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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


Fairly easy over that one.


Under that one.


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


This was very thick to get through.


Under and over these ones coming up.



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

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!


A Vintage Expo

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



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:

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.

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.


View of Wellington from the end of Somes Island.


Walking along the loop track around the island.


The East West ferry heading over.



The perfect spot at the top for lunch.



Steph suited up for the return trip.



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.


Taking a break,



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.

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.

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.

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.

Skyline Walkway

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


EveryTrail – Find hiking trails in California and beyond

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.

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.



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 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.

Public Transport charges

February 26th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Forbes at Dom Post reports:

A reduction in the discount traditionally enjoyed by those who pre-pay for their public transport is being proposed by Greater Wellington Regional Council officers.

The 2013-14 draft Annual Plan, which will be tabled at a council meeting today, also floats an average rates increase of 2.6 per cent.

Bus and train operators are required to offer a minimum 20 per cent discount on multi-trip tickets and stored value cards.

But changes being proposed by council officers would see that reduced to 17 per cent in zone 1 – an area of heavy public transport usage encompassing the Wellington CBD, Aro Valley and Thorndon.

That would be a silly decision.

If you look at successful public transport programmes overseas, one of the keys is to get almost everyone using cards such as Snapper. In London, almost no one buys tickets for single trips. They all have Oyster cards.

The key to getting everyone onto prepay cards is to have massive discounts on them (ie it is too expensive not to have one) and to have a daily limit on them.

Wellington should move to integrated ticketing, and increase the price difference between pre-paid cards and cash tickets.

The fenceline walk

February 24th, 2013 at 1:32 pm by David Farrar


EveryTrail – Find trail maps for California and beyond

An 8.5 km hike around the fenceline of the Karori Sanctuary, Zealandia. It has 460 metres of vertical elevation so is a good challenge. It is the same route as the annual gutbuster run.

We started at the Zealandia and climb up to the Brooklyn Wind Turbine. The odd flat piece, but mainly uphill.

From the wind turbine you continue along the fence towards Hawkins Hill but then veer back towards Karori. You think you do not have much more climbing to go, but actually the track drops down into a valley which then gives you another big climb up to Wrights Hill.

From Wrights Hill, it is mainly downhill. The track next to the fenceline is so steep at parts you are advised to use an alternate zigzag down, which we did.

Some great views, and a reasonable distance to go from Karori to Brooklyn and back.

Big ups to all the cyclists on the shared path. Everyone helpfully yells out that they are approaching you, what side of the path they are on, and how many of them there are.

If anyone knows what the berries are in one of the photos, feel free to comment.

Mt Victoria Loop Walk

December 23rd, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Did the Mt Vic loop walk this morning. At first overcast and looked like rain, but by the end of the walk, the sun had burnt all the cloud away and was sweltering. 85 minutes in total and you do 5 kms but a fair amount of uphill. It is basically a figure of eight loop.


You start at Charles Plimmer Park at the top of Majoribanks Street and head up on the Hataitai to City walk track. This is the one that had Lord of the Rings filmed just off it.


A view of central to southern suburbs as you head along the western side of Mt Vic.


That looks like some sort of observatory near Government House. Anyone know what it is exactly?


Nice shadowy bush track on the eastern side.


This tree is on a definite lean!


The Hataitai Velodrome, which you circle around.


Charles Plimmer Park where you start and finish.

There are literally scores of walking and cycling tracks on Mt Vic. If I loved lived next to it, I’d spend all my time exploring them.

The loop track isn’t signposted as such. It is a combination of four other tracks. But once you work out where to go, it is a great view of both the CBD and the eastern suburbs.

Last time I did this track, they found a dead person there the next day – hopefully no repeat this time!

Taxi fares

December 22nd, 2012 at 8:11 am by David Farrar

Carla Penman at Stuff reports:

The most expensive cab company in Wellington can charge as much as a quarter more for a ride than the cheapest operators.

Yes, that is called competition.

And fares in the capital are twice as much as those in the regulated market of Melbourne, Australia.

Is it?

Prices for a simple 10-minute, 3.9-kilometre trip from Cuba St to Hobson St in Thorndon, at the same time of night, on the same route, in light traffic, ranged from $15.40 in a Kiwi Cab, to $18.40 in a Green Cab, to $20.20 in Combined Taxis – a massive 24 per cent difference. This included callout and eftpos charges.

It’s certainly easy to get a cab in Wellington. The city seems to be awash with taxis. On any given day, especially along Courtenay Place, dozens of cabs are lined up waiting for customers.

There are 11 companies chasing different kinds of customers.

Yet strangely, despite all this competition, prices are still around double what you’d pay in Melbourne – where taxi fares are regulated.

Okay, let us look at this Melbourne fare website. A 4 km, 10 min journey would be:

  • Booking Fee $2.00
  • Flagfall $3.00
  • Kms 4 x $1.62 = $6.48
  • Wait 6 x $33.96/60 = $3.40

That is a total of Au$14.88 or NZ$18.80, and that presumably the EFTPOS fee which was included in NZ and not known in Australia.

Each cab has to display its company’s charges both inside and outside the vehicle. Companies tell their drivers to have their meter set to charge a certain amount, depending on the time and distance travelled – this is called the tariff.

The meters are checked by New Zealand Land Transport, to ensure they are charging at the advertised rate.

That should mean the customer can quickly calculate the cheapest cab on the rank, right?

In theory, yes.

But it’s not easy for the average customer to figure out the total fare from the baffling array of charges listed.

For example, there’s the call-out fee, the flagfall (starting rate), the tariff (the price per kilometre travelled), a fee for using eftpos and waiting time per minute.

If you manage to add all those up, you then need to try to calculate the total fare by estimating the distance to be travelled and multiplying it by the tariff – and that’s just too much for most customers. Either they don’t bother and just grab the most available cab, or even if they do calculate it according to the rates, it’s not a reliable guess – because it depends on the route the driver takes, and the amount of congestion.

First of all many customers do not want the cheapest cab on the ramp. We have a market where you can choose cheap and nasty or more expensive and reliable. I will always choose a Combined cab over any other cab, for several reasons:

  • Their drivers speak English
  • Their drivers know where most roads are
  • Their cabs don’t tend to stink of food
  • They always have eftpos and take taxicard

But I do agree prices are hard to calculate. What I think would make a difference is having the NZ Transport Agency listing the tariff schedules for all taxi firms in each city on a website. I’d love to be able to compare the prices of Combined and Green Cabs (who aren’t too bad) so I know in advance the approx cost of each.

With most customers simply unable to figure out the likely fare, Combined Taxis has been able to quietly increase its fees, relying on its market dominance to keep customers rolling in.

This sounds like the normal competitors whining. Combined do well, because they provide the best service in my opinion. I also know a lot of women who will only use Combined because they feel safest with them.

Green Cabs Wellington manager Toni Shuker says people choose Combined Taxis because they have more vehicles available.

No, I choose them because of the good service I get from them.

Spoilsport Council

December 18th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Photo by Phil Reid/Fairfax.

The Dom post reports:

A “public art installation” that has sprung up in a Wellington bus shelter will be dismantled in favour of wooden benches.

A Brooklyn bus shelter was mysteriously transformed into an impromptu lounge room at the weekend, complete with two tattered couches, a small library and a hot water bottle.

By early yesterday someone had added Christmas tinsel, a clock, a picture, an icecream container full of lemons and a life-sized plastic dog.

I think that is great. How cool would it be to have couches to sit on and books to read at a bus stop.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the council was no closer to uncovering who was responsible. He said the scene would be removed before contractors arrived tomorrow to reinstall benches.


Wind Turbine to Red Rocks walk

December 16th, 2012 at 2:19 pm by David Farrar

Red Rocks

EveryTrail – Find hiking trails in California and beyond

This was a fun, but tough walk.

The first couple of kms are the popular walk from the Brooklyn Wind Turbine to the Hawkins Hill Radar. Uphill, but not too steep except at the end as you pass the Wellington Castle and the nice dogs there try to jump over the fence to rip your throat out.

Instead of turning back, you carry on past the radar, and carry along the 4WD track past a couple more communication buildings. You get great views of the western wind turbines as you head towards the trig station. Pretty windy up there.

The track from the trig on is more narrow and mainly downhill. It is incredibly steep in some places, and combined with gravel paths, the potential for disaster is high. I only fell over once (a nice grazed right leg to show for it) but at times had to side-step down the slope. It was tough going.

While mainly downhill, there are parts where you go back uphill again, and again very steep in parts. We did a total of around 250 metres vertically uphill and 600 metres vertically downhill.

Towards the end you hit the old WWII observation bunkers. Stunning views of the ocean and South Island. The map says there is a track to the right and to the left. However to the right looked like a cliff, smelt like a cliff, sounded like a cliff and we concluded was a cliff. We later learnt there is no path there now.

The path to the left (follow the yellow markers) turned out to have its challenges also. At first a nice walk down a valley, but then it joined another valley and the path turned into a stream. And while the stream had little water, it had a downhill gradient in places of 45 degrees or so. Think climbing down wet rocks, more than walking.

It was with some relief we hit Red Rocks below. A bach owner told us we were the only people that weekend to do the track. I was not totally surprised. Don’t get me wrong – I loved the challenge, and the views. But the steep downhill is not for the faint hearted.

We then had a three km walk or so around the coastline to the Te Kopahau car park. Almost 12 kms all up and took three hours 20 minutes.

Next week in the Mt Victoria loop track which will be considerably easier.