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2022 Election Flyers

This election, more than ever needs to be about spending priorities- how to provide the infrastructure renewals and upgrades we need to build an inclusive and liveable city fit for the future- while managing the pressures on rates and general affordability.

The flyer with my priorities is below. As always, super keen to have feedback, and am happy to call or visit residents in the ward. Email sarah.free@actrix.co.nz or call 022 121 6412

Celebrating local businesses

We are so fortunate to have some excellent eateries and cafes in the eastern suburbs and on Sunday I popped into Nicoletta’s Bakery- a small cafe and bakery on Park Road I’d never tried before. Have to say the atmosphere was lovely, and their apple and cinnamon cake was to die for. Light and yet moist, with a clear cinnamon and apple flavour and a hint of crunchy sugar on the crust. Just what was needed as a pick-me-up after an afternoon of chatting and door-knocking!

Elections again!

It’s been a difficult three years for Council, Wellington- and indeed the entire country and beyond.

Following the 2016 earthquake, it became increasingly obvious that Wellington’s pipes-already decades old- were starting to leak and break with increasing frequency. To add to that, the Kaikoura earthquake had thrown up new engineering issues with relatively new buildings using hollow-core technology, which meant many important buildings such as the Central Library were now unsafe for public use. Climate change meant that we were dealing with more frequent and damaging storms and heavy weather events. As well as trying to plan to better manage these impacts, we needed to plan for a growing population while lowering our carbon footprint as a city. And on top of it all, we had the Covid pandemic, the effects of which we are all still dealing with.

It’s probably not surprising that with such a lot of big issues to grapple with and diverse views around the table, that we did have robust debate and clashes at times. As Deputy Mayor, my role was often challenging, but I will say that we have got through an unprecedented programme of work to move the city forward and made good decisions in that process. I would also like to pay tribute to Mayor Andy Foster. After a difficult start, he has shown he can lead a Council with very strong and diverse views, which are not always aligned with his. He has done this with patience, dignity and respect. He has a strong intellect and is always over the issues. I’m proud of the way he has engaged with stakeholders city-wide, built strong relationships with our government and Mana Whenua partners and looked after our diplomatic community. I think he will only build on these strengths and voters could do a lot worse than to vote him in for a second term.

As for myself, after some thought, I will be standing again in the Motukairangi/Eastern Ward. Much has been achieved: fixing Seatoun wharf and a plan for other wharves, the Cobham Drive and Evan’s Bay cycleway and walkway, upgrading the Kilbirnie and Strathmore Park community centres, traffic calming and planting for the Hataitai village, a new sand court at Hataitai courts, and improvements to many parks and playgrounds-amongst many other things. However, there are still some very big issues that need to be addressed, including big picture transport solutions, and how best to deal with growth, climate change and looking after our people in a complex and rapidly changing world. I’ll hopefully be saying more about all of this in future posts.

If you have any thoughts, questions or would just like to chat, please do feel free to contact me.

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Free Walking Solution- Hataitai to CBD

Would more people walk to work or school from the Eastern suburbs if they didn’t have to use the dark, crowded, loud and smelly Mt Victoria tunnel?

Here’s the idea: can WCC and GWRC work together to give walkers a free trip from one side of the Hataitai bus tunnel to the other?

Once the bus system is up and running with a bit of spare capacity, think what a boon that could be for walkers. They could get on the bus at one side of the tunnel, just stand near the front until through the tunnel and then get off at the first stop on the other side.

If we are serious about encouraging walking and putting it at the top of the transport hierarchy, this could be a simple, cost-effective idea well worth exploring. We need to do more to use our existing infrastructure in an innovative way.

The guys in the photo certainly loved the idea!

As always, I’d be interested in your feedback.

Election Flyer 2019

Other Policies:

Shelly Bay- Shelly Bay needs a rethink. I believe the scale and intensity of the proposed development is too great for the site, especially given the revised (upwards) estimates of traffic movements.

What about walking?

Walking is the most fundamental and universal means of transport, but can get the least attention. However, Council has been doing some good stuff over the last few years, as this well travelled route from Miramar South to Kilbirnie shows.

In 2014, as a new Councillor, I was thrilled to be able to secure funding to upgrade what is now the Leonie Gill Pathway. This pathway is so loved and well-used by everyone, including walkers, cyclists, dog owners, children learning to scoot or skate, and those who just appreciate a bit of green and pleasant space.


This was followed up with widening and upgrading the footpath along Queens Drive near the Kilbirnie Mosque in 2017, and I am grateful to the adjacent homeowners who co-operated with Council in making the road reserve space available again for public use.

This was followed by improving the approaches, lighting and security for the airport runway subway in 2018, an issue highlighted by residents and local business network Enterprise Miramar. The colourful murals on each side reflecting the character and Maori mythology of the area were designed by artist Shayne Tuffery and painted with the help of students from Rongotai College. Surprisingly there are still locals who are not aware of this amazing connection (off Miro Street on the Miramar side, and off the far end of Coutts Street at the Rongotai side), but perhaps these photos will make the location of the approaches from both sides clearer.



Just recently work has begun to improve the Regal Garden’s walkway leading up to parts of Melrose, which has long been asked for by residents.

There is still more that needs to be done on this and the many other hillside walkways and streets around our suburbs, but I am totally committed to improving all conditions for walking in our city;- walkways, footpaths, safe crossings and safer speeds. The network of cycleways we are building are also an important component of this as they provide appropriate, safe routes for people cycling and scooting, meaning people using these modes are less likely to be tempted to use footpaths.

I hope to be re-elected to Council to continue this work to benefit all our residents and communities!

Q and A for the Kilbirnie, Lyall Bay Residents Association

SARAH FREE

STANDING FOR WCC EASTERN WARD

POLICIES:

Rates: Ideally we would keep rates at not much more than the rate of inflation, but this is often not possible, partly because the costs of things Council provides (roads, water infrastructure etc) have risen faster than the average rate of inflation, and partly because residents and businesses often want more for their city. City Council rates provide essential services, sewerage, clean water and storm water disposal, roads, footpaths and walkways, street lighting, sea walls; and also some of the nice-to-haves such as parks, community centres, libraries, sports facilities and swimming pools, events and festivals. The totality of what is provided perhaps puts the amount paid into perspective. Rates must be spent wisely, but enough needs to be rated to provide the things that residents collectively support through the long term and annual plan process. It’s worth noting that there is a rates rebate available for those on low incomes.

Housing: Most housing is provided by the private sector, but Council has a role in setting the District Plan, which sets out where housing can be built and restrictions such as height, site coverage, etc. Council also has an extensive social housing portfolio (over 2000 units), much of which has been recently upgraded. Council’s recent consultation on “Planning for Growth” saw residents agree that growth should be focussed on the CBD and suburban centres. This will mean more dense housing, but it must be done well to achieve liveable, pleasant outcomes for everyone, and houses that will be warm, dry and durable. Dense housing needs green space and community gardens and play areas around it. I’d also like to see Council continue to build more social housing in areas where there are good services.

Roads: Roads cost a lot to maintain and also take up space which could be used for other purposes, so we need to think carefully before building more. I do support getting back a two way road for public use between Strathmore and the south coast, ( the old Steward Duff Drive or similar), and much better public transport, including from the Airport to relieve congestion around the Cobham Drive roundabout. We will need to negotiate with WIAL to achieve both of these, but must have some leverage with our ownership share (34%).

I also support an underpass (rather than an overbridge which would need to be very high) to enable people to safely cross Cobham Drive between the two roundabouts. People try to cross there frequently and we know it is very dangerous. The “underpass” would be at the present road level or very slightly below and SH1 would rise up over it by about 4m. I know it would be more expensive than a pedestrian crossing, but I think both motorists and pedestrians/ cyclists deserve a grade-separated solution. I’d at least like this solution investigated and costed.

I think we do need another tunnel through Mt Victoria, or enlarge the existing one, in order to improve the cycling and walking access from the eastern suburbs to the city, but I am not necessarily in favour of a lot more space being given over to roads. I would like to see some creative solutions.

Id like to see slower speeds through all our suburban shopping centres, school zones, and in the CBD.

Public transport: Better public transport will be my top priority if I am re-elected. I have consistently advocated to the Regional Council to fix its broken services in the eastern suburbs, and I will continue to do so. In particular we need from the Regional Council (Metlink):

– Strathmore services that go via Newtown and Adelaide Rd to the Railway Station
– A genuine express service from the Miramar peninsula to the city
– An express airport service that is affordable and part of the Metlink services
– More buses so people are not left behind in Hataitai and other areas.
– Better weekend services in all areas
– Better wages and conditions for drivers to solve driver retention.

As the road controlling authority, there are also things the City Council needs to do:

– bus shelters on almost all inward-bound (to the city) stops and the major outbound stops
– Better bus priority at intersections, easier bus stops for drivers and people, removing pinch points on narrow roads, more bus lanes.

Climate + Environment: We need action to deal with the causes of climate change and the impacts;

– Safer and easier walking and cycling, a safe crossing for Cobham Drive (I prefer an underpass)
– Much more reliable and affordable public transport
– More charging points for electric vehicles
– Encourage businesses to employ local, purchase local
– Encouraging local food production
– Planting trees
– Sea walls where appropriate, and rebuilding and stabilising dunes
– Urban design that contains and deals with water through swales and planting
– Looking at emissions caused by air travel and seeking community-led solutions.

On other environmental matters, id like to see us deal with plastic waste ending up on our beaches, give residents incentives to reduce waste to landfill, continue the predator-free programme and do more to address climbing weeds in our reserves.

Infrastructure: We will need to spend more on water infrastructure (including emergency water storage), sea walls and retaining hillsides, and building and maintaining roads and tunnels. There will be some difficult questions to be answered in consultation with the community about where the balance lies.

Shelly Bay Development: The proposed development at Shelly Bay has been very divisive. I didn’t support the establishment of a SHA (Special Housing area) there. However, when the SHA went ahead, I did support the sale/lease of Council land on advice from Council officers that it would result in a better development overall and because I believed it was in line with our MOU with Iwi. Now that we have a new resource consent process and new information including revised traffic data, the CEO has indicated Councillors can revisit the sale/lease decision.

Local facilities (like parks and libraries): I’m very supportive and looking forward to the creation of a heritage park on Watts Peninsula. I’d like to see some green space retained on the Miramar South school site regardless of what else happens there. I also think we could do with some play equipment beside the little skate park on the Leonie Gill Pathway.

On that note, we need to look at the provision of play spaces in the eastern suburbs and make sure all our children have reasonable access to a local playground. I’d also like to see drinking fountains provided for playgrounds and popular beaches.

I’ve asked for a review of library hours in our suburban libraries as I’d like to see Miramar library in particular open longer on Saturday, given the traffic pressures in the weekends.

Finally, we need to fix the Central library with a speedy and pragmatic solution and get it back for the public as this is a resource for the whole city to use.

A predator-free Miramar peninsula;- and surrounds!

There is no doubt that local residents have generally embraced the vision of a predator-free Miramar peninsula, part of a wider plan to make Wellington the world’s first predator-free capital city. A predator-free city means a safe place for our native birds, skinks and geckos and other creatures to thrive. The Miramar peninsula offers a very real opportunity to permanently eradicate predators, as it is largely isolated by the airport and surrounded by sea., and possums have  been successfully eradicated for some years there  already.  Now it is time to be free of other predators such as rats stoats and weasels.

The ambitious goal is to be rid of these animals by the end of 2019. To get the numbers down to zero, bait stations need to be placed on a 50×50 m grid and traps on a 100mx100m grid across the entire peninsula on both public and private land. Several hundred stations and traps have already been laid, but there is always the chance that the Predator Free Wellington team would like more in your area. If you would like further information on this, or just to find out more about the programme, you can email hello@pfw.org.nz or phone 0800norats.

Of course its not just about the Miramar peninsula;- the surrounding areas  are important as well. For example, those of you going past the new cycleway and walkway under construction on Cobham Drive will have noticed the area has a high concentration of traps to stop new pest animals entering the peninsula this way.

Although I live in Strathmore Park (and yes have a trap!), I’ve been quite closely involved with the Lyall Bay predator-free group, which aims to make Lyall Bay predator-free as well. We met recently for a working bee to build trap boxes (see photos)- the actual spring traps go inside these. A mesh “gate” with a rat-sized hole means children, cats and other pets wont be able to set the trap off accidentally.

Although some people might object to trapping, once we get to the end of the year the job will hopefully be done and we will all be able to enjoy the resurgence in our native wildlife.

Oh… and by the way.. apparently the best baits are peanut butter, nutella, oats and raisins!

Thanks to Cam who is the co-ordinator for the Lyall Bay group, and to the wonderful team of volunteers (you know who you are), and to local organisations who have donated wood and other materials.

By the way, don’t feel left out if you live in other parts of Wellington:- there are  also predator free projects in Crofton Downs, Otari, South Makara, Tawa, Broadmeadows, Brooklyn, Churton Park, Glenside, Grenada Village, Houghton Valley, Island Bay, Johnsonville, Karori, Khandallah, Kilbirnie, Mt Cook/Newtown/Berhampore, Mt Victoria, Newlands/Paparangi/Woodridge, Ngaio, Northland, Seatoun, Thorndon, Wadestown and Aro Valley. Lots of great work being done all over the city.

Happy to have your feedback.

Caring for our beaches

Today I joined some of the local community in their regular monthly beach cleanup of Lyall Bay beach (it’s always the first Sunday of the month, meet at the Lyall Bay Beach playground playground at 10.00 am if you are interested!)

We spent around an hour, and collected seven bags of plastic bits and pieces, cans and other rubbish. Interestingly, the plastic this time was mainly smaller bits which might indicate it has washed down through stormwater drains rather than being blown directly onto the beach. Or perhaps larger bits have been there long enough to break down.

We also found quite a lot of polypropylene matting loose on the beach- this was used beneath the rock reinforcing installed along the sides of the bay two years ago. It is a  concern that this has broken loose and I’ll make sure Council staff know.

Looking through the clumps of seaweed, I realised just how many different types there are. Apparently,  Cook Strait is one of New Zealand’s seaweed hotspots, with around 370 species, or 30% of the New Zealand total. It is one of the reasons the South Coast is such a rich ecosystem and a taonga we can all be proud of.  Its worth looking after!

 

My Answers to Lets Get Welly Moving

Will we ever get Wellington moving? And what does that mean?
The Kilbirnie Lyall Bay Residents association recently asked Eastern Ward councilors to give their views on the following questions (These are also published on their Facebook page).

Here are my answers and I am happy to have feedback!

1. What’s your general thoughts about the LGWM plans – do you support it?

ANS: Yes, I support the LGWM proposal, and am particularly keen to see the mass transit prioritised and delivered as soon as possible right through to the airport.

2. Do you think these plans will improve congestion in Wellington?

ANS: Around 60 % of people in the eastern suburbs use private vehicles to get to work at present, much higher than most other parts of Wellington. This, combined with taxis to and from the airport and the influx of commuters coming in to the suburb to access schools, sports facilities and other services are contributing hugely to congestion in the eastern suburbs.
Affordable and convenient public transport along clearly defined routes connecting places people want to go will help reduce this congestion.

3. If so, how long do you think it will be before we see any improvement.

ANS: The rollout of the mass transport and associated roading changes will take a quite a few years, so there also needs to be pressure on GWRC to get the new bus system working much better and to do this as quickly as possible. Its good that GWRC have started a review of the bus services in the eastern suburbs;-they also need to look at passenger comfort, convenience and affordability, and driver recruitment and remuneration. WCC can and will do more to help with on the road infrastructure and bus priority. If this can be achieved and we also have better infrastructure for cycling, walking and micro-mobility, we should be able to see real improvements in a 12-24 month time frame. More could also be done to let people know about the airport flyer and the public bus services close to the airport.

4. Do you think these plans will improve congestion in the Eastern Suburbs and access to the airport If so, how long do you think it will be before we see any improvement.

ANS: Yes, the plans should definitely improve congestion. As to timeframe, please see the answer above.

5. What are your thoughts on Bus priority to and from the city along core routes scheduled for 2024-2029?

ANS: Bus priority is an important aspect of improving travel times and reliability. It is fair to say this probably didn’t get sufficient attention from either GWRC or WCC prior to the rollout of the new services in July 2015 (there was a lot of reliance from GWRC on simply reducing the numbers of buses down the Golden Mile), but improvements in this area are a big focus now.

6. Bus priority – Will it impact other traffic flows?

ANS: There are some things which can be done in the short term (for example, more bus priority at intersections, making sure buses can physically get around corners and along their routes easily)- which will probably have minimal overall impact on other traffic. Bus lanes of course, take road space from other users, so they have to be planned and rolled out with care. Lots of modelling is done to assess the impact on other users.

7. What do you think about the Cobham Drive walking and cycling crossing?

ANS: Something is needed there as it is a huge barrier to people trying to walk (or cycle) between Miramar and Kilbirnie. I would have preferred to see the road level raised with a short underpass for cyclists and walkers, but that would be extremely expensive. The lights are a relatively cheap option and if they are triggered a lot and slow traffic down too much, this could strengthen the case for a better solution.

8. What do you think about reduced speed limits on SH1 east of Mt Victoria?

ANS: I support a reduced speed on the Cobham Drive section to assist with the traffic lights. At busy times it will make little difference, and at other times the section is short enough that the additional time gained by accelerating to 70 km/hr then reducing speed at the roundabouts means there is little time saved.

9. Extra Mt Victoria tunnel – What do you think about the extra Mt Victoria tunnel by 2029?

ANS: I support an extra Mt Vic tunnel (or the widening of the existing tunnel) if it is needed, but I believe we should absolutely prioritise the mass transit first and then make that assessment. I will say that the current walking and cycling facility through there is completely inadequate, so in my mind that alone is a case for some improvement..

10. Extra Mt Victoria tunnel – How will this help the eastern suburbs if the Basin improvements and relocation of SH1 southbound from Vivian St into a new tunnel under Te Aro are not completed at the same time?

ANS: This is a good question. I know a lot of modelling is being done. But again, this illustrates why I think the mass transit needs to be a priority, as shifting some people out of private cars and onto convenient and affordable public transit will definitely help, as will more people walking and cycling. I should mention that there will also need to be step change in the provision of bus services all around the city to really achieve a good system;- the eastern suburbs do not exist in isolation from the rest of the city.

11. What do you think about Ruahine St/Wellington Rd widening being delayed until the 2024-2029 timeslot?

ANS: I support a really good look at how much widening needs to be done, and it makes sense to look at it in the context of the Mt Vic tunnel whenever this is.

12. Basin Improvements – What do you think about the reports/references to Basin improvements noting the report is vague on detail only stating Improvements will include:
-Minor at-grade changes in the short-term to improve reliable access for all modes
-Grade separation between north-south movements, east-west movements, and any mass transit corridors

ANS: We do not have much detail on the improvements, but the grade separation between North-South and East-West should achieve faster and more reliable journey times both for public transport and for other vehicles, which is a major goal of the project.

13. Basin Improvements – Do you agree or disagree this a failure of the report noting it is the main choke point on route between the eastern suburbs and the city and the history of the proposed flyover?.

ANS: There is obviously more detail to come.

14. Mass transit to airport is not scheduled till after 2029 – why isn’t this a priority?

ANS: I agree mass transit all the way from the station to the airport must be an absolute priority. I have made that point at Council and will continue to do so. The project was defined after all as the “Ngauranga to airport” corridor!

15. Light Rail Proposed route by FIT that seems to match the LGWM route – what are your thoughts as impacted residents have voiced concerns that this route will seriously impact the traffic flow along Coutts/Rongotai and seriously impact the residents of the side streets, i.e. Yule and Ross?

ANS: The route links the places people most want to go and that means bringing it from the hospital and zoo into Kilbirnie, the ASB Centre, to Miramar and the airport. The route has to go somewhere, and there’s also a strong argument that it will reduce traffic overall. Overseas experience also shows a good mass transit route adds a lot of value to surrounding areas.

Other thoughts?

ANS: We cannot forget about improving the bus system as this is what we will have in the short term.
I have been strongly advocating and will continue advocate to GWRC for the following:

Firstly, sorting out the capacity and service delivery so we get what’s been timetabled.
Also:
-seats back in buses and the delivery of all the promised new buses with bike racks -retention of the 18e
– the 18 to go to Kilbirnie rather than just Miramar
– restoring the express peak services, especially from the peninsula to the city
– more services from Strathmore Park to Newtown and the Basin Reserve
– better signage of bus services at the airport -more reliable connections for shuttle buses (eg the 28 connecting again with the 30x) -more weekend and off peak services
– bus layover stops near toilet facilities for bus drivers
– more bus shelters and RTI boards
In addition, WCC councillors have asked our Council to step up the rollout of new bus shelters, and to accelerate the bus priority programme. We are also working to formalise the way the two organisations work together and to build a stronger partnership.

Thanks for inviting me to give my thoughts. I am happy as always to take feedback. -Cr Sarah Free

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