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Cheaper off-peak bus fares, have your say

Campbell Live featured Wellington bus prices tonight, and has invited the public to comment on whether half price off -peak bus fares would be a good idea.

Of course, I have long been advocating for this.

If you would like to show your support, please feel free to comment on

After hearing submitters today ( I was one),  the Regional Council released a press statement tonight saying they had decided not to increase fares, which is good; however in my view, we still need the off-peak discounts, and capped daily fares or free transfers.

Public opinion does count, so have your say!



WCC puts strong submission on city buses

Yesterday the urban design and transport committee, along with some other interested Councillors such as Nicola Young and myself,  discussed WCC’s submission on the Regional Council’s draft public transport plan.


I am heartened to say that I believe we will be putting in a strong submission for  reductions in bus fares and fast tracking of integrated ticketing among other things.

The Councils media release on the submission is below.



14 May 2014

Capital’s Council calls for fairer deal on fares

Wellington City Council will continue to push for cheaper bus fares, faster development of a smart integrated ticketing system and the best possible low emission buses.


The high costs of maintaining and operating trolley buses and other issues such as resilience may mean they are not the best choice for a future service. A far more thorough analysis of the costs and options by the Greater Wellington Regional Council is necessary rather than premature exclusion.


It also wants the Regional Council to reconsider the bus fare rise planned later this year, particularly the  zone one fare, and invest any future cost savings in bringing public transport fares down.


Greater Wellington is suggesting future off-peak discounts of 25 percent. The City Council’s position is that Greater Wellington should be halving off-peak bus fares with the aim of increasing public transport patronage across the region by 10 percent, and peak fares should also be reduced.


The requests form part of the City Council’s submission to Greater Wellington on its draft Wellington Regional Public Transport Plan, which was considered by the city’s Transport and Urban Development Committee today.


Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says public transport patronage across the region is flat. “We want to see a fairer deal on fares to get more people using public transport. Cuts in fares could pay for themselves with increased patronage.”


In general, the Council thinks the new bus routes proposed are very good but will ask the Regional Council to re-examine a couple – Khandallah and the #18 servicing the universities.


The Committee today also considered the work that needs to be done next to develop a bus rapid transit network through the central city as far as the hospital and a second branch to Kilbirnie. The routes and rapid transit system were agreed following the completion of the two-year Public Transport Spine Study, which was jointly funded by the NZ Transport Agency, Greater Wellington and the City Council.

Council also agreed to protect a route from Newtown to Kilbirnie to future-proof the city for light rail one day.


Councillor Andy Foster, who chairs the Committee, says a joint project team involving all three organisations is now being set up to do detailed design and planning and in a way, the hard work is just beginning.


“We need to work out what a bus rapid transit system will look like in this city – what’s possible, how we fit it through the various streets, what any changes will cost, how they will be funded and what the trade-offs are,” he says.


“The next generation of vehicles must be high-quality, low-emission and preferably electric. We are keen to see some options trialled. Our immediate task is measuring exact curve radii and height restrictions to identify “choke” points so we establish maximum physical dimensions of the new vehicles.”


Cr Foster says the City Council strongly supports the need to reduce the number of buses using the Golden Mile to reduce the congestion and journey time delays, but doesn’t want buses stopping or having priority on alternative routes like Featherston Street or the Quays.


“That means using a smaller number of longer and higher vehicles. I’m told modern double-deckers should fit through most of our tunnels, these are the sorts of things we need to know for sure.


“We also need to look at where the buses should run on wider roads like Kent and Cambridge terraces and Adelaide Road – down the outside as they do at the moment or in the centre. We plan to significantly improve these areas but can’t get on with detailed design until these things are decided.”


Cr Foster says the Council also plans to work with NZTA and Greater Wellington to assess whether there is any real need or public transport gains to be had from developing future dedicated bus lanes on Ruahine Street.


“As guardians of the Town Belt, we don’t want to see this road widened beyond its existing designation of four lanes.”


For more information, please contact:

Cr Andy Foster, Transport and Urban Development Committee Chair, phone 476 9220 or 021 227 8537

Lyn Murphy, Council Communications, phone 801 4003 or 021 227 8119.

Lets get our buses working

Both Councillor Nicola Young (Lambton Ward) and I made independent submissions to Greater Wellington’s draft annual plan in regard to their proposal to raise bus fares yet again.

If they go ahead, it will be the second year in a row that there have been bus fare increases; this at a time when bus patronage is actually falling, and the Regional Council’s rhetoric is all about the need to get more people out of private cars and into public transport.

In summary, my submission asked for three things:

No fare increases;

Prompt introduction of off-peak fare discounts with an immediate trial this winter;

Capped daily fares.

There may be other  solutions to address pricing, and to make public transport appealing and affordable.

However, I couldn’t let this issue pass without at least submitting something.

I will put a link to my full submission once it is published on the GW website.






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

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