Wellington homes may be demolished for Let's Get Wellington Moving development

9:00 am on 15 December 2020

Wellingtonians will find out next year if they are in line to lose their home, as a result of the multi-billion transport package Let's Get Wellington Moving (LGWM).

Traffic backed up in Wellington after train wagons derailed yesterday.

Traffic backed up in Wellington in July last year when the commuter train services were disrupted. Photo: RNZ / Rob Dixon

An internal report obtained by RNZ shows consultation with the public is being delayed because officials don't want to tell those people before Christmas their home may have to be demolished to make way for the development.

Instead, the programme has opted to tell them in February, when the detailed proposals for mass rapid transit and state highway improvements will be made public.

Since the $6.4 billion investment was unveiled in May last year, the programme has been busy putting together all the different projects to start action.

The only one to be completed so far is the reduction of speed limits to 30km/h on most of the central city's streets.

But bigger, more complicated projects are in the works.

The two main ones being worked on are mass rapid transit from the train station to the airport and State Highway 1 improvements, meaning unblocking the Basin Reserve including building a second Mount Victoria tunnel.

Public engagement on those projects was due to be finished in time for Christmas but the timeframe was scuppered by the delay to the general election, which meant it could only get ministerial approval much later than originally anticipated.

The programme chose to set consultation back further, rather than over Christmas.

Why not consult over Christmas?

The internal report, written by the programme's director Andrew Body and passed onto the board, gave the reasons for why they did not want to do it over Christmas.

The report said they didn't want to do it then because consultations should be done at a time when people will be "receptive and eager to engage".

Furthermore, they were projects that "will impact on people's homes and lives" and the report noted they were worried about how that would look right on Christmas.

"Advising property owners they are likely to lose their homes immediately prior to Christmas could look insensitive.

"It would suggest the programme is prioritising its timeframes over the wellbeing of those most affected."

It also said, "We have an ethical obligation to engage with property owners at times that are appropriate for their situation, and not prioritise the timeframes of the project".

The scale of that impact is unknown, but the report suggests it will mean some property owners are in line to lose their houses.

Currently, Let's Get Wellington Moving's website still says, "at the moment, no properties are required".

But it also said it "will contact potentially affected property owners when they have further developed proposals".

Programme delayed and understaffed

The report also showed the delays are having a knock-on effect for the rest of the programme.

Business cases for mass rapid transit and state highway improvements are set back to July next year.

Meanwhile the business case for the city streets project, which was meant to be done last month, is now scheduled for next April.

That is having an impact on the budgeting for the programme, which is $1.4 million down on what it should be spending.

The programme is also struggling to fill some positions: a quarter of jobs are vacant, as of September.

Another problem has been getting the right staff through the door - roughly a third of staff are consultants or contractors, and over 10 percent are temps.

In an email sent to members of the steering group in August, it was noted "there is a significant reliance on consultant resource within the LGWM Programme, some of it quite siloed."

It added there was a risk "appointment processes takes longer than anticipated, and/or suitable resource is more difficult to find in the current market."

Programme director Andrew Body declined to be interviewed by RNZ.

A review into the programme, tasked with undertaking "an internal stocktake of the LGWM programme, to identify risks and opportunities, to enable future and long-term success of the programme", was commissioned in September.

A spokesperson for the programme said they would not be commenting until those findings of the review are released.

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