rapid Transit? Exactly. This traffic light will only make life worse for those who simply can’t use any of these failing or absent services, or would like to bike but can’t (whatever their reason is).

In conclusion, I wished this consultation had been called what it was: a done deal presentation. Once again the local democracy will come out of this process bruised, voters (if there is any left) will end up angrier, or become more apathetic.

In recent years, we have seen:

  1. City Councillors voting against their community (for example Shelly Bay).
  2. City Council Officers simply ignoring what was voted by Councillors (the Watts peninsula shared pathPlanning for Growth).
  3. Or the other way around: Councillors overwriting what Officers had presented following a city consultation (Spatial Plan heritage protection).

This begs the question of how can we make our communities better represented, better connected with the city or town they live in. The consultation process has been and is an absolute mascarade and needs a deep rethink. In another article, I will look at what a good consultation process should look like and what solutions exist to implement it.

One thought on “The fine art of consultation

  1. From the LGWM website, wehavebehave the timeline:

    In mid-2021 we get a chance to have our say.

    In mid-to-late 2021 the decision is made.

    In late 2021 come the speed limit changes and construction of the crossing.

    And another piece of shoddy, cheap, piecemeal, uncoordinated infrastructure lurches grudgingly and grumblingly toward the future


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