Now With Speaker Details: Public Meeting: For A More Liveable Wellington, Monday 28 August

Our speakers are:

Roger Blakeley: Introduction – Let’s Get Welly Moving’s principles and objectives
 
Paula Warren: The sustainable transport hierarchy and why LGWM’s outcomes should reflect it
 
Barry Mein (LGWM): LGWM’s progress towards meeting its objectives
 
Russell Tregonning: Transport, climate change and public health: transport choices are health choices

 

When: Monday 28 August, doors open 5.30pm, 6pm sharp start, 7.30pm close

Where: Wellington Central Library, Mezzanine Floor Meeting Room

All welcome to hear how sustainable transport design for Wellington benefits everyone—walkers, cyclists, public transport users, and drivers—reducing traffic volumes, lowering carbon emissions, and making a healthier city.

Doors open 5.30 for 6pm sharp start. We’ll hear from our speakers, then have a panel discussion, with time for one-on-one discussions afterwards.

Facebook event.
Advertisements

Public Meeting: For A More Liveable City, Monday 28 August

 

When: Monday 28 August, doors open 5.30pm, 6pm sharp start, 7.30pm close

Where: Wellington Central Library, Mezzanine Floor Meeting Room

All welcome to hear how sustainable transport design for Wellington benefits everyone—walkers, cyclists, public transport users, and drivers—reducing traffic volumes, lowering carbon emissions, and making a healthier city.

Doors open 5.30 for 6pm sharp start. Speakers will be confirmed shortly.

Facebook event.

Forum to canvass Wellington Transport and Energy issues Thursday 27th July 5.30pm to 7pm

A forum to canvass Wellington Transport and Energy issues
Thursday 27th July 5.30pm to 7pm 
Venue: Sustainability Trust, 2 Forresters Lane, Te Aro, Wellington

This forum will follow Sustainable Energy Forum’s AGM, and will be chaired by Steve Goldthorpe focussing and expanding on issues raised in the current EnergyWatch issue 79.

The following people will speak for 5 to 10 minutes on their topic.
Time will then be allowed for further discussion.

Tim Jones: Transport scenarios for Wellington
Ellen Blake: Walkability is the most energy efficiency transport
Steve Goldthorpe:  Why EVs are a distraction
Isabella Cawthorn: Mobilising for mobility: lessons for Wellington from Auckland’s public transit campaigns
Paul Bruce: Why trains and trolleys are a good investment!
Sea Rotmann: Airport runway extension – a highly suspect project!
Frank Pool: Key sustainable energy issues for NZ

Other topics covered in EW 79 and open for debate
Crony Electricity market unfit for purpose
Energy efficiency levels in the building code
Wood burner potential for mitigation greenhouse gases
Fuel economy incentives
Stop looking for oil

Further information:

Sore Losers: Nick Smith and the Government Water Down the Environmental Legal Assistance Fund

The rules of the Ministry for the Environment’s Environmental Legal Assistance Fund, which groups including Save the Basin have used to help fund legal challenges to infrastructure projects, have now been changed so that such applications can be arbitrarily declined, by:

The inclusion of a new criterion to consider whether providing ELA funding to the applicant for its involvement in the legal proceedings, will contribute to impeding or delaying the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being in relation to important needs, including employment, housing and infrastructure.

 

I was rung by a Stuff journalist about this and responded on behalf of Save the Basin:

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/94323541/quiet-change-to-public-fund-for-environmental-legal-challenges

A subsequent exchange in Question Time (see below) makes it very clear that Nick Smith had the Government’s Basin Reserve flyover defeat in mind when he made this move.

Nick Smith and the Government appear to think that fits of pique make good public policy. We beg to differ.

Question Time

9. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: By how much has annual funding for the Environmental Legal Assistance Fund been cut since 2013/14?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): The budget this year is $600,000 per year, as it was last year and the year before. For the 4 years prior to that the budget was $800,000 per year but was repeatedly underspent. The spend in 2013-14 was $555,000, and the average actual spend was $520,000. As much as I like the Minister of Finance, I do not like under-spending my vote so I reduced the budget in 2015-16 and transferred it to increased support for collaborative processes. This is also consistent with our blue-green philosophy of supporting people to find solutions rather than spending it on legal aid to fight disputes.

Eugenie Sage: Can he confirm that he created a new criterion for the fund recently so that community groups wanting to challenge council decisions in the courts are likely to be denied funding if their case might “impede or delay” a development project?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, I have changed the criteria. A new consideration is the issue of housing and infrastructure. The Government makes no apologies for making it harder for groups to get Government money to stop houses and infrastructure from being built. It does not prevent funding being provided in those sorts of cases, but it requires the panel to give consideration to the broader public interest. It simply does not make sense for the Government to be using public money to stop transport projects being built and stop houses being built with legal aid funding.

Eugenie Sage: Does he believe that Forest & Bird would have received funding to mount a legal challenge to Bathurst Resources’ proposed coalmine on the Denniston plateau if this new criterion had been in place?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There is an independent panel that makes the decisions on the issue of the legal aid. What I have added to the criteria is that, alongside the environmental things, issues like infrastructure, jobs, and housing have to be a consideration. But it still will be an independent consideration for the panel.

Eugenie Sage: Can he confirm that last year he gave himself the power to decide which cases and which community groups would get environmental legal aid, stripping this power away from the Ministry for the Environment’s chief executive?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Each year Ministers make a decision about the level of delegations. In this particular case, I decided not to delegate to the Ministry for the Environment, albeit I note that I followed the panel’s advice in every case. In the event that I do not follow the panel’s advice it will be a matter of open public record.

Eugenie Sage: Why will he not just own the fact that his Government is trying to stop legal challenges that might impede environmentally destructive development, like the coalmine on the Denniston plateau, the Ruataniwha Dam, and the Basin Reserve flyover?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I know of many Wellingtonians who would be concerned that the Government was spending money on stopping roading through to the airport being constructed with legal aid funds. So the Government has deliberately put into the environmental legal aid criteria that the panel needs to consider issues like infrastructure and housing. To quote the Minister for Infrastructure: “We are the infrastructure Government.”, and we want to see New Zealanders being able to get around and have a roof over their heads.9. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: By how much has annual funding for the Environmental Legal Assistance Fund been cut since 2013/14?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): The budget this year is $600,000 per year, as it was last year and the year before. For the 4 years prior to that the budget was $800,000 per year but was repeatedly underspent. The spend in 2013-14 was $555,000, and the average actual spend was $520,000. As much as I like the Minister of Finance, I do not like under-spending my vote so I reduced the budget in 2015-16 and transferred it to increased support for collaborative processes. This is also consistent with our blue-green philosophy of supporting people to find solutions rather than spending it on legal aid to fight disputes.

Eugenie Sage: Can he confirm that he created a new criterion for the fund recently so that community groups wanting to challenge council decisions in the courts are likely to be denied funding if their case might “impede or delay” a development project?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, I have changed the criteria. A new consideration is the issue of housing and infrastructure. The Government makes no apologies for making it harder for groups to get Government money to stop houses and infrastructure from being built. It does not prevent funding being provided in those sorts of cases, but it requires the panel to give consideration to the broader public interest. It simply does not make sense for the Government to be using public money to stop transport projects being built and stop houses being built with legal aid funding.

Eugenie Sage: Does he believe that Forest & Bird would have received funding to mount a legal challenge to Bathurst Resources’ proposed coalmine on the Denniston plateau if this new criterion had been in place?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There is an independent panel that makes the decisions on the issue of the legal aid. What I have added to the criteria is that, alongside the environmental things, issues like infrastructure, jobs, and housing have to be a consideration. But it still will be an independent consideration for the panel.

Eugenie Sage: Can he confirm that last year he gave himself the power to decide which cases and which community groups would get environmental legal aid, stripping this power away from the Ministry for the Environment’s chief executive?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Each year Ministers make a decision about the level of delegations. In this particular case, I decided not to delegate to the Ministry for the Environment, albeit I note that I followed the panel’s advice in every case. In the event that I do not follow the panel’s advice it will be a matter of open public record.

Eugenie Sage: Why will he not just own the fact that his Government is trying to stop legal challenges that might impede environmentally destructive development, like the coalmine on the Denniston plateau, the Ruataniwha Dam, and the Basin Reserve flyover?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I know of many Wellingtonians who would be concerned that the Government was spending money on stopping roading through to the airport being constructed with legal aid funds. So the Government has deliberately put into the environmental legal aid criteria that the panel needs to consider issues like infrastructure and housing. To quote the Minister for Infrastructure: “We are the infrastructure Government.”, and we want to see New Zealanders being able to get around and have a roof over their heads.

Back to the Dirty, Smelly Past for Wellington’s Buses?

by Paul Bruce

Congestion Free Wellington held its first public meeting on 25th May with strong support for its Declaration. The meeting also showed strong support for the extension of our 100% clean and zero emission trolley buses on the east/west route at least until 2015, or when light rail should be commissioned.

The Sustainable Transport Committee on 21st March heard a request that a Business Case be carried out for Wellington’s trolley bus network, as the Council had at no time during the process, done this. The petition was supported by the Civic Trust, Sustainable Energy Forum, Living Streets Aotearoa, FIT, Save the Basin, OraTaiao and Dr Susan Krumdieck.

GWRC publicly stated goal is an all-electric bus fleet. It follows that the council make an objective assessment of the trolley buses contribution to city transport needs and environmental impact.

More than 300 cities around world are operating and expanding trolley bus networks. They are more popular because they are clean, quiet and quick. Lyon, France has new trolley buses, San Francisco and Seattle have large trolley systems and Beijing and Shanghai Beijing are reconverting failed battery buses to trolleys. Other cities such as Zurich and Istanbul, are building trolley buses with new technical developments to improve trolley bus performance.

Despite discussion and some Councillor support, the response through the Chief Executive was to reaffirm the decision to not renew the trolley contracts on 30 June, apart form short term extensions to aid transition to a new fleet.

We are deeply saddened by Council’s unwillingness to assess objectively the value of Trolley Buses, and also note the lack of transparency in confusing statements by the Chair maintaining progress towards a low emission fleet.

The proposed Wrightspeed hybrid replacement of the trolley buses by NZBus utilising a gas turbo (diesel) motor appears to be in trouble, with a wall of silence from all parties. Cr Daran Ponter said that it was unclear why the delays had occurred, and the patience of some councillors was wearing thin.

There are two aspects to emissions: air quality and greenhouse emissions (GHE), and the two should not be lumped together as higher air quality standards don’t always lead to lower GHE.

Scoop looked at what the new tender documents might mean:.

“When you look at last week’s announcements about new bus contracts, the Tranzit plan is described as building 228 new buses, all of them diesel though with Euro 6 certification, the highest global emission (air quality) standard…”  

Recent revelations relating to filters installed on vehicles, indicated that in the real world, performance was quite different to “in factory”.  Euro 5 and especially euro 6 filters are expensive to maintain on diesel buses, and the temptation will be to not renew so that their effectiveness will diminish over time. Euro 6 standards are still unable to remove the very small 2.5 micron particles which are responsible for cancers and respiratory disease leading to the WMO classifying diesel as a class one toxic carcinogenic equal to asbestos.

And we will never know how effective the filters are, as no testing is required in New Zealand – GWRC rejected my proposed amendment allowing for spot tests in future contracts.

There will be a jump in both greenhouse emissions and in particulates with more diesels on the golden mile, contrary to the claims of Chair Chris Laidlaw.  The Wrightspeed model will also lead to a decrease in air quality and an increase in greenhouse emissions. There is also serious concerns about their viability as no where else in the world have they been tested as part of an operational public transport fleet.

The public are asked to have faith that a profit driven operator will keep to set standards – a game of smoke and mirrors.

Meanwhile NZ Bus chief executive Zane Fulljames is saying his company hasn’t yet decided whether to buy Wrightspeed hybrids – it will decide during the testing process. Scoop reports Keith Flinders as saying:

Wrightspeed is hybrid technology and after 12 months since the first trolley bus conversion started it hasn’t been on trial yet. One might conclude that the GWRC is being misled on the suitability for this technology given Wellington’s terrain, and alas GWRC officers don’t have the engineering knowledge to decide either way.

The decommissioning of the Trolley Bus overhead electrical network is scheduled to commence in November 2017 with a planned completion date 12 months later.

Media Release: Clear Flaws in Let’s Get Welly Moving’s Scenario Assessment Process

The Save the Basin Campaign has welcomed the public release of Let’s Get Welly Moving’s long list of scenarios for the future of Wellington transport.

But spokesperson Tim Jones is concerned that some vital questions appear to have been ignored during the assessment process.

“First of all,” Tim Jones said, “Let’s Get Welly Moving didn’t release these scenarios until they were forced to by an Official Information Act request. If NZTA, Greater Wellington and Wellington City Council genuinely want informed public debate, they should have released these scenarios and workshop notes as soon as possible after the workshops in November 2016, not waited until June 2017 to do so.”

“Second, from the material released, it looks like some vital questions have not been asked during the assessment process. No consideration appears to have been given to either climate change or other public health issues, such as the excess deaths caused by pollution, especially from diesel engines.

“Both the Government and the local authorities have commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – why hasn’t the need to meet these commitments been put front and centre when developing and assessing these scenarios?” Tim Jones asked.

In terms of the Basin Reserve, Tim Jones said “We’re pleased that none of the scenarios appear to show a Basin Reserve flyover. But there is far too little detail shown in the material that’s publicly released to be sure what’s planned for the Basin. We need to see detailed proposals.”

In conclusion, Tim Jones said “The Basin Bridge Board of Inquiry made it very clear that assessment of alternative transport options needs to be thorough, transparent and replicable. We’re not sure that Let’s Get Welly Moving’s scenario development and assessment process has met those criteria, and we’ll be watching their next steps very closely.”

Tim Jones
Spokesperson
Save the Basin Campaign Inc

Taking A Stand: Transport, Motorways, the Basin Reserve, and the Future of the Museum Stand

Interior of the Museum Stand, Basin Reserve. Photo by David Batchelor.

Last Thursday’s inaugural Congestion Free Wellington Public Meeting was a great success. Between 70 and 80 people attended, there was very strong support for the concept of the Congestion Free Wellington Declaration (albeit with some tweaks still needed to the wording), and there was a lot of enthusiasm and commitment for the community to seize this rare opportunity to wrench Wellington’s transport destiny into our hands, rather than have it left in the hands of the motorway-builders.

Save the Basin is one of the groups that’s set up Congestion Free Wellington, and we’ll keep you up to date on that. But it’s not the only issue we’re focused on. The future of the Basin Reserve’s historic Museum Stand is due to be decided this year. Even though the Council has not yet released any options – or costings – the Mayor has gone on record as saying he supports the demolition of the stand.

But does he realise what he would be demolishing? David Batchelor of Historic Places Wellington does realise, because he has been inside the stand and photographed some of its forgotten treasures. Head on over to Wellington Scoop to see just what treasures would be lost if the Mayor gets his way.

Save the Basin thinks that the Museum Stand deserves to be preserved and enhanced. At the very least, we want the best possible option for its retention developed and considered fairly and in detail against alternative proposals – without the Mayor, or anyone else, trying to predetermine the outcome.

Public Meeting for a Congestion Free Wellington: Thursday 25 May, 6pm, Wellington Central Library

  • What: Public Meeting for a Congestion Free Wellington
  • When: Thursday 25 May, 6-7.30pm
  • Where: Mezzanine Meeting Room, Wellington Central Library

The “Let’s Get Welly Moving” official process was supposed to deliver modern, sustainable transport options for Wellington. But it increasingly looks like a smokescreen for “four lanes to the planes”.

This public meeting will help us fight back against motorway madness and in favour of a liveable capital city that puts people first. It’s been called by a coalition of local groups concerned about the future of Wellington’s transport system, including Save the Basin.

Come along, invite your friends, and let’s make sure the outcome of this process is a liveable capital city with great public transport, streets, walking and cycling.

Let’s Get Welly Moving’s Engagement Process: A Smooth Surface, But Lots Of Paddling Beneath

The Let’s Get Welly Moving (LGWM) public engagement process has gone through another of its seemingly endless permutations, with a series of workshops and meetings during March and April giving participants the chance to state their priorities in areas including public transport improvements, state highway improvements, encouraging active transport (walking and cycling) and transport demand management.

But while the public face of LGWM is this slowly unfolding public consultation process, there’s a whole lot more going on behind the scenes. Some officials, politicians and lobbyists are pushing strongly for state highway “improvements” to soak up the lion’s share of the funding available for Wellington transport.

If that happens, then consequences could include building duplicate Mt Victoria and Terrace tunnels, four-laning State Highway 1 as it passes through the city, or undergrounding at least part of State Highway 1’s route through the CBD.

And what about the Basin Reserve itself? Well, after the comprehensive and epic defeat of the New Zealand Transport Agency’s Basin Reserve flyover proposal, LGWM is still talking about the possibility of … a Basin Reserve flyover! Maybe a smaller flyover, maybe a flyover with nicer decorations and a better colour scheme, but a flyover nevertheless.

To be fair, we have no evidence yet that LGWM has settled on a Basin Reserve flyover as its preferred option for that part of the transport system. LGWM’s High and Medium state highway improvement options include grade separation at the Basin Reserve. That could be achieved by a flyover, a tunnel, or a cut-and-cover option. But it’s very clear that a flyover is still on the table as a potential option.

Which raises the question: does the Transport Agency still think, as its own internal report on its failure at the Board of Inquiry suggested, that the main problem with the flyover was that they didn’t sell the idea well enough? Because if they think that was the biggest problem with their proposal, then they really need to go back and read the Board of Inquiry findings on why a Basin Reserve flyover was such a terrible idea.

When Let’s Get Welly Moving started out, it was supposed to be a chance for a rethink, a chance for the three constituent bodies – NZTA, Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington – to move away from the outmoded transport approach that more motorways meant less congestion and a better transport system, when the evidence both New Zealand and worldwide clearly shows the opposite.

More roads means more congestion, a worse transport system, a less liveable city and yet more greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the Government, the City Council and Greater Wellington have all made commitments to reduce such emissions.

So it’s depressing, if not surprising, to hear that the road-builders are making the play once again – even though one of the key objectives of the project is to reduce dependence on private vehicle travel.

The only thing that will save the day and ensure that the central city is not ruined by still more roads is public pressure. If you think that coming up with good solutions for Wellington transport should involve:

  • taking meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • becoming less, not more, dependent on the private motor vehicle
  • improving public and individual health through encouraging activity and reducing harmful particulate emissions
  • making Wellington a more liveable city
  • preserving and enhancing public spaces such as the Basin Reserve
  • making Wellington better and safer for pedestrians and cyclists
  • moving towards setting up a modern, efficient light rail system along with a bus system that meets users’ needs
  • concentrating on managing travel demand
  • and avoiding burning massive amounts of public money at concrete shrines to the car

then it’s time to speak up. Tell your local and regional councillors that you don’t want the car-dependent future that the road-building and heavy haulage lobbies are trying to foist on you. Make that message very clear to your MPs and local election candidates at the forthcoming election. Don’t vote for candidates who want to focus transport spending on motorway building.

Engagement is great – so long as that engagement is meaningful. Officials may want the pond to stay unruffled, but the time has come to start making waves.

Same Old, Same Old: The Draft Government Policy Statement On Land Transport

The Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Land Transport is the context in which all Government land transport policy is developed – and ever since the current National-led Government came to power, successive Government Policy Statements have been heavily focused on roading, despite the clear evidence that building more roads does not solve congestion.

Unfortunately, the latest draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport shows no sign of changing this.

Its strategic priorities are unchanged from the 2015 GPS (p. 8):

The three strategic priorities, continued from GPS 2015 are:

  •  economic growth and productivity
  •  road safety
  •  value for money.

Strikingly missing from these strategic priorities is the environmental performance of our land transport system. Perhaps that’s because it’s already bad and rapidly getting worse: whether in regard to the serious local health effects of particulate emissions from transport, the effect of motorway-building on urban environments, or the urgent need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport.

The New Zealand Government has ratified the Paris Agreement, taking on a commitment for a substantial reduction in New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. Land transport is responsible for around 20% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the volume of transport emissions has been rising steadily. Land transport is second only to agriculture as a greenhouse gas emitting sector.

The Government is relying mainly on a move to electric vehicles to reduce transport emissions. However, the composition and replacement rate of the New Zealand vehicle fleet both mean that, even if such a change were to occur, it would not occur either fully or quickly enough to produce the level of emissions reduction required.

Therefore, one of the aims of the Government Policy Statement should be to drive a rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transport. This can be achieved by prioritising the use of public transport and of active modes and the provision of the necessary infrastructure, and by deemphasising the provision of infrastructure for private motor vehicles, which will in turn encourage more journeys by what is currently a highly polluting motor vehicle fleet.

Based on this draft Government Policy Statement, the ratification of the Paris Agreement is not being reflected in actual Government policy.

How to submit

Submissions on the draft Government Policy Statement close at 5pm on Friday 31 March 2017. Details of how to download the draft Strategy, and make submissions, can be found on the Government draft GPS page at

http://www.transport.govt.nz/ourwork/keystrategiesandplans/gpsonlandtransportfunding/