A new Wellington-Hutt link

November 14th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A $35 million seaside path linking Wellington and the Hutt Valley has been confirmed.

The NZ Transport Agency announced on Friday it had plumped for the more expensive seaside route for a cycle and pedestrian pathway to finally unite the valley and the city, and siphon cyclists off the busy highway.

Consent applications were expected to be lodged next year and the agency would look to start construction on the pathway in 2019 at the latest.

Wellington Cycling Action Network spokesman Patrick Morgan said the decision was a long time coming, with calls for a cycleway mentioned in Hansard records from 1905.

“This ticks all the boxes, it’s going to be a great tourism asset, it’s going to ease traffic congestion and make parking easier in Wellington.”

He said the pathway would boost cycle safety by drawing riders away from the highway.

“Most people can’t travel between the Hutt and Wellington by bike, because they don’t want to mix with State Highway 2 traffic.”

There is a sort of cycleway at the moment but it is very narrow and stops 250 metres from Petone, on the wrong side of the road. So to get to Petone you have to then cycle into oncoming traffic!

A proper dedicated path for cycling, walking and running will be very popular.  Once it is built I’ll be brunching in Petone a lot more!

In a rare moment of motorist and cyclist unity, the Automobile Association’s motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said the announcement was “very good news”.

“It’s extremely good news because the current route is inadequate and forcing people to ride on the road, which is a much higher risk.”

Agency central regional director Raewyn Bleakley said the preferred option would act as a buffer against events such as the 2013 storm that saw waves crashing onto the railway and highway, “contributing to massive disruption”, she said.

Frith said the extended seawall would prevent debris being blown inland from the sea and would be designed to “minimise sea spray and, where possible, to withstand environmental effects”.

“It will be well maintained to ensure it is kept clear of any hazards for cyclists. The result will be a far safer route for cyclists, and a more resilient rail and road corridor.”

So good for motorists also.

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Shelly Bay

September 7th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A San Francisco-style development is being tipped for Wellington’s Shelly Bay with ferries running to and from the city – and a cable car up the hill to a new housing area.

It is understood that high-end homes, restaurants, a brewery and  shops are also planned for the run-down area.

Speaking from China last night, property developer Ian Cassels confirmed that a cable car  had been considered in conceptual plans for the area.

Shelly Bay could potentially be the most beautiful and sought after area in Wellington. It has great views, but apart from the great Chocolate Fish cafe, is mainly crumbling ex Air Force buildings.

Work had started to investigate upgrading the decrepit Shelly Bay wharves to safe standards, which would cost an estimated $300,000 to $350,000.

East by West Ferry managing director Jeremy Ward confirmed he had met Cassels’ Wellington Company about starting a ferry service to Shelly Bay.

If the Shelly Bay wharf were fixed, the ferry company could start a service “pretty much straight away” for weekend runs.

A ferry from Queen’s Wharf to Shelly Bay is a great idea. I’d use it often.

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Celia says come live in Wellington

August 30th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Celia invites Aucklanders to Wellington in the Herald:

We freed up downtown Wellington from restrictive minimum carparking requirements in the 90s and now more than 40 per cent of our population growth is downtown – where you can walk home from a late night out at karaoke or the ballet.

Wellington’s inner and outer Town Belts constrain urban sprawl and give us the bonus of great views, awesome mountain biking and a resurgence of birdlife spreading out from Zealandia so kaka regularly fly over Treasury, rather than biodiversity being confined to the outer edges of the city.

I’ve seen kaka in trees on our property several times. Zealandia has made a huge difference.

Getting into town for work is easy and it’s even easier to get around on foot. You can knock off half a dozen meetings a day without needing a taxi.

Yep. The maximum walking time to get anywhere is 30 minutes within the CBD.

According to data from CoreLogic, the Auckland region saw an increase in average property prices of 17 per cent to $840,165, during the 12 months to June. Wellington is sitting at $459,366, up 1.5 per cent over the same period.

Apartment prices have been almost static for the past few years.

Here’s an interesting question: What percentage of Wellington jobs are in the public sector? 30 per cent? 20? It’s actually 15 per cent. With our rapidly expanding innovation sector, Wellington is becoming more high-tech town than public sector.

The IT, gaming, film and cultural sectors are all booming.

Wellington has the highest concentration of web-based and digital technology companies per capita in New Zealand with 7373 people working in the ICT sector and Wellingtonians are twice as likely to work in ICT as people in other regions

Didn’t know it was twice as high here.

Wellington has more than 300 cafes, bars and restaurants, and claims more places to eat and drink per capita than New York.

And they range from the great curry and kebab shops to the top class restaurants such as Logan-Brown and Hippopotamus.  And it’s nice to be able to easily get a drink at 2 am if you want to carry on the conversation.

Our events calendar is packed. This month we had Visa Wellington On a Plate, the country’s largest culinary festival, teamed with Beervana, and LUX fusing light and kinetic art. September brings The World of WearableArt™ Awards Show, one of the world’s biggest stage spectacles and a showcase of completely unbridled international design imagination. Coming up we have the 30th anniversary of the New Zealand Festival, the pre-Olympic Games Sevens Wellington and many other premium events provide a good excuse for you to check out what else the capital has to offer.

Almost too many at times. You bounce from film festival to comedy festival to foreign film festivals.

It’s all so easy to get around. If you fancy a swim, kayak or paddleboard at lunchtime, you just wander down from your office. Or head into the Town Belt hills for a walk or a mountain bike. And back in time for that 1pm meeting.

One of the few cities in the world where you can mountain bike during your lunch break.

So Celia is right, Wellington is a great place to live and work. Just please, don’t all come at once.

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Wellington the start up capital

August 11th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Technology Spectator reports:

New Zealand’s capital city Wellington is fast shaping up as a world-class start-up hub, according to a group of Australian firms who won a trip across the Tasman.

Five Australian start-ups were selected to tour Wellington’s tech and start-up scene as part of the Wellington Adds up competition, a government drive to encourage wider business investment and attract strong ICT talent.

The businesses, from Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Canberra, met with business and industry leaders, and on their return have touted Wellington’s “very progressive” community and small business support by government.

The city, which is home to about 200,000 people, boasts no capital gains tax, no payroll tax, along with liberal laws around equity crowdfunding.

I’ve met a fair few of the start ups in Wellington. They’re doing great things, often operating from a two person office on teh fringes of the CBD.

Kate Raynes-Goldie, founder of gaming consultancy start-up Games We Play, said her feeling was that the Wellington local government was an extremely supportive one.

“The government support and enthusiasm for games and tech startups in Wellington is impressive”, she said. “The scene is vibrant, with innovative co-working spaces like BizDojo and a range of incubator and accelerator programmes such as CreativeHQ, as well as R&D and capacity funding, which all offer great opportunities for game and tech entrepreneurs. I can only imagine what we could do in Australia with the same level of support.” …

Local entrepreneur Melissa Clark-Reynolds told Technology Spectator businesses like Xero could thrive due to the community’s support and willingness to ‘sit down and have a chat’ whenever needed.

“It’s more a village than a city, and everyone knows everyone,” she said. “If you hit a wall and need help, people will just say come see me tomorrow and we’ll have a coffee.

“There’s no class system here really we have a very flat society. Everyone is a peer and everyone is happy to help everyone, it’s a Kiwi thing. We’re fiercely egalitarian.”

It is a village. And people are always meeting to chat over coffee. Some days I have four to five coffee dates in a row!


Wellington town belt to expand

May 20th, 2015 at 2:30 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington’s town belt looks set to increase in size by 100 hectares and be given greater legal protection.

The town belt is 400 hectares in size, and stretches from Mt Victoria to Te Ahumairangi Hill.

Wellington City Council drafted the Wellington Town Belt Bill in 2013 and the process of Parliament enacting it into law has begun. 

If it becomes law, 100ha of land will be added to the town belt from Northland, Highbury, Aro Valley, Mt Cook and Roseneath. 

Wellington would not be the great city to live in it is, without the Town Belt. Very supportive of seeing other areas of council parks formally made part of the town belt, to protect it.


Wellington cut off

May 14th, 2015 at 2:02 pm by David Farrar

Wellington is now cut off due to the rain, with SH1 and SH2 closed and all train lines also closed.

At this point in time I’d like to remind everyone that the Greens are against Transmission Gully. Their policy I presume would be everyone should walk home!

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Duke of Wellington dies

January 2nd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Wellington City is named after the (1st) Duke of Wellington. It has always amazed me that there is no prominent mention of this in Wellington, let alone a statue of the man we’re named after.

The Guardian reports:

Valerian Wellesley, the 8th Duke of Wellington, who has died aged 99, was a courteous and reticent man who devoted much of his life to Stratfield Saye, the estate in Hampshire of his illustrious ancestor Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, and to the titles and landholdings abroad which had been conferred on the 1st Duke after he famously routed Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.

The 8th Duke combined his stately living with devotion to the British Army and the preservation of the countryside. He could be as dogged as his famous forebear about what he thought to be questions of family honour and practical politics. Preserving Stratfield Saye, which the 1st Duke had bought from the £600,000 conferred on him by the British government for his war services, was first on the list of his priorities.

The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is on the 18th of June. It is one of the most significant battles in the history of the world.

The Duke’s military career includes 60 different battles. He was also Prime Minister of the UK twice, and died in 1852.


One Council proposed for Wellington Region

December 5th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Local Government Commission announced:

The most significant reforms of a generation are proposed for councils in the Wellington region, under a draft proposal released by the Local Government Commission. Public submissions are now being sought, with a deadline of 2 March 2015.

A new unitary authority, the Greater Wellington Council, is proposed. It would take over the functions of the existing nine councils: Masterton District Council; Carterton District Council; South Wairarapa District Council; Upper Hutt City Council; Hutt City Council; Wellington City Council; Porirua City Council; Kapiti Coast District Council, and the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

The new council would have a shared decision-making structure. Power would be shared between the governing body (a mayor and 21 councillors) and 60 members of local boards. The mayor would be elected by voters of greater Wellington. Councillors and local board members would be elected from eight defined geographic areas.

The current nine Councils have nine mayors (incl WRC), 95 Councillors and 57 community board members.

The proposed structure would see eight local boards:

  • Wairarapa (10 members)
  • Upper Hutt (6)
  • Lower Hutt (10)
  • Kapiti Coast (9)
  • Porirua-Tawa (7)
  • Ohariu (6)
  • Lampton (6)
  • Rongotai (6)

The local boards would be more powerful than the ones in Auckland:

The Commission expects Wellington local boards to have greater power than Auckland local boards. This includes approving management plans for most local recreation, cultural, and sporting facilities,and a significant role in community development and promotion. For example, it includes local parks and reserves, recreational and community facilities, arts and cultural facilities and libraries. It also includes local community and cultural events, decisions about public spaces such as town centres and main streets, and grants to local groups. The Commission also expects local boards to have responsibility for local transport infrastructure, waste and recycling facilities, and local economic development initiatives

I think the proposed structure is a significant improvement over the status quo. However it will be bitterly opposed by some incumbent politicians and Mayors as they of course would lose their positions. If the proposal goes forward, it is likely there will be a referendum, and I don’t think there is a great desire for change – so it could well be lost. That is a pity though.

The Local Government Commission have no vested interest except what they think will best serve the residents of the region. They’ve look at all the pros and cons, and have recommended this model. My hope is the debate will be on those pros and cons.

Wellington does suffer from a lack of leadership. You have to get agreement from all nine Councils for things to happen.

The Dom Post editorial is in favour:

On balance, it’s a good call for Wellington to get the super-city treatment, as proposed by the Local Government Commission.

The inclusion of Wairarapa’s three councils, however, remains unconvincing, and should be reversed. …

But no-one should pretend that the boards will be some kind of boon for grass-roots democracy.

On the contrary, this is a move to concentrate decision-making powers for the region. The crucial funding and regulatory decisions will happen centrally. That’s the point of the exercise, and it’s why it is worthwhile.

The best reason for a merger is that it will give the city a louder, more consistent national voice. Wellington is treading water while Christchurch and Auckland, for different reasons, dominate central government attention.

The region needs leadership that can lobby powerfully for it. It also needs a coherent vision for how it will remain energetic and attractive in the coming decades. That is a task better suited to one mayor and 21 councillors instead of the current tangle of local, often headbutting chiefs.

I’m quite relaxed on whether or not the Wairarapa councils are included. Many of the home owners there work or live in Wellington so there are strong connections, but if they want their own Council, I’m fine with the Wellingtion Region just including Wellington, Hutt, Porirua and Kapiti.

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Greens flogging dead horse

September 8th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Reviving the scrapped light rail system, introducing new electric buses and retaining a fleet of trolley buses are part of the Green Party’s $500 million vision for Wellington’s transport system.

The policy, released today, calls for money earmarked by the current National Government for upgrading and expanding the capital’s roading network to be spent on public transport, Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said.

Wellingtonians could be taking light rail from the railway station out to Kilbirnie by 2020, and the airport and Miramar by 2025 under the plan, she said.

I can understand the Greens supporting light rail as a possibility before it was fully explored as an option. But the two Wellington Councils and NZTA commissioned a study of light rail and even Mayor Celia now agrees it is unaffordable and ineffective.

So why are the Greens still backing it? Because it is about a near religious belief in rail. It is nothing to do with enhancing transport.

Light rail was costed at $940 million, and providing benefits of just $30 million. The business to cost ratio is close to zero – 0.05. The Greens are proposing to waste around $3,000 per Wellington household. If you live in Wellington think about what you could do with $3,000 instead!

The Greens would also retain the city’s ageing trolley buses, at a cost of $70m for their upgrade.

That’s $70 million which won’t reduce congestion by one passenger. In fact it will make congestion worse. The new non trolley buses will make a commute five to ten minutes  faster. The Greens are against this!

I’d love us to have light rail and trolley buses if they were even marginally cost effective. But they’re not. The Greens are unable to accept reality, and are flogging dead horses. Except that if they are in Government we’ll be paying for those dead horses.

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15 reasons to love Wellington

August 3rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Travel blogger Liz Carlson blogs at Young Adventuress 15 reasons why she loves living in Wellington, six months after arriving here:

  1. All the bays and all the beaches
  2. Hilly city
  3. Awesome brunch and coffee culture
  4. Mt Victoria
  5. Friendly and awesome Wellingtonians
  6. Cool marine life
  7. Hip bar scene
  8. Zealandia
  9. Honking in the Mt Vic tunnel
  10. Wellington cable car
  11. Middle Earth in Wellington
  12. Crazy roads
  13. Windy Welly
  14. Somes Island
  15. Sunday market and Te Papa

Not much on that list I would disagree with. We do live in a great city in Wellington. Would be nice if the water was a bit warmer at the beautiful beaches, but can’t have everything!

The Library bar is one of my favourite places in Wellington. I can happily spend hours there.

Also Somes Island is truly awesome. Have been there a few times. Kayaking over there from Petone is my preferred mode of travel to it!


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.



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.


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



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.


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.


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.