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About me…..

I started this site  to discuss  things related to urban Wellington living, and so it will continue.

Thanks to all of you who voted for me to be your Eastern Ward Councillor- I promise that I will work hard to make our beautiful city even better.

If you have any issues or concerns you would like to discuss, please feel free to contact me.

Facebook: facebook.com/CouncillorSarahFree

Email: Sarah.free@wcc.govt.nz

Twitter: @sarahfreenz

or use the contact form on this site

 

Authorised by Sarah Free, 82 Kinghorne Street, Strathmore Park

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.

http://wellington.govt.nz/your-council/news/2016/06/stronger-seawalls-make-coast-more-resilient

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 http://www.newjohnsonvillelibrary.co.nz

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.

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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.

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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!

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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 http://www.newjohnsonvillelibrary.co.nz

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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Edible Garden Tour

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Over the last few years, Wellingtonians have embraced community gardens and orchards, and have planted edibles in their own gardens.

I’m proud that the small 450 sq metre garden in Island Bay that I planted with fruit trees seven years ago is included in this tour. We’ve always had two good lemon trees, but this year the plums ( Wilsons Early and Ballinger), apricot(Sundrop), pear(Doyen du Comice and Conference twingraft) grape vine (Schuyler) and espalier dapple ( Braeburn) have all had a bumper crop.

Ive learned over the years what does well in Wellington, and generally choose early ripening varieties and ones that are tolerant of wind.

Shelter is really important in Wellington gardens and I use trellis and other trees to create shelter, mulch with grass clippings, use the worm castings and juice from my worm farm, and remember to water when I can!

If you don’t have room for fruit trees on your own section, you can become a ” fruit tree guardian”, and apply to plant a tree on a piece of road reserve. My neighbour has done this on a walkway nearby.

Happy to hear stories about other peoples gardens, and tips on how to get more out of edible gardens, and remember if you have time tomorrow, visiting all these unique gardens is completely free!!!

Go By Bike Day- Why?

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In all the failures of communication and the difficulties with the Island Bay cycleway, in my view the most important failing has been the communication of the vision, the big picture.

Why? Why safer cycleways?

I could talk about the health benefits (regular cyclists reach late middle age up to 10 years biologically younger than their more sedentary counterparts), or about reducing the number of petrol powered vehicles on the road, thus lessening air pollution, congestion, carbon emissions and the need for parking spaces….but what I would really like to talk about is the sheer pleasure of cycling.

This was something that I had personally forgotten about until about six or so years ago.

How many of us rode a bike as a child, maybe continued into our teens or twenties, maybe even have an old bike tucked away in the garage, but haven’t been on it for years?

That was certainly me. I didn’t own a car until I married in my late 20s, and even then it was by default, a share in my husband Ross’s Cortina stationwagon.

All through my teens and 20s, first as a student in Christchurch, working as an assistant engineer in Hamilton, and then returning to Wellington, living in Mt Victoria, I rode my bike.

Marriage and children bought a different lifestyle, and riding the bike just seemed too hard, and then too unfamiliar, too scary.. Just too impossible.

It was a colleague at Sustainability Trust who proved the circuit breaker, offering to ride with me from Newtown into the city to meet a client one day.

Even hitching up my clothing and swinging my leg over the bars felt unfamiliar, dangerous even, but as I nervously followed her into the traffic, mimicking her hand signals and lane changes, and as we arrived right outside our destination in record time, gently energised and exhilarated, I realised what I had been missing.

The sheer joy of cycling, of balancing, of being totally in the environment, senses all alert, on guard for careless drivers, being aware of the need to communicate my own intentions. To my surprise, it was much easier, and even safer, than I had thought.

But safety was definitely my biggest worry, and that’s what we have to address. Many many surveys show safety concerns are the number one barrier to an increased uptake of cycling, and to getting more women, older people and children riding.

The other thing is familiarity and confidence, and getting over the initial reluctance barrier. In my case, it was having another more confident cyclist to help me.

And I guess that is why Go By Bike Day.

I’ll be riding to work this Wednesday morning, starting 7.00 am at the Tirangi Road end of the Leonie Gill pathway, and going up Crawford Road and through Newtown to the city. I’d love you to join me. Ther are many other routes happening as well, just go to the Cycle Aware Facebook page or look on the Greater Wellington Website.

It’s never too late to get back on a bike!

2015, Reporting back

It’s now the end of the second full year of my Council term and time to reflect on what has been achieved, and what still needs to be done.

My first reflection would be that there are certainly a lot of meetings to attend, more than most people might realise! Since delegations were changed mid term, all Councillors now attend all Committee meetings as well as Council meetings and briefings. I try to attend a good selection of community meetings. and also meet one-on-one with residents experiencing issues.

I’ve had the responsibility of being a director on the board of Capacity during the changeover to becoming Wellington Water; and I am currently serving as a trustee on the Wellington Zoo Trust Board. I’ve taken the opportunity to upskill myself for these roles by joining the Institute of Directors and completing several of their training papers and have also completed the training to become a RMA commissioner.

One thing I quickly realised, is that you don’t get anywhere in politics without building some degree of consensus. This means being clear about the case for and against a proposal; and being able to explain this to others, while understanding their point of view and being prepared to compromise if necessary.

Examples of initiatives I have bought to the table and won a majority for over the last two years include:
WCC joining with other Councils to pass a resolution expressing potential concerns around the TPPA
More money ( $100,000 annually) to operate our community centres. This has enabled us to support the St Christopher’s Community Hall when it was saved for the community, and to pay for a specialised person to staff our drop in centre at the Kilbirnie Community Centre once the DHB closed theirs.
Moving an amendment to tighten up on the allowable increase in pokie machines in various areas of Wellington. I was on a subcommittee listening to submissions and heard many heartbreaking stories. It seems to me we already have more than enough pokie machines in some parts of our community, and I am loath to see more.
More money ($ 200,000 annually) to be spent on pedestrian safety, with much of that money going to eastern suburbs safety improvements. I am well aware that pedestrian safety is a major concern for many in our communities.

I’m also very proud of having seen the need for the Leonie Gill Pathway, and convincing other colleagues to bring the funding for it forward to the 2014/2015 annual plan. It was a highlight of the year for me when it opened in April 2015. I really enjoy going there and seeing all sorts of people (and dogs!) using it. The latest feedback from the community is that it is such a great resource, it would be even more used if it had lights to make it safer at night…

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I’m also pleased we still had the budget to do some further upgrades in the Kilbirnie shopping centre, and I enjoyed networking with the business community and residents to make sure we delivered what they wanted. The new seats, flags, murals, bike maintenance kit and vastly improved footpath have been well received. I am also proud to have met with walking and disability advocates and to have lobbied for easier kerb crossings for our Rita Angus residents and for the new disability carpark which has gone in outside the Westpac in Onepu Road.

I’ve been a strong advocate for more affordable and user-friendly public transport, and I’ve consistently asked Greater Wellington to consider cheaper off peak fares for everyone, not just Gold Card holders, and to bring forward their integrated ticketing proposals. Public transport is a difficult issue with the responsibilities for it spread across WCC, GW and NZTA.
In the meantime, I did succeed in my request for a bus shelter outside the ANZ, ( people previously had to wait in all weathers), and it is extremely well used. There are at least three more bus shelters for the Eastern Suburbs currently in the pipeline. I don’t quite understand why they are taking so long, but I have come to realise persistence is a must- have quality in a Councillor!

These are some of the things that I  have been involved with; others include the planning for the new Johnsonville library, lobbying for an innovation/activation space  in the Central library, more drinking fountains near our beaches and waterfront, and  making sure we are doing sufficient planning and have the funding for our roading and water infrastructure and coastal resilience. And of course, the vexed question  of the airport runway extension and how best  to spend the Eastern suburbs $6million share of the cycling budget.

I’ll sign off for now, but as always  happy to be contacted, either through this site, or my contact details are on the WCC website.

 

 

Newtown Library opens again

 

 

 

After being closed for some weeks, Newtown Library opened again today to a waiting group of enthusiastic library users.

The library has had the old (leaky) skylights replaced, new heating and ventilation installed, new paint, and the collection has been refreshed with a whole section of new books. The photo below shows some of our lovely Newtown Library staff in front of a stand of new books.

As Libraries and Community Facilities portfolio leader, I’m proud of our Wellington Libraries. We have 12 libraries in our network, including the Central Library.Physical visits to libraries are holding steady at around 2.3 million annually, and online visits have surpassed all expectations at 3.6 million. We issue 3 million items annually.

Since I have been on Council, four libraries have had upgrades; Mervyn Kemp Tawa Library, Brooklyn Library, Karori Library and now Newtown Library.

The two big projects coming up in the future are of course, the new Johnsonville Library, and a refurbishment of the Central Library, which will include modern features such as RFID (radio frequency identification), which will allow better tracking of library resources, and faster issuing.

We are making sensible investments in the collections, the libraries are great spaces to be in, we are adding to our online resources all the time including our great Facebook page, Wellington City Libraries, and resident surveys report a high level of satisfaction with the service offered.

However, I’m always interested in feedback, so let me know what you think!

 

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