30 Mar 2018

Wellington could lead sustainable transport - Climate Minister

1:39 pm on 30 March 2018

Climate Minister James Shaw believes Wellington has the ability to lead the way for sustainable public transport in New Zealand.

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Climate Minister James Shaw Photo: RNZ

Speaking at a conference held by Forest & Bird last night, Mr Shaw said the geographic challenges Wellington faced meant it would need to move in that direction anyway.

"It's a very small strip of land surrounded by pretty rough terrain in terms of hills and mountains and an ocean. You can't just have a sprawl-based urban design and transport system in Wellington.

"There are a lot of people here who want it and have wanted it for a very long time, so you're kind of pushing against an open door," he said.

However, public feedback on the future of Wellington's transport system showed there was a divide between prioritising roads or public transport.

Initial feedback on the Let's Get Wellington Moving initiative indicated Wellingtonians wanted better public transport, while those commuting to the city would rather have easier road access to the airport and hospital.

Greater Wellington Region Council environment spokesperson Sue Kedgley said it would be better for everyone to invest in public transport.

"If you had the rail network linking up at the railway station with a modern light rail system, which took you all the way to the airport, you could do your journey effortlessly and more quickly if you did it by public transport," she said.

She said central government needed to change its funding model to make this happen as the current one penalised public transport.

"The government funds state highways by 100 percent so local government doesn't have to pay anything at all, but when it comes to public transport - light rail for example - they only fund 50 percent of it.

"So, the local council will have to find all this money, because light rail isn't cheap, although it is cheap when you compare it to three-billion-dollar motorways."

She was concerned the current $3bn investment into Transmission Gully would only increase congestion in the city.

"Once Transmission Gully is completed we're going to see thousands more cars coming into Wellington and nobody has been able to explain to me where these cars will go.

"We're going to end up like Auckland with a city frozen with congestion, unless we fund alternative modern mass transport," she said.

Mr Shaw said an announcement on transport funding by the government would be made in the following weeks.