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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.

 

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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,

Sarah

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.

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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.

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Graffiti clean-up day in Newtown

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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.

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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.

 

Circling in a holding pattern- parking at Wellington airport

On Tuesday, I went to the airport to collect my aunt, visiting from Seattle in the US.  I spent a totally frustrating (and dangerous) 10 minutes circling narrow laneways, fruitlessly looking for a car park, witnessing near collisions as cars tried to turn into blind corners, and finally finding a car park at the remotest end of the upper level. I was inwardly seething as I went to meet my relative, and by the time I had found her, walked back to the car with luggage, run to the ticket machine (only one for the whole upper level),  back to the car, and then negotiated the slalem course to the exit, it had been just over 30 minutes and I was charged a cool $7.00.
It was embarrassing, to be honest,  to be welcoming someone to New Zealand’s capital city in such a manner.
Perhaps its not an extension we need, so much as a long hard look at what we already have. Because quite frankly, If I were to criticise the current Council for anything, it would be the way in which they seem to have lost all control of what is going on with the airport.
Did someone at WCC issue a resource consent for all of this? What happened to the City’s representation on the board?
I will be posting more on my position on this shortly.
 

Cycling needs serious investment

Recently, Mayoral and Council candidates were asked for their views on the amount that should be spent on improving the cycling experience in Wellington.

(http://can.org.nz/article/quiz-the-candidates-wellington-council-elections-2013)

I’m serious about getting better cycling, and suggested a fairly ambitious $20 million per year for three years with a review after that. Maybe that’s not achievable, but I wanted to make the point that we need a serious spend, not just fiddling around with a million  here and there.  However, I’m  not suggesting Council should fund it all- I envisage a shared funding arrangement with fairly major contributions from Greater Wellington, and NZTA.

I also agree with colleague David Lee who suggested that some of the money could come from the existing Council roading budget of around $25 million a year- quite simply, when a road is upgraded the planned cycling infrastructure is included.

There are more and more Wellingtonians cycling and a recent survey found that 92% of respondents  would try cycling if it were safer. Cycling has huge health and other social benefits; keeping healthy and fit, enjoyment of the outdoors, social recreation, reduction of congestion, reduction in pollutants, saving on fuel bills, etc

However, there are also negatives; mainly the frustration for motorists of having to share  roads where no thought has been given to mode share, and the injuries and even deaths to cyclists.

Wellington is New Zealand’s most dangerous city for cyclists. The 2012/13 monitoring report on the Regional Land Transport Strategy (RLTS), records that one cyclist died, 33 were seriously injured and 91 suffered minor injuries last year alone. This gives a serious economic basis for increased investment , with the Ministry of Transport  setting a figure of $3.3 million in 2008 as the economic value of a single life (see p7,  http://www.nzips.govt.nz/documents/Report4.pdf ).

We need to do better, and simply painting “cycle lanes” on the road isn’t enough. In most cases intersections need  better cycling infrastructure; we also need to widen some  roads and/or improve the road surface at the margins. In other cases we need to consider more innovative solutions such as  to partially close off some less-used roads to through traffic so they are more cycle (and pedestrian) friendly. I have also suggested  commuter cycling routes could be considered through part of the Town Belt, for example from Island Bay through to Newtown, and through to Kilbirnie.

Nothing will change if we don’t make it change, and in my view the time for some serious investment in cycling is now. Eastern Ward residents, if  you elect me as your councillor, I will vigorously put this issue on the table! And you can expect me to advocate for some projects in the Eastern ward as well, starting with better cycling around the Miramar peninsula, through  Kilbirnie and around Evan’s Bay.

New social housing for Miramar

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I received a twitter message this morning: “Marshall court flats coming down, whats happened to the residents?”

After a quick call to  one of the tenancy managers, I can report the following:

The block of 46 bedsit units needed upgrading to make units warmer drier and more energy efficient. They also needed quite a bit of expensive earthquake strengthening, and even then would only be at 70% of code.

Looking at the costings, it became clear that it was more economic to demolish and rebuild. So all the residents have now been relocated to other social housing, in areas of their choice.

Instead of 48 bedsits, the new building will have 27  1 bed units,  designed for older residents and those with disabilities. So there will be wide doorways, wet area bathrooms, cupboards and kitchen facilities to suit the disabled, and a lift for access. As well as double glazing, curtains and good ventilation.

So hopefully good news overall.

As someone who has worked for the last few years in the area of housing and health, I have been heartened by the current Council’s commitment to upgrading its social housing . The new flats are so much more livable, and more economic for residents.

Tsunami threat calls for an action plan

I’ve talked before about the need for a Tsunami Action Plan for the southern and eastern suburbs. 

The latest study shows that if there is a large local earthquake near Wellington, coastal residents may only have 10-12 minutes to get to high ground. In this case, people will need to know exactly what the plan is. Cars may not be the best option; grabbing family members and running may be better. In any event, I believe we could do with more ways (steps etc) to get quickly to higher ground.

In some instances, Council could simply make more steps up to existing roads and signpost them clearly. In other cases Council could work in partnership with private property owners. For example around Owhiro Bay, Houghton Bay,  Moa Point and Breaker Bay,  property owners may be prepared to cut steps up their hillsides to a safe refuge point, and could receive some Council assistance towards this if they were prepared to let neighbours  use these access points in an emergency.

Any comments?

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11132261

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