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Eastern suburbs cyclists not forgotten

With all the focus on the Island Bay to City cycle way, I’d just like to note that the Eastern suburbs  have not been forgotten.

Wellington City Council has engaged Opus International to start consulting with communities in Kilbirnie and Miramar in May this year to find out how best to plan for cycling improvements over the next few years.

The key focus will be on enhancing connectivity to local attractions and services such as shops and schools. Council is keen to hear feedback on the standard to which certain cycling routes should be developed.

It is my understanding that alongside the  development of the new Kilbirnie cycleway/walkway,  there is a reasonably strong proposal to have bike lanes on Onepu Road, and to continue a cycling route through the runway underpass tunnel onto Broadway and through to Miramar and/or Seatoun.

The 2013 census data showed three quarters of  our commuter cyclists currently are men, but I am sure that many more women (and probably some more men and children too!) would cycle if good safe cycle ways were available. Around twenty years ago around a quarter of travel to school was by cycle. (Ministry of Transport, 2009).

I will  post further information  once dates and times for the  consultation process are decided on.


Draft Town Belt Bill makes it clear land is not for sale

Glad to say that Council passed last night ( 9 to 6) an amendment moved by Helene Ritchie and seconded by myself, to remove a potentially confusing and somewhat ambiguous option to negotiate/sell Town Belt Land in anticipation of it being compulsorily acquired under the Public Works Act.

The draft Wellington Town Belt Bill now stands clear and unambiguous in its primary purpose to protect and enhance the Town Belt.

Yes, we may lose land under the Public Works Act as has happened in the past. But we will face that possibility as and when it actually occurs, with the underlying principle that that we are charged  never to willingly “sell, exchange or use as security any part of the Wellington Town Belt”.

And under the Public Works Act we may still have some ability to negotiate. It will be well known that if land has to be taken ( for transport projects for example), our preference will be to receive back land in exchange. Council has identified several pieces of land it aspires to have returned to the Town Belt, including land around Wellington College, Clifton Terrace and so on.

Furthermore if we disagree with the compensation offered, under the Public Works Act we can take a case to the High Court.

By upholding the highest principles in this Bill, we are making it clear that Town Belt Land has the highest value; beyond dollars in fact.

Any attempt to enshrine a negotiation process into the legislation would have not necessarily added anything, and in fact I am convinced would have weakened our position, dismayed most Wellingtonians, and have put the sponsorship of the Bill ( by local MP Grant Robertson) at risk.



Airport press release gives update on runway investigations

Media Release – Wellington Airport welcomes ANA 777 charter flight direct from Japan  

This morning Wellington Airport hosted a direct flight from Tokyo for a Japanese delegation who are visiting the Capital. The ANA charter flight is a Boeing 777-300ER which is a wide-body long haul aircraft.

Wellington Airport has previously catered for other wide-body aircraft such as the Qantas A330 during the Rugby World cup. While Wellington’s runway enables some long haul aircraft to land with a commercially viable load, the existing runway length limits the maximum available take-off weight.  The additional fuel required to reach long haul destinations means that the number of passengers and cargo are restricted on flights beyond Australia.

As announced last year, Wellington Airport is studying the options to extend the runway and is aiming to lodge the application for consent in early 2015.

“One of the first milestones we are working towards is to confirm the engineering feasibility of extending the runway.  So over the next three months engineering design and costs will be developed for options to extend north or south,” said Steve Sanderson, Wellington Airport’s Chief Executive.

“Extending the runway will enable direct long haul flights for Wellington’s existing market and open up growth opportunities not only for the region, but for New Zealand.”

“There are a number of economic development initiatives for Wellington in the pipeline; some are at the idea stage and others such as the conference centre are being further scoped. Direct international connections will support the potential and growth for these initiatives. Currently the lack of connections is constraining the region with negative flow on effects at a national level.”

An initial economic study showed compelling benefits from extending the runway and a further independent study has been commissioned into the economic impact for Wellington, the region and New Zealand.


There are many gates to go through, project streams and reports necessary before lodging the application for consent. Over the course of the year the airport will produce reports for the consenting process, including:

  •                 Economic benefit to Wellington, the region and New Zealand
  •                 Extension options that look at both north and south directions.
  •                 Engineering design and cost
  •                 Review of feasible alternative airport locations in the region
  •                 Ecological impact assessment
  •                 Noise, traffic and urban impact
  •                 Landscape assessment
  •                 Social, cultural and recreational impacts
  •                 Archaeological assessment

Once the airport has undertaken the comprehensive assessments and design it will initiate public wide consultation and feedback.

“It is expected that the proposed extension and impacts will be presented for public consultation later this year. We are looking forward to consulting with stakeholders, airlines, civic partners, our local community, businesses and the region.”


Background information on extension


Existing long haul market -. The Wellington long haul market is currently over 9,000 passengers per week and growing. A daily return service using a Boeing 787-8 aircraft with market average loads carries around 2,500 passengers per week – so Wellington has over three times the demand required for a long haul service. This current demand does not include the additional passenger growth you would see from having direct services.

Types of long haul aircraft – A moderate runway extension will minimise load restrictions for next generation aircraft and provide the commercial case necessary for an airline to serve Wellington. The lighter and more fuel efficient next generation aircraft such as the B787 and A350 enhance the commercial case for airlines to serve Wellington. These aircraft can reach long haul destinations with less fuel and carry more passengers and cargo. It was originally forecast that their performance levels would enable long haul flights off Wellington’s existing runway. However, now flying, their actual performance was not as favourable meaning they would still be load restricted and not commercially viable. There are around 1,700 next generation aircraft on order worldwide and they will be in operation for the next 15 to 20 years.

Impact of Newlands Ridge – The current and future aircraft fleet operating at Wellington will be less impacted by Newlands ridge. Aircraft can use new technology called Required Navigation Performance (RNP) which enables curved flight paths that avoid Newlands Ridge. This technology is already being used in Queenstown and Wellington with a trial underway in Auckland. The consenting process will further review the navigational requirements, which will be required for compliance with the Civil Aviation Authority.

Wellington Airport – Wellington’s airport is a major contributor to the regional economy. With 5.4 million passengers per year it contributes around $1.5 billion per year, employing about 1,500 people directly and sustaining nearly 10,000 full-time-equivalent jobs in the region.


Photos available on request. Enquiries to:


Greg Thomas

T +64 4 385 5148

M +64 21 430 435

New graffiti bylaw for Wellington?

Glad to say that Wellington City Councils Community Sports and Recreation Committee (of which I am a member), has directed Council officers to work on a possible new bylaw which would allow Council to remove publicly visible graffiti on private property, without needing to contact owners.

In my view, Council does need this provision, as a lot of graffiti vandalism occurs on privately owned fences, garage doors etc. Some owners are good at removing it, but others ( for whatever reason)  are not.  And unfortunately, the longer graffiti remains in situ, the more likely it is that more graffiti will follow.

There will be the need to consult with the community on this as it develops, and other questions to be asked, such as how does Council seek to recoup costs from owners. However,  I believe we do need to take a more proactive attitude to graffiti, which will include keeping a tally of the actual costs of removal and of course, trying to catch  and deal appropriately with offenders.

The picture below shows me working on the cleanup around Newtown last summer.

This combined community/council initiative resulted in a huge reduction in visible graffit, and enhanced sense of pride in their suburb for Newtown residents and businesses..

All comments are welcome!IMG_0697


Buses – lets get some action on the do-able

I must confess to a feeling of dismay when I heard that Greater Wellington Regional Council had voted in their draft 2014 annual plan to raise bus fares yet again.

This is despite continual talk about needing to promote public transport, talk of off-peak reduced fares, free transfers, and reduced youth fares.

Wellington bus users pay 55-60% of the cost of bus services, although NZTA policy would allow for a contribution of around 50%.

Bus patronage has been declining, and fare increases are unlikely to help. And yet we have peak time congestion around the basin reserve and other pinch points, for which we are considering multi-million dollar solutions.

Well – here’s my proposal.

We don’t make any decisions on BRT or light rail just yet- and we don’t raise bus fares.

Instead, we implement as soon as possible a short-term, say 2 month trial of off-peak half price fares on all bus routes. 

We could also trial free transfers, that is you could board another bus for free within say 30 minutes of getting off the  first bus.

The present SNAPPER system has all the functionality for this that we would need.

We collect data on the changes in numbers using bus services and the changes in time of use, and make informed and realistic decisions on how to proceed next.

All it really needs is for the political will to do it, and enough communication between the various parties involved.

I say lets get on with the do-able.


New Cycleway/Walkway for Kilbirnie

Very happy to report that funding has been approved in WCC’ s draft annual plan to create a new cycleway/walkway across Kilbirnie from Cockburn Street along the back of the bus barns and Rongotai College to Lyall Bay- Wellington’s first linear park.

Great for walkers, kids learning to ride, family recreation, and creating an oasis in the middle of suburbia…

There’s also the potential to link up with the runway underpass and through to Strathmore.

The draft annual plan will go out for consultation in the New Year.

The last post- a letter to my supporters

The last post- or least the last post before the election!

Before I continue I’d just like to say that I appreciate all the comments on the site and also all the feedback I’ve received privately. Your  insights are valuable. Your support has been much appreciated.

The challenge for me as a Green, is that its not enough to identify the problems- most of us are  only too aware of them. The challenge is to come up with workable and believable solutions,  to  articulate them clearly enough to gather widespread support, and then to break them into smaller plans that can be easily implemented. This applies whether it is making a difference to our cycling infrastructure, to getting healthier more affordable housing, or to getting our local economy in better shape.

We also need to challenge the motivations of some of our leadership and the growing worship of the market and the dollar.

I’ve  realised (and maybe most of you have as well)  its not money that makes things happen, its people! (even if its money that may motivate them)

And its not money that makes people happy, its people! (even if we need some money to live)- along with great communities, a healthy environment and a basic faith in the  goodness of the world.

It would be a privilege to serve as a Councillor for our wonderful city- and maybe that will happen. But even if it doesn’t, I will continue to work where and as I can to make a positive difference to my country, my city , my own local community and of course my hugely supportive and wonderful family…

Helen's wedding

Arohanui to you all,


PS The site will continue…although you will see it change very shortly to be non-political to comply with electoral law

Raising the Creek in Houghton Valley

Many people may not realise that Houghton Valley is  part of the Eastern Ward. Tucked in on our beautiful South Coast, it is in fact a very special community, with strong  social networks and residents that are  advancing some exciting and innovative resilience initiatives.

I had the privilege last Sunday of joining in a Sunday working bee at the lush community gardens, and hearing about some of their latest ventures; not only the community gardens themselves, but regular film evenings, and plans to do much more including restoring the bush around the playing fields, and raising the Creek that still flows under the old landfill site.


The landfill has been an ongoing concern. It was one of the first in Wellington, and was not set up to modern standards. Hence when it rains, water soaks through the  landfill site, picking up contaminants; and the resulting leachate which smells strongly of petrol/oils or perhaps solvents, arrives at Houghton Bay beach, and eventually ends up in the marine reserve.

The photo below was taken during Conservation week, when we were collecting rubbish from around the beach and noticed the smell. An email sent to Greater Wellington resulted in a visit by an environmental officer who agreed with our concerns. Current measures don’t seem to be sufficient to completely deal to the problem- but it may be that raising the Creek could  be part of an eventual solution.

The Council has recently done some policy work on Water Sensitive Urban Design- the  environmental reference group of which I am co-chair noted that the documents so far focus on flat land, and that better and more innovative storm water management solutions are needed for hilly areas such as Houghton Valley.


Graffiti clean-up day in Newtown


My sister, son and I went along for an hour on Saturday to help out with graffiti removal in Newtown. Mayor Celia Wade-Brown was there too, along with a team of council staff. We were given water, scrubbing brushes and scrapers and were asked to help remove the illegally pasted posters on one of the end walls at the mall.

This is just one of the many initiatives the Council has been trying over recent weeks to reduce graffiti in the Southern Ward, along with painting out graffiti on Council property and painting colourful murals on graffiti-prone walls. I believe that it is starting  to make a positive difference,  and am happy that there are plans to start some of this proactive response in the eastern suburbs as well.


Getting Stewart Duff Drive back

I recently received via email some questions about the proposed runway extension from a concerned Miramar resident. I’ve reprinted the questions and my answers below:

1. Do you personally support the plans for a runway extension at Wellington airport?

I cannot support an airport extension at this stage. I think there is a lot that needs to be queried about the existing relationship between Infratil and Wellington City Council, including why WCC did not manage to sucessfully advocate to keep the public vehicle access in both directions along Stewart Duff Drive. I would also like to better understand the basis on which the dividend to the city for its existing 34% share of WIAL is calculated, and why Infratil seems to think it can ask the City to contribute $200 million while it is only prepared to contribute $100 million. This is at a time when Infratil is flush with money and is talking about investing in new baggage handling facilities and a new cafe (see their 2013 annual report)
Until we have a stronger negotiating position, the Council needs to hold onto some bargaining chips. See my post on the topic


2.How much more air traffic and noise will this bring to the Miramar peninsula?

My understanding is that the proposed one extra flight per day will not make much difference to the existing noise levels- some of the more modern planes that might fly the long haul route are actually quieter than the current planes. Of course, eventually the plan would be for more than one flight, and for the airport to be generally busier.

3. Are there plans to extend air traffic into the night time?

I believe the answer to this is NO. The fly time curfew does appear to be very strictly upheld.

4.How will Miramar cope with the extended amount of car traffic that is to be expected? 

This is a very interesting question. The traffic effects will probably be most severe along SH1, in Strathmore (as people seek alternative parking) and at the airport itself. I have been at the airport twice in recent days, once to collect a passenger and once to drop off. The new car-parking arrangements are currently a complete debacle. To find a car park, collect my passengers, load their luggage, pay for my ticket and then exit cost $7 for just over 30 minutes. It was not a happy or relaxed welcome to Wellington. The following day, I did manage to drop off my passengers in just under 10 minutes so didn’t have to pay. But it was stressful…

I hope that gives you a picture of my position on the airport.

If I am elected to Council I will do my best to get back unimpeded public access in both directions along Stewart Duff Drive. I will also seek to get some legal and financial advice on the City’s position, so we have a clearer idea of our bargaining power when it comes to matters such as parking and how the airport chooses to invest in its infrastructure.

I would like to say that I am not totally opposed to extending the airport ever, but it has to be under circumstances that make it a clear WIN for all of Wellington, with the environmental and other impacts costed and mitigated, a clear business case, and the City’s  contributions commensurate with its financial share in the airport company.


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