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Public Transport, Walking, Cycling… much to be done!


So..Mayor Justin Lester has announced the responsibilities for Councillors, and personally, I think he has done a superb job of allocating roles and matching them to people’s areas of interest, backgrounds and abilities.

I came onto Council determined to see a greater focus on safer walking and cycling and better public transport and so I am really very pleased to have been given the public transport, walking and cycling portfolio for the coming three years.

Although I am totally up for the challenge, I’m not going to pretend it will be easy.

These are all areas which have huge community interest, where there are many competing demands for road space and resources, and where it will be necessary to work very collaboratively across a wide range of stakeholders to get optimum results.

I imagine we will have to make decisions that won’t be universally popular, and there will be difficult compromises. But these fundamental transport modes are so important! All sorts of people need to be able to get around our city in a convenient and affordable way, so that everyone can participate in the opportunities on offer in our city, whether that is for education, work, recreation, or cultural and social events.

And not everybody owns a car, or has a drivers licence, or can find (or afford) to park at their destination.

This work will be challenging, but I am totally committed to making the most positive difference I can, and getting on with it. I’ll be working closely with fellow Eastern Ward Councillor , Chris Calvi-Freeman, who will have responsibility for Transport Strategy and Operations. Chris and I are also grateful to have the support of other colleagues including Cr Foster with his huge experience in this area.

Good things take time so I don’t want to over promise on what is do-able in three years. However, I am interested in hearing feedback. You can contact me through this site, or if you prefer, email me directly at my Council address:

Where did the last three years go?

Mt Vic tunnel

Hello to you all, Tena kotou katoa!

Its been a huge privilege to have been your Eastern Ward Councillor for the last three years. I’ve very much enjoyed working with local communities, staff and colleagues to get many good things done.

With the election coming up, I have been extra busy contacting residents to make sure I am hearing the many voices of our communities. I’ve met people at bus stops, shopping centres, playgrounds and beaches. I’ve knocked on over 2500 doors and have been humbled by the friendly responses I’ve received. I very much want to continue to serve you all as a councillor and to do so would love your #1 vote.

I came on to Council wanting more investment in cycling and walking- and we are off to a good start with the Leonie Gill Pathway completed, a new cycle/walkway planned from the Miramar cutting to Waitangi park and potential funding from NZTA for a safer crossing across Cobham Drive.
If you re-elect me, I am committed to seeing those new projects delivered and done well for our communities!

Im also committed to working collaboratively with NZTA and GWRC to get the best possible bus service for the city. The bus service must be convenient and affordable. I’ve been outspoken about the need for GWRC to get on and deliver what they have long promised; weekend and evening services, integrated ticketing, off-peak discounts, student fares, decent, user-friendly bus shelters. And electric battery buses if we have to lose the trolleys.

We also need some sensible parking solutions in Miramar and ways to make many of our suburban streets quieter and safer.

I’m also committed to continuing to invest in our basic infrastructure to meet future challenges and to ensure we have good community infrastructure, libraries, parks and reserves and clean beaches.

I will listen to the outcomes from the Get Welly Moving project, and will support some roading improvements and a second Mt Victoria tunnel, if I can see they make sense and also provide much better walking and cycling. Wellington must stay beautiful and livable, and space is at a premium in our compact city, so I  do believe we need to think carefully before carving too much of our land into roads.

I support some investment in the economic area, but it must be underpinned by robust businesses cases. I believe it is important that Council also supports our existing businesses well; making sure we have good basic infrastructure, cutting red tape, keeping rates affordable and buying local where we can.

As already said, I would appreciate your support with your vote. Please do feel free to contact me if I can answer questions or if there’s something you’d like me to know. My contact details are as below:



Twitter: @sarahfreenz

or use the contact form on this siteMt Vic tunnel

Campaign Speech- Hataitai Candidates Meeting


The candidates meetings have all been interesting, with good questions asked from the floor. Here’s my speech from the Hataitai candidates meeting yesterday – I’m happy to answer any questions!

“Tena koutou katoa – Thank you all for coming today; thanks also to the residents’ association for organizing it. I’m Sarah Free, one of your Eastern Ward councillors and a proud local resident.

I have an engineering degree and Masters in Public Health, and experience in engineering, education, housing and health- I’ve just recently posted a little more about my experience on my website for those who are interested.

As a Councillor, I’ve worked constructively with others. I’ve secured funding for the Leonie Gill Pathway, new bus shelters, pedestrian safety improvements and local stormwater projects. I’ve led library upgrades and won funding for community centres.

I’m proud to have lobbied the Regional Council in 2014 to freeze bus fares; and to have been a strong supporter of paying the Living Wage to our Council staff, I’ve also helped with the Town Belt Bill, moved an amendment to reduce the number of Pokie machines allowed in our pubs, I’ve supported funding to reduce graffiti, and more funding for Te Mahana, our programme for the homeless.

We live in a wonderful city, but there’s more to be done. I’m asking for your vote to continue on Council to represent you- so what will I prioritise if you re-elect me?

This time around transport in all its various forms is my number one priority. Traffic congestion is a HUGE issue for many, as is the cost of getting around.

I’ll support some roading improvements and a second tunnel through Mt Victoria if I can see it makes sense and also gives better cycling and walking options for our communities.

But we can’t just focus on roads- I also want to work closely with the Regional Council to get better public transport. We must get the integrated ticketing, off peak discounts, youth fares, and weekend and evening services that the Regional Council has long promised. I don’t want to have my Gold Card before this happens! We’ll also need proper transport hubs if more people need to change buses, accessible, warm dry and safe shelters, and free wifi if possible. And good information, with buses coming on time, and NO suddenly cancelled services.
So, I will be a strong voice for a convenient and affordable public transport system and for safer walking and cycling as well.
I want more investment in footpaths and walkways, there’s very little money for this at present. I‘ve lobbied for a safer crossing across Cobham Drive near the ASB Centre since coming onto Council,- there’s money now set aside for it and it must happen. We also now have the proposed new cycle/walkway around the bays from Miramar to the city, it must have separation for cyclists and walkers, but I believe this will be a real success and something we can all celebrate.

So the first thing is Transport, the second is Resilience. Climate change is real, and we are already seeing that in seal level rise, and more frequent and severe heavy weather events, which impact heavily on our area.

I will continue to support investment for a future-proofed safe city;- water infrastructure, sea walls, earthquake strengthening, good community infrastructure, emergency planning. I want to see more warm dry affordable homes, especially for first home buyers, and more social housing. – I want to support our local businesses well, so that they can continue to provide jobs and much needed goods and services to us all. I also want to ensure we look after our environment by reducing waste and litter, especially plastic waste, looking after our beaches and planting more trees in our open spaces.

And finally – Rates. We need to spend rates wisely, but spend enough so that the city is attractive and works well and people want to live and work here. The basics must come first. I’ll ask for robust business cases before spending on big economic projects. At present I can’t support the Runway extension- no business case, years of disruption to residents-environmental damage, and no airline has said they will come- right now this is indeed looking like corporate welfare.

To summarise, I want to capitalize on the experience gained in my first term on Council. I’m very grateful for the support I received last time, it’s been a privilege to represent you, and I’ve worked hard to deliver good outcomes for our city and ward. I’m asking for you to continue to support me by giving me your first preference vote. I’ll prioritise protecting what we have and wise spending for the future, especially in the way of transport and resilience.

Together, we can make this great city even greater!”

A bit more about me

imageAn interested resident recently asked about my engineering background. When I did my degree, it was an unusual choice for women; there were only four of us in a class of around seventy! Although I have moved in other career directions, the skills learned in my engineering training and work experience have definitely contributed to where I am today. Here is my reply to him:

“I have a BE (electrical) from Canterbury university. I completed it in 1981, so it is a while ago now! But I still run into some of my former engineering classmates and colleagues from time to time, especially since I have been on Council.

I first worked for the old NZED in the Hamilton District Office, working on various projects which included substation upgrades, and work on Karapiro and Rangipo power stations. Following that, I worked down here in the Wellington Head office for a couple of years on various transmission line projects.

At the end of 1986, I married and by then had also retrained as a secondary school teacher. I taught mathematics, science and senior physics at Wellington Girls College, the Correspondence School (as an external tutor) and St Catherine’s College while raising my family.

My career since has moved in different directions but I have retained an interest and close connections with those working in the electricity and energy sectors.

My Masters degree in Public Health (with distinction) examined the links between cold damp housing and ill health and school absences in children, and I then went on to work to set up the Home Advice service for Sustainability Trust, visiting literally hundreds of Wellington households to give advice on making their homes warmer and drier and lowering their energy bills, and running a telephone and web-based national advice service. During this time I also helped set up the Wellington Curtain Bank, which is still going strong.

I have an ongoing interest in seeing our energy resources used most cost effectively and sustainably, and have long seen the potential for more photovoltaics, especially on commercial buildings, and more electric vehicles combined with local energy storage, smart appliances and time of use charging.

Prior to coming onto Council, I worked in a voluntary capacity for the Domestic Energy Users Network, set up by Molly Melhuish, and I was on the Retail Advisory Group of the Electricity Authority for four years. Just recently, I met with representatives of the International Energy Agency when they came to New Zealand to review our electricity sector.”

Of course, Council has lots of engineering projects on the go at any one time, notably in water infrastructure and roading. The picture above shows the upgrade of water pipes in Victoria Street, and the picture below is the wonderful Leonie Gill pathway under construction. My engineering background has definitely given me an appreciation of the complexity of these projects, especially when they involve work underground.


The runway extension- at what cost?

imageSubmissions are now open until 12 August 2016, for you to have your say on the runway extension resource consent, which is to go to the Environment Court.

It is important to note that if you do not make a submission now, mentioning the points on which you wish to submit, and whether or not you wish to appear before the Court in person, you will not have a further opportunity to speak.

So far, I have not so far voted for any rates to be used on this project. To be honest, the more I am finding out, the more questions I have about its value to ratepayers. Yes, of course, all things being equal, we would like a longer runway. It would provide better safety margins, and perhaps? more options for long haul.

But the question really does have to be asked- at what cost? Are there more pressing demands for that money? Or should we just save on rates and let people decide how they would personally like to spend the money they keep? After all, most of us can get where we want to go by air now, either travelling though Auckland or via Nadi, or Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and soon Canberra.

The letter from WCC and GWRC, publicly available on the GWRC site, makes interesting reading. Various, quite crucial issues are raised and further information is sought. For example:

Post construction stormwater discharges- What will be the cumulative effects on the aquatic ecosystem, biodiversity, mahinga kai and Maori customary use?

Noise-It is not appropriate to use the existing high level of airport noise as “ambient noise” when assessing the “background plus” impact of construction noise (which will be 24/7 for four years).

Amenity effects-including safety of large trucks (up to 30 per hour day and night) on residential streets such as Vivien Street, Wellington Road, Lyall Parade, Onepu Road, Rongotai Road, Evans Bay Parade. The method of assessing visual amenity needs more work.

Negative impacts on surf are proposed to be mitigated with a surf wave focusing structure, however further baseline monitoring of surf impacts is required.

Recreational amenity- there will be a four year exclusion zone around the construction site, encompassing a large area of Lyall Bay and Moa point. The method of assessing the current recreational amenity of Lyall Bay over a 7 day period in March is identified as very limited.

No detailed investigations of ground conditions has been undertaken yet, so construction methods are not certain. There are no details on ongoing maintenance requirements and how they might be carried out, including maintenance of the to-be-buried section of the Moa Point outfall pipe.

Effects on the breeding colony of nationally endangered reef heron and other coastal birds, and the effects of sediment on little blue penguins require more work.

If you are concerned (or conversely if you are in favour) , I do urge you to have your say. information and submission forms are on the GWRC website- or you can contact me via a text message if you live in the eastern suburbs and would like a form delivered.

We will need to protect our coasts from sea level rise, but how?

A recent Wellington City Council news release highlights that in the last three years around $4 million has been spent on sea walls at Shelly, Princess, Karaka, Island and Breaker Bays, plus there have been numerous smaller sea wall and road repairs around the southern and eastern coasts.

This is an issue that is not going to go away. Sea levels around Wellington have been rising slowly over the last century and will continue to rise. At  information evenings I attended recently to discuss the proposed harbour dredging, I was told that NIWA predictions are for around another 30 cm of sea level rise in the next 35 years. Warmer air temperatures also mean that the air can hold more moisture, leading to more intense storms.

All of this means that the Council will need to set aside some sizable budgets for adaption to climate change; not only hard infrastructure such as sea walls and storm water upgrades (Queens Drive has already had a storm water pipe upgrade and Kilbirnie is expected to be getting a pumping station next year), but also other measures such as the setting back of roads and planting of extra vegetation.

In Wellington we are fortunate that on the whole roads are between our beaches and private property. This means that adaption measures to protect the roads will also serve to protect private property.

The cost of all of this will be substantial, and needs to be a priority. Council has recently invested $9 million in a state-of-the-art computer modelling system, which can be programmed to reflect the present water network and will help officers from WCC and Wellington Water work out the most cost-effective solutions.

It is difficult to start conversations about such topics, but it is necessary.

New Johnsonville Library- Preliminary Designs Open for Comment

Planning for the Johnsonville Library and Community Hub has reached the next stage, with preliminary designs now up on the website.

The feedback received so far has been very positive and there have been many useful suggestions.

This is a one-off opportunity to get this exciting project the very best it can be, and we welcome feedback from all Wellingtonians, particularly those in the Northern and Western suburbs.

Go to

Artist brightens Lyall Bay

Going to an appointment today in Lyall Bay I went past local artist Gene Van der Zanden, working away on his mural on the retaining wall at Lyall Bay school. Gene has been donating his time to this but I’m pleased to say that recently a small Council grant has enabled him to buy paints.

The mural is really starting to take shape now and I’m sure the kids love it! Thanks Gene, your work brightens up our day.


Also on a similar subject, how many people have had a chance to admire the recently completed mural on the side of the Miramar Community Centre ? This is a joint effort by several artists from the Wellington Art Club, whose rooms are on the same site as the Centre. The work cleverly incorporates many Miramar icons, including the wharf, movie theatre and old gasworks.


Getting Together

It’s not often I write specifically about my portfolio area of Community Facilities, but I am starting to feel a sense of pride in all that has been achieved this triennium. Most of the credit needs to go to others; our hard working staff in the Community team, dedicated people working long hours in the community, external partners and funders and fellow councillors.

Today saw the opening of the Centennial Community Centre in Berhampore; a partnership where Housing New Zealand provided the premises, Berhampore School the governance, and WCC operational funding including for a co-ordinator. With its homework nooks, kitchen and meeting space it will be a wonderful facility for the area.

Partnership models seem to be becoming more common, and what I am noticing is the diversity in arrangements and types of community facilities. It’s certainly not a one size fits all situation!


So the Centennial Community Centre is today’s wonderful success story, but what are some of the others?

Here’s just a short list:

Seatoun: The saving of St Christopher’s church and hall for the community, after the Presbyterian church had decided to sell it. They now have a co-ordinator and are developing the range and scope of activities taking place.

Strathmore: Council is looking at moving a single storey relocatable building to the carpark/reserve area beside the Raukawa Street dairy. With parking provided onsite and good landscaping, this could provide a complementary additional facility to add to the well- used Strathmore Community Base.

Karori: A dedicated team of volunteers has been fundraising for years to build a modern performance facility, the Karori Events Centre, next to the existing Community centre. They are now so close to completing their fundraising and if they do, want to start the project this year.

Brooklyn, Aro Valley and Newtown: some work has taken place and further discussions/ concept plans are in the pipeline to enhance the community facilities in these areas

And finally Johnsonville: Very excitingly, panning is well underway for a modern and exciting new library, which will link to the community centre and pool and contain a cafe. If you’d like to know more, the website is

Fruit tree photos

The last post was getting too long, so I’ve put photos here. These were all taken today. The hot dry summer has been great for everything except the feijoas, which are looking smaller and sparser than usual.





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