Wellington trolleys to go

June 30th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

It’s a familiar commuter nightmare for Wellingtonians: your trolley bus becomes detached from its overhead line, and you and everyone in the buses behind you are stuck while the driver gets out and hooks it up again. All that is about to end with the demise of the trolleys in 2017 – but not everyone is happy about the decision to scrap them.

They are expected to be almost five minutes faster during your morning commute and 10 minutes quicker when the roads have cleared at night.

They should leave you breathing air that is almost 40 per cent cleaner in just three short years, and be comfortable, modern, reliable and less of a drain on your pocket as a ratepayer.

They are hybrid diesel-electric buses – and after a near-unanimous vote by Greater Wellington Regional Council on Thursday, they are now the future of public transport in Wellington.

Like most Wellingtonians I have an emotional attachment to the trolleys, but the decision is a sensible one.

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The Wellington Gold Awards

June 20th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Malaghan Institute of Medical Research won the supreme The Dominion Post Gold Award at last night’s 2014 Wellington Gold Awards.

The institute also won the Cyber Gold category for research into cancer immunology. Awards director John Dow said the institute was “New Zealand’s leading independent medical research institute with a 30-year history of finding better treatments for cancer, asthma and allergies.

“Their world-class technology underpinned advances in cancer immunology research that led to the prestigious Science [magazine] naming their work the worldwide scientific breakthrough for 2013.

“If they can commercialise their cancer research, and that is the key for them, then you could find that we’ve got [something like] another film industry on our hands in Wellington.”

The Malaghan Institute are very worth winners. They are world class.

The science theme was evident in other category winners, notably Matakina Technology, which won Global Gold for its hi-tech suite of tools revolutionising breast cancer screening, and Honevo by HoneyLab, which picked up the Discovering Gold for creating a treatment for acne, nappy rash and rosacea from Kanuka superhoney.

The company plans to capitalise on the new market of “Pharmanaturals”.

Also honoured last night in The Dominion Post’s 2014 Tribute to a Wellington Icon was Sir Peter Jackson, the movie titan behind the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

In presenting Jackson’s award to his representative, Matt Dravitzki, Fairfax central region general manager Gerard Watt outlined the producer’s humble beginnings as one of the last apprentice photo engravers at The Evening Post. Jackson’s early splatter movies – Bad Taste, Braindead, and Meet the Feebles – also had a link with The Evening Post , whose staff were often roped in as extras.

The Dominion Post-sponsored Gold Awards were held in front of an audience of more than 850 at the TSB Bank Arena.

I was a guest of the organisers at the awards last night. Was amused to be at the Chow Brothers table :-)

But it was great to see so many superb Wellington companies and organisations competing and winning. Wellington may indeed be losing some corporate head offices to Auckland, but the variety of small to medium sized innovative entities we have is amazing.

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A five star hotel for Wellington

May 20th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A five-star Hilton Hotel with a vast conference centre could be open and taking bookings in Wellington within three years.

Wellington City Council has confirmed a 165-bed Hilton would include a purpose-built, 2500-capacity conference centre, making it the third-largest in New Zealand should it open as hoped in 2017.

That’s superb news for Wellington. We need both a top hotel, and a conference centre.

The Park Royal (whatever it is now called) managed to block a Hilton being built a few years ago (would have been to replace that eyesore indoor sports arena by Dockside), so hopefully they will not be able to use the RMA to block them this time.

The cost of the Hilton hotel-conference centre has not been disclosed, but it would provide about 350 new jobs. Head developer and investor Mark Dunajtschik confirmed it would be built in Cable St, opposite Te Papa, should the proposal get the green light.

Will be very close to Courtney Central, which is dying slightly. So this may help.

The council would provide an as-yet unspecified amount for the project, but only if the business case, which was still being developed, stacked up and was approved by the full council next month.

There would be a consultation period for the public to have its say.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said financial input from the council would most probably be justified.

I’m all for a hotel and convention centre, but not convinced ratepayers should help fund it.

Council economic spokeswoman Jo Coughlan said a large convention centre would enable Wellington to tap into the lucrative Australian market.

“Those convention-goers tend to spend $3000 a trip, compared to a domestic convention-goer, who spends about $1000. It will have a big impact.” …

Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks said that if the Hilton was built, more foreigners and New Zealanders would visit the city for conferences. “At a conservative level, we think it would grow . . . by about 18 per cent.”

I’m sure there would be be a boost to tourism and the Wellington economy from the proposed hotel and convention centre. But projected benefits tend to always be wildly optimistic. A ratepayer contribution, if necessary, should be modest.

 

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A mountain biking capital

April 30th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Wellington could become the urban mountainbiking capital of the world, a group of city bike enthusiasts say.

They have asked Wellington City Council for $60,000 to create a business plan and unlock “a unique global opportunity” which could bring multimillion-dollar benefits.

The attraction lies in the central city’s proximity to world-class tracks which could put it up with Rotorua and Queenstown as a destination for mountainbikers in New Zealand.

The next time I’m in Queenstown, I’m definitely taking a mountain bike up the Gondola. Looks great fun. A visit to Rotorua to mountain bike is also planned.

Wellington Offroad Riding Department instructor Ash Burgess said no other city had such good tracks close to downtown.

“In 10 minutes you can be on beautiful trails, and we want to capitalise on that,” he said.

Businessmen Matt Farrar and Anthony Edmonds told the council economic growth and arts committee yesterday that the city had to take the chance to become a “jewel in the crown” of New Zealand mountainbiking.

They believed a 10-year investment could lead to the capital attracting more tourists, more business and more skilled migrants from overseas.

Tourists would stay longer in the city and it could attract more people looking for adventure tourism opportunities as well as potential new Wellingtonians.

“There are a lot of people like us out there who want to go biking without getting into a car,” Farrar said. “Here you have the opportunity to bike to work, to commute back [home] or go for a ride at lunchtime. [It is] unique by New Zealand and global standards.”

Wellington is great in having trails so close to the CBD. But I agree with Matt Farrar (no relation apart from the fact we have the same parents) that you want to be able to go biking without needing a car. As a new cyclist I’ve learnt that taking your bike into the city is semi-suicidal!

Rotorua’s mountainbike sector was worth an estimated $15 million a year, forecast to grow to $30m.

Mountainbike trails could be an alternative to cycle lanes through some parts of the city, Farrar suggested, and the group would look at funding from the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Edmonds said there was real money in biking and an investment would be good business.

Councillors made some positive comments about the idea, with Nicola Young saying it was “really exciting”.

There’s heaps of people crazy about mountain biking. They’ll travel and spend to be able to cycle. Some people will even decide which city to live in, on the basis of how good they are for cycling.

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Wellington coffee

March 7th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Every Wellingtonian knows the capital has the best coffee in the world, but now the rest of the world know it too.

CNN has published a list of eight of the world’s great coffee cities, including the coolest little capital.

Naturally, Melbourne, Rome, Vienna, Singapore and Seattle were also mentioned.

Memphis Belle, Flight Coffee’s The Hanger, and Lamason Brew Bar were CNN’s top coffee spots in Wellington.

Us Wellingtonians do do very well on the coffee front. We have both quantity and quality when it comes to cafes.

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It’s buses for Wellington

March 5th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Faster, bigger buses have been officially chosen as the future of public transport in Wellington, snuffing out any chance of having light rail in the capital for the foreseeable future.

The Regional Transport Committee – a collective of Wellington’s mayors and the NZ Transport Agency – voted today to push ahead with plans to build a $268 million bus rapid transit network between the Wellington CBD and southern suburbs.

Detailed plans are yet to be drawn up, but it will involve hi-tech articulated or double-decker buses running along a dedicated busway between Wellington Railway Station and the suburbs of Newtown and Kilbirnie.

The route forms the southern part of Wellington’s public transport “spine”.

Today’s decision brings down the curtain on the Wellington Public Transport Spine Study, which began in 2011.

The Wellington city and regional councils jointly-commissioned the study along with the transport agency to find the best solution to Wellington’s public transport needs for the next 30 years.

It began by looking at 88 combinations of routes and types of public transport, which were effectively whittled down to light rail and a bus rapid transit network in June 2013.

At that point, the study revealed light rail could cost as much as $1.2 billion, largely because of the need to build a dedicated rail tunnel through Mt Victoria.

$268 million vs $1.2 billion makes it a very easy decision.

Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown, who was first elected in 2010 on the back of campaign promises to push for light rail, said today she had also been swayed by the ability of buses to go further than trams.

Good to see sense winning through.

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Absolutely Positively Wellington

January 7th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

An interesting article in the Dom Post about the genesis of the Absolutely Positively slogan for Wellington.

It is the stand out success of city or town slogans. Almost everyone knows it, and it is not widely mocked like most slogans are.  God forbid if any future Council ever tries to change it,

Here’s a challenge for readers. What are the city slogans for the following cities:

  1. Auckland
  2. Christchurch
  3. Dunedin
  4. Hamilton
  5. New Plymouth
  6. Wanganui
  7. Invercargill
  8. Napier
  9. Palmerston North
  10. Nelson

 

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Plunket on positive Wellington

December 22nd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Sean Plunket writes:

Christmas came early for Wellington this past week with the announcement that the next three Avatar movies will be made here.

According to Treasury James Cameron’s apparent largesse might well come at a cost but I haven’t met a single Wellingtonian who doesn’t see it as a positive for this city.

It is a boost for Wellington.

So while this city prepares to turn blue and grow a tail Aucklanders are learning to live with their slick willy mayor and council that can do little to control him and Christchurch finds the kitty for its rebuild isn’t quite big enough to do everything it wants. Take note, John Key: in comparison to other large municipalities this capital city is hardly dying.

To be fair the PM was referring to corporate head offices leaving Wellington, and that is still happening.

We have a second-term mayor who seems to be using the word economy more often and a bunch of councillors who, if not unified, are at least pretty experienced and represent in a positive way our diverse population.

Celia’s performance, so far, has been better this term. Getting rid of some costly CCOs has been welcomed, and the Council seems more harmonious.

We’ve got parking wardens back under the control of our council which will hopefully curb some of the more market-driven excesses of those who patrol the pavements and the council’s living wage policy shows our elected city officials can get together and do the right thing.

On top of that we are building up to the International Festival of the Arts next year and the first sod has been turned on Transmission Gully.

Don’t agree on the living wage but do on the others.

In fact I’d argue there is actually more silver lining than cloud around the harbour capital right now and to repeat my exhortations from earlier in the year I just hope more of us realise that in 2014.

Yep, life in Wellington is pretty good.

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Bus vs light rail for Wellington

September 30th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Tony Randle writes in the Dom Post:

The recently released Wellington spine study recommendations on expanding public transport to and through the Wellington CBD found a dedicated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) option is the best long-term approach compared to bus priority or changing from buses to light rail.

Since then, we have heard mostly the anguished protests of light rail supporters who dispute this recommendation.

I presume these supporters do not plan to pay for the massive cost of light rail themselves!

The transport models for Wellington show the BRT option will increase public transport trips from south and east Wellington by 8.5 per cent while light rail will barely make a 1 per cent improvement.

It reminds me of the proposal to increase train capacity on one of the Wellington bus lines. It would have cost $100 million and only removed 80 cars a day at peak time. I joked it would be cheaper to buy 80 motorists a helicopter!

A key reason light rail fails is the need for thousands of CBD- bound commuters to transfer between buses and light rail at Kilbirnie or Newtown, compared with BRT where they will complete the journey with a single bus trip.

That is a strength of our bus system – not having to swap transport modes.

In economic terms, the BRT option has $90 million in public transport benefits against only $30m for the more expensive light rail option.

The Benefit Cost Ratio of BRT is 0.87 compared to just 0.05 for light rail (a benefit cost ratio of 0.05 is a total waste of money).

Julie-Anne Genter and the Greens correctly point out that some of the roads of national significance have a BCR of less than 1, which makes their economic value debatable. Surely Julie-Anne and the Greens would agree that a transport proposal with a BCR of 0.05 is barking mad!

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Downstage closes

September 18th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Downstage has announced:

The Board of Downstage Theatre today announced its decision to close the company.

The decision comes following the announcement by Creative New Zealand not to fund Downstage in 2014.

Downstage Theatre Trust chair, Allan Freeth, said today that the Board had not taken the decision lightly.

“Downstage has a fifty year history of bringing outstanding theatre experiences to Wellington audiences.”

“In recent years the theatre has pursued a new model – based on partnerships with artistic companies, taking risks on new works, and creating a supportive environment for artists.

“It is not possible to continue this work without adequate and stable funding.”

Mr Freeth said the Board acknowledged the many achievements of the individuals and artists who have worked with Downstage over the years, and the professionalism and hard work of the theatre’s staff.  In particular, the Board acknowledged the contribution of CEO and Director Hilary Beaton.

Downstage has been an institution in Wellington, and it is very sad to see it close. I’ve seen many great plays there, and so many people have contributed to it over the years.

The only consolation is that Wellington is at least well served by other theatres such as Circa, Bats, Gryphon etc. But it will be a shame to lose the custom made Downstage building from theatre – unless of course another theatre buys the building.

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A LOTR museum for Wellington

August 31st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The long quest to build a Lord of the Rings museum in Wellington appears close to an end, with city councillor John Morrison confirming plans for a site in the city centre.

Mr Morrison, a mayoral candidate and leader of the council’s events portfolio, said Sir Peter Jackson’s team was investigating two possible sites, which he understood to be Shed 1 on the waterfront and the old CitiOps building at the southern end of Tory St.

Planning was still in the early stages, but it was an exciting prospect, he said.

“From a Wellington point of view, we’re very thrilled about it being in Wellington. We’re not involved directly, but we’ve had a very interested eye on this process. …

A film museum would be a big draw for Wellington tourism. A Lord of the Rings exhibition at Te Papa in 2002, returning in 2006, drew 325,000 people and remains its most popular exhibit.

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy gave New Zealand visitor numbers a big boost, from 1.8 million in 2000 to 2.4 million in 2006.

Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks said it would present a great opportunity.

The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit had become a big part of the Wellington story.

“A permanent attraction around film would give us a way of telling those stories every day of the year.

An LOTR museum would be hugely popular. I recall the Te Papa exhibition, which was excellent.

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Things Wellingtonians Never Say

August 12th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Most of these are absolutely spot on.

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Shaky Wellington

July 22nd, 2013 at 4:02 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police say sink-holes have opened up in the Wellington CBD following a severe magnitude 6.5 earthquake that damaged buildings, cut power, trapped people in lifts and injuring at least two.

Inspector Ian Harris, of Police Communications, said there had been sink-holes reported on Featherston St between Johnston and Waring Taylor streets.

The sink-holes were on the road but it was not known how big of how many there were, he said. The road has been closed.

Good that there were no serious injuries, but a reminder of how vulnerable Wellington is to earthquakes.

I worry how Wellington will fare when an even bigger quake strikes. If the CBD comes down, like in Christchurch, then different parts of the city are effectively cut off from each other, including the hospital. The road links north are also very vulnerable.

Wellington CBD workers are being urged to hold-off heading into work till noon tomorrow to give landlords and engineers time to assess quake-damaged buildings.

Wellington Region Civil Defence Controller, Bruce Pepperell, said people should check with work before heading into the CBD and if they did come in, stay away from quake-damaged facades.

“I am worried about some of the facades. It would only take a little shake to move some of that stuff and it could end in tragedy.”

KiwiRail spokeswoman Sophie Lee said there had been no reports of damage to the tracks this evening. But because much of the assessment was done after dark, the call had been made to do a more thorough check in the morning, she said.

“Given the seriousness of the aftershocks and the fact that (the inspection) is taking a lot of time, we’ve decided to take every precaution.”

No buses were available on such short notice so rail commuters would need to make alternative arrangements, she said.

KiwiRail was hopeful of having at least some services back up and running by midday on Monday.

Rather glad I was out of Wellington for this one. Being on the top floor of an apartment building, we get pretty shaken about in even minor quakes. I’m told the TV fell off the stand, books all came off the shelves, glasses smashed etc.

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Cars off the golden mile?

July 11th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Forbes at Dom Post reports:

Cars could be banished from more parts of the Golden Mile when Wellington gets its new public transport system.

The Wellington Public Transport Spine Study, which investigated the merits of light rail and a dedicated busway from the CBD to Newtown and Kilbirnie, did so on the basis that cars would be completely blocked from parts of Courtenay Place and Willis St during the day.

In Courtenay Place, this would happen between Taranaki St and Cambridge Terrace from 7am to 7pm on weekdays, with limited access possible between peak hours if necessary. Willis St would become bus or tram only between Manners St and Lambton Quay from 9am to 5pm on weekdays. Southbound cars are already banned from this section of the road.

A decision on the changes will not be made until next year, after local and central government have picked either a light rail system for $904 million, or a bus rapid transit system for $207m, as the long-term solution to public transport demand in Wellington.

But the forecast savings of between 6 and 11 minutes for both systems is modelled on the assumption the changes will occur.

I haven’t got a problem with this, as there are good alternatives running parallel to those roads.

But the idea I did like was from Bob Jones to ban all vehciles from Lampton Quay, and turn it into a huge pedestrian mall with more street cafes etc. That would be great.

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Wellington Local Govt

July 4th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

When it comes time for the Local Government Commission to ponder the future shape of local government in the Wellington region it could do worse than consider the fate of the Wellington regional amenities fund.

The fund was established last year to promote artistic, cultural and environmental events and attractions in the wider Wellington region.

Five councils – Wellington, Hutt City, Upper Hutt, Kapiti and Masterton – agreed to contribute funds to it. Three – Porirua, South Wairarapa and Carterton – declined to contribute, despite their residents also benefiting from the amenities and events it was established to support.

This is our problem. The Regional Council has a very limited mandate. This means anything else that should be done regionally can only be done if all eight Councils agree to it. Madness.

I support two tiers as we have at the moment, but as part of the one organisation. That way we don’t have a huge amount wasted on Councils liaising with each other, suing each other.

Things which should be done regionally should be under the ambit of a Greater Wellington Council. Things which should be done regionally should be under the ambit of local councils.

Wellington is blessed with any number of natural advantages, but it can no longer afford to rest on its laurels.

The region is competing with Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane, London, Beijing and countless other cities, for investment, people and skills.

It needs to put its best foot forward and operate as a single region rather than a loose collection of feuding duchies.

Indeed.

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Storm aftermath

July 3rd, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Went up Te Ahumairangi (Tinakori) Hill this morning for the first time since the storm. I think there were some signs up saying the tracks were impassable. This wasn’t quite the case, but it did involve a fair amount of climbing, on squeezing under fallen trees.

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Fairly easy over that one.

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Under that one.

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The dog went under that one, and we went over it!

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This was very thick to get through.

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Under and over these ones coming up.

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And the main Northern Walkway route has basically a trail of destruction on it towards the end.

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The Wellington transport package

June 19th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

The dream is over, for the time being anyway.

A comprehensive study of Wellington’s transport options has concluded what has long been obvious to everyone except Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown: the light-rail system she promoted during her 2010 mayoral campaign is unaffordable.

The light rail scheme would have cost around $3,000 per household!

The study commissioned by the New Zealand Transport Agency, Greater Wellington Regional Council and the Wellington City Council puts the cost of turning Ms Wade-Brown’s dream into reality at $940 million. The alternatives canvassed in depth in the report are markedly cheaper.

The first – providing more bus lanes during peak hours and more priority traffic signals for buses – has a $59 million price tag. The second – a dedicated busway for bigger, modern buses separated from other traffic as much as possible – would cost $207 million.

Buses are often the most effective form of public transport. They are more flexible and cost effective. However the Greens don’t like buses because buses go on roads and roads are evil!

The bus rapid transit will cost under a quarter of the light rail option. It would result in $95m of time savings compared to $56m for rail. And critically it would lead to a 75 increase in public transport usage in the morning peak time while the rail option would not change the numbers at all.

So what else is planned about from a dedicated busway and bigger more modern buses? The Dom Post reports:

A second two-lane tunnel through Mt Victoria could be open to traffic within a decade.

The NZ Transport Agency has today revealed plans for a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and widening of Ruahine St and Wellington Rd to connect to the new $90 million Basin flyover.

Yay, a key step in the vision of having four lanes on State Highway One from the airport to Levin.

The plans for the second tunnel show it would sit directly along the northern side of the existing tunnel.

It would provide two lanes for east-bound traffic, along with a separate pedestrian and cycle facility linking to the flyover. On the Hataitai side of the tunnel, Ruahine St will become four lanes, and will also sport a pedestrian and cycling path.

Cool. If only they can get the tunnel to smell better!

 

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A Vintage Expo

June 12th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

aimee

 

There is a vintage expo in Wellington this Saturday, for those interested. Only $2 door entry.

Finally a major vintage event to the capital city and bring all aspects of the vintage loving community together, everyone is welcome!

Vendors from all over the country will be bringing you fabulous, genuine and reproduction, vintage clothing, accessories, home-wares and much more

As well as shopping there will be first class photographers, The Pamper Parlour, workshops and dance classes along with high tea, refreshments and on-stage performances to keep you entertained during the day

Attendees are encouraged to dress to the nines in vintage threads and enter the best dressed competition and to catch the eye of leading fashion bloggers

More info is on their Facebook page:

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Espiner on Wellington

May 8th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner gives his 10 things he loves about Wellington:

1. Better coffee. Wellington is powered by caffeine. And there’s none finer than in the capital. 

2. The Brooklyn windmill. Don’t scoff. One of the first in the country and now a major tourist attraction. The views from the carpark are stunning. 

3. The Bucket Fountain. You’ve got to love a town that keeps something so hideous and so broken that it’s become a city icon. 

4. The Penthouse cinema. Arthouse cinema at its finest, complete with decent red wine and its own theatre cat. 

5. Westpac Stadium. Sorry Eden Park, but the Cake Tin is better in every respect. 

6. Public transport. Aucklanders haven’t heard of this, but it’s a fast, cheap, convenient and quick way to get to work. 

7. Sunshine and fresh air. OK, sometimes too much fresh air, but Welly clocks up many more sunshine hours than its northern sibling. 

8. Cuba Street. No other city in New Zealand does cool grunge like Wellington’s Cuba Street. Plus it’s home to Midnight Espresso, home of the finest nachos in the country.

9. Wellington’s waterfront. Whereas Auckland and Christchurch have turned their backs on their ports, the capital’s is a living, breathing, human space. And you can’t beat Oriental Parade in the sunshine. 

10. Houses you can actually afford to buy. Not much point in living somewhere if you can’t afford it. Wellington house prices are not cheap, but they’re not stupid either. 

I love the bucket fountain. As a kid I would spend ages sitting in Cuba Mall watching it until the large bucket at the bottom would finally empty.

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Kayaking to Matiu/Somes Island

May 5th, 2013 at 3:14 pm by David Farrar

Kayaked over to Matiu/Somes Island this morning. Was a near perfect day for it. Warm and sunny and not much wind. Got a bit choppy on the return trip but the kayak we had hired from Canoe and Kayak Wellington was suberb. It was damn fast, and stable as. If anyone else is looking to kayak out to Somes, or elsewhere, I can’t recommend them highly enough. They even drop the kayaks off at the (Petone) foreshore and pick them up afterwards.

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View of Wellington from the end of Somes Island.

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Walking along the loop track around the island.

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The East West ferry heading over.

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The perfect spot at the top for lunch.

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Steph suited up for the return trip.

 

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We did a loop around the island, both on the way in and the way out. Takes and extra half hour or so, but on the far side it was so sheltered it was almost like being on a lake.

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Taking a break,

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Mokopouna Island, the smaller one next to Somes.

Was a brilliant way to spend  a Sunday morning. Definitely going to do a repeat trip. So much better than taking the ferry over, and you get to enjoy unparalleled views of Wellington.

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The need for a strong voice for Wellington

April 22nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

The Government might be able to help it out of the economic doldrums, but its main focus was on Auckland and Christchurch, while Wellington was perceived in the Beehive as “difficult to deal with”, staff told councillors at a committee meeting last week.

Auckland Council was “tight” with the Government, and the chief executives of government departments, because it had one mayor who spoke for a council with a united vision, strategy and community engagement group general manager Jane Davis said.

“We just don’t have those relationships here in Wellington,” she said. “The Government understands Auckland. It doesn’t understand Wellington.”

Some councillors bristled, believing Ms Davis and her colleagues meant an Auckland-style super-city was the only way forward for Wellington.

When councillor Daran Ponter asked Ms Davis if that was the case, she said it was not.

“No, there are other ways. But we’re failing to nominate a [regional] leader. We’re not pushing any political barrows here. This report is based on evidence.”

She pointed to discussions between Wellington’s nine city and district councils over who would represent the region in talks with the Government over Callaghan Innovation, the recently formed Crown entity for science, innovation and technology.

The councils could not decide who would lobby to have it based in Wellington and, in the end, leaders from all nine took part in the talks. “They said nine voices are stronger than one . . . well, that doesn’t work,” Ms Davis said.

Callaghan Innovation ended up with offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, though it is based mainly in Auckland.

Councillor Peter Glensor agreed the Callaghan discussions were “deeply embarrassing” for Wellington.

I think that is a very good example of the weaknesses of the current structure.

The way I see amalgamation is that you actually retain pretty much the same Councils, but they are all part of the entity. The regional council has undisputed authority to talk on behalf of the region, and the local councils or boards deal with all issues in their areas except regional issues.

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The City to Sea Walkway

March 25th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

City to Sea


EveryTrail – Find trail maps for California and beyond

The City to Sea Walkway was the final walk of my summer of 13 big Wellington walks. Probably the most challenging as there are almost no flat parts to it, you go up and down almost a dozen times.

The official guide says this walk takes six hours but I managed to do it in just under three hours. Did this one solo as everyone else was busy so you go faster when not talking and walking! Got to listen to some the Economist podcasts until me headphones died.

Starts at the Bolton Street Cemetery and goes up into the Botanical Garden up to the Cable Car. Then down into Kelburn Park and through the Mount Street Cemetery at VUW. You then head along above the Terrace past Boyd Wilson Field and down into Aro Valley.

Then up through Tanera Park and the community gardens there passing into Central Park. You go up over the Renouf Tennis Centre and into Nairn Street Park and Prince of Wales Park. then through some town belt into McAlister Park .
After all the parks you hit the Berhampore Golf Course, then trek up from that to the Tawatawa Ridge and then mainly downhill until you hit the climb up to the Oku Street Reserve. From there you go down into Shorland Park in island Bay on the South coast.

It’s my favourite walkway as it just sneakily manages to link all these discrete parks together, while winding its way from the city to the South coast. Many great views to be enjoyed.

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Insurance in Wellington

March 14th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Alastair Thompson writes at Scoop:

Sources tell me that insurance chiefs from the biggest reinsurers in the world are now pricing Wellington as “ground Zero for earthquake reinsurance risk” in the world. Not the Asia-Pacific. Not the ring of fire. The world.

And as a result practically speaking earthquake reinsurance cover is not practically available for commercial property in Wellington.

Yes some policies are being written on some buildings (usually ones which are up to code and have blue chip tenants) for 400% to 600% premium increases.

My apartment’s building insurance has already doubled and off memory it is at 80% of code!

In the Wellington commercial property market full insurance is a condition of all the mortgage business. Full replacement earthquake insurance is a standard term and condition.

In NZ most companies which carry business interruption insurance also need to have earthquake interruption cover to satisfy the conditions of the bank credit facilities. These often include warrantees around the quality of the building that business is being conducted out of – including the existence of earthquake insurance cover.

So what does this mean?

It means that the Wellington CBD property market is frozen. The only purchasers are ones which are buying with cash. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of distressed mortgaged unit title and company share owners in the city.

It means rentals are falling and landlords are getting creative.

A good description of the problem.

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Skyline Walkway

March 4th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Skyline


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The Skyline Walk is one of the best walks in Wellington as you get a near continual view of not just the city and harbour, but also of the Western coastline.

The 12 km walk starts at Johnsonville and finishes at the South end of Karori at the saddle of Makara Road.

There is an initial climb up to Mt Kaukau, but after that it is a fairly easy walk to Karori (with the exception of one further steep climb). Very well signposted and the track varies from 4WD paths to narrow goat like paths. Fun when someone comes the other way!

The continual views make this a great walk. Took just over three and a half hours.

This was walk no 11 of the 13 walks over summer. Just two to go.

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Options for a Wellington super city

February 28th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington would have the biggest council in New Zealand if either one of a working party’s super-city options for the region goes ahead.

A local government reform working party is proposing two options: one with a mayor and 29 councillors, the other with 22 elected members including a mayor, plus community boards.

Is there a third option?

Councils need to be manageable sizes. 29 and 22 is not.

You need fewer Councillors and more decisions done at local board level.

THE OPTIONS

TWO TIERS

One unitary authority for the Greater Wellington region.

One mayor for the region, and 21 councillors elected by wards.

The wards would be Lower Hutt (4 councillors), Kapiti (2), Porirua (3), Upper Hutt (2), Wairarapa (2), North-Central Wellington (5), South Wellington (3).

Eight local community boards based on the seven wards, but with North-Central Wellington split into two.

ONE TIER

One unitary authority.

One mayor for the region, and 29 councillors elected by wards.

The wards would be the same as the two-tier model, but with more representatives.

My preference is the first option but with fewer Councillors.

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