Phew – thank goodness that 2020 is over. It’s been a horror show for most of the world and never seemed to want to finish, but at last, like T****’s presidency, it’s at an end. Things can surely, only get better from here on in.

What is the future going to hold for Wellington? What is the future for Eye of the Fish? How can the Fish help the City? These are a few of the key questions that I have been asking myself since Levi left the building – so, first things first: Wellington.

Live: it’s not the vibrant city it was when I first came here a few decades ago. Why is that? Well, a simple answer: no events going on at present. Yes yes, that’s a problem faced all over the world at present, and to a far greater degree than here in the capital, but we also have a chance that other cities do not: we’re almost certainly Covid-free. Whereas in London, New York, Paris, Los Angeles etc, the Covid has decimated – more than decimated – the arts and events industry, we’ve managed to do that all on our own. Whose bright idea was it to close down the Old Town Hall for strengthening at the same time as the St James Theatre? We’ve also lost Downstage (a few years ago now) and so all we are left with at present is Circa, Bats and the MFC. Honestly: shed 6 doesn’t count. We’re one of the few cities in the world that could have a thriving acting offering – everyone else is at home watching Netflix and chilling with their masks on. City Council: time to do better. Time to complete the St James renovation, sponsor some opera and commission some new public plays. Pay someone to film them and live-stream them back to the US and the UK, like we used to get NT Live streamed from London. The world’s a stage, and right now, we’re the only players.

Traffic: it is going to change once Transmission Gully opens. I don’t think anyone quite knows how it will change yet, but rest assured, it will. A positive aspect may be that there could be less car crashes on the highways. Possibly even less traffic jams – but I don’t think so. Just as the SH1 expressway between Paekakariki and Waikanae sped up the traffic locally, but then created an even bigger jam than before on the coastal highway, the eventual unveiling of Transmission Gully is likely to speed up traffic over the hills, but they will all still get stuck at Linden, where TG joins the rest of SH1. The danger is, of course, that more people will try to drive in, and that less people may take the train. The roads actually leading into Wellington are no larger than they were last week though, so just as the jams occur at Ngauranga and Johnsonville now, so too will they occur in the future – possibly with much larger results. My prediction: speedier trips home for those from Kapiti, but no faster trip in the mornings.

Trams up Willis in 1938

Inner city traffic: time for some movement on this front, or LGWM gets the sack. It was apparent that NZTA were punishing Wellington (the people / the city) when the Board of Inquiry rejected the silly Basin Bridge proposal, and we’ve had several years of punishment in the naughty corner ever since. That’s got to change: 2021 is when action needs to be taken. My vote (if there ever was such a thing) would be for the Government to step in: make Auckland and Wellington buy the same Light Rail train sets (fully interchangeable for later years) at the same time and start detailed route planning now in 2021. Tracks on the ground by 2022 and trains running by 2023 so that if / when the Nats get back in again, it’s too late to change their minds again. Wellington needs a decent Public Transport / Rapid Transit / Light Rail system, and it needs it NOW.

Draft Spatial Plan: well, that went down a treat, didn’t it? (Note: Sarcasm). Evidently it had a lot of work go into it, but sadly, not nearly as much thought. Kudos to the Council for sitting down and listening to the hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions from concerned citizens alarmed at the prospect of having tower blocks being built outside their window. I fully agree with their concerns – there has to be a better way of doing this. With a bit of luck and good management, the particular tack I want to take on this blog will be more to do with Housing, rather than Traffic, and that means more writing about buildings than about cars and trains. In particular, more discussion on how we get the housing we need, not just the housing that some developer wants to foist upon us.

Soviet-era housing blocks in Latvia – or is it Adelaide Road, Wellington?

Density: this is the real question that the DSP was trying to solve, but if that was the answer they were looking for, then they must have been asking the wrong question. If you remember, the original questionnaire was basically around the subject: where do you want to put extra housing? In the centre, in the suburbs, or in Stebbings Valley? Most people, it seems, said: put it in the centre. That said, it is a lot more complicated than that. More on this subject in another post: suffice it to say that there is not a single simple answer, but also that we don’t need to rush into doing stupid things we might regret later.

With thanks to Chris Riddell, the most brilliant cartoonist of our time.