The Eye of the Fish

October 22, 2019

Rapid Wellington

I’m still holding my breath. We’re almost certain, but still not 100% sure, that Andy Foster is the new Mayor of Wellington and we’re not yet certain what that means. I’m still a bit surprised at the result even though I voted for Foster, as looking back at the last two elections, Foster polled very low. This time, for whatever reasons, Foster polled way higher – just skimming over the top of Justin Lester, who is now fading into history, just like the colours of the rainbow crossing that are fading fast. For me, Lester is the Mayor who kept a guiding hand on a previously caustic Council and kept things running smoothly, but never actually seemed to accomplish anything material at all.

I’m presuming then that other people, like me, are hoping that Foster will actually do what he said he would, and somehow get some things accomplished in Wellington: we’re long overdue. Other people, no doubt, are hoping that he won’t get everything done on his list, as that list includes a second tunnel through Mt Victoria. But to me, that is asking the wrong question: surely we need to sort out what goes through to the other side, before deciding how to get there. The existing tunnel was constructed in 1931 by men with picks and shovels and rudimentary digging machines – the new one will cost a lot more but be constructed in a more high-tech way (although definitely not by a TBM, as the route is too short). But the first questions to be asked are: is this a route for walking? For cycling? For Rapid Transit? For Buses? For Trains? Trams? Tram Trains? Light Rail? Trucks? Cars? Or a combination of those? If so, what combination?

Also importantly, based on that, is the question: where? If it was to be a car-only tunnel, then there may be some logic in co-locating it near the existing one (and triggering the loss of 8 houses in Patterson St that so irritates the Mt Vic Resident’s Association). But my guess is that being car-only is almost the least likely response to the issue, so we are more likely to need a very much multi-use tunnel, and that will have a big say on route. There’s a lot more thinking to be done by LGWM before we seem anything concrete happening there.

The bigger news, perhaps, is the battle over Light Rail in Auckalofa. If you are a reader of the Greater Auckland blog (as I am), you will know that Matt Lowrie has been quite vocal recently about the competing bid for LR being put forward from NZ Infra (an off-shoot of the NZ Super Fund). Basically, they have oodles of money that needs investing and they want to spend some of it here, earning a steady income for years to come for retiring Kiwis. The machinations are that they would be partnering with a Canadian company, CDPQ, also keen on making money, which sounds as though all their funds will be disappearing back to Canada instead. Greater Auckland are clearly well pissed off with the Infra bid, as it has delayed the LR down Dominion Road for at least 5 years, maybe more. A more straightforward LR scheme has been put forward from NZTA, which took it over from the scheme that AT were working on for a number of years.

While GA blames the beleaguered Phil Twyford for even listening to the Infra / CDPQ bid, instead of just confirming the AT / NZTA scheme (which could have been underway by now, as much of the design work was already done), there is a potential upside to all of this if Infra get chosen. That would mean there is a possibility of Infra also constructing a LR system in Wellington and Christchurch as well. Basically, if it goes the other way (i.e. NZTA LR), then Wellington hasn’t got a hope of getting LR, ever. But if Infra choose to build one LR system, then there is a certain logic to expanding that same system to other cities keen to grow as well. While the economics of a scheme in Wellington may not be quite so rosy as in Auckland, if you think long-term, that’s certainly an option. However, getting back to our new Mayor Andy: he’s keener to get something happening sooner, and so inevitably that something is more likely to be buses rather than trams or LR.

While we here at the Eye of the Fish all firmly believe that a LR system is far preferable to a Bus system, we’re also of the belief that SOMETHING needs to happen, instead of being stymied and stagnated here at the head of the Fish, waiting for a scheme that may never come. There are a myriad of studies all showing that LR is better for everyone: passengers, the city, growth through TOD, etc – people can more comfortably, speedier, commute on a tram than on a bus – we all know those are facts. But the other facts are that Wellington needs a better PT system right now, and that needs to happen before we build more roads, through more tunnels. I think Andy knows that too.

Seamonkey Madness
22 - 10 - 19

Speaking of the (probably) defeated Justin (or should he have the moniker Just-out, thrown upon him, due to the closeness of the whole affair?) Lester, thank goodness we now don’t have to deal with the bat-shit possibility of tram-trains being foisted upon us.

Levi – I’m going to have to disagree with you on the hopes for LR at all costs in Wellington. I was appropriately horrified by the Greater Auckland (GA) “investigation” into the ins & outs of the Canadian super funds’ prior LR deals with Montreal.

From GA’s post (as linked by yourself):
” CDPQ will be paid 72 cents for every kilometre any passenger travels – currently about NZ 86 cents per km. I understand that this figure is also indexed to inflation.”


And they also provide a great summary into why this is a right proper scam that will cost Auckland ratepayers (and potentially NZ taxpayers) dearly in the long term.

“Everything we’ve seen so far indicates the NZ Infra proposal is pretty much identical to what’s happening in Montreal. As a summary, here’s what we can expect should the government choose them to deliver Light Rail.

– A significant upfront government contribution will be required, likely around half the cost of the project.
– Ongoing payments of perhaps around 90 cents for every kilometre travelled by every passenger on the train for the next 100 years – committing multiple generations to significant ongoing costs. The exact figure will need to be enough to provide them an annual 8-9% return on their investment and much of that will be to fund pensions in Canada.
– Auckland Transport will still to have to pay to run the trains on this new network.
If it all fails they can sell and walk away.

Why any government would even consider signing up to a deal like this, especially they’ve just reported a huge surplus, they’re below their debt targets and bond rates are down around 1% is beyond me. If you do think it’s a good deal, I’ve got some snake oil to sell you.”

Wellington should do LR on its own terms, and if that means we never get it – so be it. I’d rather that, than gets absolutely pantsed by both a Canadian, and our own, super Fund.

Dubious Dave
22 - 10 - 19

Do you really expect that progress will improve under Foster? 27 years on Council with several unsuccessful attempts at Mayor and Central Government doesn’t hint at effective action. I’m picking we’ll see a ratepayer subsidised movie museum before anything else comes out of that guy (completely unrelated to the campaign backing of course).

Marko G
22 - 10 - 19

This is the problem with LGWM presenting such ambiguous half-baked proposals. They left the discussion to be framed by politicians who know they can get votes through ‘moar roads’ promises.

LGWM should have presented a more narrowly defined window of discussion based around concrete proposals and honest truths around urban motorways.

Wellington now needs a public transport champion like Brown and Goff were for the City Rail Link. Not sure I see that in Foster.

22 - 10 - 19

Dubious Dave – “Do you really expect that progress will improve under Foster?” Well, call me optimistic, but yes I do. I’ve followed the WCC quite closely at times – under Blumsky, Kerry P, Celia WB, and now Justin (or Justout, as Seamonkey says). What it seems to me, as an external observer, is that in Wellington we have an eternally split Council – factions to the left and centre mainly, not much at all to the right. Wellington has a high proportion of Greens (ie the entire Aro Valley for starters) and Government Wonks, all of whom need their heads knocking together. Celia tried very hard to observe democracy at all times, but I think that was possibly her undoing – she could never get the Council to agree on anything. Just Lest seems to have been better on getting the team to play together, but still no goals scored. Enter Andy.

Andy is, to my experience, a bloody hard worker, a good thinker, and a doer. He gets things done. He is not so much worried about being well-liked – I remember when Celia came out of a WCC meeting about the Basin, swearing that Councilor Foster had changed his vote last minute and so the whole proposal (whatever it was) was lost. Many friends lost that day – I suspect he just doesn’t care that much about friends, even though he is very friendly. He’s a strategist – I’m sure he has read “The Prince” as well as “The Art of War”. My hope (perhaps forlornly) is that he will be able to get a consensus from the assorted masses of more sheep-like Councillors and coral them into action.

Re the Movie Museum – there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Don’t know what it is, but Jackson has offered the city a wonderful opportunity (it would have been better if we had taken him up on it 20 years ago when it was first talked bout) but for some reason the city, the movie mogul and the architects for the proposed museum just don’t get along and cannot reach an agreement. What’s the real goss here?

22 - 10 - 19

Andy Foster over on Scoop and Newshub, being interviewed:
Q: One of your proposals is bringing the second Mount Vic tunnel forward on that timeline, but how are you going to do that?

A: We’re going to do the business case, both for the Mount Victoria tunnel, Basin Reserve, and for mass transit. I have a view as to how I think those business cases will end up. Let’s see where they do, and then we’ll be able to make some decisions about where we go from here.

Q: You’ll need to get that past NZTA, your council and central government. Are you confident you can do that?

A: Well, I’m really confident on NZTA, I’m really confident with the Ministry of Transport, I’m really confident of Treasury. My own council will be slightly more challenging. The public, I think, will be on-board with it, and, I expect, the regional council and certainly the council of the region will be on-board with it as well.

Q: Okay, you say you want a more sustainable city, but aren’t you prioritising cars over public transport? How is that sustainable?

A: Look, I’ve been in charge of transport for quite a few years of my time on council, and in that time, every year, we’ve built the number of people — the proportion of people — who travel to work and to education by bike, by bus and by train and on foot, and we are by far the— We have by far the highest proportion of people doing that of any city in the country, and that has grown and grown and grown. I’ve shown that we can do that, and I want on keep on doing that. I think people are focused on a project in isolation from a big picture.

22 - 10 - 19

oops – here’s the link I forgot to link in:

entitled “Andy Foster on working together”

30 - 10 - 19

I think your point about Andy not caring if he is well liked is a good one. What I don’t understand though is how that transfers into him being able to build majorities around the council table and therefore be a successful mayor.

30 - 10 - 19

Thanks Conor, nice to see you here. Sorry you didn’t do as well in the polls as you had hoped. Yes – we’re all waiting to see how that goes!

I guess it could go a number of different ways – one possible option is that Andy subdues them all and that they all learn to co-operate and get along together. Another option is that they (other councillors) all rebel against Andy and refuse to agree to anything he says. Both of these, I hope, are quite unlikely – the first is unlikely because – well, it just is! The second option is also unlikely as that would imply that Left and Right can work together, which in itself would be a miracle.

The only thing I can see as a bright shining hope for the future, is that nearly everybody, in WCC and GWRC elections, said that they wanted the pile of shit that is the Buses, to get sorted, ASAP. Amen to that one!