JULIE ANNE GENTER: What changes ahead for Wellington?

Opinion 25/08/2017
Photo: Bill Dickinson

OPINION: What the wind of political change could mean for Wellington

I’m an Aucklander, but because I’m also a Member of Parliament I spend a lot of time in our capital city.

While I’ve never quite gotten used to the bumpy flights, or the bone-chilling wind, I have always loved Wellington.

It’s blessed with something few other places in New Zealand have, a compact urban design where both nature and city are incredibly accessible. The city’s best bars, cafes, cinemas, beaches and greenbelt are all within about 20 minutes’ walk of each other.

While in most parts of our country it’s hard to go anywhere without a car, in Wellington it’s genuinely easier and faster to catch the bus, walk or just jump on your bike (provided the wind is at your back).

But strangely, I have watched our politicians and transport planners fight for the last 9 years to undermine these noble Wellington qualities.

The big transport projects promoted by the National Government all have a similar flavour. The Transmission Gully motorway, a flyover across the Basin Reserve cricket ground, and another car tunnel through Mount Victoria and the Terrace.

Transmission Gully is expected to bring 11,500 more cars into the city every morning. If those other projects go ahead, you could expect to see Wellington City flooded with vehicle traffic.

The Green Party has a different vision for Wellington. Where the city is vibrant and full of people (not queues of traffic) and where there’s more space for people to walk, cycle and enjoy the city.

That is why the Green Party in government will work with councils to build a light rail network from the Railway Station to Newtown by 2025, and to Kilbirnie and the airport by 2027. We’ll also begin scoping work for additional lines out to Island Bay, Miramar and into Lower Hutt.

Light rail would not only shave time off the journey from the southern and eastern suburbs, it would transform the city. It’ll create more space for people and calm traffic by removing the number of cars and diesel buses travelling along the Golden mile.

Because light rail also has more capacity than similar bus systems, it can cater for growth in medium density housing, shops and cafes close to the city.

We also made a commitment to help Wellington become the first city in New Zealand with a 100 percent electric public transport system by 2030. The existing electric trolley bus network will be retained and used as the foundation for new battery-electric buses to charge and run off.

Electric buses and trains are quiet and fast and emit none of the unhealthy diesel fumes, or climate damaging pollution of normal diesel-fuelled public transport. It’s key to creating a happier, healthier, cleaner city.

There are 170 cities in the world similar in population size to Wellington or smaller that have successful light rail networks. Other cities around the world are rushing to install electric bus networks.

With the Greens at the heart of the next progressive government, Wellington can join them.

Julie Anne Genter, Green Party Transport Spokesperson