Council rail-roaded into supporting roads

I attended the extraordinary Wellington City Council meeting that voted last night to support the Government’s $2.4 billion roading plans.

Essentially the Council has written a blank cheque to the NZTA. It is preposterous that the Council could vote on a project when no one, not even the council officers, has seen the final plans. Wellingtonians haven’t even seen sketches of what the proposed fly-over around the Basin Reserve will look like, and we don’t know how many lanes are proposed on the motorway through Hataitai.

The Government, through the NZTA, used the $2.4 billion as an ultimatum to the Council, threatening to send the funds elsewhere in New Zealand if the package wasn’t supported in full. So the Government got to push through its vision of more roads for Wellington and Wellingtonians never got the chance to look at alternatives.

It really is the height of folly for the Government, who is borrowing $300 million a week, to throw so much money at uneconomic roads that have low business cases and will increase our dependence on oil, and vulnerability to price fluctuation and rises.

Mayor Wade-Brown rightly pointed out Wellington’s commitment to an 80% greenhouse gas reducation target by 2050, yet this package is likely to increase emissions and also congestion on the roads. The Dominion Post is describing her support as ‘the mother of all U-turns’ after campaigning strongly for better public transport and walking and cycling.

I am not sure why the mayor changed her position. I suspect she would have come under enormous pressure from the bullying tactics of the NZTA and the Government, and also from the hostile reporting on the issue in the Dominion Post. That said, I think political leaders need to stick to their principles, most importantly in tough times.

One silver lining is the $1 million advance for the light rail feasibility study; however, with the Government’s fixation on motorways, it may be a long time before funding is committed.

34 Comments Posted

  1. Actually, I am have never heard of anyone who actually prefers the road that Joyce envisions in Paraparaumu… except Joyce himself. I have never heard a cogent argument for its routing.

    As for the rest I am not sure I agree. Part of the reason for siting Wellington may have been to “share the wealth” as it were. Phil has a point but not the right city to relocate to, further concentration of the country in Auckland would leave far to many of our eggs in that one basket.

    Christchurch might be a logical place for the Capital… or it could rotate between Wellington, Christchurch and Hamilton… why not?

    Auckland is already our largest, fastest growing and most completely out-of-control city. Adding a new capital infrastructure on top of it… That’d be too much.

    As for “no more motorways”, I would not, as a Green, be in favor of that extreme. Why it has to be extremes? We don’t like what Joyce is doing and in the case of the Paraparaumu road I don’t know anyone who DOES like what he is doing. We have issues with the balance, but why suggest that we go completely imbalanced the other way.


  2. Interesting conundrum, locals are NIMBY while the rest of the users are for firing up the bulldozers.

    Who is right?

    But if the Wellington locals dont want the funding it can easily be diverted to the upgrade of the Wellsford-Puhoi link to open up Northland, the fourlaning of the road to Pukekohe to develop the southern city, the completion of the Waikato Expressway to bring Hamilton within a 2 hour drive from Auckland (CBD to CBD).

    Or a host of other roading projects in Christchurch.

    Just say the word (one that even the green mayor in Wellington did not have the fortitude to mention) and cancel the Wellington motorway upgrades.

    Simple really.

    A better idea is one of PhilU’s (he does have some). Move the capital to Auckland and negate the need for Wellington to have any motorway upgrades.

    In fact the Cook Straight ferry terminal could be shifted to New Plymouth so that it remove the traffic from Bulls south completely.

    No capital city status, no trans Cook Straight shipping and Wellington can be famous for is cake tin and not much else.

    Be interesting to see the Greens come out and make an election policy statement that absolutely no more motorways will be built. All the money will go into public transport.

    Wonder what the inrease in the vote will be?

  3. Tell you what Gerrit, it would be worth his life for Joyce to wander through Paraparaumu these days.

    Pushing the highway through the beach community without the slightest hint of actual consultation…. or consideration of the quake/tsunami risk… just flat announced it ex-cathedra from his bellybutton. I only saw this specific instance, but if he did the like anywhere else his actual popularity as guest of honor at a lynch party is probably considerably higher than most politician’s.


  4. I watched people in Mt Albert make a stand against a motorway going through their community, and saw the opposition to the Te Aro bypass, and endless other such projects. Basing my views on Auckland and Wellington voting in pro public transport (rail etc) Mayors, and what I have heard a lot of people saying over the last few years.

  5. treesoftmorrow

    People need to stand up for their communities and stand up against motorways and all the other such folly

    Maybe they are and in fact liken more motorways?

    Your assumption that roads are not wanted (or are a folly) by the community may well be wrong.

    You basing your assumption on fact or desire?

    Any surveys done to suggest the community does not want more motorways?

    Irrespective if they may not be the best for the horse and dray days (or electric cars) that will happen after oil is no longer commercially viable?

    Assumption oh assumptions.

  6. Main thing is: opposition to motorways, like opposition to deep sea oil drilling and all the other silly things being pushed needs to ramp up. People need to make a bigger stand against motorways. once one is defeated, another can be. And once that is the norm – views start to shift in the citadels of power.

    People need to stand up for their communities and stand up against motorways and all the other such folly. And make more links with the rail unions, and rail supporters, and health experts. Also worth making clear the connection to peak oil and climate change, that more motorway madness locks in.

    NZ deserves better than more roads to nowhere, and communities deserve better than a motorway being placed in the heart of their community.

  7. Benjamin B “Gareth, sorry, but who are you to hold the moral high ground here? We voted you in and you voted for CERRA.”

    I assume you mean CERA?, and I’ll think you’ll find that the Greens were the only party that opposed it. Learn your facts.

  8. “..Maybe the ‘baubles of office’ have affected Celia’s thinking ?..”

    i reckon it was the heated bike-rack that turned her head…


  9. All this will do, if these roads are ever built, is encourage people to drive in from the suburbs rather than bus.

    Except that the price of parking will still be as high as it is at the moment – and that probably means that the number of people who drive will be about the same as before.

  10. Gareth, sorry, but who are you to hold the moral high ground here? We voted you in and you voted for CERRA.

  11. @katie

    I’ve been to Freight Drive several times to collect packages. There isn’t much going on down there – a truck every 5 minutes would be a busy time.

    Go down to the airport and take a look – traffic levels are almost never enough to justify any road improvements.

    All this will do, if these roads are ever built, is encourage people to drive in from the suburbs rather than bus.

  12. .benches..with the only question being ..padded or un-padded..?

    electrified might be good


    one who sits in parliament should not be too comfortable

    …and it might well apply to city councilors for large cities.

    People who take power need to reckon their responsibilities more seriously. These are mostly people who are far too comfortable, and it has nothing to do with which party they are in.


  13. “..and most Mayors are still just one voice on any council…”

    so why didn’t she use that voice to make the green/public transport case..?

    surely that is meant to be her ‘value’…?

    that she has that (obviously under-utilised) pulpit…?


  14. Having made submissions to WCC on transport issues during the previous mayoralty, I can attest to the complicated nature of the issues involved.

    The Transport Committee is shamelessly and openly lobbied by business owners who want particular interests served, and I’m sure that NZTA is also lobbied by those in whose interests a 4-lane highway is paramount.
    Not just politicians, but also the main lobby group that holds sway over NZTA – the big trucking firms, for whom shifting freight from Wellington Airport is a continual headache.

    This is much bigger than just a few impatient MP’s in beamers stuck in traffic – does Wellington really want trucks passing through suburban Mt Victoria, Hataitai, skirting Kilbirnie, along a widened Cobham Drive and along the edge of Strathmore, to get goods to and from the airport maybe ten minutes faster? To my count, there are at least 3 schools along that route.

    Learn from the experience of the Bypass debacle, which has choked traffic from Brooklyn, Mt Cook and Aro Valley during peak hours, and does not deliver on the time improvements touted by Transit at the time, merely shifts the bottlenecks onto local residents while out-of-towners still fume in their traffic jam across Te Aro from Buckle St.

  15. another waste of time, energy and resources.
    A question for these road builders, where are all the cars going to go once they are dumped in Hataitai?
    Isn’t this a case of Deja-vu?
    Weren’t we informed that extending the southern motorway through Aro Valley was going to solve all of the traffic problems?
    Where are all the follow up studies 2-4 years after roading “improvements” are completed, showing how successful and correct they were?

  16. After seeing Celia’s response I think the issue is more complex than first appeared. I am always reluctant to throw mud at the first opportunity, Phil, as no matter what Celia does she is still a breath of fresh air from the previous regime and most Mayors are still just one voice on any council.

  17. Disappointing. It’s not as if government and bureaucratic pressure and a hostile capitalist press are anything but par for the course if you’re committed to sustainability. What’s the point of standing for mayor if you’re going to cave in at the first hurdle?

  18. imagine the relief from no longer having to wait on/for ‘the big one’…eh..?

    and hasn’t christchurch given that wellington earthquake gallows-humour a brittle edge…eh..?

    turn the beehive into an urban-garden/greenhouse…

    and parliament will make a good high-end/luxury cinema..

    ..(have the screen where the speaker sits…)

    ..also good for a theatre-in-the-round…

    (i’m envisaging something more utilitarian for them in the factory-park-parliament…

    ..benches..with the only question being ..padded or un-padded..?…)


  19. move the capital to auckland…where it belongs..

    ..(we’ll find them an underused factory-park..somewhere…)

    the resultant drop in wellington traffic will obviate the need for motorway-dreams…

    let wellington slump back into the sullen/storm-battered fishing-village it is…

    ..unfit for most humans…

    ..(‘but you should have been here last week..!’


  20. We have the government the people of New Zealand voted for, and they dictate terms to all of us, not just to Christchurch.

    This is a common tactic and there is no rejoinder possible except to tell them to stick it, and see to it that they wear the electoral consequences if they then actually cut off all funding to Wellington.

    One does sometimes, give up some money in favor of getting things right.

    Flyovers at the Basin Reserve? I am expecting this to be dropped… it is preposterous in terms of shadow and light as well as in terms of the scale of the problem. The “roundabout” could get altered to have pedestrian underpasses and merges and fewer lights, but I can’t imagine they could get a flyover correctly designed if God came down to give them design tips.

    Some things are better designed by being omitted. This will become apparent as soon as some competing artistic/engineering renders become available for the public to think about.

    Joyce and Brownlee = Laurel and Hardy ? Seems to me a bit of photoshop is in order here.


  21. The vote last night simply re-affirms the Council’s support of N2A, which has been the case since 2008.

    The strengthened commitment to consultation is important, and I’m glad I was able to shepherd the Council into backing it.

    NZTA now has the obligation to come back to Wellingtonians with the plans for the Basin Reserve, the tunnels and the road widenings. In some cases the city has been waiting more than two years for any design detail, so now they have the commitment of the Council I’m expecting the NZTA Board to release the designs following their 5 May meeting. All Wellingtonians will then have the opportunity for input into consultation.

    See for full speech.

  22. didn’t anyone smell the bitumen on her breath…?

    didn’t anyone see her drooling/jonesing over those those motorway-of-the-month centrefolds…?

    favourite songs:..the acker-dakers doing ‘highway to hell’..the beatles:..’long and winding road’…

    favourite book:..’on the road’…

    favourite movies:..’the fast and the furious’-franchise..

    ..why couldn’t you see…?


  23. It appalls me how this government’s flawed ideology is being forced onto regional authorities with little opportunity to investigate and fund other possibilities. Money appears to drive much of what is happening as the National’s control of the nations purse strings carries so much power. There are much better transport options available but what could the Wellington Council effectively do when faced with an ultimatum like this. The same is happening in education, there are many existing and proposed schemes that would really help struggling children but the Ministry (via the Minister) will only fund support for National Standards and schools have the choice of accepting those funds or no funds at all. The government claims abhorrence of bullying yet practices the same all the time to get its own way.

  24. I am not sure why the mayor changed her position

    Nor am I. We voted in a “Green” mayor. (Green ‘supporter’? Green Party endorsed candidate? Greenish-tinged independent? I have no idea…)

    Surely as a minimum that would mean that we’d see opposition to new roads to shave 30s off the 15 minute drive from airport to CBD.

    I understand that the mayor has no authority over the members of the council, but at the same time she’s an elected politician, not a spokesperson for the council officers. As such she should be representing us, the voters of Wellington, who showed by electing her that we don’t want our city carved up for any more motorways.

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