Let’s Get Wellington Moving: please, councillors, keep your eyes on the prize

A bunch of WCC councillors are poised to throw not just the proverbial baby, but our whole reproductive system out with the bathwater. Sounds stupid? It is. Yet here we are, so please help keep their eyes on the prize by writing in TODAY!

What’s happening on Thursday? 

Wellington city councillors have to vote whether to support or oppose a motion of no confidence in the whole of Let’s Get Wellington Moving, because a handful of Wellington city councillors have put one up.  [Edit: agenda incl and officers’ report is here – see p 19 of the PDF.]

OK I’ve read enough – what do I do? 

You’re great! Scroll to the typing cat for a <1 minute action.

Why are these councillors doing this? 

There’s widespread frustration at LGWM taking so frickin long to do its analysis and get building.  We 100% agree!  Hard agree!  

But if you look for any actual substance in the no-confidence voters’ positions, you’ll be disappointed. And you’ll be especially disappointed if you look for any alternatives for what they’re wanting to kill.

You nailed it Jackie

Most of the no-confidence folks’ positions on LGWM can be summarised as hot-mess combinations of the following: 

  • persistent, consistent hating and negging with no better ideas; 
  • transport flat-earth’ing (“better” ideas sadly unhinged from reality, like “Let’s just do EVs!”)
  • forgetting that core things (like the “dual spine” for public transport through the centre) have been painstakingly, carefully resolved already, and thinking they’ll sound smart if they propose relitigating
  • reflexive negging on “a thing that smells a bit progressive and I’m supposed not to like that stuff, haven’t really looked into it”, with no better ideas

We won’t dwell any more on these ones. 

Around the no-confidence movement, the only noises with a smidgen of merit are about looking after the East constituency: a frustration that people there aren’t getting immediate bus priority (or more mass transit going out there).  These are reasonable points but there are actual constructive, sensible things to do about them (more on that below).

And the one thing that’s guaranteed to get nothing for the East – or anywhere else in the city – is voting no confidence in LGWM right now.   But here we are.   

What’s at stake? 

At stake: the entire Let’s Get Wellington Moving programme with its remarkable 60% funding from the rest of New Zealand.  

No exaggeration. 

Here’s how.

Three chunky projects of the LGWM Early Delivery suite –  Thorndon Quay, the Hutt Road, and the Golden Mile – are finally where we’ve wanted to get to for years: in the sweet spot, shipshape and sharply dressed, right at the front of the national queue for 60% funding from the National Land Transport Fund. That 60% is from the whole of New Zealand, Kaitaia to Rakiura, leaving only 40% of these projects needing to be paid by Wellingtonians and Wellington regionites.

All it takes to get this sweet sweet subsidy is the local partners doing their bit.

Approvals by the two local partners – WCC and GWRC – must come first in June and July for their combined 40%. Then, and only then, can the third partner – Waka Kotahi – give it the green light with the remaining 60%. They do this in their versions of the local partners’ funding decisions, scheduled in July and August if the local partners send the projects through their own funding stage-gates.

Buzzing, thriving Adelaide Road in 15-20 years’ time, i.e. what we’ll definitely never get if there’s a successful no confidence vote on Thursday

Wellington has to do our bit in the partnership.

NLTF money is especially tight this year, thanks to weather bombs, cyclones and rising construction costs. And while right now, LGWM’s Early Delivery projects are at the front of the queue for the shrinking pot of NLTF money, other regions’ projects are snapping at our heels. 

If WCC mess around, and do anything other than approving their contribution as partners in June and July, the Early Delivery projects will miss those crucial Waka Kotahi funding stage-gates in July and August. 

This chunk of funding from Waka Kotahi for these Early Delivery projects is as close to guaranteed as you can get.

Our sources tell us there’s strong momentum inside Waka Kotahi. All the exhaustive (and exhausting) analysis has been about building up this support in the face of Waka Kotahi’s traditional preference – MOAR ROADZZZ. So it’s a huge amount of progress to have made.

Staying the course now also sets us up as well as possible, for consideration of the big bucks stuff – including a 2nd Mt Vic tunnel that’s so important to all the “what about the East” folks.  

The realpolitik of 2023-2024 and funding transport: right now, it’s all Wellington’s to lose

So in June 2023 it’s really shooting the city in the foot to be positing a “no confidence in LGWM” vote. 

If either local partner starts looking flaky about its support for three chunky projects that are: 

(a) fundamentally good improvements for the city in their own right (even without counting their mass transit-enabling),

(b) prerequisites for mass transit because they get big elements of the city’s transport-network house in order, and 

(c) right at the front of the queue for NLTF,

Wellington will catapult itself out of that queue and right into the grim netherworld inscribed on the maps as “Yeah, But Nah”, “Not There Yet” and “Not Sure There’s Political Will”, and thronged with the sad, impotent shades of thousands of other projects.

And for a project seeking some meaningful chunks of NLTF cash, jumping into the Yeah But Nah netherworld is guaranteed to see Wellington’s projects get the chop. Even pre election, PM Hipkins has shown he’s poised to slash anything that’s looking like it’ll be a fiscal or political drag on his leadership, including some incredibly important and worthwhile initiatives.  

And if we knock ourselves out of this NLTF round, there’ll not be another until well after the election. 

And post election, even if a Labour-Green government wins, the prospects for Wellington are just as bad. NLTF money’s going to be even tighter in the new year, and Hipkins’ chopper will keep coming for projects that’ve put themselves in the land of “Yeah But Nah”. And the Nats in government will prioritise highway-building – they’ve been quite clear about that.

So right now, in June 2023, even a spot of local-councillor political theatre –  posturing to look good for your noisiest constituents, and then grudgingly conceding in a few weeks’ time to come back to the LGWM table –  risks quite literally everything we’ve all been hanging out for and working on for 7 years. (Seriously.) 

LGWM and the East: bring forward the goodness, don’t scupper the whole ship  

All hail the East! Bus priority  – full-noise, gloriously uninterrupted bus priority with bigger, more frequent busses – is the big thing the East deserves. Yes!  We wholeheartedly agree with the more reasonable noises amongst councillors on that.

And if you only look at the Early Delivery projects that are making improvements out to the East (part of the phase 1 City Streets package), it’s true: they aren’t “doing lots for busses to the East”. Instead of immediately doing full-noise, whole-route, continuous bus priority, they’re getting the house in order. In the Early Delivery Phase 1 stuff, there’s currently nothing that transforms your Eastwards bus-riding experience. That’s annoying!

And it’s specifically because full-noise, transformational bus priority to the East needs the duplication of Mt Vic Tunnel. That second Mt Vic Tunnel is a very expensive bit of kit that GWRC and WCC couldn’t possibly afford alone (anyone who pretends we can is in fantasyland). So we must stay in the LGWM partnership to have a chance of getting that tunnel, as it’s next in the pipeline of design and consideration by councils and WK after the Early Delivery projects. 

But the Mt Vic tunnel and superpowered bussing could come earlier!  

Yes, it really could, and here’s how it would work: LGWM analysts do some extra work to rejig the scopes and sequencing of the next bits in the funding and design pipeline. This lets all the partners consider and decide on bringing forward the 2nd Mt Vic Tunnel, as part of a superpowered bus priority project that happens independently of mass transit consideration. 

That desktop work is not a huge deal: as there’s so much analysis already available, a single-stage business case would do it. And there’s reasonable odds – even post election – that this would get the tick. Not only does bus priority have a a long pedigree of analysis, but also it’s politically palatable right across the political spectrum. For even mass-transit-hating politicians, bussing is seen as kinda basic – the “Toyota” option, or “bread-and-butter” if you will.  

But we must stay in the partnership

In the time it takes this GIF to loop, you could have that email done!

OK what can I do? 

Please send an email right now (or by first thing Thursday morning 29th June) to all the councillors – you can do all in one go!



Subject line:

Please maintain support for LGWM

Body text: your riff on:

Keep your eyes on our prize – stay the course with LGWM

And please get your mates to do the same!

Greater Wellington bonus points! For extra goodness, write to Greater Wellington Regional Councillors with the same gist as above. They too are parties to the LGWM Funding Partnership and while (to our knowledge!) there’s no imminent no-confidence vote this week, the GW councillors of the wider region have some pretty bizarre attitudes to LGWM and its benefits.
We’ll have more on this on the blog soon – and we’d love to hear from anyone who can help us with intelligence on that!

[Update: people writing in are receiving a response from Cllr Diane Calvert. Your editor received one such, and decided late at night to write back.]

Image credits

  • Banner image: Lambton Quay visualisation, LGWM
  • GIFs: Giphy
  • Adelaide Road: LGWM
  • Chris Hipkins: Mark Mitchell (annotation by Talk Wellington)
  • Sunrise over Motu Kairangi – Mike Riversdale

15 comments on “Let’s Get Wellington Moving: please, councillors, keep your eyes on the prize”

  • Beau Butler says:

    Should include email address councillors@gw.govt.nz to get to GW too, on this page!

  • Michael says:

    Done! Great initiative. Already replies from Crs Nash and Duthie pledging their support; and a lengthy justification from Cr Calvert hitting all the expected notes.

    • Kōrero Wellington says:

      Editor Isabella here.
      Thanks for writing in!

      On the response from Cllr Calvert, I received one and it seems like it’s a copy/paste email she’s sending to everyone writing in with this spirit. I’ve put an update in at the bottom of the post to that effect – would be interested to know if your response sounds similar!

      • Michael says:

        Yep – my reply was substantively the same. Loved – LOVED your response!

        And it seems these things have had the desired effect. Excellent news out of chambers this afternoon!

  • Julienz says:

    A simple compromise is for LGWM to come up with an affordable scaled back plan for the Golden Mile. Why not trial “buses only” in a single lane each way with the relocated “bigger” bus stops, a cycleway and no cars. They could use a signs, paint and cones. If people saw it working, which is by no means a certainty, then spending a heap of ratepayer and taxpayer money might be justified.

    I can see why a lot of councillors are baulking at Wellington City residents and businesses are being asked to put up $68 million for beautification to hopefully shave 2 minutes off a a 2.5km bus trip from Wellington Station to the Embassy Theatre.

    • Isabella says:

      Isabella here. Thanks for taking the time to write a comment but if you’re describing the programme and the Early Delivery works in these terms, it’s a bit obvious that you haven’t really read the article you’re commenting on, let alone grasped the essential information about the projects and programme.

      There are links in the article, and obviously on the LGWM site, and plenty of good coverage of the core facts in the DomPost/Georgina Campbell in the Herald.

      It’d be great to hear from you again when we’re all working from the facts!

      • Julienz says:

        The facts are WCC has to pay 49% for the Golden Mile and Thorndon Ngauranga works because GWRC is not, and never was, going to contribute to improvements that are within WCC boundaries. The 60:20:20 split applies to planning not execution. I absolutely get that Waka Kotahi funding is at risk if WCC pulls out of LGWM. In my view wasting money is wasting money no matter whose bucket it comes from and WCC needs to reign in LGWM to match what we can realistically afford. If the government and WCC between them have $140 million sitting around in the bank, which they don’t – they have will have to borrow – is tarting up the Golden Mile the best spend?

        • Isabella says:

          Back in the bad old days prior to the health check, LGWM considered itself only a transport project

          this is a fundamentally stupid way to consider it and I worry you’re falling into the same trap!

          early days LGWM was only allowed(?) to consider how ppl move through the city (transport only) not *all the other aspects* that make cities worth being in – like the streets that are nice to be on.

          Post health check LGWM has acknowledged it is a city-building project. So can (must!) consider both “movement” and “place” on streets (and consider how transport lets more people live and do stuff in the city – the growth/going up).

          You’re quite right that when it comes to making movement better, tactical installations that are fast, light, cheap to install & can be adjusted is a brilliant way to do things. We’ve written lots about that on this blog. But what these installations *don’t* do is anything for the pleasantness of the street as a place.

          (in the short term they can even make the street look a bit worse cause there are now lots of flexible posts bolted onto the road, or whatever).

          What is absolutely crucial when you are changing a street like the Golden Mile, which needs to be an awesome destination, is making sure it becomes a nicer place to be. To spend time with the street. So people don’t just come to (eg) do shopping by surgical strike and leave again ASAP.
          instead,the street as a *place* is such that people want to give themselves the opportunity to just be there, to have their ear caught by a snatch of music, or smell a delicious smell …to walk a little further to look at an interesting sandwich board or sit on a nice seat… to have their eye caught by a beautiful window display…

          A street that’s a nice place to spend time on is a street where commerce can thrive, and where people can experience the everyday magic of a city – other people. People like being around other people, it’s what makes places feel “alive” or not.

          Business owners of the Golden Mile are right not to trust LGWM to be thinking holistically about streets. Because at the beginning it didn’t. And it’s done a pretty terrible job of engaging with them and helping them understand how the streets are working now and how it should work in future. But for any of us to dismiss
          placemaking and amenity investments in the Golden Mile as “beautification” and something that’s fine to cut without any impact is badly wrong.

          Instead, we should be pressuring LGWM partners to invest better in the Golden Mile, especially during construction so that the disruptive, nasty bits of changing the street are done as fast as humanly possible and the street is activated well during construction. So it’s an interesting, appealing place to be even before it’s all finished and polished.

          And finally, fact check: the partners’ contributions differ between projects in the programme and even between the design / plan / construction phases of a single project.
          In the *overall* scheme, the 60:20:20 ratio is true and pulling out of the program risks that entire 60% contribution. Hence using that in the article 🙂

  • Merinda says:

    Nice one Isabella! Glad I caught this post. Here’s my email to them:


    Please stay the course with LGWM. I support this project and the essence of what it’s trying to achieve — to make it easier for people to get around without cars, and to make our beautiful city more liveable.

    Have you ever noticed that all the most liveable cities in the world — Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Melbourne — have a lot in common? I’ll give you a hint — it’s not a love of roads. It’s world-class public transport, public spaces you want to linger in, and active transport infrastructure so accessible that both your toddler and your nana can use it. Go spend a week biking in Amsterdam then come back and tell me you prefer motorways and car parking better. I dare you.

    The things LGWM is trying to do are the things that make people love living in and visiting a city. Happy residents being productive, happy visitors spending money. This is what you all want… right?

    Supporting LGWM doesn’t mean it’s perfect. No project of this scale can be without flaws (just like the humans trying to run it. Funny that). The bones are good and the flaws can be worked through. Keep going.

    • Isabella says:

      Isabella here. Great stuff! Nice turn if phrase there, much better than mine

    • Clare says:

      I’m in NYC right now and without the subway/PT this place would not have expanded to the city it is today! This is WCC’s moment to have the forethought that brought the subway into existence. Outside of the subway, it’s absolutely dominated by cars and roads for the cars – DC is worse, no one needs a six lane road through the middle of the city!

  • Libby Grant says:

    Thanks for alerting us to this silliness. I have emailed WCC councillors and shared with others. This is my email to them:

    Mōrena councillors,

    Please continue to support LGWM. I totally support this initiative despite the delays and frustrations that have occurred. There is no better alternative, and we are making real progress; it is not time to get the speed wobbles but to step up and see through the plans to make Wellington a much better place for people and our environment.

    The famous Columbian urbanist Gil Penalosa (whom WCC supported to speak in Wellington several years ago) said every city should have a law: “people first” and this is what LGMW is going to deliver. “People first” means a city where it is easy and pleasant to get around for everyone from my grandchildren to my old mum. We all have favourite cities in the world and those cities are not clogged with cars and transport-related pollution; they are places where we can walk or stroll along pleasant streets with beautiful vistas, spend time lingering in attractive piazza having a coffee at a table and watch the world go by, where we can hop on a tram or bus and be whisked to where we want to go next. In other words, a place where people not cars are prioritised, where we have excellent active transport infrastructure, and excellent affordable public transport. A place like this is a delight to live in and an attraction for visitors who also want to linger and are happy to contribute to the economy and the vibrancy of our beautiful city.

    Gil Penalosa also said that a city needed good leadership and he defined this as leaders who have vision and guts. We voted you into your positions to provide that leadership; please show your mettle and have the guts to see through the vision of LGWM and support it to bring the people of Wellington what we want a need – a liveable city.

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