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Fixing Wellington’s Water Woes

There is no doubt we have been through a difficult time with our water infrastructure. My view is that generally aging infrastructure combined with damage from the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake accelerated breakages, and repairing this is not helped by a diminished workforce at Wellington Water (they are currently down one third of their staff).

In retrospect, previous Councils have not invested enough – but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Our current Council has certainly sought to make up for this – we are already fixing many pipes and have put aside 2.3 Billion over 10 years for further improvements.

In my time, as a local councillor-I have pushed for storm water upgrades for Queens Drive and Rua Street (2016), storm water upgrades in Kilbirnie (2017) and renewing the storm water outfall to sea as part of the Cobham Drive cycleway/walkway installation in 2019. We were also promised upgrades of the pipes to Miramar as part of any development at Shelly Bay.

We’ve made major investments  in the sewerage network with the upgrade of rising mains in Bowen, Whitmore and Featherston Streets, a new Dixon Street pump station and rising main as well as repairs to the main interceptor pipe out to Moa Point. Wellington Water are currently working on building additional resilience into the CBD sewerage system with a  second pump station and rising main under Taranaki Street and a new connection to that main under Wakefield Street from Kent Terrace.

We’re also planning a sludge drying plant so that rather than the 24 truckloads of “sludge” we saw when the Mt Albert tunnel was damaged, we will only have 1 truckload of dried pellets. This will massively reduce the volume we are sending to landfill and help us look at other waste reduction to extend the life of our landfill. (At the moment , we need to mix 4 parts of ordinary waste with each part of sludge for stabilisation- the requirement to do this will disappear once we have the dried product).

It’s worth mentioning too that we have now nearly finished building the massive new Omaroro reservoir which will provide a secure water supply for the hospital and back up for water to the southern and eastern suburbs, as well as putting in a city-wide network of community water storage tanks (at schools and the like) for emergency resilience. The photo below shows some current councillors on a visit to the Omaroro site in March 2021 just prior to the concrete base being poured.

While out door-knocking I’ve picked up a lot of concern about our water infrastructure, but also that residents don’t know what is being done to fix this. I hope this post helps. As always, please feel free to comment or contact me if you would like further information. Email or phone 022 121 6412


Missing the Cook Strait News

I placed an ad with Regional News this week, but to be honest, I’ve had no feedback at all that people have seen it. ( Let me know if you have!) Anyway here is my pitch:

Vote #1 Sarah Free for Motukairangi/Eastern Ward

As Deputy Mayor, I’ve worked constructively with others to get things done.

Despite challenges, we’re fixing broken pipes and important buildings such as the Town Hall and Central Library. We’re completing the Omaroro reservoir and Takina convention centre.

Let’s Get Wellington Moving is finally moving, with a second tunnel and significant city-wide improvements in public transport, walking and cycling planned- allowing more housing and climate-friendly transport choices for us all.

We must continue to protect our stunning natural environment, but our biggest strength is people.   We need a safe, vibrant CBD and thriving suburban businesses. We need to ensure the city works for everyone and residents feel heard. 

Locally, I’m proud to have led on new cycleways and walkways for the East including at Oriental Bay and Cobham Drive. I’ve worked with GWRC colleagues to improve our bus network, advocated for bus lanes and shelters, for a plan to fix our wharves and for upgrades to several playgrounds and community facilities.

My focus is on improving transport options, resilient infrastructure, thriving businesses and communities, and clear priorities for spending. 

The times are not easy- now more than ever we need experienced, capable, responsive leadership.  Please support me with your #1 vote.

I’m shown here welcoming the new toilet facilities and drinking fountain at Monorgan Park play area with Strathmore Park Residents Association President Karl Frost ( thanks to Karl for permission to use this photo).

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 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.


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




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 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.

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