Wellingtonians spend $1.3bn a year on owning and running cars and even the most expensive cycleways option in WCC's Long Term Plan only needs to save a tiny fraction of that to offset the very small impact it will have on rates
I hate that Wellington City Council have cherry-picked 'Building More Cycleways' as a key decision to be consulted on in isolation in their new Long Term Plan, rather than attempt a more holistic discussion about urban mobility and transport shift in the context of a climate and housing crisis. It actually feels like a cynical attempt to inflame the rates hawks and anti-cycling crowd and I'm sure it will generate the answer they're probably looking for. Maybe that's unfair but if WCC are aware of the latest research into how to talk about some of these things ('sell the cake not the ingredients') it doesn't seem to have flown through to this consultation.
However, what's done is done and one positive is that it means WCC have identified the specific impact of each of their proposed options for building more cycleways on operating cost, rates and capital cost. This is good information to have about a specific proposal and in this case it helps to highlight how stupid and self-defeating it is to be concerned about the impact it might have on rates.
For example, the operating cost impact of the Accelerated Full Programme for Cycleways in the LTP (Option 4) is $4.5m a year which translates to a 1.31% rates increase. Based on a rates bill of $4k per annum that's an extra $50 a year. That's right, $1 a week for a city-wide micro-mobility network. Um, that's actually pretty cheap for what we would be getting.
It gets better because the difference between Option 4 and WCC's recommended Option 3 is additional operating costs of $1.9m pa, which is an extra 0.55% on your rates, or $22 a year added to a $4k rates bill. That's 42 cents a week. These amounts are tiny.
Let's be fair to WCC at this point. They are generally terrified of rates rises and there are already significant rates rises in this LTP. However, what I think is not helpful is that they have made no attempt to contextualise the rates impact of building more cycleways in terms of household spending on transport.
Transport is a significant expense for most Wellington City households. 85% of all Wellington households own one or more cars and it costs around $12k per year to own and run a car in Wellington. There are over 110,000 cars in Wellington City, which means Wellington is spending a massive $1.3bn a year on owning and running cars.
$1.3bn a year is a ridiculously large number. By contrast even WCC's Accelerated Full Programme to build more cycleways is an average of $22.6m capital spend per year over 10 yrs (2% of $1.3bn) and an increase in operational costs of $4.5m per year (0.35% of $1.3bn). What this means is that a city-wide cycling network only needs to reduce Wellington's household car running costs by more than 0.35%, or around $42 per car per year on average, before it has paid for itself. Why is this even a discussion?
With average fuel economy if cycleways mean you drive one less 5km round trip per week you will save $45 in petrol every year. If cycleways mean you spend 10 hrs fewer parking in the CBD per year you will save $45. Put another way, if a city-wide cycling network delivered a modest 5% reduction in the average cost of running a car it would be worth $65m per year, approx 14 times the cost of the rates increase per year and 34 times the difference between Option 3 and Option 4.
Hey, I'm not an economist and I'm not pretending that this is a proper business case but the point is that it doesn't need to be. The difference between the cost of a full cycling network and what Wellington spends on cars every year is so vast that it's a no brainer to invest more in cycling and micro-mobility. A full cycling network only needs to contribute to very small percentage reductions in household travel costs and it will be worth it (and that's without even considering all the other ways cycling can contribute to a well-connected, integrated transport system that works for everyone).
In fact, I reckon how WCC has framed Building More Cycleways in the LTP consultation omits crucially important information, is mis-leading and will not result in informed feedback. If it isn't technically below the standard required by the Local Government Act then that says more about the Act than the quality of information WCC have presented. Don't fall for it - when you provide feedback on the LTP make it very clear to councillors that you support spending the maximum possible on Building More Cycleways (Option 4 - Accelerated Full Programme).
Footnote: WCC reckons there might also be a sector capacity issue with building Option 4 - Accelerated Full Programme. That's being disingenuous. The sector won't ramp up the capacity unless it sees a strong commitment from WCC first. WCC needs to send the sector a signal by putting the budget in place. You might not spend all the budget but if you don't commit the budget in the first place then you're guaranteed not to do it. It's recently come to light that WCC has only built 16km of cycleways in the past 10 years. That's unforgiveable and is exactly why the sector doesn't believe WCC really intend to do more in the next 10 years.
If you are interested in local government in Wellington please support this call for Wellington City Council (WCC) to create an electronic database of councillor voting records
If you're already on-board you can go straight to the bottom and sign up. If you would like to know more read on...
Wouldn't it be great to be able to easily find out how Wellington City Councillors have voted on a range of issues across a triennium? Although records of voting in WCC meetings are currently accessible via the minutes of individual meetings these are in pdf format and there is no easy way to collate, search, filter and analyse these records to see patterns and trends, or see the voting records of particular councillors or areas of interest. Putting voting records in an electronic, searchable, publicly accessible database would make analysis of council voting a lot easier and there would be significant benefit for anybody interested in local government in Wellington including journalists, residents associations, commentators, advocates, academics and voters. Hopefully it would be used to inform voter decision-making and boost engagement during the lead up to the October 2022 local body elections.
WCC have been asked to create a database of voting records on at least two previous occasions. In 2016 someone made an Open Data request on the data.govt.nz website which the council declined within a few hours stating that "no data set is held outside of individual meeting minutes which record resolutions. The Council has no provision to create this type of data set. The minutes that record all resolutions are available on the Council’s website". The council declined a similar request from a councillor in March 2021 with the council claiming that "it would be a very significant piece of work to make this user-friendly and searchable to a member of the public". I don't think that's true or that the council is trying hard enough to make this work, particularly considering the significant public benefit.
This linked spreadsheet shows the voting from the council’s 18 February 2021 Annual Plan/Long Term Plan Committee meeting and was created in approximately one hour, despite being an exceptionally long meeting with a lot of votes. The council may wish to explore other more sophisticated solutions but even if council staff manually populated a publicly accessible spreadsheet it should add no more than 20 minutes to the minute taking process of an average meeting. Four types of meeting account for approximately 70% of all council meetings. They are full council meetings, the Strategy & Policy Committee, the Annual Plan/Long Term Plan Committee and the Regulatory Processes Committee. If the council focused on these meetings initially it should create no more than 20 hrs additional work per year (based on approximately 60 meetings x 20 mins). The public benefit of making this information available in this format will vastly outweigh the relatively minor cost.
The plan is to make a request under Section 15(2) of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) for WCC to create an electronic, searchable, publicly accessible database of council voting records over a full triennium, including a back-dated request for all voting records during the current triennium. Section 15(2) of the LGOIMA requires a local authority to generally "make the information available in the way preferred by the person requesting it", which in this case would be in an electronic, searchable format.
The second part of the plan is to gather as much support as possible up front which is where you come in. If you think this is a good idea please add your signature to the request using the Google Form link below. You can sign as an individual or on behalf of an organisation but if signing for an organisation please make sure you are authorised to first. There's also a link to the draft letter which you are welcome to make comments on. If any significant changes are made as a result signatories will be notified and given the opportunity to withdraw their signature although the substantive intent of the letter (to request an electronic database of voting records) will not change. I'll be collecting signatures for a couple of weeks (until at least 14 April).
Thanks in advance for your support! If you have any questions please contact email@example.com
At Wellington City Council's Long Term Planning meeting on Thursday they finally showed their hand and tried to kill off Island Bay's long overdue Parade Upgrade for good.
As foreshadowed in last week's blog Mayor Andy Foster's draft Long Term Plan (LTP) removed funding for The Parade Upgrade entirely, breaking a 3 year old promise to the Island Bay community. However, during a long and chaotic meeting a couple of amendments were made to the draft plan for consultation that offer a small glimmer of hope.
So what happened at the meeting?
Councillors were voting on what will be included in the draft LTP that goes out for public consultation. The Mayor's initial draft proposed removing funding for The Parade Upgrade entirely, along with reducing funding for cycleways across the board. The recommended option would cut WCC's funding for cycleways (outside the scope of Let's Get Wellington Moving) from $75m across 10 years in the 2018-28 LTP to $67m across 10 years in the 2021-31 LTP.
In order to follow this you need to remember that first councillors vote on any amendments they want to make to a proposal (the substantive motion). If the amendments pass they become part of the substantive motion and then councillors vote on that.
An amendment was moved by Councillor Tamatha Paul to "make Option 4 (Full connection) the preferred option for cycleway infrastructure". This would triple the cycling budget to between $170-200m over 10 years, including The Parade Upgrade. The vote on this amendment was lost narrowly 7-8. Bizarrely, the deciding vote against it came from the Green Party's Sarah Free who also currently holds the cycling portfolio. Also voting against it were Mayor Foster and Councillors Calvert, Condie, Rush, Sparrow, Woolf & Young.
As a compromise Councillor Laurie Foon then moved an amendment to "increase spending for cycleways by $45 million over years 4-10 which will keep us under the debt to revenue ratio". This would increase the cycling budget over 10 years to about $110m but also back-end much of it into another LTP consultation (which happens every 3 years). It also means that by 2031 Wellington still won't have a connected city-wide cycling network. This amendment passed 10-5 with Mayor Foster and Councillors Calvert, Rush, Woolf and Young voting against it (in the substantive vote it then passed 11-4 with Councillors Calvert, Rush, Woolf and Young voting against it).
There was confusion over whether that amendment included The Parade Upgrade or not so Councillor Foon moved another amendment to "request officers to advise us how the Island Bay project can be included within that programme". This amendment passed 12-3 with Councillors Calvert, Sparrow and Woolf voting against it (in the substantive vote it passed 12-3 with the same three councillors voting against it).
Finally, the substantive vote also included a motion to "instruct officers to bring forward the resealing of the Island Bay Parade and simultaneously remove ghost markings, complete minor safety improvements and install buffers between the cycleway and parking lanes". This passed 15-0.
Where does that leave us?
It's hard to tell without more detail because councillors and council officers really did seem to be making a lot of this up on the fly. One thing for sure is that the draft LTP that goes out for consultation will not include the promised Parade Upgrade anytime soon (not until 2024 at the earliest). That means there's currently no chance of the upgrade being delivered within the 7 years after council voted 13-1 to do it back in September 2017. That is an absolute disgrace, especially after they went to court in 2019 to defend their right to do it, and won!
The full upgrade may yet appear in the LTP after 2024 but that will depend on council officer's advice back to councillors. In the meantime bringing forward the next re-seal of The Parade (from when to when is not yet clear) and the instruction to "install buffers between the cycleway and parking lanes" does provide some hope of one of the key elements of the upgrade being delivered but that's going to be pretty tight to do within a re-seal budget. Of course, it does make perfect sense to do as much work as possible at the same time. We'll have to wait for more detail on that.
All in all, what happened on Thursday was a big downgrade of the upgrade. Although the upgrade is not yet dead it's definitely on life-support.
According to WCC this is just fine
Why have the council been stalling on doing The Parade Upgrade anyway?
It's a long story but put simply, they have been trying to get a bit too clever with the funding and as a result of delaying have then seen the costs go up.
When council made the decision to upgrade The Parade in 2017 they put $6m of WCC's own money in the following LTP to do it. Then they got a bit greedy. In order to extract as big a contribution as possible from Waka Kotahi to improve cycling in South Wellington in general they rolled The Parade Upgrade and Newtown Connections into one project. Unfortunately that had two damaging effects on The Parade Upgrade:
While all this was going the council have also seen the estimated cost of the upgrade slowly increasing. Partly because they discovered they would have to dig up a lot more drains than they thought in order to deliver the raised Copenhagen style lanes they had promised, and partly because if you faff around endlessly the cost of things does tend to go up.
Is the upgrade really going to cost $14m?
Nope. The $14m figure popped up last year when WCC threw a Hail Mary pass and put an application in to fund The Parade Upgrade as a shovel ready COVID-19 recovery project. Let's be clear - that is the absolute top end of what it could cost to deliver what was always a pretty over-engineered solution. If money is now tight and some unforeseen cost pressures have genuinely emerged around this project there are definitely other options.
The "Mayor's compromise option" that they settled on for The Parade Upgrade was a nice bit of PR but really just a combination of two of the options they consulted on in 2017 - Option C's raised Copenhagen style bike lanes in the residential areas and Option D's angle parking for cars at the shops. This was actually confirmed by the High Court during the judicial review.
This is only my opinion but if money is now an issue here's what I think should happen in order of priority:
What's proposed above is really just a combination of Option B in the residential sections (instead of Option C) and Option D at the shops (as originally agreed). One of the helpful things that the judicial review established was that as long as the decision the council made was within the broad parameters of what was consulted on then they were free to mix and match options in making a decision.
In summary, with or without a contribution from Waka Kotahi I think WCC have plenty of flexibility available to them to deliver a cost effective upgrade within the parameters of the original consultation and the decision already made. If they really want to get the cost down and significantly improve safety & comfort then they should remove on-street parking. This would be in line with the Parking Policy but might require more consultation (possibly through the traffic resolution process).
Whatever the amount would the money now be better spent elsewhere?
I've heard the argument that the current cycleway is ok and the money could be better spent elsewhere but I'd argue against that primarily for two reasons:
We shouldn't allow the council to use their own negligence as a bargaining chip in a re-negotiation of the scraps of funding that active transport gets in the first place. Once the bar is lowered to that point it will never be raised again.
So what should we do?
More detail about what is now proposed is needed and hopefully that will be included when the LTP goes out for public consultation. In the meantime keeping emailing councillors about how unhappy you are with The Parade Upgrade not being delivered yet and the reduction in funding for cycling in the LTP generally. Some of you have already done that and it is having an impact.
When the LTP goes out for consultation we will also need to make submissions. More guidance on that will come out closer to the time.
Wellington City Council's draft Long Term Plan is a kick in the guts for cycling
Wellington City Council has just released their draft 2021-31 Long Term Plan and Budget for consultation and it doesn't make pretty reading for cycling. At best, it requires some huge leaps of faith to even consider it underwhelming. At worst, it's a disaster.
The big picture
Capital funding for cycling in this LTP is $67m over 10 years (or possibly only $61m,depending on where you look in the plan) which is just 9.5% of the $699m total transport budget and 2.7% of the $2,437 total capital budget.
That's down from $75m in the 2018-28 LTP, which was 10.4% of the $720m total transport budget. Unbelievably, despite Wellington City facing a self-declared climate emergency, capital funding for cycling has decreased in absolute and percentage terms. Cycling is also absorbing a wildly disproportionate 38% of the overall reduction in the transport budget ($8m/$21m) despite being only 9.5% of the total.
The impact is actually far worse when you look at outcomes because the $67m is also spread over far fewer projects. The still unfinished Evans Bay cycleway has jumped from $11m in the 2018-2028 LTP to $26m in the 2021-2031 LTP. The rest of the 2021-31 funding goes to Minor Works ($11m) and unspecified 'cycleways' a.k.a a "prioritised set of key priority route connections not included in Let's Get Wellington Moving (LGWM)" ($29m).
That means almost every cycling project in the 2018-2028 LTP that had funding specifically attached to it now doesn't, including significant amounts of funding that had been tagged for the South, West and other projects in the East (the poor North didn't even have much funding tagged in the previous LTP). Nearly every project on the map below that is not already completed will now not proceed (except for the shaded area in the middle which represents LGWM - and even that is unclear. See below). As of right now the only specifically funded cycling project in Wellington City is the Evans Bay cycleway. That's an appalling state of affairs.
Adding insult to injury the map below, which shows how much WCC planned to achieve by 2028 (well within the term of this draft LTP) is still on their Transport Projects website, although in typical WCC fashion it hasn't been updated since 2018.
Two of the key projects that are now unfunded are Newtown Connections, on which consultation with the public started way back in 2017, and the The Parade Upgrade in Island Bay. In the case of The Parade Upgrade council actually made the decision to go ahead with it in 2017 but have been procrastinating over it ever since, despite successfully winning a court case in 2019. More on The Parade Upgrade below.
Why are the council doing this?
Cycling is the only transport mode in the LTP singled out as a "key issue for consultation" despite being just 9.5% of the total transport budget. Why does cycling get put under the microscope rather than the other 90% of transport funding? This reveals a deep cultural bias within WCC towards the transport status quo and the primacy of cars in particular.
By singling out "Level of investment in Cycleways" as one of the "key issues that are proposed for community consultation focus around matters that have material impact on the achievement of community priorities and/or on the Council’s overall financial position" WCC is just baiting all the MagicTalk listeners. The council needs to be way smarter than this and take the advice of people like The Workshop to 'sell the cake, not the ingredients' and build a vision of a mobility culture. This shouldn't be a discussion about bikes and cycleways, which are like kryptonite to a small but noisy minority. This should be a discussion about creating healthy streets and more liveable communities where people can move easily around our city in ways that also take care of the planet. If you ask people if they want to pay for more cycleways out of their rates far more of them are going to reflexively say 'no' than if you paint them a compelling vision of the 15 minute city.
More importantly, it's obvious that despite declaring a climate emergency, trumpeting Te Atakura their Zero Carbon Plan, and increasing evidence that e-bikes and other forms of micro-mobility like scooters are exploding in popularity the council still sees cycling > micro-mobility > healthy streets as a 'nice-to-have' and certainly not core business. Have they even read the Climate Commission's draft recommendations to government? Funding for active travel and micro-mobility should be going up not down. It's certainly not moving us towards the 'balanced transport network' that we are always being promised. Ask yourself about the extent to which the transport budget in the draft LTP reflects this hierarchy in the council's own Zero Carbon Plan (I can save you some time, it doesn't).
Joe Biden is credited with saying "don't tell me what you value, show me your budget and I'll tell you what you value". The numbers here don't lie. WCC just doesn't value cycling. When push comes to shove and funding is tight their first instinct is to cut funding for cycling ahead of other transport modes despite all the evidence that it is the best value for money investment in transport. It's just not good enough and they need to sort it out. It may even see them in court one day.
Will Let's Get Wellington Moving save the day?
The council's get out of jail card seems to be to say "but all those active travel projects will now come out of Let's Get Wellington Moving (LGWM)". There's a few problems with that:
So what about the Island Bay Cycleway?
The council seems to have an almost pathological desire to keep the 'Island Bay Cycleway' PR disaster going. Even within the reduced cycling budget proposed in the draft LTP there's $29m of unallocated funding. It beggars belief that the council would actually prioritise funding for projects they haven't even identified yet over delivering on a decision that they already made 3 years ago, after a long & expensive re-engagement involving hundreds of community members. If you were an Island Bay resident who invested time and energy in the Love The Bay process, guess what? The council doesn't give a shit. They've got rid of the Love the Bay website (probably too ashamed) but you can still look at the Facebook page and remind yourself of the good old days when we thought spending hours sitting in council-facilitated workshops actually mattered. WCC should be viewing The Parade Upgrade as not just an infrastructure upgrade but a social license upgrade, because at the moment all trust in them to do the right thing is shot to hell.
I have repeatedly told councillors and council officers that The Parade can be upgraded for a sum much closer to the original $6m budget than the $14m that they seem to think it will, and within the 2017 consultation parameters. They just need to be prepared to listen to the people who actually use it on a daily basis. The $6m (approx.) required doesn't even need to be re-allocated from within the already grossly underfunded 'cycling' budget. $6m is less than 1% of the total transport capex budget in the draft LTP of $669m and a quarter of a percent of the total capex budget. WCC cannot possibly tell me that they can't re-allocate that funding from somewhere else because it's obvious that they haven't even tried. They could literally trim 1% off every other transport budget line item and it probably wouldn't even be noticed. They also wouldn't need to increase rates (not that rates increases and every other possible funding mechanism should be on the table here in general, including debt).
By the way WCC, the name of the project is The Parade Upgrade, not the Island Bay Cycleway as it is consistently referred to in this draft plan. The reason for this is that even the participants in the Love The Bay process could see the need to broaden the horizons of the project and call it what it really is - a change to the overall streetscape and the way people move around Island Bay. Once again, you are just asking for a fight by lazily serving up opportunities for the haters to hate. If the good people of Island Bay can see the big picture then you should be able to also.
A final thought
The saddest thing about this draft LTP to me is it's lack of vision. Yes, we face major challenges, including infrastructure, resilience, climate change and the Covid-19 recovery. But that's a time to be bold and visionary. Instead this plan feels like a sincere effort by bureaucrats to put things back on a business as usual footing as fast as possible. It's an attempt to fix problems with business as usual rather than grasping the opportunity to question what business as usual should even look like and then 'build back better'. This guiding principle mentioned by the Mayor in his media release about the draft LTP seems to sum up the problem pretty well.
It probably sounded great in their heads when they wrote it but to me it is completely disingenuous and an example of the kind of neoliberal nonsense that got us in this mess in the first place:
If you are unhappy about the treatment of active transport in the draft LTP or any other aspect of it let your local councillors know and keep an eye out for engagement opportunities.
What on earth is going on with Newtown Connections and The Parade Upgrade?
This is an updated version of a blog written in August 2019: Time to deliver
The Island Bay Cycleway has been caught up in the excruciating delays to the Newtown Connections project
The latest update from Wellington City Council about the Newtown Connections project tells us nothing new. It simply confirms that "the Council’s Parking Policy and Planning for Growth will be out for consultation in March/April and we expect these to be adopted by the Council in June. It’s important for this process to happen first before we can seek feedback on changes for safer and easier biking routes through the wider Newtown area".
The update doesn't even mention a date for the next round of consultation on Newtown Connections - we're left to assume that it will still happen in "mid-2020" as per updates from the council last year, but the way this project is limping along who knows?
Don't forget that even mid-2020 will be a full three years since the current round of Newtown Connections consultation started in August 2017 and nearly two years since the council last consulted publicly on the project in November 2018. I understand that it's complicated and I get that there are dependencies but this is still painfully slow progress, especially when the council recently declared a climate emergency. If nothing else it deserves much better and more frequent communication than we've been getting.
Climate emergency anyone?
It gets worse. In October 2018 the council absorbed The Parade Upgrade into the Newtown Connections project. At the time this seemed like a pragmatic decision in order to maximise the amount of funding available from NZTA. The expectation was that consultation on a preferred package of changes for Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook would happen in March 2019 and the council would make a decision in May/June 2019. Construction of the already approved re-design of The Parade would then commence in late 2019.
Just prior to Christmas last year the Dominion Post reported frustration over lack of progress on Island Bay cycleway. A routine council report updating progress on various cycleway projects throughout the city noted The Parade section in Island Bay had "major risks" and required intervention. Here's the relevant section from the report [Note 1]:
The situation is actually much worse than the Dom Post picked up. The update says that "NZTA will consider co-investing in The Parade once the Newtown and Berhampore cycling facilities are constructed". What? That shifts the start date for The Parade Upgrade out to after the completion of Newtown Connections, which will be a date in 2022 at the earliest but probably later than that. That's at least five years since since The Parade Upgrade was approved 13-1 by council back in September 2017.
Five years or more to start a piece of work that is already approved and essentially "shovel ready" is ridiculous. Aside from the funding the only plausible reason the council had to delay The Parade Upgrade was the Island Bay Residents Association's judicial review of the decision, which failed spectacularly but cost the council $80,000 in legal expenses to defend (which they chose not to recover from IBRA). It's actually disgraceful that the council appears to have known about this latest issue for at least the last four months and is yet to communicate anything formally about it to the local community, especially the part of the community that has stuck solidly by them on this through thick and thin. Pro tip: when even the people who are on your side start getting pissed off you’ve really got a problem.
I get the sense that some councillors might feel that The Parade Upgrade was the previous Mayor’s project but that’s garbage. It was dubbed the ‘Mayor’s compromise solution’ at the time, which was a cute bit of PR but nothing more. In reality the solution chosen was straight from the options that were consulted on with the community. Here’s what the High Court had to say when IBRA tried to make the same flaky claim: "to the extent that the ultimate option chosen was a hybrid of Options C and D, it arose out of the proposal that had been consulted upon" [IBRA v WCC para 129].
The fact is the previous council voted 13-1 in favour of The Parade Upgrade and seven of those votes are still on the council, including the current Mayor. They own this decision.
It's time to unhitch The Parade Upgrade from Newtown Connections and just get on with it. Yes, funding is a factor but there's also the cost related to destroying the public's trust and confidence in the council to ever deliver on its promises. This is a decision that was made at the end of a very long, expensive (~$240k) and public consultation process (Love the Bay), which the council then went to court to defend. It's not a new initiative jostling for budget among others and shouldn't be treated as one.
What the council actually agreed to in October 2018 was: "Through our LTP the Council has approved $8 million in ratepayer funding to improve connections in the south of the city before 2021, including the agreed redesign of the Island Bay cycleway [which was allocated $6m]. With the new direction and changes set out in the GPS, we can potentially leverage the committed $8.0 million of ratepayer funding to gain $32 million worth of changes in these areas by 2021, with the Government picking up 75 percent of the cost." It’s now obvious that nothing is going to happen in the south of the city before 2021 so the entire capital budget needs to be re-visited anyway. The council needs to be honest that a well-intentioned plan to fund The Parade Upgrade via Newtown Connections is a dead-end and find a new way forward.
Five years (or more) is too long to wait. It's time to get The Parade Upgrade underway
It’s my understanding that councillors will soon be receiving a briefing from council officers on Newtown Connections. In an effort to be constructive about this here's what I think the council should be investigating regarding the Island Bay component:
One thing for sure is that if the council don’t want the Island Bay Cycleway blowing up in their faces again soon they need to do something to get the project moving.
If you think The Parade Upgrade and Newtown Connections is taking far too long now is a really good time to let the council know about it. You can find the mayor and all councillors email addresses here, or you can email new WCC Chief Executive: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note 1: The Quarterly report being presented to the WCC Strategy & Policy Committee on 5 March 2020 has mysteriously shifted the status of The Parade Upgrade back to Green but with no explanation of why
Note 2: The Quarterly report being presented to the WCC Strategy & Policy Committee on 5 March 2020 shows a capital underspend of $15m for the first 6 months of 2019/20, and a forecast full-year capital underspend of $42m
Here's what you've all been waiting for - the Wellington local body election 'poll of polls'
The table below summarises the endorsements or picks made by all the election scorecards for Wellington City Council that I'm aware of. If there's any missing let me know and I'll add them in if time permits. The only condition is that it needs to be in the format of having made selections or recommendations for each of the Wellington City Council wards, including Mayor.
**Updated October 2 to include Renters United**
So what can we make of this? Ultimately it's just a bit of fun but it does give some insight into which candidates have the most support across the political spectrum. The various sources are arranged in the table very approximately from politically left to right, although it's probably fair to say the overall balance of the sources leans to the left (to be honest I think it's really only Unions Wellington and Kiwi Blog who can be described as hard-left and hard-right respectively). Aggregating the number of endorsements or picks into a 'power rating' also puts equal weighting on each, which you may or may not agree with but you can adjust for that yourself.
It's also important to note that there's a number of different methodologies employed by the sources. Some are making endorsements about the candidates they think will best deliver on a specific agenda while others are simply predicting who they think will get elected. The methodologies are briefly summarised below and you can always go to the source website for more information.
One thing I think we can take-away from this is that you should be seriously considering giving a high ranking to candidates who have scored a 6 or 7 here. Likewise, candidates who have only scored 0 or 1 are probably best given a low ranking. It's the candidates in the range of 2-5 who deserve the greatest consideration in terms of where you personally decide to rank them.
If you only use this table to guide who you vote for then the new Wellington City Council will look like this:
Mayor: Justin Lester (5)
Motukairangi/Eastern Ward: Sarah Free (7), Teri O'Neill (4) and one of Chris Calvi-Freeman and Bernard O'Shaughnessy (both 3)
Paekawakawa/Southern Ward: Fleur Fitzsimons (6) and one of Laurie Foon and Humphrey Hanley (both 5)
Pukehīnau/Lambton Ward: Iona Pannett (7), Tamatha Paul (6) and Brian Dawson (4)
Takapū/Northern Ward: Jenny Condie (5), Jill Day (4) and Peter Gilberd (3)
Wharangi/Onslow-Western Ward: Conor Hill (5), Rebecca Matthews (4) and Richard McIntosh (4)
This is a very imperfect science but there's potential for a few shocks in there and it has to be said that Wharangi/Onslow-Western just looks like a complete bloodbath this year.
The most important thing of all is that you vote! Voting closes on October 12 but you should post your voting papers by October 8 to make sure they get there in time.
Unions Wellington: Made endorsements of candidates according to answers to a survey on "important workers rights issues like the living wage, but also other issues that effect union members strongly, such as climate change, housing and service provision". Number of endorsements not restricted to the number of spots available. All endorsements are shown in the table.
Renters United: Asked every candidate the same questions about the issues that most concern renters in Wellington. Rated every candidate that responded using a traffic light system. The top three grades for every ward including Mayor are shown here (except for Paekawakawa/Southern where only 2 councillors are elected) with a minimum requirement of a neutral traffic light rating. Iona Pannett and Lee Orchard tied for 3rd in Pukehīnau/Lambton.
Island Bay Healthy Streets: Made endorsements for Mayor and each ward based on a survey of local healthy streets advocates who were asked to "identify the candidates standing for Wellington City Council whose polices and track record are most aligned with a healthy streets approach. Put simply that means the candidates with the most progressive policies on transport, climate change, the environment, housing and urban development". Endorsements are ranked according to the survey results and restricted to the number of spots available, with the exception of Mayor where three endorsements are made. All endorsements shown in the table.
Save the Basin: Named its preferred candidates for Wellington Mayor and other local body positions, based on responses to a survey focused on plans for the Basin Reserve, including Lets Get Wellington Moving. Endorsements are unranked and not limited to the number of spots available. All endorsements shown in the table.
Generation Zero: Graded candidates based on a survey with "a variety of questions on the urgency of climate action, how they will respect Te Tiriti, how they will give effect to a Just Transition, how they will advocate for climate action, and their policies of growth and transport". The top three grades for every ward including Mayor are shown here (except for Paekawakawa/Southern where only 2 councillors are elected). Conor Hill and Andy Foster tied for 3rd in Wharangi/Onslow-Western.
Inside Wellington: The author made his own picks for who he thinks will be elected in each ward and as Mayor. These are picks rather than personal endorsements (there is a separate blog post for each race).
Kiwiblog: The author made his own endorsements of who he thinks should be elected in each ward and as Mayor. For Mayor the recommendation was "If you think that we need a more centrist Mayor, not beholden to the Labour Party and central Government, then rank Calvert, Condie and Foster 1, 2, 3 (in any order)" which is reflected here.
Here's the results of the Island Bay Healthy Streets 2019 Wellington local body election survey.
Healthy Streets™ is an evidence-based approach for creating fairer, sustainable, attractive urban spaces. The approach recognises that the key elements necessary for public spaces to improve people’s health are the same as those needed to make urban places socially and economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable.
A carefully selected panel of local 'healthy streets' advocates [Note 1] were invited to anonymously identify the candidates standing for Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council (Poneke/Wellington constituency) whose polices and track record are most aligned with a healthy streets approach. Put simply that means the candidates with the most progressive policies on transport, climate change, the environment, housing and urban development. For example, reducing car dependency through prioritising public and active transport, density done well, clear plans and targets to reduce carbon emissions etc. Specifically, respondents were asked to identify:
The results from the survey are listed below. The results are in alphabetical order (not ranked) but an asterisk next to the name indicates support from more than 50% of respondents. This is significant because in some wards despite appearing in the top 3 a candidate did not have support from the majority of respondents.
Mayor of Wellington (1 seat)
Motukairangi/Eastern Ward (3 seats)
Paekawakawa/Southern Ward (2 seats)
Pukehīnau/Lambton Ward (3 seats)
Takapū/Northern Ward (3 seats)
Wharangi/Onslow-Western Ward (3 seats)
If the above council was elected for Wellington City if would mean the introduction of 7 new councillors and the removal of 5 incumbents (another 2 are not running again). It would also mean a major shift in the gender split on council. The current split of 9 males and 6 females would be reversed, and there would be 6 males and 9 females on council. The average age on the council would also drop by 10 years from 54 to 44 and there would be a more representative spread of ages. Currently the youngest council member is 40 and the oldest is 65, a 25 year gap. The new healthy streets council would have 3 councillors under the age of 40 with the youngest being 21 and the oldest 65, a 44 year gap. The new additions would include at least one councillor who identifies as Maori and another who speaks te reo. As it turns out a healthy streets council would also be great for representation.
Greater Wellington Regional Council - Pōneke/Wellington Constituency (5 seats)
Whatever weight you put on these results just make sure you vote! You need to post your voting papers by Tuesday 8 October or drop them in to one of the locations listed here by midday on Saturday 12 October. You should have received your voting papers by now. If not then you might need to make a special vote.
If you found this post helpful please like and share widely. It's important!
Note 1. An invitation to participate in the survey was sent to 20 Wellington based members of organisations such as Women in Urbanism, Living Streets Aotearoa, Generation Zero, Cycle Wellington and blogs such as Talk Wellington and Eye of the Fish. There were 12 anonymous responses. Even I don't know exactly who responded.
Sometimes it seems that council candidates will say just about anything to get elected. But what are they saying (or not saying) when they think no-one else is watching?
Most Wellington City Council candidates are keen to tell us how much they care about Wellington so you might think these are the kind of engaged citizens who make the occasional submission on a council consultation, right? Especially the very important, quite recent and well-publicised consultations. Wouldn't it be good if we could read those submissions, so that we knew what they really think about some of the biggest issues facing the city rather than just what they choose to tell us in bland bio statements, media releases and pre-prepared stump speeches?
Under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act and Wellington City Council's Privacy Statement I asked the council to provide me with the submissions made by all 2019 council candidates on the two biggest consultations they've run this year - Planning for Growth and Te Atakura - First to Zero. Both of these consultations closed in May 2019, which is not that long ago, and attracted over 1,200 responses from the public, which must surely include responses from anybody so engaged in local politics that they intend to run for councillor?
Disappointingly, the answer is not really. As shown in the table below of the 26 new candidates for Wellington City Council only 8 made a submission on at least 1 of those 2 consultations, and only 3 of those 8 made a submission on both (note that incumbent councillors probably get a pass on this because you wouldn't normally expect them to be making submissions).
Note: if any of the above information is incorrect please let me know and it will be corrected.
Note: one of Laurie Foon's submissions was on behalf of the Sustainable Business Network
Top marks to Dr Jenny Condie (running for Mayor & Takapū/Northern Ward), Laurie Foon (Paekawakawa/Southern Ward) and Bernard O'Shaughnessy (Motukairangi/Eastern Ward) for submitting on both consultations and demonstrating the kind of engagement in local issues you'd expect from a serious candidate for council. This might not be a deal breaker for you, and there's lots of other things to think about when deciding how to vote, but you could certainly consider moving these candidates a place or two further up your STV rankings.
Highly commended goes to Conor Hill (running for Mayor & Wharangi/Onslow-Western Ward), Teri O'Neill (Motukairangi/Eastern Ward) and Ray Chung, Michelle Rush & Rohan Biggs (all running for Wharangi/Onslow-Western Ward) for submitting at least once.
As for the other 18 candidates feel free to question them during candidates meetings about why they didn't feel it was important to participate. Again, this probably isn't a deal-breaker but if you already have doubts about any of these 18 candidates then their non-engagement in these consultations probably confirms a low ranking is deserved.
The low response rate also creates a bit of an issue in terms of publishing the responses themselves. It could be seen as unfair to the candidates who did respond to publicise their responses when so many of their rivals won't get the same scrutiny. On the other hand every shred of information we can gather about candidates is valuable, especially when it is, well... candid. These two spreadsheets summarise the candidates submissions on the two consultations and include the aggregated results from all submitters for comparison (note that Ray Chung only made a written submission on Planning for Growth and didn't complete the online questionnaire):
Planning for Growth
Te Atakura - First to Zero
On balance I don't think it is unreasonable for people running for public office to be open to scrutiny and there is a strong public interest argument in knowing their views on such important issues. As it happens in just about every case I think the responses the candidates have given are broadly-aligned with the majority view of other submitters and therefore strengthens their case to be elected. You can review the candidates full submissions here and make up your own mind (note that the First to Zero submissions are all contained in a single spreadsheet as that's how they were provided by WCC).
However, there's one significant outlier. The submission by Rohan Biggs (running for Wharangi/Onslow-Western Ward) on Te Atakura - First to Zero is completely in denial about the impact of climate change [Note 1]. According to his submission he is "not at all concerned" about the impact of climate change on Wellington and doesn't believe that becoming zero carbon should be a high priority.
I've subsequently had a look at what Mr Biggs has published on his website, Facebook page, Twitter account and several media releases and I can't see him being anywhere near as explicit in his beliefs about climate change as he is in this submission. He answers one question on his Facebook page about his lack of environmental policies with this entirely unconvincing and disingenuous response:
Getting clarity on what a candidate really thinks rather than just what they want to tell us was exactly the point of this exercise. Mr Biggs views on climate change are so at odds with the other submitters on Te Atakura - First to Zero that if I was a voter in Wharangi/Onslow-Western Ward I'd be ranking him very low.
As for the rest of them apart from trawling through websites and Facebook pages I highly recommend the following sources of information:
The Spinoff's guide is a bit of a blunt tool as it tends to reward "motherhood and apple pie" descriptions of policies but it is very good for sorting out a short-list of candidates you might vote for and then doing a little bit more research about.
Note 1: this blog has been amended at Mr Biggs request to make it clear that he is not denying the existence of climate change, he just doesn't believe doing anything about it should be a priority.
It's time for Wellington City Council to deliver on its Island Bay Cycleway promises
The Island Bay Cycleway has been caught up in the excruciating delays to the Newtown Connections project
The Newtown Connections project is being delayed - again. The latest update from Wellington City Council includes an "an in-depth look at parking in Newtown and Berhampore" and notes that "the information will be used as part of detailed planning to help shape future transport changes in these neighbourhoods". It will also "be considered in the development of a new city-wide Parking Policy".
Good stuff, I guess, but then the council admits "consultation for Newtown Connections will now also happen in mid-2020. We were expecting to consult on a proposed package of bike routes and street changes in Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook in November/December however it is important to have the new Parking Policy in place first."
Hang on a minute. Mid 2020? That will be a full three years since the current round of Newtown Connections consultation started in August 2017. I understand that it's complicated and I get that there are dependencies but this is still painfully slow progress, especially when the council recently declared a climate emergency.
Climate emergency anyone?
It gets worse. Don't forget that in October 2018 the council absorbed The Parade Upgrade in Island Bay into the Newtown Connections project. At the time this seemed like a pragmatic decision in order to maximise the amount of funding available from NZTA. The expectation was that consultation on a preferred package of changes for Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook would happen in March 2019 and the council would make a decision in May/June 2019. Construction of the already approved re-design of The Parade would then commence in late 2019. That's now not going to happen until late-2020 at the earliest, over three years since since The Parade Upgrade was approved 13-1 by council back in September 2017.
Three years to start a piece of work that is already approved and essentially "shovel ready" is ridiculous. Aside from the funding the only plausible reason the council had to delay The Parade Upgrade was the Island Bay Residents Association's judicial review of the decision, which failed spectacularly.
If we're talking about the judicial review then yes, it was embarrassing. Still not as embarrassing as the spelling on this sign though
Maybe it's time to talk about unhitching The Parade Upgrade from Newtown Connections and just getting on with it. Yes, funding is a factor but there's also the cost related to destroying the public's trust and confidence in the council to ever deliver on its promises. This is a pre-existing commitment that was made at the end of a very long and public consultation process. It's not a new initiative jostling for budget among others and shouldn't be treated as one.
What the council actually agreed to in October 2018 was: "Through our LTP the Council has approved $8 million in ratepayer funding to improve connections in the south of the city before 2021, including the agreed redesign of the Island Bay cycleway. With the new direction and changes set out in the GPS, we can potentially leverage the committed $8.0 million of ratepayer funding to gain $32 million worth of changes in these areas by 2021, with the Government picking up 75 percent of the cost." It's now clear that nothing is going to happen in the south of the city before 2021 so doesn't this entire capital budget need to be re-visited anyway?
In an effort to be constructive about this here's what I think the council (both councillors and council officers) should be investigating:
Three years (or more) is too long to wait. It's time to get The Parade Upgrade underway
In addition, my challenge to every Wellington City Council candidate in the upcoming local body elections is to make a clear public statement that:
While we're on the subject it would be good to hear what the WCC mayoral and ward candidates think about the current state of walking and cycling in Wellington. Here's a few questions:
The Island Bay Residents Association's legal challenge failed in court so what now for the Island Bay cycleway?
Unless you've been living under a rock you will now be aware that the Island Bay Resident's Association's legal challenge against the Island Bay cycleway failed in the High Court. After two days of oral arguments it took Justice Churchman only two weeks to issue a judgement in Wellington City Council's favour. That's very quick (the judgement was expected to take between three weeks and three months) and indicates that Justice Churchman knew what his decision was pretty much straight away.
You can read the full judgement for yourself here and if you donated money to support the judicial review I suggest you do because the application wasn't even close to succeeding.
IBRA's latest update indicates an organisation in deep denial (click on images to expand)
IBRA's reaction to the news was predictably antagonistic and indicates an organisation that has lost touch with reality. According to their latest update "we are all very shocked by the outcome, especially those that were present in Court" which illustrates just how deep in denial they are. In fact, every single point they complain about in the "brief summary of our case" in their update is actually dealt with in Justice Churchman's judgement. You have to wonder if they've even read it.
It's hard to feel any real sympathy for IBRA. They were warned they had no case. Their lawyer was warned. Their supporters were warned. Even while they were shopping around for assistance they were warned they had "zero chance of success" (see below). They went ahead anyway.
So what happens now?
The two sets of lawyers will currently be in negotiations about costs. If they can't agree it will go back to the High Court to decide. Although it may turn out to be largely symbolic (because IBRA don't have any money) I believe Wellington City Council have a duty to ratepayers to try and recover full costs. It's simply nonsense to suggest that IBRA were innocently drawn into some noble pursuit of "justice" and based on the update above they have not learned their lesson. They are seriously considering whether to appeal which would be throwing good money after bad - money that belongs to ratepayers and IBRA's supporters, who are paying twice over for this farce to continue. Their update claims they are getting an independent legal review of the decision, which I hope is true and which I hope they will listen to.
And what about the cycleway?
It's really important to remember that IBRA's legal challenge wasn't about the current cycleway but the process leading up to the decision taken by the council in September 2017 to upgrade the cycleway. Yes, you read that right - IBRA were challenging the decision to improve the current cycleway, which includes a long list of improvements that they demanded themselves.
You can remind yourself of what we've got to look forward to by visiting the council's Transport Projects website and going to The Parade Upgrade.
The only slight snag is that in the meantime The Parade upgrade has been rolled into the Newtown Connections project. Although that means a delay in the timing of the work in Island Bay it's probably a sensible decision overall because treating Island Bay, Berhampore and Newtown as one big project will create economies of scale and be a more effective use of government funding. You can follow the progress of the Newtown Connections project by visiting the council's Transport Projects website and going to Newtown Connections.