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.
It's well documented that Wellington's July 2018 bus network changes have been tough on bus passengers but they've also had a negative impact on some of the transport network's most vulnerable users - people on bikes.
According to data obtained from Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) there has been a 60% increase in complaints about poor bus driving around people on bikes since the bus network changes.
In January this year I suffered a close pass by a bus, which was not for the first time. I had it on film so I tweeted the video and made complaints to Metlink (GWRC) and the Police.
In both cases the response to my complaints amounted to nothing more than "the driver has been spoken to" which seems to be the standard response to all but the most serious injury-related incidents. While I honestly believe that the driver in this case should suffer more severe consequences than just being spoken to what frustrates me more is that these complaints are always treated as one-off isolated incidents of poor driving rather than a systemic issue. In particular, why don't GWRC seem to monitor the level of complaints about bad driving and have greater powers via their contracts with bus operators to hold them accountable? You can read the entire Twitter thread discussing this here (this links to the last tweet in the thread so you will need to scroll all the way back up to January 2).
I decided to find out more about the level and type of complaints that GWRC are getting about poor bus driving around people on bikes and what kind of monitoring occurs. In February of this year I made a Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) request for a list of all complaints made by cyclists about poor driving by bus drivers for the last 3 years.
By April I had a useable data set [Note 1] and what I found within it was quite alarming. Over the two year period between January 1 2017 and December 31 2018 there were nearly 400 complaints made via the Metlink Customer Relationship Management system (Resolve) about poor bus driving around people on bikes. That's an average of 16 complaints per month or roughly one every two days. However, in the 18 months before the network changes in July 2018 the average was only 14 per month. In the six months afterwards it rose to 23 per month. That's an increase in complaints of 64% after the network changes. There were also 22 complaints in January 2019, so the trend continues into this year. In my view a complaint every two days about bad driving around cyclists is a big enough problem, but the fact it has risen since the network changes to be closer to one every day is shocking. Don't forget these are only the reported incidents so they are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg [Note 2].
So which bus operators are the complaints about? Prior to the network changes almost all of the Wellington Region bus routes were operated by NZ Bus under the Go Wellington brand, so most of the complaints were about them. As a result of the network changes nearly 60% of the routes are now operated by Tranzit under the Tranzurban brand so they are now the source of the majority of complaints, although NZ Bus still feature heavily. There are also a significant number of complaints where the complainant was not able to identify the bus route or operator and a small number of complaints about other operators.
Who do the complaints come from? One of the few positives in the data is the revelation that a third of all complaints about poor bus driving around people on bikes come from a witness, usually a passenger on the bus involved. People on bikes often feel under siege on the roads so it's heart-warming to know that so many other people are prepared to speak up when they see a bus driving dangerously near somebody riding a bike.
The story told by the data is damning enough but the data set provided to me also contained the full text of the complaints themselves (with redactions to protect privacy). I've read them all and it had an impact on me. Some of the stories are terrible and I sincerely hope that the drivers involved are no longer on our roads. Here's a few examples. I intend to keep publishing these via Twitter because these voices deserve to be heard and they add a powerful and personal dimension to the story told by the data.
Bus driver hit a cyclist and then became verbally abusive towards cyclist, screaming "you're a f**king idiot mate" repeatedly at cyclist. I believe cyclist took a photo of driver. The driver then stopped the bus and made everybody get off at Kilbernie. My fare was not refunded and I had to walk to town carrying several bags. Driver was unapologetic. As a passenger, I was scared at the level of aggression shown and by the fact that the driver didn't check the cyclist was OK. This was totally unprofessional. This incident has made me scared to use metlink. Bus services
Cyclist was near marsden village, customer watched driver overtake cyclist and someone pressed button to get off. Bus then almost crashed into cyclist. Cyclist then got onto path to stay look you nearly hit me and be more careful. Driver told him to f** off and that she was bigger and he needed to watch out for her. So then they went to get off a few stops later and said to the driver look you were wrong, and the driver told them to f** off as well.
I was cycling along Rintoul road and could hear a bus behind me. The bus drove straight past me and the bus stop where an elderly woman was waiting. The driver must have seen the elderly lady at the last minute, as he then decided to stop about 20m down the road. He swerved towards the footpath past the bus stop, despite a row of parked cars, meaning that I was cut off and had to brake suddenly. Despite me braking, he still clipped me as he drove past. It was terrifying and I thought I was about to be squashed against the parked cars with no way to get out. He clipped me pretty hard and then drove on to wait for the elderly lady to walk down to where he had parked. I cycled up to the window and said to him 'you just hit me' and he shrugged.
My message to people on bikes and other members of the public who have logged complaints is please keep it up. It may seem pointless at the time but the data does gets captured and with a little bit of work and a little bit more focus it can and will be a powerful agent for change.
As part of my LGOIMA request I also asked what kind of monitoring and reporting of complaints about driving by bus drivers is going on within GWRC and the answer appears to be 'very little'. An important thing to understand here is that Metlink's Resolve CRM doesn't currently capture what type of transport network user the report is from so it makes no distinction between complaints from passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, motorists or others. That means the type of analysis I've done here can only be done in a one-off, laborious way by looking for search terms like "cyclist" or "bike" within the data.
As far as I can tell GWRC councillors only receive the most high level reporting about the overall level of complaints being received. Here's an example from the March 2019 Sustainable Transport Committee agenda:
According to the response to my LGOIMA request GWRC management receive weekly reporting by operator that shows the type of complaints (e.g. is the complaint about driving, lateness, cancellations etc) but not in a format that allows trends to be easily identified or comparisons made to previous time periods. Also, as highlighted above they aren't able to drill down into the data to find out what type of transport network user is making the complaints because that data isn't collected in a structured way. Although there appears to be regular meetings at an operational level between GWRC staff and the bus operators it's obvious that these conversations are never as specific as "there's been an increase in the level of complaints from cyclists about your drivers" because GWRC staff don't have that information available to them.
My hope is that by highlighting this issue GWRC will start paying some attention to it. In particular I have the following suggestions for them:
My recommendations stop short of suggesting how they could or should make the bus operators more accountable because I'm not a lawyer and the contracts with the operators are very long and complicated. However, even a cursory scan of the contracts suggests there are things they could probably be doing to increase the pressure on operators to make people on bikes safer. It's also a fact that regardless of what the contracts say under section 36 (2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 "a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking" [Note 3].
I'm also stopping short of making any substantive comments about the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) and driver wages and conditions. It's really not my area of expertise but surely anyone can see that we need to be able to attract the very best drivers possible to the job and have sufficient drivers wanting to do the job that we can get rid of the ones who are clearly compromising public safety.
Of course the bigger picture here (and getting back to taking a systems perspective) is that buses and bikes just shouldn't be sharing the same bit of road. While they are both essential components of a modern sustainable transport network - and actually complement each other really well in that regard - they simply don't mix together well. Both GWRC and Wellington City Council (WCC) need to be much more focused on getting the infrastructure in place that means buses and bikes are physically separated. That means more separated cycleways, and more bus priority lanes and/or light rail. It also means taking a deep breath and removing on-street parking from arterial routes where necessary to make room. Let's hope that prioritising active transport and public transport are at the heart of upcoming announcements about Let's Get Wellington Moving. And let's make sure that every candidate in the upcoming local body elections (for both GWRC and WCC) knows that we just aren't going to put up with this crap anymore. My message to candidates is either fully commit to prioritising active transport and public transport or don't bother running.
GWRC ran search queries on their Customer Relationship Management system (Resolve) using my requested keywords "cycle", "cyclist", "cycling", "bike", or "biking" for the time period between June 2016 (when the Resolve CRM was introduced) and 11 February 2019 (the date of my request) and excluding rail services. Results were as follows:
Once duplicate case results were removed, this resulted in 815 unique cases with whole or partial text string matches to one or more of the requested search terms. These results include a number of complaints, inquiries and comments about more general cycling issues such as bike racks on buses, folding bikes, cycleways and so on. Personal or identifying details of individuals were removed.
I then refined the dataset further to focus purely on complaints related to 'driving' which is an identifiable sub-set of complaints in the database. I then manually reviewed the dataset to remove a number of complaints relating to motorbikes. I further refined the dataset to include only the years 2017 and 2018 as they were the only complete years in the dataset. This resulted in a final dataset of 392 individual complaints.
I also went through the dataset and coded each complaint as being either received from a cyclist or from a witness e.g. a bus passenger based on the information in the free text fields in the complaints.
GWRC also provided the following notes:
It needs to be acknowledged that the network changes made in mid-2018 were extensive and involved major alterations to the number of routes, buses, frequency etc. In that respect it's very hard to compare apples with apples. It's possible that the rate of complaints per bus kilometre traveled (or any number of other measures) hasn't changed to the same degree. The sort of deep-dive analysis that would be required to unpick this is beyond the levels of time and expertise I have available but is something I hope GWRC might do. However, it doesn't alter the fact that the absolute number of complaints has still risen and that reflects a greater number and/or frequency of cyclists being exposed to bad bus driving.
There are numerous free-text reports within the data of a cyclist being hit by a bus. Were these all treated as Notifiable Events by bus operators and reported back to GWRC (under the contracts) and to Worksafe (under the law)? I intend to follow that up.
If you're thinking about financially supporting the Island Bay Residents Association's judicial review you might want to read this first...
Residents of Island Bay and Berhampore have probably received this flyer from the Island Bay Residents Association (IBRA) in the last few days.
IBRA are well within their rights to seek a judicial review but collecting money from the public to fund it requires a level of transparency and accuracy that, in my opinion, this flyer and the associated information on their Givealittle page doesn't meet. If you want to donate to IBRA that's up to you but at least be aware of the following...
The judicial review has a very low chance of 'success'
I've written previously on why I think the judicial review is an absolutely terrible idea that I support anyway. I suggest you read that blog post in full but in summary:
Some of the information in the flyer and on the Givealittle page is misleading
The claim that "Four times now, 80% of submitters have been clear on what they want for The Parade" isn't true. I'm not even sure what 'four times' IBRA are referring to but what's absolutely clear is that was not result of the 2017 consultation that came at the end of the Love the Bay process. According to the September 2017 The Parade – Island Bay Design Option Refinement report (page 6) the quantitative consultation results actually looked like this:
It's also worth noting that IBRA's 'Option E' solution has not been consulted on four times as implied by the flyer. 'Option E' was only developed by IBRA in late 2017 in response to the four options arrived at by WCC and their consultants as a result of the Love the Bay process.
IBRA's Givealittle page also states that indicative costing for Option E is "to be confirmed but would be no more than $750k". This claim is false and IBRA has known it is false for at least 18 months. In the September 2017 Design Option Refinement report the cost of Option E is estimated to be $3.8m (page 8). Even accounting for the fact both these numbers are estimates that's a massive disparity that IBRA should have acknowledged.
There are questions about IBRA's legal status
IBRA continue to describe themselves as incorporated society, including on their Givealittle page. However, they haven't held an AGM or approved any financial statements since Oct 2017, which is a breach of their own rules. In October 2018 they announced they were delaying their AGM until February 2019 despite there being no provision in their rules to do this. This also means that they haven't published any information about their finances beyond March 2017, which is almost two years ago.
This failure is probably also a breach of the Incorporated Societies Act 1908, although in reality the Registrar of Incorporated Societies (the Registrar) is very slow to remove societies from the register for non-compliance, and the Act is so antiquated (it's been due for review for years) that it's barely enforceable.
However, the High Court might put more emphasis on IBRA's legal status and whether they can legitimately take anyone to court right now. If the court date is set for May IBRA are running out of time to hold an AGM and submit financial statements to the Registrar as per the Act, assuming the High Court would even accept that. Their rules require them to seek nominations for the committee 30 days before the meeting so the earliest they can now hold an AGM is mid-late March. Of course, they will also need a set of April 2017 - March 2018 accounts by then, which would need to be submitted to the Registrar within a month of being approved at the AGM.
Despite the fact that it might suit WCC I'd be very disappointed if the judicial review was delayed while IBRA did some of the basic house-keeping associated with being an incorporated society. As I outlined in my previous blog I'd like to see the review get through court as quickly as possible and bring a much needed conclusion to the whole saga. Any delays are also likely to cost more money in legal fees, which IBRA are funding out of the pockets of donors. In addition, if IBRA lose the judicial review and have costs awarded against them they will almost certainly then become bankrupt. That would mean the council's legal costs will fall upon ratepayers, so we all have an interest in the council's costs being kept to a minimum.
We've been here before
Many of the same people behind IBRA were behind the Democratic Voice for Island Bay (DVIB) group who threatened a judicial review back in 2015. They quickly backed down but not before they had raised approximately $15,000, of which nearly $4,000 was via this Givealittle page. If you are considering giving to IBRA this time around you really should read the Q&A are make sure you are happy with the answers given to some of the questions. The key question, of course, is what happened to the money?
Interestingly DVIB is still a registered incorporated society. According to the societies register it held an AGM on 30 September 2017 at which 8 of the 15 members were required to be present to form a quorum. At the meeting they approved annual accounts for the year ending 31 March 2016 and the year ending 31 March 2017, which is more sloppy house-keeping. It's not clear whether DVIB ever held AGMs by 30 September 2016 and 30 September 2018 in accordance with its rules. It certainly hasn't lodged any financial records past 31 March 2017 with the Registrar.
According to the societies register between September 2015 and March 2017 DVIB raised $14,168 in donations and spent $10,093 on legal fees, $379 on printing & stationary and $75 on bank fees. As at 31 March 2017 they still had $3,622 sitting in an ANZ bank account. Because they haven't lodged any annual accounts since then there is a two year gap in transparency over what happened to the money.
Basically all DVIB ever achieved was to threaten a judicial review and then almost immediately back down, and they somehow managed to spend over $10,000 on legal fees doing it. As of March 2017 they were still sitting on nearly $4,000 and it's not at all clear who's currently in control of that money and what's going to happen to it [Note 2]. The press release announcing they were giving up on a judicial review said any funds left after paying legal expenses would be "put towards initiatives in Island Bay", which is consistent with their rules, but as of March 2017 that hadn't happened.
Both DVIB's and IBRA's Givealittle campaigns are 'open goals' which means they get any money donated without having to meet a target and regardless of the outcome of their cause. Basically, if you make a donation then your money's gone no matter what happens. Of course, that's also true if you donate directly to their bank account. This time round IBRA are promising "you will get a percentage of your money back when we are successful, and if the court awards us costs" if you donate over $500.
If you were one of the people who donated to DVIB I think it would be quite reasonable for you to feel pissed off at the outcome. If you still feel inclined to financially support IBRA's judicial review but don't want to see the same outcome again then maybe ask some questions first. I'd suggest the best place to do that is IBRA's Givealittle page where Givealittle's terms and conditions at least create a minimum requirement for transparency, accuracy and completeness of answers.
Note 1. If residents are really determined to "get our wonderful wide Parade back" then a far more likely solution is for all on-street parking to be removed. That will actually create a more wonderful and wider Parade than ever before. It's worth noting that's a solution that is actually in the hands of residents right now and needs no intervention from the council. If getting a "wonderful wide Parade back" is so important, just stop parking on it.
Note 2. If anyone associated with DVIB or IBRA wants to provide information such as minutes of AGMs, up to date copies of annual accounts, names of current committee members etc I'd be happy to publish that in a subsequent blog.
Liz Springford is a resident of Berhampore. This is her submission to Wellington City Council on the Newtown Connections consultation
I believe improvements are very important for people of all ages and abilities walking and biking (and scooting) around and through the Newtown Connections area.
I have lived in Berhampore for 30 years now.
1. I recommend that WCC ask Tonkin & Taylor to develop Package Z – which combines the best of Packages A, B & C, with some new possibilities.
Package Z is based on Package C ROUTES:
BUT the TREATMENTS are these: (NB: cyclepath is level with footpath – despite design tool limits)
3. More detail re “think outside the concrete mixer”
A. Reduce DEMAND for car parking:
B. Increase SUPPLY of car parking:
4. Do we have to go Green?
Sometimes “green” (painted cycleways) is over-rated – use natural colours to welcome into the heart of our Berhampore Village – or quirky bright colours? (But today’s bright quirky colours may date – so maybe leave these for features that are faster to recolour). Caramel coloured cross pavers clearly mark the space for cycling, but enable either walkers or cyclists to flow across if need-be and if clear. Also makes the shopping space more attractive.
I support Berhampore Village and Berhampore Community Association submissions calling for a Berhampore Village Project to give our shopping heart some well overdue love and attention – at the same time as developing safe cycling and walking infrastructure that is consistent with WCC’s Sustainable Transport Hierarchy in the Low Carbon Capital Plan (best updated to “No Carbon Capital Plan”?)
I recommend this 10 minute video: vimeo.com/13499122 for an inspiring vision of how Wellington could grow as a people-friendly city, and meet our challenges of projected population growth, housing crisis and climate changes.
Read more about the feedback received during the most recent phase of the Newtown Connections consultation here: Newtown Connections packages engagement data analysis
The Berhampore shops on Adelaide Road might be the trickiest part to get right in the entire Newtown Connections consultation
Back in April 2015 the Dominion Post ran a story on the boutiques of Berhampore which focused on the 1st anniversary of a handful of new businesses in the area. The various business owners who were interviewed, including my partner, spoke optimistically about being "a collection of people here all trying to do the same thing" and how they hoped for Berhampore to develop a greater sense of identity. Two things specifically mentioned were getting some 'Welcome to Berhampore' signage and a 30 kph speed limit.
Three years later things haven't exactly gone wrong but it's hard to see how they've really progressed either. At least four of the businesses mentioned in the story have now gone out of business or moved on. The Gooseshack, Rinski Korsakov's, Celie's and the tattoo parlour are all gone. The Paperboat has closed and the building is now for lease. The only dairy on that stretch of road has also closed and the building was recently for sale. Natty, Baker Gramercy, Baron Hasselhoff's and Adelaide Trading Co. are still going strong and doing their best to maintain a local, artisanal vibe while older, more established businesses Europe Modes Tailoring, Hair by Ange and the Golden Sun Takeaways keep doing what they do. The BP petrol station sells petrol.
The property on the left was sold in June but the business is now for sale. The property on the right is also for sale.
A 30 kph speed limit was implemented in early 2016, not that it seems to have made much difference. No sign of any signage yet, unless you count the 30 kph one. To be brutally honest, and with the benefit of hindsight, dropping the speed limit and putting up some signs fall woefully short of what Berhampore really needs to carve out its own identity. Even Berhampore's own residents describe it as a "forgotten, in-between suburb" which is seen as "that place you go through to on the way to Island Bay, or just part of Newtown". Berhampore actually has a rich and interesting history and is genuinely one of Wellington's up and coming suburbs but it suffers from one huge issue that is going to take some imagination and determination to overcome: it is an absolute traffic hellhole, especially the narrow stretch where the Adelaide Road shops are.
Adelaide Road is a very busy, very narrow arterial road
Here's the problem. There are 18,000 vehicle movements a day through the 100m long, 10m wide stretch of Adelaide Road between Britomart Street and Luxford Street. For comparison, around 10,000 vehicles per day move through the Island Bay shops (and there's 14m of road width to work with). The problem is that Adelaide Road is a major arterial and the characteristics of the surrounding streets mean that the 100m stretch between Britomart and Luxford is a classic bottle-neck. It has to deal with far more traffic than it was ever intended to and a lot more traffic than the other sections of Adelaide Road immediately to the north and south. There is no way you would ever deliberately set out to design what's happened in Berhampore.
An incredible 18,000 vehicles per day travel through this short stretch of road (data via mobileroad.org)
From the point of view of a business motor vehicle traffic is good, until it is very, very bad. Business owners like cars because they bring customers from far and wide to their business. As long as there is somewhere to park, of course, and there's not much parking near the Berhampore shops (approximately 10 car parks on that stretch, 5 x P10 and 5 x P60). However, there's a tipping point where there's simply too much traffic, the carparks are full and the sheer volume of traffic is ruining the attractiveness of an area, maybe even making it dangerous. Businesses tend not to want to lose motor vehicle traffic and carparks though because it takes a leap of faith to believe that customers arriving by other modes will pick up the slack (despite an increasing body of evidence that they will). Part of the problem might be that businesses don't tend to be open at the times when traffic is at it's worst, when commuters are trying to get to and from work and kids are trying to get to school. As a result businesses may genuinely believe the problem is not as bad as it is. One thing is for certain though, the Berhampore shops just aren't humming at the moment. Despite the optimism shown in 2015 there's too many empty shops and too many businesses failing. Something needs to change.
Notice I haven't even mentioned cycleways yet? OK, here it comes. The current Newtown Connections consultation is great but one of its limitations is that it's largely focused on cycling and "making biking safer and easier for more people". I think the reason for that is the usual boring legal and administrative stuff. Councils have appropriations of money to do certain things. They are legally obliged to spend money on the things they say they will and then report on it. If 'cycling' is one of those things then a consultation on spending that money gets framed as being about cycling, when maybe it could or should be framed as about transport or urban design. Making biking safer and easier for more people is a very worthy aim but it's really just one part of the picture when you are looking at a problem as tricky as the one facing the Berhampore shops. Berhampore doesn't need a discussion about cycling as much as it needs a discussion about transport. And it doesn't need a discussion about transport as much as it needs a discussion about identity. What does Berhampore want to be? Only then can we explore how transport can help it get there.
The good news is there are already some pretty big clues about what Berhampore wants to be. Let's take a look at the last census, for example:
Berhampore has a lower percentage of households that own a car than the rest of Wellington. 22% of households not owning a car is significantly higher than neighbours to the south Island Bay (8%), but lower than neighbours to the north Newtown (26%).
Berhampore has a much lower percentage of people driving to work than the rest of Wellington and a higher percentage catching the bus and cycling. 33% of people driving to work is much lower than neighbours to the south Island Bay (52%) but higher than neighbours to the north Newtown (25%).
And what about the last general election? Berhampore is much more progressive than its neighbour to the south Island Bay and maybe even a little bit more progressive than its neighbour to the north Newtown. A 26% party vote for the Greens is easily one of highest in the country. At the 2014 general election the Green Party actually won the party vote in Berhampore with 35% against Labour's 32% and National's 22%.
These are just three examples but you can see where this is going. Berhampore is already a pretty progressive place that has a strong foothold in non-motor vehicle transport modes. And yet it has 18,000 cars per day going through its shopping centre, largely going to and from other places. For example, in the 2013 census over 2,000 people from Island Bay drove themselves to and from work, accounting for approximately 4,000 of the 18,000 vehicle movements per day in Berhampore. If I lived in Berhampore I'd be pretty concerned about that. I'd also be a big supporter of Island Bay residents getting on the bus or cycling to work. More importantly I'd be thinking "this isn't who we are" and "what can we do as a community to control our own destiny?"
It seems to me that if Berhampore wants to play to it's strengths one of the things it should do is consciously make a decision to embrace other modes of transport and say "we're not going to contribute to this problem". That doesn't have to mean going car-free but it might mean deliberately making some moves towards being significantly less car-dependent. Here's a slightly random list of things Berhampore could consider doing, or ask the council for help to do:
Park-sharing apps like Parkable can help get parking off the street by making more efficient use of parking available on private land
These are just my thoughts and I'm sure there are many other things that could be done, both large and small. Of course, the most immediate thing for residents and businesses to do is participate in the current Newton Connections consultation in an open-minded, optimistic and constructive way. Don't be fooled by the fact that it is notionally a consultation about 'cycling'. Newtown Connections is paving the way for a potential $32m investment into the Southern Suburbs. That's a lot of money and it represents a once in a generation opportunity to fundamentally change the urban design of Newtown and Berhampore for the better.
Regan was born in Newtown and raised in Brooklyn. He lived in Berhampore for a couple of years before moving to Island Bay. He genuinely loves the Southern Suburbs and believes that everywhere north of the Railway Station is "not even in Wellington anymore".