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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.
-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

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.


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