Received this month the annual newsletter from Wellington City Councillor Nicola Young. As with last year, a good example of concise and useful reporting back to constituents:
My 2015 highlights
- City lanes – I campaigned for Wellington’s inner city lanes to become features, rather than dark corners; it’s been talked about for years, but nothing ever happened. Eva and Leeds streets are now bursts of colour in Te Aro; Masons Lane (between The Terrace and Lambton Quay) has had a much-needed facelift; and Bond Street’s temporary makeover will now become permanent. Wellington’s CBD has about 75 lanes, and rejuvenating them is a big part of being a fun, walkable city – but also a boost for local businesses.
- Victoria Street upgrade – this reflects the area’s transformation from light industrial to an attractive, high-density residential zone; the upgrade included a major overhaul of the street’s subterranean infrastructure. The new Whitirea / Weltec development on the corner of Cuba Mall and Dixon Street will transform the area even more.
- St Mary of the Angels – this iconic church has some of the best acoustics in Wellington, so it’s an important venue for music performance. It’s undergoing $10million of seismic strengthening so I am delighted the Council contributed $400,000 from its Built Heritage Fund. You can see photos of the engineering works here.
- Erskine College – I fought successfully for my old school in Island Bay to be designated a priority ‘Special Housing Area’ so it’s easier for the land to be developed. After years of inaction, architects are now working on the plans (which preserve the glorious chapel) and construction will start late next year
- Pandas, etc. – I will continue to fight against wasting money on fantasy projects such as the idea of renting pandas for Wellington Zoo ($400k for the business case and potentially $50million for a 10-year lease) and sponsoring professional sports teams. We need to focus on delivering the core council services things well, and not get distracted by vanity projects.
- Civic Square revamp – It’s now almost certain the old Town Hall will become a music hub for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Victoria University’s School of Music, with the glorious council chamber returned to municipal use. The seismic strengthening work will cost over $60 million, and will be partially funded by the sale of long-term leases of the Jack Illott Green and the MFC car park.
- Public Transport – I called for an integrated approach to our buses and trains, instead of decisions being made by WCC, Greater Wellington Regional Council, NZ Transport Association and KiwiRail. It’s likely we will have progress on streamlining this in 2016, and you can read my article in the DomPost here.
- Cycling – I’ve pushed for more bike locking points: perhaps you’ve seen the 50 brightly coloured ‘cyclehoops’ where restricted space makes it difficult to install normal bike racks. I’ve had bike stands installed at Aro Valley’s Community Centre and at the ticket barriers at the Westpac Stadium, and I pushed for the new bike ‘corrals’ coming soon to the CBD. I support bike lanes in the CBD and neighbouring areas, but fought the Island Bay Cycleway, as it failed to meet NZTA’s funding criteria – I’ve been consistent about this: we need bike lanes where there’s most demand, not least.
- ‘Keep Kate’ – I launched a campaign to save the quirky Kate Sheppard pedestrian lights (near Parliament) when I was told nothing had been done to make their temporary permit permanent. Official Information requests proved my fears were correct, and senior Council officers thanked me – the petition meant we’d secured the lights future in the space of 18 hours after months of inaction!
- The Wellingtonian councillor ratings – I was delighted when The Wellingtonian rated me as the second-best performing councillor and highest of the newbies – “beating many old hands”, as the paper put it. My friend Paul Eagle (Southern ward) topped the poll.
And a note for the future:
In my two years as a councillor I’ve been shocked at how much time and millions of your dollars are wasted on vanity projects and consultations that are ignored. The cost of this indecisiveness is a major contributor to this year’s average rates hike of 5.1%.
5.1% when inflation is 0.1%.