30 Jun 2023

Wellington's Let's Get Moving transport plan back on track after failed bid

8:18 am on 30 June 2023
An illustration shows plans for light rail outside Wellington's central city train station.

An illustration shows plans for light rail outside Wellington's central city train station as proposed by Let's Get Wellington Moving. Photo: Supplied / LGWM

A multibillion-dollar transport plan for the capital is back on track after an eleventh hour bid failed to stop it.

City councillors voted nine to seven in favour of keeping the ambitious but barely started Let's Get Wellington Moving. It includes a second Mt Victoria Tunnel, lightrail running to Island Bay and banning cars from the Golden Mile, the inner-city stretch of road from Lambton Quay to Courtney Place.

It is not only councillors who have strong opinions about the project - on Lambton Quay, Wellingtonians had mixed reactions.

"You have to park how many miles away to get to where you're going? Not interested," one woman said.

"It's terrible because people are going to lose their jobs ... and we're going to pay as ratepayers. We're all pissed off," another added.

Others were keen to see the changes.

"I'm definitely for it, there's a lot of examples of it overseas and they're really cool spaces to be," one man said.

"It's a bit inconvenient to people who need to park closer to shops if they've got accessibility issues, but I mean, it wouldn't be a terrible thing because there's quite a few near misses you see around here," a woman said.

Councillor Diane Calvert, who led the failed move to withdraw from the plan, said she was disappointed but not surprised. She said the close vote sent a strong message to the project's partners which included the city and regional councils, and Waka Kotahi.

"In the past it's [been] like talk to the hand because the face is not listening, so I'm hoping that they will start listening. Seven out of 16 votes is a significant amount of people, I also know there are councillors in Greater Wellington Regional Council who hold similar concerns."

Those concerns included the cost, which is estimated to top $7 billion.

Barry Wilson from SOS Courtney Place told councillors he represented 80 businesses, all of which would be financially worse-off under the changes.

"They're all against this because it doesn't make economic sense," he said.

"I know a lot of you dislike cars intensely and they brass me off too, we're going to go micro, electric, it's on the way, the solutions are in your hands but you want to ram-raid the town this way? It's a very, very, vulgar and crass intervention."

Mayor Tory Whanau said she would listen to their feedback more closely.

"I promised a transformational programme when I was campaigning to be mayor, and that it was going to be hard, and that change is scary," she said.

"The resistance to it again isn't a surprise but I do promise to take people, like businesses, on board as we move forward."

To ensure the city had a voice, she would be lobbying to join the Let's Get Wellington Moving board.

A 2020 impact assessment of the Golden Mile project said retailers would see a net benefit.

It found shop-owners would lose customers during the disruptive construction phase, but once that was finished there would be more pedestrians and shoppers would spend more.

The report gave Auckland's Queen Street re-vamp as an example - while cars are not banned, the design reduced the flow of general traffic. There are now twice as many pedestrians, a 50 percent increase in retail spending and a 41 percent rise in the number of café seats.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs