19 Apr 2024

Government sent please explain letter to Wellington City Council over transport disagreement

1:07 pm on 19 April 2024
RMA Reform Minister Chris Bishop and Transport Minister Simeon Brown announce extensions for ports' permits at a press conference in Auckland's Parnell.

Simeon Brown and Chris Bishop. Photo: RNZ/Marika Khabazi

Documents have revealed a please explain letter sent by the ministers of transport and infrastructure to Wellington's mayor about the city council's handling of the Golden Mile redevelopment consultation.

The $139 million Golden Mile redevelopment was part of the now disestablished Let's Get Wellington Moving transport programme. It would have seen private cars removed between Lambton Quay and Courtenay Place, and provided cycling, walking and bus improvements.

In a joint statement issued on 17 December by the government, Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council, it was announced the development would be brought under the city council's control. They also agreed to "increase engagement and consultation" with local businesses.

Three days later, Wellington City Council sent a letter via solicitors Buddle Findlay to the Guardians of the Golden Mile - a lobby group made up of local businesses trying to stop the project.

The contents of the letter were revealed in correspondence from Transport Minister Simeon Brown and Infrastructure Minister Chris Bishop to Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau, released to RNZ under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

The letters said the council does not intend to revisit decisions it had made concerning the Golden Mile. It also said the council did not believe it was required to consult further with businesses before any further steps were taken on the project.

Tory Whanau

Tory Whanau. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The documents showed in January, Brown and Bishop wrote to Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau. The joint letter said they were "surprised" to read the Buddle Findlay letter and were seeking understanding on how it could be reconciled with the three parties' joint statement.

"Critically, you agreed to increase engagement and consultation with local businesses and residents as part of bringing the project in-house."

Whanau responded to their letter in February, and said their commitments still stood - but they did not agree with claims that further formal consultation was required.

She said this did not mean the council would not engage further with businesses, and that prior to construction the council would be implementing a more proactive and responsive engagement approach.

In a statement to RNZ, Brown said Whanau's response addressed their concerns - but agencies would be "keeping a close eye" on the project and its ongoing development.

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