Following the arrival of Wellington Council’s new CEO, Englishman Kevin Lavery, I broke my life-long wariness of contact with Kevins and invited him to our office for drinks. “So what’s your impression of Wellington?” I asked. “It screams out for pedestrianisation,” Kevin replied, unsurprisingly as all English cities have pedestrianised their CBD centres, so too throughout Europe, North America, Australia and the more advanced Latin American nations.
I told Kevin of my efforts to promote the pedestrianisation of Lambton Quay two elections back. There was a positive feedback from sophisticated retailers and people such as the capital’s leading CBD retail leasing agent, Ty Dallas of Colliers. Conversely, it elicited some mind-boggling stupidity, none more so than from John Milford, then manager of the city’s only department store, Kirkcaldie, who told the Dominion Post he was opposed as his customers like to park outside. Pointing out that there were no parks outside Kirks made no difference.
No surprise then that Kirks was slowly going broke. Indeed, as my company owns the building, we had already drawn up plans to chop it into shops. Then I suggested to Kirks’ long-suffering chairman that he approach David Jones, given its new owners were plainly into international expansion.
And the women of Wellington have been rejoicing at the new arrival, based on my Instagram feed.
Nobody has more to lose from Lambton Quay pedestrianisation than me (if I’m wrong), my company owning the most Lambton Quay buildings and far and away the most CBD shops. But I’m not wrong as the worldwide evidence is compelling.
The best cities do have large walkable areas.
A few weeks ago Wellington mayoral candidate, councillor Nicola Young came out for pedestrianising Lambton Quay and theDominion Post gave it front page coverage. It quoted retail specialist Chris Wilkinson, who spoke enthusiastically for it and sought rival mayoral candidates’ comments. Jo Coughlan opposed it, she being in the Milford camp and wanting to park there when shopping. Keith Johnson expressed his love of the city’s worst blight, namely buses, Nick Leggett endorsed it, albeit with a childish crack about candidates not being traffic engineers, Justin Lester made the extraordinary claim that buses “bring vibrancy to cities” and the mayor, Celia Wade-Brown said the idea is not new. Nor is oxygen Celia but you’re right, it’s happening everywhere.
Ty Dallas, who’s a huge enthusiast for the concept, told me there are 246 Lambton Quay shops from Lambton Quay’s south end through to Midland Park and a total of five carparks. That’s not a typo. Five bloody parks, yet the Dominion Post then ran letters from halfwits saying they were against Lambton Quay pedestrianisation as they liked parking there. It’s unbelievable.
What one needs is a couple more large tower car parks near Lambton Quay.
As with many local governments, Wellington is ill-served by its councillors, not one of whom can point to any outside achievement. Public office is nowadays a refuge and income source for the incompetent as, regrettably, capable people shy from it.
It’s rumoured that Wade-Brown will not run and instead will “anoint” Justin Lester; probably the most charisma-free individual ever to seek public office in history and who makes Colin Craig look like Tarzan on steroids. Lester is a typical leftie, namely free and easy with other people’s money. He came out for the absurdly titled “living wage” (if they’re not receiving it already, then why aren’t they dead?) for council employees and contractors. He owns a small takeaway food outlet. The Dominion checked and asked him why he wasn’t paying it to his own staff. “I can’t afford it,” he wailed.
Ouch but true.
He’s also involved with a disgraceful “business investment unit” the council established. It wastes millions annually but refused to release details of its “investments” on the bogus grounds of “commercial confidentiality.”
That must end.
Lester and his rivals doubtless can offer something to society, such as becoming shepherds, dog-walkers and such-like but should be nowhere near the public purse.
Auckland is marching on with its CBD pedestrianisation programme. The formerly down-at-heel, seedy Fort St’s vibrant rebirth evidences pedestrianisation’s merits. So too O’Connell St and street-by-street the work is (inexplicably) slowly being completed. The only negative is the dull grey paving stones.
The extraordinary thing about the Lambton Quay proposal is it’s costless. The creating of retail decked shops scattered down the wider parts centre will create investment units that will cover the entire expense.
Fort Street has been transformed. It would be great to see this happen in Wellington.