The Regional Council is particularly concerned with public transport which has been explained as, "the main thing is the main thing: transporting the public". GWRC has made great strides in the area of rail transport for Wellingtonians throughout the Region but there are issues yet to be resolved, particularly in the proposals for buses, and these I would expect to come to the fore:
There is concern about the operation of the buses: the proposed routes, the required interchanges, and the ticket prices – with the claim made by some that bus travel is less subsidised than rail travel.
As non-Councillor and therefore not as close to all information, I accept that these matters may in hand but if that is so, then ‘upping’ the dialogue with those who use buses is presumably required.
It is important those people who use the buses (my understanding is about 12,000 commuters per day - 24M per year) from the suburban areas are heard. If their requests are not able to be met, then explanations must be given.
My aim is that the standard of public transport, in its accessibility, reliability, units, and price, is such that it would be the first choice of daily commuters – the ‘there and back’ people, as in many great cities of the world. I would not agree though to imposing unnecessary restrictions on the use of the private vehicle for there are times in all our lives when that is the most appropriate form of transport – having to go to several places in one outing; taking children or the elderly to the doctor; collecting large parcels; etc.
However, a related issue to ensuring the ‘attractiveness’ of public transport is providing adequate and conveniently placed ‘park and ride’ facilities and this must be given greater consideration in some suburban ares.
The (VUW) students have requested all GW Council candidates sign a pledge for a 50% tertiary discount on public transport (on-peak and off-peak) in the Wellington Region.
A number of Council candidates have signed the pledge. Understandably, the students in writing to me assumed I would do likewise, my being a former Chancellor – I met with the student leaders and said no even though I admired commitment to their cause.
As I explained to them, those in governance before signing off on something should be aware of both the financial implications (what effect on Council’s expenditure, on rates, etc) and wider implications (possibly solo parents on a limited income might be equally deserving).
My concern here is doubly so: one sitting Council admitted (DomPost 18 May 2016) giving students a discount would create a budget shortfall of about $5m and which he would be arguing with my colleagues for a rates rise. The $5m was confirmed by the Chair of the GWRC Transport Committee (who indicated against it) yet another Councillor (DomPost 27 May 2016) seemed to say it was $1.5m – that sort of confusion within Councillors makes it confusing for voters and not easy for candidates!
While nobody wants to see a cyclist injured and every initiative that will prevent accidents must be considered. The cycling issue is why one can’t focus on one mode of transport without considering the other modes in the same model – any model must address the impact on pedestrians, public transport and motorists as well as the cyclists.
This is particularly so in Wellington where we have a challenging topography. Further, a number of cyclist here don’t just ‘commute’ (riding peacefully in business dress as in many European cities) but rather combine it with recreation – lycra suits and often at high speeds. So while the City Council controls the placement of city cycle ways, wherever the Regional Council has authority, I would say separate cyclists and pedestrians, not least for the sake of small (and impetuous) children and the elderly.
As a Regional Councillor where that Council has authority, in parks and riverside areas, I would wish to see good walking tracks and if mountain biking and walking, both rightly popular activities, can’t be separated then the tracks must be sufficiently wide to prevent accidents.
Incidentally, once in a CBD area, let’s walk! – the distances from one part to another are never that great and throughout the Wellington CBD we have wide footpaths.
When I became a WCC Councillor in 2004 it is worth recalling that a major complaint was the state of Manners Mall and many will recall the only comfortable place to walk was down the centre!
Light Rail is not on my agenda – why has it suddenly reappeared? There are other urgent priorities, particularly bus operations, which should be to the fore and ensuring safe integration wherever of the various modes. Further, Light Rail is horrifically costly, even the Mayor in 2012 decided that was so, and it lacks the flexibility that buses give – I don’t believe the GWRC should be deflected by it at this time.
Also though, there is confusion: Those supporting say the cost is around $600m ($600m equals the budget overrun of Sydney’s $2.2b project!) and there are also conflicting reports in the route, with one current Councillor saying (DomPost 22 August 2016) we’re are not keen on being totally prescriptive on the route.
With an issue of this magnitude, the costs and the route must surely be disclosed at the beginning of the debate? - we expect such information from NZTA, the Airport, etc for major projects. However, we have had sufficient reports and before I agree to further consultants (with more fees on rates), I would want other, more immediate issues, such as buses, resolved.
Wellington Water manages water treatment and supply and stormwater and wastewater service delivery in the Wellington region. An important part of its work is promoting water conservation and sustainability. ‘Wellington Water’ is owned by the Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Wellington city councils and Greater Wellington Regional Council. The councils are all equal shareholders. Its role is to manage the drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services of the council owners. A representative from each authority sits on the Wellington Water Committee which provides overall leadership and direction for the company. The company is governed by a board of independent directors and has around 175 full time employees.
I commend the above model as not only does the company have a governing body of independent directors but the local authorities are also involved: residents and ratepayers represented through the Wellington Water Committee, as they should be, yet the company also has the benefit of external directors, being people chosen for their expertise.
However, Councillors on any of the five ownership bodies should also be well versed, probably through Wellington Water Committee, on the work of ‘Wellington Water’. Why?
Representative responsibility: Residents and ratepayers, rightly, would expect their Council representatives to be well aware of the strategy of ‘Wellington Water’ and the implementation of that strategy
High risk: Most Councils, if not all, would give as their number one risk ‘water supply’, thus the governing body of ‘Wellington Water’ would be well aware of this risk and the mitigations in place against this risk – and Councillors should at the least be aware that there are mitigations in place and an understanding of what they are.
Costs: Water infrastructure and delivery will always be a major cost item. Again, while there is a company with a governing board plus a committee of representatives of local authorities, nonetheless Councillors would wish to be assured that that funding is properly managed and spent wisely.
Hawkes Bay: The recent issues of the contaminated water supply in Havelock North has to be a wake-up call for all Councils. An identical situation may never arise again but at the level of Councillor, probably via the Committee, there should be an assurance given so all representatives, i.e Councillors, of residents and ratepayers are satisfied that processes are sufficiently robust. Councillors are not there to manage but they are certainly should know what is taking place and be able to raise questions or concerns accordingly – residents and ratepayers expect that.
Conservation and sustainability: Understandably, people wish waterways to be clear and clean and it is pleasing to know that dairy farmers are responding here, and not just responding but in the majority of cases, supportive of taking appropriate measures. This will be a costly exercise for many farmers, such costliness aggravated by low dairy prices, but I would still wish to know that the direction is positive and that in due course expectations will be met.
The other issue is droughts. Nobody wishes to see stock suffer during a period of a drought and so obviously access to water for farms is vital. Again though, the management of water supply, thus irrigation, could be an issue if its positive benefits create adverse effects. Again, the Regional Council must well involved.
There are concerns from residents about the Hutt River and it is here the Regional Council with its interest in water quality and conservation must take an interest. It is in these and similar matters that Councillors, probably through the Wellington Water Committee and / or ‘Wellington Water’s governing body, can receive appropriate assurances – and Councillors should want those assurances.