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    • 12%
      • A couple of months ago, the Wellington City Council released its 2022 edition of the Resident Monitoring Survey. This document is …

    • Asbestos as an excuse
      • This article has been written by Tony Short (Taranaki Whanui, construction and architectural consultant, Miramar Peninsula resident, Shelly Bay occupation …

    • We need to build a city without noise
      • COVID sucks. And with COVID comes lockdown. Lockdown sucks too, except for one thing: how it sounds. I love the sound of lockdown. The silence overpowers everything. It absorbs every noise and exacerbates those of life: birds, people talking, walking, laughing, the waves or the wind. These sounds beautify everything: the light, the colours, the smells. These sounds make you see more, see better. You notice these details, these leaves waving in the wind, the light glowing seemingly through a canopy, and how pure this child laugh can be. You become more aware and more grounded. The noise of engines is gone and true sounds emerge. And then lockdown ends, and life as we know it resumes. I didn’t say “normal life”, I said “life as we know it”: it’s important. This makes me wonder: Is this the best we can do? And if we can do better, what’s preventing us from actually doing it? There is a true sense of grief when lockdown eases for the loss of this rare, forgotten beauty that is a world without engine noise. And Wellington is full of these: the airport first and foremost, the ferries and the tankers, construction work, cars, the infamous buses from GWRC which managed to do worse when they ditched trolley buses in 2017, gardening tools (the ones with a screaming 2 strokes), these motorbikes tuned to make more noise, jetskis and other small aircraft. Yes, Wellington for all that’s great about it, is a noisy city, noisier than other similarly sized cities, by many accounts. Some of it is due to its topography and its location on the map of New Zealand. But consider this too: when you remove transport for the masses (and I include private cars in there), there is still a lot of noise. This is when you realise that maybe half of the noise your are subjected to actually comes from a minority. Yes, this sucks too. I know, I have already written about noise. But why, I wonder, if peace in lockdown is something that so many people notice and love, don’t we throw all our energy at trying to cement it? Think about the benefits: by tackling noise, we would effectively also tackle our emissions, all the while improving drastically our collective well-being. Some Scandinavian countries have had a serious go at it: not that I would recommend to fly in the COVID and climate change era, but that Stockholm airport is impressive for its peace. Yes, the airport! But where is our salvation? Can’t you stop complaining and offer some solutions, I hear you say? Well, the algorithm to solve this puzzle is easy: until we have electrified everything we’re doing, the way our society works will continue to remain noisy. We should hop out of our cars or dispose of it for an EV, a bike, or an electric bus (looking at you GWRC). We can also replace this old lawnmower with a battery powered one (yes, they are absolutely capable nowadays). We’d do it for ourselves and for our neighbours. And we can also demand from our elected members, local and central, to seriously cap our biggest noise emitters, the airport and centreport. These bad boys have had a free lunch for too long and until they’re told off, nothing will change. COVID sucks, and so does lockdown. As we move into level 2, we need to build on the single positive side effect of lockdown to make it less dreadful: the taste and the promise of a world more beautiful, more harmonious, delivered from noise, for nature and for ourselves.

    • A conversation with Sean Rush
      • Mid-July, I wrote an article called “A mid-term City Council assessment and the Eastern mega developments”. This piece was an opportunity to look at our city, its issues and its opportunities. I also looked at how our City Council had navigated these troubled waters and is sailing towards the approaching icebergs (namely climate change, housing, transport or how to restore faith in our local democracy). I drifted to the East where mega-developments are lining up, seemingly without community input. I closed the article in inviting the Mayor and the three Eastern ward Councilors to react and comment. Below is the transcript of my conversation with Sean Rush, Easter Ward Councilor together with the recording. It is the third in a series of three (maybe four) conversations which, I hope, will give the readers of this blog a sense of how their elected members are faring the challenges the city is facing. Climate Change (02:40);Urban planning (07:30);The airport expansion (15:05);Shelly Bay and Mount Crawford (22:45);City Council and engagement (32:50). Music: https://www.bensound.com Benoit Pette: Today is Friday the 13th of August 2021. I am sitting with Sean Rush, a first time Councilor in the Eastern ward. Sean, you no stranger to controversies whether it’s your career in energy and oil which seemed to be discovered after your election by some, or when you turn you back on the waiata. Now you are also keen to learn. So you undertook a master’s in climate science and policy in 2019 at Victoria University. And you so committed to learn more about Maori Customs. You are not afraid to speak your mind and not afraid to change it when it matters. You are approachable, energetic, and it was the past few months you’ve made no mistake that you were wondering if you would be running again next year. Today, we’ll be discussing city council, climate change, the big developments in the East, like the airport expansion, Shelly Bay, Mount Crawford and engagement. Sean, how are you? Sean Rush: Very good. Thank you very much. I’m particularly interested in your comment that my career was discovered after the election. Of course the Dom Post ran a full page op-ed that I wrote in 2018 after the government banned oil and gas exploration. And I wrote how disappointed I was not because of the oil and gas industry, of course, but as a criminal defense lawyer in Napier, where I grew up, I just knew that a big development that created jobs and wellbeing and brought wealth and prosperity to an area like Hawkes Bay could do a lot of good things for those young men, predominantly in Maori, who were doing tough yards. So, it shouldn’t have been, I didn’t hide it. Climate Change BP: No, but for some people it was a discovery and of course, you knew then perhaps, but you know now that for Wellingtonians, there’s a strong, strong demand for climate action (90% want action on climate change, no matter what). So that’s actually the first topic. Te Atakura was voted a year ago and of course we’ve seen in the past few months, extreme weather events throughout the world, and even here close to home, we’ve seen floods on the South Coast in March this year, in April last year. Do you think we’re doing enough as a city to address climate change? SR: Well, I suppose first all, yes, I studied and graduated this year with a master’s in climate change science and policy from Victoria University with merits, I think they called it. And actually a year ago I was an expert reviewer for the Sixth Assessment Report that came out on Monday. So whilst I can’t say I’ve read the whole thing, I read the bits that I reviewed and I was quite pleased to find that some of my comments have actually been accepted. So it was a real good reinforcement that the processes are good. As far as Wellington’s concern, we have the lowest carbon footprint of any capital city in the Southern hemisphere, with the lowest carbon footprint of any city in New Zealand. So you might say we’re doing moderately well. The big item really, I suppose, outside of transport is our electricity generation. And I have lobbied the government to shut down Huntly. What they need to do is to do what governments have done for decades, which is to mobilize and build renewable electricity generation. Don’t leave it to the market because the market won’t do it while Huntly is still burning coal. So that’s the first thing that I think we, as Wellingtonians should be asking our government who own Genesis, they own Huntly. I offered to James Shaw to mobilize the oil and guests industry expertise to do a study on converting it to hydrogen and James was strong for that. And I said, well, you’re going to have to pay for it and he never got back to me. So there’s that aspect. The other one is transport, of course. We don’t have lots of cattle in Wellington other than in the supermarket and we need to remember that’s got a footprint as well. But transport we’ve just approved a record budget for cycleways. What I really think I want to do as the chair of infrastructure is, and I’ve started, a conversation with Wellington Electricity around what we need to do to our grid in order to support thousands of electric vehicles. So that’s the next step I think for infrastructure in Wellington. We need to put in place the type of settings that enabled us to use low carbon energy. And that’s in the transport sector, whether it be what you burn in your oven and in heating as well. BP: Energy generation and support for a cleaner grid or perhaps a more reliable, stronger grid is yet… Well, it’s got to be done. It’s not the prerogative of the city council. Within the city council, what can be done? What I think we should be doing is taking the low hanging fruit Benoit and that for me is insulating the houses that we have. The simplest easiest, no argument, let’s get on with that thing, let’s do that. Everyone around my table will say let’s do it is to insulate the homes, the social housing, it’s a win, win all over. SR: Well, no, I disagree. We are going to be doing a lot of digging up of the roads as part of Let’s Get Wellington Moving and Wellington Water, routinely dig up the roads as well. Wellington Electricity are also needing to dig up the roads to replace old cable and that’s part of traffic management and so forth. So we need to be coordinating with Wellington Electricity is about what they need to do over the next 30, 40 years in order to give us a grid that will support the extra requirements we’re going to need. So it is future planning. And as part of the city council’s role. As a city council ourselves, we can go electric with all our vehicle fleet. What I think we should be doing is taking the low hanging fruit Benoit and that for me is insulating the houses that we have. The simplest easiest, no argument, let’s get on with that thing, let’s do that. Everyone around my table will say let’s do it is to insulate the homes, the social housing, it’s a win, win all over. Urban planning BP: Speaking of urban planning, there’s been obviously the debates earlier this year on the spatial plan. And there’s going to be a lot of construction coming our way. However, you’re very aware that construction and concrete is very high emitting. Wasn’t there an opportunity to push for more working from home and repurpose existing office buildings by engaging with the private sector and say: “you own that building, you put offices in there, rezone it for housing” and doing so addressing the housing crisis as well as climate crisis. Do we think there should have been perhaps a little bit forward thinking there? SR: So, you might be surprised to know that I’ve been championing the green infrastructure provisions that are coming up in the new district plan. So water sensitive urban design, for example, use of materials that don’t rely on concrete. So there’s good technology that’s available now, which has essentially has wood as its basis, but is laminated in… I’m not sure what the coding is. It won’t be plastic, but it’s super strong stuff and you can use that. And that’s effectively locking carbon away for the life of that building. So those are the sorts of things that we, as part of our bylaws for building and so forth are able to maybe influence. BP: But is this for new houses though? SR: No. That will be used in buildings as well. Yeah. I have to say, I haven’t looked at this now for a couple of years, but it was one of the things that… The other thing is hemp, believe it or not, but I’m not going to talk too much about it. But apparently hemp, once it’s been treated properly, it’s tunes as hard as concrete and actually keeps sucking CO2 out of the air the longer it… And that turns that CO2 into something that makes it stronger. BP: Do you think that it is something the district plan would be able to enforce? SR: Probably not. No. But it’s something that… I just keep these things on my radar. The first thing I did when I was given the portfolio of low carbon energy was to have Wellington City Council join the Hydrogen Council of New Zealand. We were the second city council to do so after New Plymouth, I think. And we’ve had dialogue with the likes of Hiringa Energy they are putting in place a small demonstration hydrogen plant in Taranaki. We see there’s a possibility that, that hydrogen might power buses. It’s not going to be any good for your standard motor vehicle, but for trucks and heavy vehicles, it’s a possible answer, but there’s a lot of technical issues around it. BP: Okay. Well, there’s a lot of suggestions out there and some of them I hear a lot of advocating ways and the private sector with central government. In Wellington here, we have Te Atakura – First to Zero and when it was voted last year, it was quite surprising to find that there was this massive gap between the target set for 2030, of a 43% emission reduction. And if all the actions were rolled out in that same plan, we would only reach 24% emission reduction by 2030. So 19 points difference between those two. So there’s still a lot to find. What can you say about this? SR: And actually we’re going to be going backwards in the next report, because a large part of our footprint is our electricity generation, and we are sourcing it from Huntly. So when Huntly went almost a hundred percent gas, a few years ago, Wellington City Council’s footprint dropped. It was the biggest cause of our reduction in emissions that and the methane capture scheme at the landfill. Huntly is now burning all three berths units using coal. They had messaged that they were going to shut them all down, but they aren’t now. So that’s going to be a problem. So I’ve said to our officers, we can buy a green certified electricity from the likes of Meridian and at least… And although Huntly will carry on burning, we can make that a premium product. So I’ve asked officers to look into that. But we can do more in the public transport. That’s the obvious place we should be focusing. And I have to say, whilst I’ve been supportive of the cycleway program, I am concerned that, that’s been too much focus and not enough on the public transport side of it. Because a bus can take 30 cyclists there and back and 30 cyclists of all ages and all experiences as well. BP: But Te Atakura though, correct me if I’m wrong. Te Atakura is citywide it’s not only the city council. What you’re suggesting is how as the city council will sort it some other way. So in Te Atakura we have got this gap. Throughout the city, 19 points, we still have to find 19 points of emission reduction. How are we going to do this? SR: Well, to be quite honest there’s a lively debate in the policy science section around climate change. Do you put in place the heroic targets without having a road to get there, or do you put the road based on current technology and then put your targets in. We’ve gone for a target without having a defined road to get there. So it’s going to require technology change, it’s going to mean more cars off the road and it’s going to mean more offsets. I don’t think that we will be in 2050 all walking, and people aren’t going to walk from that. But we can do more in the public transport. That’s the obvious place we should be focusing. And I have to say, whilst I’ve been supportive of the cycleway program, I am concerned that, that’s been too much focus and not enough on the public transport side of it. Because a bus can take 30 cyclists there and back and 30 cyclists of all ages and all experiences as well. So, I think we’ve missed a bit of a trick there, but that said, unfortunately, greater Wellington’s in charge of the buses. And I hate saying this, but I campaign on the view that we’d take the bus service back, but it’s all tied up in legislation that can’t be undone and I’m sorry folks, we can’t. So they are bringing in electric buses, I think they’ve got 98 have been ordered from China awkwardly. BP: I heard 20% of the fleet will be electric by 2023, I take it? SR: So there’s the opportunity Benoit. So as someone experienced in the oil, gas, power, energy sector, we’ve got near on a hundred buses that are going to need to be charged every day with a base load. Now that’s significant. Why aren’t we going to Meridian saying, we will do a 25 year contract with you, we’ll pay you a guarantee payments that will recover your investment if you go and build me a wind farm. That’s what we really need to be doing. And the government needs to be steering that. That is basic 1-0-1 take-or-pay contracts that people in the power sector are familiar with. The airport expansion BP: Yeah. Continuing on climate change while drifting towards more local endeavors. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this one. So, as you know the airport is planning to expand. They’ve got this grand expansion plan over the golf course, which would attract a billion dollars investment by 2040. And when I touched on this project with Mayor Foster earlier this week, I said, what do you think of this project? Well, the demand is driving the growth. And to the question of whether it wasn’t best thing to do in a climate emergency to expand an airport, which is 20% of our emissions following transport, he said, “Well, demand is the driving force.” So I heard you saying earlier: “we don’t leave it to the market to decide” when you touched on the… I think it was electricity, wasn’t it? SR: Yeah. Electricity generation. BP: So with all that in mind, do you think this project, this expansion of the airport over the golf course is the best idea today? SR: Yeah. This is just that they bought the golf course and they’re going to reconfigure the international and domestic terminals. As an Eastern ward resident and a golfer, I’m mortified that they’re going to do that. I feel so much for the people who’ve got those lovely views around the golf course. But I would also say that I understand that the golf course was struggling and that this is a… We live in a free society where people can buy and sell and so forth. And so if the airport’s done that deal with the golf club, that’s their private business. And if they think that building a new terminal there is a smart thing for their business then that’s really their prerogative. As an Eastern ward resident and a golfer, I’m mortified that they’re going to do that. I feel so much for the people who’ve got those lovely views around the golf course. But (…) We live in a free society where people can buy and sell and so forth. And so if the airport’s done that deal with the golf club, that’s their private business. You’ve got to remember that with the emissions trading scheme now are actually becoming effective. They sell up over $50 a ton now I think. And the productivity commission, reckons that to get to real change in your fuel source, you need to be up to the 100 to $200. So they were saying, I think, this is a few years ago, I submitted on their Meet 2050 document. So that will start driving different behaviors. It never used to be that everyone could get on a plane and go places. I never flew internationally till I was in my mid to late twenties. My son’s been to England twice, he’s only seven. So we need to… And I finished my submission to the productivity commission. I said that there are a couple of things, one is that the government needs to create a state agency, a national champion to champion low carbon electricity generation and other infrastructure. But the other thing is we need to start, instead of telling people that it’s going to be really different in 50 years time. And you know, that scares people. Tell them it’s going to be like it was in 1950 where people lived pretty close to each other. It was a lot more walking. You might’ve had one car and you never got on an aircraft, you caught a bus. And that was a very prosperous time for New Zealand. It’s a very happy time. So that’s where I would be pitching it. BP: Yeah. So what I’m hearing, Sean, and please correct me if I’m wrong, is that if the council had an opportunity to make a comment, a public statement on this expansion, whether it is appropriate to do it now, you would actually be happy to say that you oppose this project, if that was tabled? SR: I wouldn’t say that at all Benoit. At a personal level, as a golfer. Yeah. Exactly. BP: Yeah. But you are Eastern Ward councilor though. SR: But now as a city councilor, I believe, and I suppose as a center right city councilor I believe that in freedom of contract and freedom of industry to figure things out as best for themselves. And as a consequence, I think making critical statements about a company in which we’re a major shareholder in publicly is doing nothing more than creating the soundbites that sounds good. The place to make these comments is at the board table. BP: Okay. So in that case, would you suggest or be supportive of selling the council share in the airport? SR: Oh. Absolutely. Well, before COVID, I’m pretty sure people were already starting to think of it. I’d looked at it and this is a great example of why governments should get into infrastructure projects, because originally, you couldn’t get the private sector to invest in Wellington Airport. So Wellington City did it itself because it needed to have the airport just to survive as a capital city. But over time it became an economic activity that was attractive to the private sector. So we’ve sold out and we’ve taken that money and we’ve spent in other parts of our city, which the private sector won’t invest in. So for me, if you’re a state entity… So I’ve studied the theory of state participation, mainly in the oil and gas industry, but applies more broadly in theory. So if the private sector find an asset attractive, you should sell out of it and go and invest in social housing, for example, because that’s the role of a state. So before COVID, definitely I would probably wait until the airport gets back on its feet and then flog it. BP: And then you would feel free to comment on such an expansion in the context of a climate emergency or not. SR: So, Benoit a lot’s talked about the climate emergency. It is, it is a political statement and again, there’s different way of thinking about, do you declare an emergency and encourage the momentum to be able to get action, recognizing of course, that compared to a pandemic which is immediate and it’s killing people or that sort of thing. (…) But anyway, in terms of the airport, I don’t think it’s the role of a state organization to come out and be critical of any organization that’s acting within the law. We do take, I suppose, moral stances on some things, I mean we could do that I suppose. Shelly Bay and Mount Crawford BP: Well, I heard you saying that you are concerned for the residents who live around the airport which will be receiving a lot of the adverse effect directly in their backyard, which is not negligible, I guess.The airport expansion is one of the three massive projects in the East that we have. So again, this master plan that the airport as is worth a billion dollars. Shelly Bay is half a billion, Mount Crawford is being discussed heavily. And because it’s about the same development size, we’ve got 350 homes in Shelly Bay, 300 in Mount Crawford. So we could say it’s probably another half a billion, so two billion in total.And if Let’s Get Wellington Moving is coming to the East, you could even argue that those six billions that’s going to be spent on Let’s Get Wellington Moving to unlock the East. And so a lot of things are happening in the East. Do you agree with that? SR: I do tend to agree. I went for a meeting with the CEO of the airport and offered to put together a coordinating forum with the Wellington company, for example, and others in order that these developments are managed in a way that causes the least disruption. So we don’t want to have all the trucks coming out to all these sites all the time and that will be more expensive for the developers as well. But I think more to your point, do the people on the East really understand what’s going on? I got a sense of it during the last campaign, there was a lot of concern that the increased vehicles that would be servicing Shelly Bay could not be accommodated on the very congested roads that we have at the moment. And the old duplicate Mt Vic Tunnel sort of thing came, I’m not going to campaign on that this year, if I stand. But certainly, the transport links are struggling to manage with the existing load and I’ve got real concerns that the added housing, which we do need is going to exacerbate the issues already. BP: Yeah. But this spatial plan was very clear in its consultation phase, that what Wellingtonians wanted were three things. That the growth would actually happen in the inner suburbs, along a main transport spine, and the developments had to be greener. The three boxes are not ticked by either Shelly Bay or Mount Crawford. They’re not on the main transport spine and not in an inner suburb. You might argue that perhaps they might become greener, whatever that means. But they don’t tick those two other boxes. So, is it something that you embedded into your reasoning when you decided to vote against the sale and lease of the Shelly Bay land back in November last year? SR: Yeah. So when I campaigned, I didn’t really know and understand the mini detail of the relationship between the council, the legislation that was used, the Iwi and the differences of opinion within the Iwi. I stayed out of that, for me it was all about the fact is: we don’t have good transport, and we need to have a solution for the bottlenecks at the Mt Vic Tunnel and the Basin Reserve. We need to have that, and that’s been signaled for decades. And my colleague Nicola Young’s father Bill Young campaigned on that in the 60s and successfully. Awkwardly became Minister of Works and didn’t do it. So I supported my friend and colleague Tamatha Paul’s call for a fossil free CBD because the night before I’d read the GAL report, and it was just wonderful, non politicized, non ideology, just good city planning stuff, which talked about, take all the cars off the waterfront, put them all onto a bypass that gets them out to the East to the hospital. And that way you can have this wonderful walkable city. And for me, I was just all very excited when Tam tabled this thing, I said, I’ll sign it. And a lot of people raised their eyebrows. And… BP: You do change your mind. SR: No, no, no. For me, it’s all about sensible, balanced, city planning. So at the moment, what I’m seeing with the Innovating Streets program is a lot of, cycleways a lot of parking being taken off and in barriers to be after driving to the CBD for work without actually the public transport to be built. So all this is going to happen before light rail, all the tunnels. So for me, it’s just poor, poor planning and then the officers know this too. They said that, well, we’ll have to figure that out/ So, can’t remember what the question was now. BP: So the question was around Shelly Bay. When I first went there I went, “Oh this needs to be all cleared out”. But actually it grows on you. And I love… Sundays you’ll find me at the Chocolate Fish with a cup of coffee. The kids are playing on the little bikes and so forth. And you can go diving out there. It’s just wonderful unspoiled place. And we need to celebrate that. SR: So, being on council, getting visibility to actually the documents, I might be criticized for having worked in the oil and gas industry, but, because of the very difficult countries that we work in, we have very, very high business standards around who we deal with. And in terms of procurement, business ethics and anyone that’s a little bit dodgy, we drop like a hotcake. Not all of them, but the majors do the Shells, the BP’s, they’re not perfect, but they do have these standards. The company I worked for was Petro-Canada and the Canadians are very high standards. So when I saw that actually the Iwi members had directed their trustees to cease negotiations with the Wellington company, and they didn’t, for me, that was it! No way can I support their development until that was cleared up. So I’m very disappointed the lawsuit halted, but yeah, so there’s a number of reasons. Plus Shelly Bay is this lovely… When I first went there I went, oh this needs to be all cleared out. But actually it grows on you. And I love… Sundays you’ll find me at the Chocolate Fish with a cup of coffee. The kids are playing on the little bikes and so forth. And you can go diving out there. It’s just wonderful unspoiled place. And we need to celebrate that. So there’s very few capital cities in the world that have got this wonderful place even on Watts Peninsula generally. Now, we’ve got to be careful because it is Iwi land. Iwi in the deed of settlement obtained first rights of refusal, which they have exercised and the same with Mount Crawford. And that was provided in order to benefit the Iwi. So, we need to respect that. We can’t block that, that would be inappropriate to even talk about this sort of thing. In fact, we need to support it. So I’m hoping that actually, whilst we’re going to have this construction going on in parallel, we can have that natural park that we’ve talked about for the wider Watts Peninsula. And I’m really excited about working with our Iwi colleagues that we’ve now got on council and with the Iwi generally, about how we do that to tell the stories, not just of our current Iwi, but the Iwi who lived there beforehand. Do you know there is a really, really interesting scientific article from a paper from the early 1900s, early 20th century, about a pod of whale skeletons found on the Watts Peninsula. BP: Wow. SR: Peer reviewed and what they reckon was there was a gigantic tsunami, that’s the only reason they can think of which deposited them 60 feet above sea level. So we need to uncover these wonderful stories, we need to build on them. And of course is the wonderful story of Hataitai and the creation of Port Nicholson, we can celebrate those stories. Council and engagement BP: So what I’m hearing Sean is strong focus on urban planning, where having the timing right, for transport, for the CBD. It’s a good segway into something I want to touch on with you around engagement and how we lift our local democracy here in Wellington. Do you think there was an opportunity there for the council to create a better consensus around the council table, but also through the community? Is it the role of the council to carve a shared path? SR: Well, Benoit, I’m going to be brutally honest here. I have spent the last two years. In fact, it’s probably my success story of trying to build relationships across the table, around the table. But that work is not done. So we need as a council to show unity. And I campaigned on unity. I remember that was one of the reasons I stood. Everything was being divided and we need that unity. And I think things have turned a corner, I’m hopeful that after the Winder Report, we’ve got the new structures working. I’m working very closely with Jenny Condie, which I always have worked closely with. But I’m sharing more time with the Jill Day, Fleur Fitzsimons and people who are on the other side of the political spectrum. You’d think we would be at poles apart, but I wanted to show the people of Wellington that actually we could work together despite our politics. So the first thing I said to Andy Foster, when we talked about portfolios is I want to share one with Iona and you should’ve seen the look on their face. But we said, I think it was place-making I think. What I did when I first got on council was to look around the table and forget about the political parties, but have a look at the people. So, Rebecca Matthews has got high amount of energy for disabilities, and I’ve got disabilities running my family so I built a bridge there. Councilor Day has got a lot of energy around children. Well, I’ve got a four and a seven year old, so I sort of bring them in. Councilor Fitzsimons, well she’s a lawyer, I’m a lawyer. And one of her friends who used to be a trade union lawyer was one of my best mates at school. So the first thing I said to Andy Foster, when we talked about portfolios is I want to share one with Iona and you should’ve seen the look on their face. But I think it was place-making. What I did when I first got on council was to look around the table and forget about the political parties, and have a look at the people. So I’m thankful for her because she got me back in touch with him. So you kind of start looking at what brings us together, okay. And then you start having conversations that aren’t related to the council, about your family, about your mum and dad, about your upbringing, and you start suddenly trusting each other a bit more. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do. And I think we do need to do that with our wider community. There is definitely a role. That is the role of the city council was to make the city feel proud of itself, feel energized about the future and to feel like we’re all in it together. BP: Well, that’s a really good endeavor. Now, the tool that the council has today to engage with the community is consultation. The consultation is very frustrating. Whether people find it’s too long or it’s too short, or that the questions are biased, the outcome is not listened to. Sometimes you’ve got consultation providing an outcome, which is not respected. Spatial plan for example, or sometimes even… SR: Yeah. They’re intuitively wrong decisions. Feedback’s coming back. That’s telling you something that’s intuitively, not what you’re hearing in the community. BP: So what can we do to ensure we capture… SR: So there’s some challenges here. So first of all, we’re a wedded to a statutory process that actually embeds a lot of this process into what we do. For my money though, there’s nothing better than hosting a public meeting and going out and engaging. That’s my favorite part of the job is talking with the ordinary person in the street, whether it’s in a pub, at the dairy or the cafe or a public meeting and I get energized from it. BP: Yeah. But you do that, Sean, and then you’ll have people say, oh yeah, but the people you engage with or that turn up by the public meetings are people who got time on their hands and they’re retired. Therefore the demographic is not accurate. So what do you do to address this? SR: Yeah. I held a public meeting about the pop-up cycleways and 100 people came at short notice and some of my colleagues who disagreed with what I was doing, made that allegation. But actually the people that were there, they were young people, there was one woman speaking she was whine, there were teachers there. And yeah, you’re right about time as a father of two kids, my wife and I can’t both go to a public meeting, someone doesn’t go. So I guess it is something we need to think through, but I guess just as a starting point, getting out into your community randomly is, is a good thing and being visible and being approachable. I am also concerned about the lack of participation. So 40% voted in the elections. So I had Peter Williams from Magic Talk, interviewed me about my vote on Iwi representation. And he was talking about the foundations of democracy have been overrun, Sean, how can you possibly oversee that. Peter, only 40% of the people vote in these elections. So we need to get that up to more 80% so that we have a representative vote. And I’m just not sure how you do that, but certainly making very significant decisions that have got a strong opposition is likely to bring out people to vote. BP: Well, and of course there’s a lot of changes coming our way to towards Wellington. We’ve got climate change is one of the biggest crisis of course, with housing crisis and transport. So I guess it’s a lot of challenges, for which people have got polarized views and it’s not necessarily easy to come up with something that’s going to satisfy everyone, do you think? SR: Yeah. It is one of the problems with how our democracies work is that you’ve got to vote for one person and they might say five things you really like, but one thing you really don’t like, but by voting to them, you’re kind of giving them a mandate to do the thing you don’t want. So, I don’t know how you’d skin that cat, Benoit. We just need to, in the end, I suppose, make sure we’re trying to listen to as many people as we can and put aside our own prejudices and biases in order to do what the community wants. BP: What about referendums? SR: So I supported one that came, which was tabled by Councilor Calvert on Thursday at the infrastructure committee to ask the community about transferring the water assets to a new entity with co-governance with Iwi, not our local Iwi, but Iwi all the way up through to past Gisborne along with elected members, not your elected members, but elected members from Palmerston North, from Gisborne, from Rotorua. So effectively we pay $100 million dollars a year to Wellington Water and Wellington Water do projects we tell it to do in Wellington. We will be paying $100 million dollars to this entity without any guarantee that it will be spent in Wellington. So that’s a real concern for me. And I know that the government are planning to remove all the consultation rights that would normally require us in and give the community an opportunity to be heard. So I think that a referendum or petition or some way for the community to express their democratic will has got to be on the table. BP: That’s a very nice way to close those discussion. Thank you Sean. It’s been very informative and all the best with the discussion run the infrastructure. SR: Well, let’s just hope that black Friday isn’t a black Friday for me. Thanks Benoit. BP: Thank you Sean.

    • How to restore faith on our local democracy
      • As we navigate lockdown, 2021 edition, the Wellington City Council has released its yearly Residents Monitoring Survey. While the City Council found that “Wellington performs well in survey and safe city index”, news outlets painted a very different picture: “Satisfaction with the WCC has halved in 12 months – official survey” headlined Scoop;“Survey reveals Wellington residents are more unhappy with city council than ever before” headlined the Herald;“Public confidence in Wellington City Council’s decision-making plunges by almost half” headlined Stuff. And rightfully so: amongst the 1500 residents who were surveyed between February and March, only 16% are satisfied with the Council’s decision making. This is compared to 30% satisfaction last year, and a self-set target of … 45%. Please let that sink in: 16%. The Mayor and Councillors all agree this result is appalling. Earlier this year, they were quick to describe the situation as of “major concern”, when the approval rating was at a stratospheric 30%. Why are Wellingtonians so frustrated with their Council? The fact the survey was carried out earlier in the year when water pipes were bursting randomly through the city can probably explain why the main reason cited for the lack of confidence was the state of the city’s infrastructure. The slower-than-snail Let’s Get Wellington Moving, or the Mayor’s seeming inability to fix transport, despite campaigning on this, probably didn’t help either. But the other concern was the feeling of not being listened to, and the dysfunction among City Councillors. Sadly, what we see nowadays is a City Council going against its electoral promise (Shelly Bay), officers going against the vote of elected members (innovative streets, planning for growth), elected members going against what officers painfully harvested during consultation (Spatial Plan), or consultation that is simply a tick box exercise (Cobham Drive crossing, which even prompted this “the fine art of consultation”). An interesting fact is that the issue around consultation is not new. Others have tried to address community engagement before. Look at this picture: 9th of March 2015. Found on https://web.archive.org/web/20181222233406/https://whatisit.nz/2015/03/09/hack-miramar-version-2-0-community-engagement-civic-hackathon-produces-four-ideas/ " data-image-caption="Hack Miramar version 2.0: community engagement civic hackathon produces four ideas " data-medium-file="https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/img_1978.jpg?w=300" data-large-file="https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/img_1978.jpg?w=672" src="https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/img_1978.jpg?w=672" alt="" class="wp-image-1938" srcset="https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/img_1978.jpg?w=672 672w, https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/img_1978.jpg?w=1344 1344w, https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/img_1978.jpg?w=150 150w, https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/img_1978.jpg?w=300 300w, https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/img_1978.jpg?w=768 768w, https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/img_1978.jpg?w=1024 1024w" sizes="(max-width: 672px) 100vw, 672px" />Hack Miramar version 2.0: community engagement civic hackathon produces four ideas In it, you can see two Mayors, at least two Councillors (I can maybe see a third), and familiar figures in the East. It was in 2015 when the “Hack Miramar v2.0” looked at Community Engagement: the issues they listed then were the same as they are today: The community feels that their input into consultation by various local and central government agencies is valueless. That regardless of what they submit, they are not listened to. This has created a feeling of apathy which is reflected in our appalling turn out figures for elections.The councils, some of them, feel that they are spending a lot of time and money on a process that is not working. The Regional Council says that this is potentially an issue that is more important than transport. They don’t understand why we engage on some things and not others.Other Councils have created the problem themselves. The WCC has reduced the number of public consultation staff from around seven, to one. This underinvestment has slowed engagement.We have many different residents groups and community groups that simply don’t know about each other. They often have the same ideas and projects, but don’t connect to make that stronger.There is poor information about what is happening in our community. From alcohol license applications, resource consents, road closures, public notices, events, hazards, ideas, and a plethora of data, we have no central view of that as a city.Lobby groups are seen as unfairly skewing the consultation process. A well organised group can change a consultation outcome through active lobbying while the community feels side lined, or forced to form their own opposition groups. Another example is the City Council initiated “Masterplan” for the Miramar peninsula, first drafted in 2016. Today, it is still that, a draft, for what could and should have been a model in local democracy engagement, and an accurate snapshot of one community’s aspirations. Could it be that our local democracy is failing us? Could there be, potentially, room for improvement on how we do consultation? How can we ensure we as a city, as a group of human beings, make sound decisions, that are a true reflection of a common aspiration, for the greater good? During my interviews with Eastern Ward Councillors and the Mayor, all agreed consultation could be done better, but none had a solution.  Fleur Fitzsimons, on the other side, has a solution to restore trust and increase voter turnout:  amalgamation. May I remind Fleur this proposition has already been pushed back, perhaps out of fear it could create an even wider chasm between voters and elected members? What we don’t need is a bigger, more disconnected body to govern the fate of our city. What we need is a much closer, rawer link between residents and the decisions being made: We need a mechanism we can trust, harvesting opinions from all layers of society on spatially and timely defined issues;We need a solution that enables a moderated debate of ideas to which verified people, anonymously or not, can contribute, from any location, as long as you are a Wellington resident (renting or owning);We need a system accessible from your phone or your laptop, presenting you with suburb or citywide issues relevant to you, with several levels of factual details;It is important people’s identity is verified because, following the debate, a vote would take place, a vote that is binding, or at the very least, gives an arbitrary (two?) number of votes at the Council table; In conclusion, we need a method by which one can say, unequivocally “this is what the community wants” or “this is what Wellingtonians want”. With that knowledge at hand, the debate around consultation and Council’s bias would be shut once and for all. Being a “solutionizer” by trade, and in IT with that, my natural inclination would be to look at a tool that could tick all of the boxes above. And there are plenty available: LiquidFeedback, “The democracy software”, Loomio, “Better decisions together”, DemocracyOS, “Change the tool”, Social Pinpoint, A place to engage your community”, Citizen Space, “The digital platform for democratic involvement”, Bang the table (surely this one is French!), etc. I thoroughly believe that, while grassroot engagement and community meetings are important, a digital tool to connect ideas and aspirations is essential to get more people interested: a one stop shop where people can go, engage, debate and vote, a tool that is a forum, a petition, a survey and a social media platform, all at the same time! Improving consultation, increasing engagement, restoring the bond between a community and its elected members: these are basic needs for our city to function properly and to bring us together on a journey towards a common goal. Addressing the flaws of our current engagement process is an essential prerequisite to then tackle all the other issues. As the City Council looks at slicing up the electorate map for Wellington, it should keep in mind how much satisfaction and support it is getting from the residents, and work at improving engagement above everything else.

    • A conversation with Andy Foster
      • Mid-July, I wrote an article called “A mid-term City Council assessment and the Eastern mega developments”. This piece was an opportunity to look at our city, its issues and its opportunities. I also looked at how our City Council had navigated these troubled waters and is sailing towards the approaching icebergs (namely climate change, housing, transport or how to restore faith in our local democracy). I drifted to the East where mega-developments are lining up, seemingly without community input. I closed the article in inviting the Mayor and the three Eastern ward Councilors to react and comment. Below is the transcript of my conversation with Mayor Andy Foster, together with the recording. It is the second in a series of three (maybe four) conversations which, I hope, will give the readers of this blog a sense of how their elected members are faring the challenges the city is facing. The City Council (02:25);Climate Change and Te Atakura (06:30);Do we need a CBD? (13:15);The Eastern suburbs and the airport expansion (19:45);Shelly Bay and Mount Crawford (27:30);The Regional Park (33:30);Engagement (38:00). Music: https://www.bensound.com Benoit Pette: Today is the 11th of August 2021. I am sitting with Andy Foster. Andy Foster: Good day. BP: Andy is born in England. Moved with his family at the age of five in Wellington, in the suburb of Ngaio, and then became naturalized as a New Zealand citizen in 1978. Andy, you’ve been part of several political parties, National, even the Greens, NZ First. And you joined the Wellington City Council in 1992, so this would be your 10th term, wouldn’t it? AF: Yes, that’s right. BP: A lot of experience there. Of course, this time you’re Mayor. Today we’re going to be discussing the city council, climate change, big developments in the east, the airport, Shelly Bay and Mount Crawford, and also a bit of engagement on how the council engaged with the community. How are you, Andy? AF: I’m good. Looking forward to the conversation. BP: You had a good break? AF: I had a day. BP: You had a day? All right. AF: Actually, the whole family decided to go down to local government conference in Blenheim, and we were just staying just outside of Blenheim. That was in the middle of July. And woke up on the last day, and I was going to get the taxi from Spring Creek, which was where we were, and rang them up, and they said, “We can’t get there.” Went up the road about 100 meters, and there was just… With floods. Big sea of brown water. So we had to go round the back route, decided we’d get out of there pretty quickly. But God, formidable weather. It was just a staggeringly large amount of water going down the Wairau River and across through bits of Blenheim as well. BP: Do you feel that the rest of the family has had a good break and feeling rested? AF: I think they feel like that. We took one day afterwards to go down to Kaikoura which we pre-planned, to go see the whales. And just fantastic. Whales, dolphins, seals, sea birds. BP: And the backdrop! The mountains and everything is exceptional, isn’t it? AF: Beautiful. Beautiful. The City Council BP: Now that we are back in Wellington, and back at work, do you think that the vibe around the council table is better than it was earlier this year, for example? AF: I do. Look, we’ve done a lot of work to try and bring people together. Obviously we did the whole Winder report. It was about trying to say to people, “Actually, have we got this right or not?” I think probably a lot of us felt we got off a bit lightly in Peter’s judgment, he could have been a bit tougher on us. But I think it was part of a wake-up call to say, “Hey guys, our city needs better than what we’ve been delivering, or been seen to be delivering.” And look, there’s nothing wrong with disagreements. It’s how we disagree, and it’s how we behave that I think is the key bit. And I’m hopeful that going forward, the council will pull together. We’ve got some big things done already. That sometimes has gone under the radar, where we’ve got a lot more coming. And that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning, to go, “Let’s get these things done on behalf of our city.” There’s nothing wrong with disagreements. It’s how we disagree, and it’s how we behave that I think is the key bit. And I’m hopeful that going forward, the council will pull together. BP: Actually, that’s interesting. Of course during your term, there has been the unexpected, such as COVID for example. Something we could have seen coming a little bit more, was the water issues we’ve had around town. But let’s assume it’s unexpected. What do you think, under this term, has been the biggest achievement by the city council? AF: Oh look, I think we’ve landed a long-term plan that responds to some of the key big challenges. I mean obviously we’ve said, “Hey, we’ve got some issues with the Three Waters pipes and infrastructure,” so we’ve responded to that very directly by increasing funding, by putting money aside for condition assessment. We’ve got on with the Omāroro Reservoir, which had been waiting around for 15 years or so. So we’ve done that. I like to think we’re making some progress, and we’ve got some bravery to make some progress around social housing, and trying to fix the sustainability of that. We’ve got a spatial plan now, and we’re moving towards the district plan. So we’re planning for more housing. We’ve turned around Let’s Get Wellington Moving, from clearly what was going to be a failure to, there’s going to be some really big, challenging, meaty decisions in front of our community in the latter half of this year. So those are a few of the things. And obviously we’re responding too, to Te Ngakau Civic Square at the library. So we’ve made some decisions about the library. The design work’s being done at the moment, and we’ve got a framework that we’ve consulted on for the overall redevelopment of Te Ngakau Civic Square. We’ll land that next month, and then we can get on with doing that. So those are just some of the big things that are going on. We’ve got a new arts and culture strategy, which will be signed off this month as well, after consultation. Very positive feedback from the arts and culture community on that. And I suppose the other one is, we’ve actually got our community through COVID. Central city in particular have suffered badly. Work from home is a real challenge for any central city, Wellington, Auckland. It’s tough. And one of the things I’ve been very, very strong on, is trying to make sure we’ve got a really good events, arts program, that actually draws people into the city, keeps the business alive, keeps the arts and culture sector alive as well. So those are some of the things that top of my mind, that I would say they are achievements so far through this term, and more to come. Climate Change and Te Atakura BP: That’s really good. Something that was very prevalent in the long-term plan, was obviously climate change. And today’s actually an interesting day. Two years ago, there was obviously the climate city emergency. AF: … By Wellington City Council. BP: … By the Wellington City Council. Te Atakura – First to Zero was voted in to the day a year ago. And of course, in the space of a few months we’ve seen a lot of extreme weather events throughout the globe, which are really concerning: heat waves, floods and droughts. In Wellington, we had the South Coast being flooded in March, which echoed the one in April last year. And of course there is the IPCC report that was released on Monday. So there is definitely something going on. Do you agree that there is a shift happening in the climate at the moment? AF: How do you mean? In the global climate? BP: Yes. Do you think that this is happening now? AF: Well I mean look, all the science says there is going to be. We’re seeing things happening now. Are those a result of climate change, or are they just a whole lot of incidents going on? I think you’d have to say they probably are the global weather system responding to climate change. BP: So businesses, communities, central government, are expected to step up to change for a more sustainable world, and do what we can to climate change. Do you think local government has any role to play in this equation? AF: I think we all do, central government, local government, business, individuals. Every single person’s got a role to play. The other bit I would say, is that we declared both climate emergency and an ecological emergency at the same time. I think I’ve done several speeches recently, where I’ve reflected on our ecological journey, because I was the one that said we should declare both at the same time, because there’s not much point being in a world where we saved it for ourselves, but we’ve eliminated a million other species. That would not be a great world. So we’ve got to look after both of those things. BP: Okay. So having said that then, do you think that the Wellington City Council has done enough? What have we done so far to do our bit at a city level for climate change, and is it enough? AF: I suppose the first thing would be to say, what’s the starting point? It’s not as though we haven’t ever done anything, and so the starting point means a lot of specific initiatives that the council has taken over many years to support, for example warmer, dryer homes, those sort of things. Sustainability Trust. But the big levers that we’ve got to pull, are in transport and urban development, and deliberate approach to say we want a compact urban form. This has driven the highest levels of walking, cycling and public transport, which have risen every year, ironically since I got elected. But since 1992, public transport use started turning round. And between public transport, walking, cycling, those numbers as a proportion of trips, have continued to rise. Now it’s because of that, and that compact urban form. And of course, we don’t have any manufacturing or agriculture to speak of. Very limited. The way we measure it, Wellington City is the lowest carbon emitted per capita in the country. So we have done some good things. What have we done since the declaration of the climate emergency? Well first of all, we fully-funded the Te Atakura program. The fully-funding bit came in the long-term plan we’ve just approved. And so there’s a host of different initiatives which flow through that. But again, the big levers, we will pull all three of the biggest levers we can pull, in the next six months. Let’s Get Wellington Moving, in terms of transport, transformational changes will be proposed. The urban form of the city, in terms of the district plan, again, there’ll be some transformational changes which will be part of that. You’ve seen that flowing through the spatial plan, and that will obviously need to be refined to work with Let’s Get Wellington Moving. Our cycleway program’s part of that transport message as well. Then in the waste area, we’ve got some big decisions to make around sludge treatment. Why sludge treatment in particular? To reduce the scale of landfill extension in the future, and reduce waste, which obviously reduces emissions from that source too. So those are the big things that I think we could do as a city. BP: Although, there is something that always keeps nagging me at the back of my mind, is that Te Atakura, as good as it is, and as funded as it is, still has some important gaps to fill. For example, the 2030 target is 43% in our emission reduction, and yet, if we roll out all the actions, the 20 odd actions laid out in that plan, it says that we only reach 24%. So we’ve got 19 points still to address, if we roll out all the actions, and they are all successful. So how do we close that gap, is my question? AF: Well I think, as I said, for me the big three levers, that as a council that we can pull, are more sustainable transport, a more sustainable urban form… And that’s got to be done in a regional context. One of the things… Oh, I’ll come back to that just a moment. And the way we manage waste. So those are the places that if we’re going to pull big levers… Some of the other programs which are actually in Te Atakura, are going to be very small in terms of their impact. Those are the three big ones that we can do. What else is still out there? Obviously one of the things that makes life much harder, is the rate of population growth. And this is not a council policy. All we’re doing, is we’re trying to accommodate that growth. There is no government central approach to that. They’re thinking about it for the first time ever, which I think is a good thing. What skills do we need? Where do people live? How do we set this up in a way which is the most sustainable? Wellington City is not going to be able to solve this issue on its own, but we do need to be working collectively. But there are some big elephants in the room, and some big conflicts between some of the government policy objectives, particularly housing versus climate change, if it’s not done the right way. But at the moment the danger is, we want to get more housing. If that more housing is, in the Wellington context, scattered all up the coast, and people still commuting in, that is not going to be a low-emission environment. So there’s some real challenges there. Wellington City is not going to be able to solve this issue on its own, but we do need to be working collectively. But there are some big elephants in the room, and some big conflicts between some of the government policy objectives, particularly housing versus climate change, if it’s not done the right way. Do we need a CBD? BP: Well, that’s a really good point actually. Beautiful segway into my next question. I mean, concrete and construction in general are- AF: Big emitter. BP: … super high emitters, with no plan, and no roadmap to become carbon-neutral, let alone in 2050. During COVID we had remote working, which actually showed a lot of advantage with a lot less emissions of course, because people weren’t commuting. And I’m actually wondering if we were promoting this, trying to make working from home the habit and the norm, and we were repurposing office buildings into housing, not only would solve the housing crisis in six months, but we also avoid a lot of emissions by not building new roads, not building new buildings. So do you agree? Or I guess my other question is, Andy, do we need a CBD? AF: Well, I think if we didn’t have a CBD in Wellington, we wouldn’t have Wellington. That’s the blunt reality of it. BP: A CBD, or a suburb dedicated to the arts and social- AF: But I think you’ve got to see it… Because I mean, one of the things that happens in a city, is people come together. There’s the relationships that are built. There’s the conversations that are had. The ideas that bounce off each other. BP: Can’t we do that differently? AF: Well you see, here is the great experiment, isn’t there? And I think that for some people the work from home works, for other people it doesn’t. Somethings it’s a mix between the two. But I think if we didn’t have the central city, which from a council point of view pays a very, very large part of our rates, and then from a point of view of the dynamism of the attraction, could you have a really great center for arts and culture if you didn’t have people living, working in here? I don’t think it would work the same way. I think that’s Wellington’s great strength, is it comes together. Look, it’s a great conversation to have. Whatever you do, unfortunately there is no parallel universe to try this out and say, “Well, do it this way,” and then go, “Oh crikey, that really didn’t go well.” Human beings have been coming together in cities now for millennia, and we’re social beings. I think there is a need for people to come together in a way. I was staggered by this number when I was told it recently. The two square kilometers of Wellington Central City produced… Do you want to have a guess at what proportion of the country’s GDP? 11%! That’s a huge amount. So there’s a lot at stake here. There’s a lot of creativity, there’s a lot of fantastic new businesses. Not just the public sector, but it’s all the support services, the new businesses, the digital tech that’s coming up, the arts, culture. We’ve got a great central city. Everybody loves it. If you just take everybody away from it, it’s going to be hard, you wouldn’t have a retail sector in the same way. BP: The retail sector could actually survive out of the people who live in what we call today the CBD, that would be called the arts center, for example. AF: Well, you’d have to have a very large number of people doing that. BP: Well there’s a large amount of people waiting to be housed. AF: I think it would be an interesting experiment. The world’s changing. There are transitions that are being made. We’ve just got to work our way carefully, thoughtfully through this, as a community. These precious things about Wellington, one of those is the vibrancy, and the dynamism, and the creativity that we have in our central city. And that’s something which I think we should treasure. So as we make these changes, for me, I think we’ve got to try and make sure we don’t damage that fundamental part of what Wellington is. BP: And I think everyone is very attached to that. In fact, in the spatial plan discussions or debates, the divide was between the people who want a roof, and the people who say, “Yeah, we’ll give you a roof, but we want to preserve the characters and what makes the city so special.” It will be interesting to have a discussion for people to say what they think is special about Wellington. For some people it will be the art. For some people it will be the access to the outdoors. For some people it will be because things are being compact. These kind of things. So it’s an interesting discussion. AF: All of those ones you’ve just said come through, the proximity to nature, compactness, easy walkability, so much all in close proximity, central city does that so well. And then we’ve got all these fabulous little villages, and we can do more with those little villages around our suburbs. And one of the neat things about Wellington is that… and it’s probably a topographical thing… that each of our suburbs is pretty distinctive, where it starts, where it finishes. And its center, a lot of those are also very, very distinctive in their own right. In fact, probably most of them are very distinctive in their own right, and can become nurtured to be even more. And that’s a really great part of Wellington, is that character, a sense of place. Where a lot of towns and cities, especially the flatter ones, it’s actually hard to know where one part finishes and the next starts, and there’s not a great deal of distinction between them. That’s part of the charm of Wellington. People love Wellington. There’s a lot of passion from our people, and a lot of, I think, respect and appreciation from a lot of people who visit, or think about Wellington. That’s why Wellington is rated so highly globally as a great city to live, work, and play, and visit. The Eastern suburbs and the airport expansion BP: Well, you talk about all the suburbs, where you have so much characters, and I totally agree, it’s really special to be able to go from one to another and get totally different vibes, whether you see the sea, or you can’t because you’re in the hills, or on the South Coast, or even the Parade. So there’s a lot to it. There’s one suburb in particular that is facing a lot of changes, and which you could argue has the potential, given the size of the developments, to shift the center of gravity of Wellington away from the CBD towards the east. We’ve got the airport expansion, which is a billion dollars by 2040. We’ve got Shelly Bay, half a billion. We’ve got Mount Crawford, which probably amounts to about the same amount of money. So together it’s 2 billion. And of course we’ve got Let’s Get Wellington Moving, which you could argue is also designed to unlock the east, to give greater access to the east. However, I do appreciate that some people are saying that maybe we won’t take mass transit to the east, but to the south. Notwithstanding, so far the plans have been to make the transport to the east, to the airport, easier. Andy, is there a master plan behind this? Is it wanted? Is it what the city wants? AF: Well, it’s not going to be a short answer, this one, because I suppose the first thing I’d do, is to say I acknowledge every bit of things that you’ve said about the east, but let’s see what’s happening in the north. Well in the north, you’ve had massive investment in roading through the Roads of National Significance. You also have had very significant investment in rail, and there’s more to come with rail as well. So if you like, the Let’s Get Wellington Moving to the north is been happening, and the scale actually, is much bigger than to the south and east overall, in dollar terms. And then of course, you’ve got a lot of development which is going particularly up the coast, which was always going to happen, as soon as you start building highways up there. And of course, that goes back to the whole thing of climate change and how people get around. Let’s Get Wellington Moving, I think you’ve already sort of said could be south or east, so we’ll park that south and east. So it’s going to connect both. In terms of where urban development’s going, the central city has taken the biggest load proportionally of any by a long shot, and we would probably like that to continue to support the central city, and that we think is more sustainable. The number of people who walk, bike, is very, very high. When you’re so close, it’s so much easier. So central city continues to do that. In terms of growth areas, the second one down was actually the north. Has been historically, has been the northern suburbs and there’s a lot of greenfields in there as well. So where is change going to occur? Well we’ve identified the key places where big growth is going to occur, in terms of population going forward, CBD, the mass transit route, wherever that may be. Now, the east has a real challenge there. And the east challenge is resilience. Kilbirnie and the Miramar flats, are not great places to build a lot. You can build some, but they are very vulnerable in terms of the liquefaction, tsunami. All those sort of things are much bigger risks there, which is why we’ve actually dialed back the idea of developing a lot there. So Newtown’s obviously one that we’re looking at very strongly, along with the CBD. And then Johnsonville and Tawa, because of the major transport routes there, the rail routes. In terms of what’s going on in the eastern suburbs, the airport development will be driven by demand, particularly for parking planes, and larger planes, and volumes there, and the way the terminal’s developed. And obviously it would be fair to say that demand’s taken a hell of a hit over the last two years, but the domestic demand now is very, very strong. BP: Do you support this project? The airport expansion? AF: I think it’s just a response to demand. If people are- BP: Yeah, but you can have a stand on this, whether you think it’s a good idea to do it now in a climate emergency, or whether you think the demand… Because the free market, if we step back just a little bit, has provided a lot of benefits to human beings. But of course, it’s created a lot of massive issues, one of which is climate change. So is it the right time to do it? I probably would say, “Are we pricing carbon correctly?”. If we price carbon correctly, then the market can respond to that appropriately. If there was no demand or if demand was low, and perhaps the carbon price was such that people went, “Oh, instead of going once a year, I’m going to go once every five years” or, “Instead of going over to Sydney to go shopping, I’ll do that.” (…) The airport will not grow if the demand’s not there. AF: Well I guess the thing is, I probably would say, “Are we pricing carbon correctly?” If we price carbon correctly, then the market can respond to that appropriately. If there was no demand or if demand was low, and perhaps the carbon price was such that people went, “Oh, instead of going once a year, I’m going to go once every five years” or, “Instead of going over to Sydney to go shopping, I’ll do that.” The kind of things that some people do. Or maybe I don’t fly to Auckland three times a week, maybe I fly once a week. Whatever it might be. Have we got the pricing signals right, and then what drives demand? The airport will not grow if the demand’s not there. The airport will grow, if the demand is there. So take your upcoming trip. If you’d said, “Right, I want to go there,” and you’ve been told, “You’ve got to wait for six months, because there’s no space,” how would you have responded to that? BP: Well, I think I’ll be absolutely fine, because I understand that- AF: You might, but some other people wouldn’t. But you know what I’m saying? But I think the challenge of course with pricing, is it’s an international thing with carbon pricing and how that- BP: So we let it grow then? If demand is there, we let it grow? AF: Well, what do you do with it if demand isn’t… You’ve got to choke the demand off in some way, which is pricing. BP: Well the fact is that if it’s contained, if you can’t put more flights, the prices will go up and achieve exactly what you’ve just said. AF: That could tend to happen. That could tend to happen. BP: Shouldn’t we do this in a climate emergency, to do whatever we can to constrain the supply, until flying sustainably is possible? AF: Well I guess the question I would then ask you, is whether you would constrain the supply only in Wellington? There are some times when I think people are trying to solve the world’s problems in Wellington alone, and we’ve got our contribution to make, we’ve absolutely got our contribution to make, but we are not going to save the world on our own, or in isolation. BP: So are you trying to advocate to the government for a greater carbon price? I mean, the solution you just suggested, that we constrain the demand by increasing carbon prices- AF: I didn’t say increasing it, I just said get the price right. Now, I don’t know what the right price should be. That’s well beyond my pay grade, but in theory, if you get the price right, then it will send signals to people. If flying to France is going to cost you twice as much, you’re probably going to think slightly differently, and you might go, “I’m still going,” but you might not go as frequently, or you might go, “I’m not going at all.” So it’s those kind of things. And then you wanted to touch on the other things in the east as well. Shelly Bay and Mount Crawford BP: Oh, Shelly Bay and Mount Crawford. So Shelly Bay is an interesting one, because of course, the hurdles [to the project] as far as the city council is concerned, I understand, are behind. I would be interested to hear how you lived through the vote of the 11th of November last year, when the sale and lease of the council land to the developer, was voted in. How did you live through that particular moment? AF: I think that the whole Shelly Bay process has been very painful. On a personal basis, it’s been very painful, and I know it’s hurt a lot of people. I’ve said many, many times, very publicly, that I think the council from the get go has got the process wrong. What you do not do, is you do not start out by excluding the public from having a say, and that’s exactly where council started. We’re going way back to 2015. And it’s just that the subsequent actions have just simply compounded that. I just think it’s been fundamentally wrong, and I think what you’re seeing with, for example all the court cases, has been the public trying to have a say one way or whether it is Mau Whenua, whether it’s Enterprise Miramar, whoever it is, is people saying, “This is a precious part of our city, and we actually wanted to have a say.” And under the planning rules, that say was there to have, and the whole special housing area just steamrolled across the top of it. And I just think that’s just been a horrible process that’s been painful to be a part of. I’ve tried everything that I can do to try and allow for public involvement in that, but that’s not met with majority support around the council table, in three successive councils. There’s been always a strong minority, but nevertheless a minority. BP: So the development, as far as we know, only has two stones in its shoes to get rid of. One is the consent with the regional council, and one is of course, the Maori court, where Mau Whenua went. How successful do you think those two hurdles have to stop the development? AF: Look, I can’t make a judgment on how successful they will be. I could tell you what I would hope. BP: Well, I think we know what you hope. AF: I mean, what I’ve always said right from the beginning is, “Can we please step back from this, have a conversation about the scale and type of the development there?” And there had been no willingness to do that. BP: Actually, the sibling of Shelly Bay is Mount Crawford. 300 homes are planned there. AF: Sounds very similar in scale. BP: Absolutely, and doesn’t tick any box of the spatial plan. The spatial plan said growth should happen, as you said, in the inner suburbs, along a main transport spine, and development should be greener. None of that is being ticked by Mount Crawford. Is your take on Mount Crawford, the same as Shelly Bay? Do you support Mount Crawford, or do you have any concerns around what’s happening, or what’s brewing over there? AF: Well what has been happening, is an extended discussion between The Crown, or Crown agencies, and iwi organizations… I understand it’s Taranaki Whanui Limited rather than Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, but they’re 100% owned by Port Nicholson, who’ve been sort of trying to work out what it is that they want to do. Council has not been involved in that to date. I have said to ministers we want to be involved in that, and we want the community to be involved in that. Again, the same principle holds true. A very, very important piece of land, in fact if anything more important than Shelly Bay… I mean, it’s so visible from right around the harbour. The landscape assessments say it’s really visible. It’s identified as a significant amenity landscape. I think the community have to have a say in this. I’m pushing to try and get us involved in that conversation [on Mount Crawford], and the public needs to be involved in that conversation. (…) It’s got some very serious hurdles to get through. But the key principle is, I think the community need to be allowed to have a say in these areas. BP: Well, that’s interesting. There has been an MOU signed in 2017 between The Crown, the City Council, and Port Nicholson, saying that for this piece of land, there would be open communication, involvement of the community, and so far everything seems to be happening under the radar. What can we do? AF: To us as well at the moment. I’m pushing to try and get us involved in that conversation, and the public needs to be involved in that conversation. In terms of the planning rules as they stand at the moment, it’s all Open Space B. Shelly Bay was little bit Open Space B, but most of it was suburban center zoned, as it was then. So I expect some development. Open Space B, the expectation is zero development. And it also sits within our ridgelines and hilltops, and is identified as one of four or five amenity landscapes around the city. So it’s got some serious hurdles to get through, plus the infrastructure, the roading, and water, and everything else. It’s got some very serious hurdles to get through. But the key principle is, I think the community needs to be allowed to have a say in these areas. The Regional Park BP: Well really interesting. There’s a fourth part of this discussion, and that’s engagement. Before I get there though, I’d like to finish this little tour of the eastern suburbs, and talk about the Regional Park. So in 2016, the Regional Park north of Mount Crawford, was announced as something that would happen. In 2019, just before the election, Justin Lester said, “This is a done deal. The Regional Park will happen.” 72 hectares of this piece of land would be transformed into a Regional Park, and that a central and local funding was all lined up. 2021, there hasn’t been a shovel there. What’s the story? AF: It’s been in this black box, with a conversation, as I said, between The Crown and Port Nicholson, or Taranaki Whanui Limited. BP: Even this piece of land north of Mount Crawford? because it’s Crown land! AF: Yep. BP: So we have ministers, we have city council, all agreeing on a way forward, and yet we can’t make it happen? AF: Well, not yet. I’m continuing to push, and there’s only so much patience that one can have before saying, “Well, let’s see if there’s another thing that we can do.” BP: What does that mean? AF: I’m going to say that the Miramar community did a fantastic piece of work two years ago, looking at the values, what people valued, and what frustrated people about the peninsula. And what was very, very clear, is that what was most valued, was the natural environment. I think three out of the top four things were natural environment. People really value these areas, and I think that’s the kind of basis… If we’re not going to do that work, I think we empower the community to do that work, and trying to imagine to design their own futures. I’m really strong on saying the community should be able to design their own futures, within the context of what we need from the city as a whole. So if we’ve got to grow, and we’ve got to find extra housing, okay well, let’s say we need to do that, now what’s the contribution that Miramar’s going to make to that? Work out how that’s going to happen. There’s some real opportunities to do things in the Miramar peninsular, particularly the Strathmore area, with working with iwi. That’s real opportunity. The northern end? I don’t see the same opportunity to be putting houses all over that, and I think that would be really problematic. BP: Well, it’s a unique asset to the city actually. It’s such a vast piece of land that could be used for recreational and biodiversity. AF: Look, there may be some opportunities for some limited development there in the prison area. Sure. But let’s talk it through and work it out. Having people in the tent, having conversation, is a much better way than saying, “Here’s a fait accompli, what do you think of it?” and then watching the sparks fly. BP: Which is what happened with Shelly Bay, of course. AF: Oh, absolutely. I don’t want to see that happen again. BP: Andy, you talked about community involvement, and this has been, of course, a great aspect of your campaign. You talked about the consultation, you made it actually a pillar that led to your election. And yet, there is this Miramar master plan that the council has been sitting on. Since 2016, it’s in draft on the council’s website. How can we hope this master plan for the eastern suburbs to resume? AF: Well as I said, if anything it’s being held up by the process going on with Watts Peninsula, and- BP: Sorry to interrupt, but don’t you think it could actually feed into their own thinking, if we were… AF: And then you’re starting to think about the sort of thing I was hinting at. In other words to say, “If we’re not going to do it, if the authorities aren’t going to do it, let’s empower the community to do it.” Engagement BP: Okay. Speaking of engagement, and this could be the closing chapter of our discussion, there’s often a lot of frustration when it comes to consultation. Sometime it’s too long. Sometime it’s too short. Sometime people feel they are being directed towards a particular outcome. Sometimes you have city councilors making promise as a candidate, and yet come back on their promise. Sometime we have officers who don’t follow what has been voted by the city council, and therefore by extension, the community. I’m thinking in particular about the shared path around the Massey Road. I’m thinking about planning for growth. Or sometime even the city council votes against what the officers have captured in the constitution process, and I’m thinking spatial plan. I mean, there’s a case to be made that we might have a system that is not perfect to say the least, and I wonder whether you agree with that particular assessment, and what can be done to create a more direct connection between the community, the residents, and what’s happening in their city, in the cities they live in? AF: Look, I would certainly say that over many years, it’s a mixed bag. Some people will say that council doesn’t listen to engagement, but there’s plenty of occasions when that engagement has certainly changed the council decisions, or given council confidence in a particular decision. But there’re others that it does feel like there’s a very firm position which has been taken, and it doesn’t move, whether that’s by individuals or by the collective. So is it perfect? No. Is what we get from the public perfect? Often no, either. When we started having conversation at the beginning, talking about how do we actually have discussion of, “We will go out later on this year.” how good a discussion, how good a use of our listening, are we going to have, not just the council, but as a community, to alternative view points? And I think that’s the bit that we’re not good at doing, not just in Wellington, but in New Zealand as a whole. I don’t think we’re as good at listening to alternative view points, and actually considering whether those view points might challenge our own and go, “Actually, they might be right on some bits there,” or, “They might be right completely.” We’ve got to keep on testing our own thinking, and I think that’s probably the key, is not just assuming that we’ve got it right, and then just trying to shout louder when somebody else says something which doesn’t with what we want. BP: Well, it seems to me that this is really the foundation that we need, before everything else actually, that we have this consultation, this engagement working, this democracy working, to ensure that people are satisfied that whatever happens, is actually a true representation of what the group wants moving forward. AF: Well, can I give you a good example this term of council, which was the discussion we had about the Central Library. Now my original expectation, was that the community would say, “We would prefer to keep the existing library.” But it was really good to go out and to get the feedback from the community that said… First of all, they gave us a really strong view that we wanted a really strong library. We didn’t want a half-baked job. Because there were some people who would say, “All we got to do, is do the little basics. Get it open as quickly as possible”. But you point to that and you say, “Well actually, 80%-plus of the community said “No. Do it once. Do it right. We’ve done enough half-baked stuff.” So it gives you some confidence that actually, that’s the way the community wants us to go, in terms of whether it was new build or existing build, and things like that. There was pretty close margin between the two. But there was some real solidity around, “We want you do it right first time up.”. I think one of the things that we did have some very strong advice when we were talking about this,(…) is put all the options up. What are the pros and cons of each of the options?” (…) I’m really insistent we do it again with Let’s Get Wellington Moving. That kind of thing is actually really important. And I think one of the things that we did have some very strong advice when we were talking about this, in how you do special consultation, for how you do most things, is put all the options up. What are the pros and cons of each of the options? This is our preference, but here’s the information around the others. And that’s something which I’m really insistent we do, and we did with the library. I’m really insistent we do it again with Let’s Get Wellington Moving. So, “These are our options. This is our preference. But, here’s the other options. You tell us what you think.” BP: So, that’s exactly not what’s happening with CobhamDrive, for example- AF: No. Agree. BP: … where Let’s Get Wellington Moving has come with one option, and said, “This is what we’re going to be doing,” and that’s it pretty much. AF: For me, I think there’s an issue there of LGWM saying, “This is what we want to do, and this is why,” knowing that it wasn’t going to be popular. My preference is a bridge. I can probably live with, “Okay, we got to do something quick.” Okay. Right. “We think there’s a safety issue there.” I buy that we need to get a connection across. Fine. So let’s do the quicker things, but let’s be quite clear to the community that we’re going to monitor it, see how it goes, if there’s a problem, we’re designing in the back pocket, to put a grade separated crossing, presumably over rather than under. But I think when it comes to the big stuff, whether it’s mass transit, and tunnels, and bus priorities, and all that sort of stuff, and how much it’s going to cost, how it’s going to be funded, all those sort of tools, I think we’ve got to put all the information out there, and give people that, because people will want to know. Give it to them, rather than have it dragged out by official Information Act requests. Let’s put it all out there and go for it. So let’s do the quicker things, but let’s be quite clear to the community that we’re going to monitor it, see how it goes, if there’s a problem, we’re designing in the back pocket, to put a grade separated crossing, presumably over rather than under BP: Actually at the end of the day, this is the community deciding for their city. AF: Absolutely. BP: I didn’t want to digress too much on Cobham Drive, because it is anecdotal yet symptomatic, or symptomatic yet anecdotal. So I guess I had one last question on engagement. If it was designed appropriately and in the right fashion, how would you feel about a situation where the consultation would be binding, or if not binding, at least would actually account for two votes at the council table? Something along those lines. I mean, I know that [the council] is actually working at reslicing the city, the different wards and all that, and it’s going to be interesting to see what’s coming out of that. Isn’t the time to say, “Well, we want the community to be at the table.” How do you feel about this particular approach? AF: I think community feedback has got to be given a lot of weight in any decision. How you do that structurally or legally in that kind of what that you’re suggesting, is probably difficult to design. But council does listen on a lot of things. Can we do better? Absolutely we can. We can always do better. How do questions get asked, becomes really critical. You can ask questions, “Do you like apple pie?” questions, of course we’re all going to say yes to that. But it’s not particularly helpful. I mean, there are models… citizens’ juries, those sort of models… which you could set up to have a look at projects. When we do those kind of things, we tend to get feedback… It tends to be adopted pretty much in whole. So for example, it wasn’t that kind of thing, but we had the Mayoral Task Force on Three Waters. And the council pretty much took the whole lot onboard. Not quite. There’s some discussions yet to come on things like water meters. And of course, then the government’s come over the top with this Three Waters Reform. So we do try and get good input into a lot of these decisions that we make. But the model’s going to be different for each different circumstance too, depending on the scale. One of the other things, is that the number of decisions that we’ve got to make, and often in very short time, is very challenging. BP: And especially, as you said earlier, on this discussion where a lot of changes are coming, not only to Wellington, the country, and of course the world in general. There’s so many changes ahead. And it’s not an easy job, but I actually wonder whether there is some thinking to be done to improve this type of engagement? AF: I’d say the answer is always yes. I suppose probably for me, that whole placemaking one, it’s a big opportunity, because that placemaking can drive a lot of decisions. If you can do that, you can start saying, “Well actually, in time we need this sort of transport system. We need this sort of community infrastructure system. We need this infrastructure to support growth, which should go there and it should look like this.” That actually starts picking quite a lot of the things that council would normally need to make a decision. So, we are going to pick up the Miramar framework. We’re going to adopt it. Let’s get on with it. That does empower a community. And it’s not just Miramar. I mean, the Newtown residents’ groups, they’re keenly doing this same kind of thing, saying, “Look, you want a certain amount of growth out of our suburb, this is how we think it should come.” Rather than a higgledy-piggledy approach “We think it should be done this way.” I think we should be working with communities to co-design their own future. BP: That’s a nice way to close that conversation. Thank you so much, Andy. AF: No, it’s a pleasure. BP: Thanks for your time. It’s been very informative, and I hope it’s been useful to our listeners. AF: Thanks, Benoit.

    • A conversation with Sarah Free
      • Mid-July, I wrote an article called “A mid-term City Council assessment and the Eastern mega developments”. This piece was an opportunity to look at our city, its issues and its opportunities. I also looked at how our City Council had navigated these troubled waters and sail towards the approaching icebergs (namely climate change, housing, transport or how to restore faith in our local democracy). I drifted to the East where mega-developments are lining up, seemingly without community input. I closed the article in inviting the Mayor and the three Eastern ward Councilors to react and comment. Below is the transcript of my conversation with Sarah Free, Deputy Mayor together with the recording. It is the first in a series of three (maybe four) conversations which, I hope, will give the readers of this blog a sense of how their elected members are faring the challenges the city is facing. Introduction;Engagement and the Council (04:02);In the East (18:39);The Airport expansion (27:00);The Miramar masterplan (33:20);The Cobham crossing (37:00);The Regional Park (46:10). Music: https://www.bensound.com Introduction Benoit Pette: Kia Ora. Today is Friday the 6th of August and I am joined by Sarah Free. Sarah you are an engineer in the Energy sector by trade. You have been Councillor for the Wellington City Council since 2013. This is your third term and you are also Deputy Mayor. You are a member of the Green Party. Sarah, how are you? Sarah Free: I’m good. I do have to point out that I did an engineering degree, but I only worked as an engineer for a limited number of years before I actually retrained as a secondary school teacher and then subsequently retrained in a public health and worked as an energy advisor for the sustainability trust. So most of my career has probably been spent either as a teacher or working with the community to make, um, housing healthier, but I still have an engineering background and I think a lot of that early trainings mean I think with an engineering kind of framework around things. BP: Yeah. Um, you mentioned to me the other day that you installed solar panels on your house. Did you use that background to take part in the installation? SF: Well I’m really interested in energy. So both my husband and I actually have an engineering background. He has one as well, so it was something we were kind of interested in exploring, and we have the technology to monitor it and see how we can use it to save ourselves some money and also not draw as much power from the grid, leaving it for other people to use. BP: No, that’s very good. And then you run to become Councillor in the Eastern ward back in 2013. Why did you decide to enter politics? SF: Yeah, people have asked me that. I think I had become quite energized and upset over the sale of electricity assets, actually. The power stations, I saw them as really critical infrastructure. I was really upset about that and it all tied back into feeling that we were making a lot of decisions that weren’t necessarily in the interests of the country as a whole, or really interests of people. And through my work with the sustainability trust, I’d also seen how difficult it was for people on low incomes to do anything much to improve their situation because all the odds were stacked against them. So I started to feel like the work I was doing was that the was a bit like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff rather than the fence at the top. And I guess I got interested in seeing if I could make a different set a different level. And about that time, the Green noticed the work I was doing in the campaign against the asset sales and, you know, sort of other things that I was involved in. And I guess someone asked me if I was interested in standing for council. And it turned out that they were quite keen for me to stand in the Eastern ward, they saw an opportunity there and, and I was successful. BP: That’s very interesting. And I guess we will be discussing whether you feel you have been able to make a difference and still feel you can. What I didn’t know is that half-way through the year, the Council goes in recess and you guys all part ways and have a break. Do you feel you had a good break? SF: I had a really nice break, but only for about three weeks. And then back to work towards the end of July now, it’s like we never had a break at all. But anyway, it was nice. And I think that break does give our staff a little bit of time too, without the constant pressure of meetings and Councilors around to get on with some work. Engagement and the Council BP: And do you feel like the vibe is now a bit better around the Council table? SF: I do. We have had, of course we had the Winder report when we were brave enough to go and say to somebody who does a lot of work with local government come and have a look at us and tell us where we can or need to improve, how bad are we really? And it was reassuring in that, the feedback was that, although our council’s a bit was … there were some difficult moments and clashes with personalities and agendas, we were still making really good decisions. And in fact, the recommendations in the report were reasonably straightforward, so they didn’t consider our portfolio system was helping with a collective view and, and collective decision making. They thought we’d be better off to organize our work through, committees rather than trying to rely on portfolio leaders to drive things forward. So we tried to implement every single recommendation. We just took it on board. And to be honest, I think it has been helpful. It does feel to me like council’s a little bit more calm and we’re working more collegially together. BP: So we had a series of portfolio before, and one of them that is dear to my heart is engagement. I actually wonder now, in this new structure with committees, who would be in charge of looking at the way the Council is working, how it engages with the community and how can it make it better? SF: So I think that’s always been the responsibility of all of us really. It’s part of the job of a local ward Councilors to do your best, to engage with people and to respond to their concerns, to go to community meetings sometimes to set meetings up, if there’s a very contentious issue. Um, look, I know that people always feel that we could do it better because the reality of it is there isn’t really enough hours in the day to do all the engagement that you would like to do, but it’s not, anyone’s, it’s never really been anyone’s particular job because we all need to be responsible for doing it. BP: Yeah, I guess so. It’s good that in a city like Wellington, especially considering the intent of the government to perhaps centralize more, that we still can approach our Councilors, like today for example, we can actually have this discussion. I think it’s extremely important that we keep that. But there has been some frustration around the consultation process, for example, where people don’t feel are actually really listened to. Sometimes we have situations where, candidates are being elected on some promises and these promises are being broken. Sometimes even we have the elected members taking a decision, or voting on something, and then it doesn’t get implemented by the officers because they decide otherwise. One example is the shared path around Massey road. I mean, you guys voted for it twice and twice It got defaulted to “oh we got better things to do so”. Surely there must be better ways to ensure that’s the community is accurately represented by the Councilors and the Councilors to actually carry the true intent of the community. So what are thoughts on this? SF: Well, I just might mention that I think we haven’t been helped by losing the cook straight news, which was our local newspaper, which is always really helpful and pointing out what was happening with Council. I mean, there were public meetings on, and, I think it’s been unfortunate that we don’t have that anymore. There was nothing to do with council, that was a decision of the guy who, who had it as a business, that it wasn’t working for him. Sadly, yes, you are right. There are some failings there, I think in terms of both those things that you’re saying, we do try to listen to the community, but, and not everybody thinks the same. So we have to take everybody’s views into account. And often where we land is somewhere in the middle where no one’s particularly happy with us, you know, cause we’ve had to make a compromise because we know people think, you know, sometimes views are quite polarized and where we land up is where we think the best position is, but doesn’t make anyone overjoyed, but hopefully most people can live with it. And you’re also right about the actions about officers sometimes not picking up on resolutions at Council. And we now have an item on all of our agendas, which is actually tracking the actions that we’ve agreed on and what the progress has been made. So we’re hoping that action tracking  – it was one of the things that came out of the Winder report – has a better ability for Councilors to set the agenda, which we had very little oversight of previously, the staff used to bring the agenda. Now we have a mechanism whereby we can put things on the agenda in a more transparent way. And in terms of transparency, we do all of our meetings are on YouTube and open to the public. And we do have our minutes got quite quickly and people can see what’s happened at the meetings. So I think in some things we’re doing quite well, other things we’re working on a process of improvement. The Massey Road was actually very frustrating to me personally. And there was some negotiations and discussions around that Shelly bay development and iwi views on that, which I don’t quite understand, but I think that’s part of the mix as to why it hasn’t yet happened. I’m still hopeful it will. But it is disappointing that it hasn’t yet happened from my point of view personally. BP: Well I certainly think some of the things the Council is doing is remarkable. I mean, the fact that every council meeting is actually broadcast live on YouTube is amazing. The fact that the minutes come out rather quickly is pretty good. I mean, overall, I can see it’s working. But, I wish there was some way where the Council was actually reflecting to ensure that when one claim, as a group or as a Councilor “Wellingtonians want this”, or “my community wants that”, that it is actually accurate, that we know for sure that you’re not claiming representing a group and that this group is actually just a minority. So it’d be interesting to hear from you guys, if you have any initiatives to refine this particular process. SF: I’m always pretty cautious when I say “the community wants something”, because just as I’ve told you, I know that there actually are quite a lot of views. There are some Councilor who do quite boldly claim that the community thinks this, community thinks that. And I often wonder if they actually know what all the people in their community think. I guess we could look into using more tools. There are software tools that you can use that are quite good at telling you what people think. You know, some of our consultations we use in those pie graphs where we reflect on where people live, what percentage of people are strongly in support, somewhat support, neutral, somewhat oppose or oppose. And those kinds of things can be done in real time, too. So as the feedback comes in, you can actually see the percentages changing. BP: Thinking now about the Spatial Plan, for example, where there was a lot of claims that the people who actually submit are the people who’ve got time and they retired and therefore the demographic who actually take part in a consultation are not  a true reflection of the community. Surely there should be some solution that should be considered to enable this raw connection with what people truly want, a solution that would unequivocally say: “this is what the community wants” or “this is what this group of people in this particular area, think is very important”. Continuing on the Spatial Plan and also engagement, I remember the Mayor Foster saying the debate had been quite divisive and it didn’t have to be. Do you think the same, that it was very divisive, and it didn’t have to be that way? SF: I do think there were some very different views on the Spatial Plan. And again, it was a situation where we have one group of people, younger people, often people who are renting, that demographic really felt we needed to be what they called bold and make a real change in our Spatial Plan to allow things to do, be done differently, more dense, mainly more dense housing in higher housing. And then there was another group that actually basically didn’t want to see that happen or not to the same extent and valued things like the way the city looks and feels, who didn’t want to see it change too much. And to be fair, I think those were both genuinely held sets of views and it was really hard to reconcile them. And again, as I say, when you make your final decision, you’re trying to keep both of those views of mind and land somewhere where you think you might have the balance right. In every Councilor is going to think somewhat differently about that. When, I think what the Mayor might’ve meant about it being divisive as it got quite personal, you know, some Councilors claimed that other Councilor were NIMBYs, that some didn’t know what renting was like. They’ve got a little bit, perhaps a little bit personal and a little bit more aggressive than it needed to be, but you know, that’s politics. And sometimes it does get a bit rough around the edges and emotions came running quite high. BP: Sometimes. Yeah. But the thing is that what happened at the Council actually had ripple effects throughout the community. And, what was perhaps harsh and personal around the Council table actually, became exactly that within the community. Online, for example, I’ve seen extremely harsh comments targeted at people or Councilors, personally, not necessarily on their views or ideas. There was a lot of assumptions. SF: A lot of assumptions. I would agree with that. You know, and I think that people, my colleagues, you know, all of us, myself included, we all need to be very mindful of the fact that, you know, that politicians make some tough decisions, but they also people and, and it is a tough job. And we’ve seen that evidence by the fact that a lot of there’s been a high turnover actually amongst Councilors. You know, there’s a lot of Councilors who’ve decided for whatever reason that that do one or two terms, and then that’s enough. So it is a tough job because you’re constantly rubbing up against people who don’t think you’ve made the right decision, or don’t like the decision you’ve made can’t understand why you’ve made that decision. I don’t necessarily have all the information. And then you’ve also got those personality things sometimes too. BP: I mean his personality definitively, but also I guess, the ability of all those individuals who decide to go, on the front stage, to communicate their message and actually take, people around the table and across the community, on the journey with them. What do you think can be done by the Council to help people come to the consensus where you are going as a Council? SF: I think what you’re talking about as leadership and what we are working, that was part of what the winter report did highlight that our council needs to be able to speak with a collective voice. We obviously won’t agree, but we will make a decision. And once we’ve made that decision, we need to be able to articulate it and communicate the reasons for it. And I think that is something that we’re still in the process of working on. The report did say the Mayor needs to show more leadership, but possibly I do as Deputy Mayor as well. But probably all of us actually need to be able to show that leadership. It is what we are trying to also have Councilor only time, time we just get together as a Council, and talk about stuff. Because we won’t always agree, but is there some common ground where we can present, perhaps a little bit more of a clearer way, a clearer view of the way we’re collectively thinking rather than what goes on frequently where someone’s articulating a view out here and someone’s articulating one out there and it looks like a bit of a mess. BP: It’s actually feel like this sometimes.   SF: Yeah, it does. And it’s a little bit rocky and I think it’s rockier than I’ve known it in the past. And I think part of that is the sense of urgency that we’re all dealing with. You know, things are broken, a lot of money needs to be spent focusing things and then we have climate change. And so we have the sense of huge urgency and issues that need to be addressed and solved, but there isn’t always a clear consensus or view as to what’s a priority how to do it. And even what’s a priority. So we’re getting there, but it is a work in progress. In the East BP: So look, I had a segway to my next topic, but then you just gave me another one which is climate change and of course engagement. In the East, we are the subject of a lot of scrutiny and appetite, with massive developments It is happening in the East, but it is also very relevant to Wellington because what’s going to happen in the Eastern suburbs, might actually shift the center of gravity of Wellington towards Kilbirnie, Miramar. More specifically, we’ve got the Airport Expansion, that’s a billion dollars to expand over the golf course. We have Shelly Bay of course, and Mount Crawford now. Altogether we’ve got 2 billion. You can even argue with that Let’s Get Wellington Moving and its $6 billion are actually to make the East more accessible. So a lot of money to transform a part of Wellington and I actually wonder, and that’s my question, how much does Wellington want this? Whether you think it’s a good idea to expand that way so much, in that direction? We’re talking 650 homes being built in the East, is it the best place? SF: The interesting thing Benoit, is that you talk about lots of developments in the East, but actually the Spatial Plan hardly had any extra heights or intensity in the Eastern suburbs compared to what’s happening in the rest of Wellington. Newtown in particular, the CBD, Mount Victoria and everywhere up the train line to the North, all of those places where it stops at stations like Khandallah, like Tawa, like Johnsonville, all of those places, will be six storey development allowed, as of right. And within a 15 minute walk of the railway station now, 10 minutes, sorry, it’s within a 10 minute walk of the railway station. Now that 10 minute walks quite a long way. And within that 10 minute catchment area of all of those railway stations, you’ll be allowed six storey high buildings. So compared to that, the East is actually got a relatively, at the moment, is actually relatively untouched by the Spatial Plan. I argued that they should be allowed some more development and Strathmore, because actually I thought we don’t want to be completely left out of the opportunity to have some growth. And as well as that, there was identified an opportunity over Mount Crawford, because iwi are in negotiations, apparently, I don’t know much about it at an in depth level, to have first right of refusal over that land if it goes on the market. But to be honest, some of the other things you mentioned they’re far from actually happening. So, the Airport, with the climate change challenges and COVID, I don’t know when, if, if ever will actually do that development. And then it’s still subject to a decision through the commissioner, through the hearing. That hearing has been delayed, it asked for more information, I think it’s due out at the end of August. So we may hear what they think about the plans, but even at the plans are approved, I think it would be a long way before they actually happen. And Shelly Bay, they’ve withdrawn the latest lot of consents to the Regional Council, and there is another court case happening. So, you know, some of these things probably will happen, but maybe not in quite the way we think they’re going to happen, and it may be quite a way off. But I agree with you, and even Let’s Get Wellington Moving, there’s talk that the main Mass Transit that may actually go to the south, leaving us with bus rapid transit and bus lanes, which might be actually a better solution for us? So when you’re saying lots of changes coming to the East, yes there are, but I think in the scale of what the other changes around the city, they’re not, it’s not like the East is particularly slated for lots of changes. So when you’re saying lots of changes coming to the East, yes there are, but I think in the scale of what the other changes around the city, they’re not, it’s not like the East is particularly slated for lots of changes. BP: But at the same time, Sarah, the Spatial Plan actually specifically said throughout the consultation that, what Wellingtonians wanted was growth in the inner suburbs, along a main transport spine and greener. That’s what they said they wanted. Mount Crawford and Shelly Bay don’t take any of those boxes. So that’s the raises the question, what … SF: It will have to be dealt with when it happens. Shelly bay, as you know, took place initially, it’s happened. I mean, the consents from the council point of view, and I didn’t vote for it, but it was voted for, that has happened. Mount Crawford hasn’t and we’ll have to go through all of those testing processes to see if there’s going to be enough infrastructure to support whatever’s there and what the impacts would be. But I do worry about it. I do worry about the transport impacts. It’s always been my passion to try and ensure we had good public transport and good cycling and walking. I’ve spent most of my focus time I’ve been on Council has been around those things. BP: That’s actually accurate, in the sense that all the energy you spend, even in the previous term was to get all cycleways rolled out and this is happening now. SF: So that’s pretty good. I haven’t given up. Yeah, it’s going to be more, not so much in the East, but there’ll be other parts of the city. I’m working now to make sure we get bus priority lanes so that our bus system actually works a little more efficiently. So, you know, cause if we don’t get the light rail or mass transit or whatever we might’ve had, we do need a really robust, good bus system, really efficient. BP: All right, but we need to decide, not one of those officers in his tower who should make that decision. SF: No, we are making that decision. The problem we’ve got with transport as well, Wellington city has the ability to put in all the bike lanes without having to ask too much permission from anybody. We actually can’t do much about the buses. We can put in the bus lanes and good bus infrastructure, bus stops, bus parking, so bus drivers can have breaks. But we can’t actually run the bus service because their function is with the Regional Council. But I am really pleased to say that I think the Regional Council is doing a much better job with this triennium than they did last triennium. BP: It would be difficult to say that the bus service is actually a good bus service at the moment given all the cancellations, given all the diesel buses that are still running our streets (since 2017!). These temporary diesel buses got me very frustrated. It’s a health hazard! SF: It is very, very frustrating. And even things like the Airport bus, we have been promised that it’s going to be replaced, but not until June next year, and that’s the Regional Council. I’m not blaming them because I understand the pressures and difficulties and delays that they’re having with, you know, and, and some of it’s understandable, but we need to keep as City Councilors, we need to keep pressurizing them to finish the job. The Airport expansion BP: On the Airport bus, the Airport has this page on their website where it says that basically the bus service would be implemented when they have a satisfactory commercial agreement with the Regional Council. So the way it’s being presented on their website, which I think is probably quite accurate, is that it’s the money. It’s not the Regional Council not delivering this bus. So it’s the Airport getting in the way of making it happen because of course for them it’s a loss. And whether it’s for the Airport flyer or the expansion to the East, there is definitively a behavior issue there where the Airport is looking at its own growth, at its own benefits to satisfy its shareholders and community comes second, with our planet. What’s your take on the Airport expansion and specifically the one going over the golf course? SF: I really oppose it. I don’t think it’s necessary. I think the Airport does need to look at why it’s so intent on expanding. They are a profitable Airport and even through COVID, they’ve done reasonably well because most of the traffic to Wellington airport is actually New Zealand based travel, not international. So they’ve done reasonably well. I think their figures are they’re running at about 85% of normal, which isn’t too bad. But I don’t see why it needs to continually be an expansion mode. As far as I’m concerned, air travel is something we all probably need to do less. So that’s not to say we will never go on a plane trip, but we probably need to think about why we’re traveling. Is it really necessary? You know, can we do it? Can we work remotely? Can we zoom into a meeting? Can we go for a little bit longer on a holiday rather than going on two or three holidays, maybe go on one and stay a bit longer. So I think if we all adopted a little bit of a different mindset towards travel, the Airport wouldn’t need to expand at all. So I think that’s the challenge. And I think they’re actually thinking, I don’t know, I’m not on the board, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re not actually starting to question what their real growth figures will be with all the changes we’ve seen. What’s your take on the Airport expansion and specifically the one going over the golf course? really oppose it. I don’t think it’s necessary. BP: That’s a very good point. But you know the saying, though: “build it and they’ll come”. Very much like building the cycleways gets people biking: build an expansion and more planes will come! So although it’s not in the interest of the community, the Airport will still do it! And in fact it can. SF: Yes it can, unfortunately, that’s the reality of it, Benoit. BP: So what can we done by the Council? SF: The Council has very limited ability to control what the airport does. I’ve asked this question because we’re doing the Spatial Plan and we’re doing the District Plan at the moment, and we’re doing a precinct planning for the port, the new port and I raised my hand and said: “What about the airport? When do we actually do some master planning ourselves around the regulation around the airport?”. And I think it will happen, but it doesn’t seem to be top of mind for officers what’s going on at the airport. And yet we do need to take an interest in it because one of the things that concerned me the most, and it’s from a community point of view is that the airport has made no promise to keep the road open. The road that connects the south coast back into the peninsula. And I think that’s actually would be devastating for our communities if we didn’t have any access at all. You know, there was a time when that road was just a road, two way road, little back road, but people used it. And then they put the ticketing system on it and people objected like crazy to that, but we got used to it, and at least you could still access. But if they actually don’t have a road at all, that that’s going to be a problem. That’s going to mean every single car just about hit that leaves the peninsula will more or less have to go through Cobham drive. That will be just add to the problems with Cobham drive. BP: It’s anecdotal, but it’s also revealing of the [little] concern the Airport has for the community. Right? SF: Well, the fact that they didn’t commit to keeping it beyond, I think it was 2040, which isn’t actually that far away. I mean, that’s only 18 years away that we’ll go like a flash. The Council does need to take some interest in that, even if it’s just from the point of view of how does our road network work. But the other thing is it was quite clear that the expansion of the Airport will have quite a detrimental effect on the residents that live immediately adjacent to it. And probably a little bit of a detrimental effect, further afield as well. BP: Absolutely. And this is where it will be interesting to see how the, Council can actually act. You say the council has limited power where one could argue that the District Plan is the pillar to how we organize our city and I would find it extremely hard to just overwrite it. SF: Yes the District Plan is where we would be able to look at the bigger framework around how the airport fits into the city, fits into the Eastern suburbs. So that’s something that I do need to raise. I have raised it, but I need to push them completely, you know, bring it back up onto the agenda again. The Miramar Masterplan BP: I’ve heard you talking about the master plan or use the word master plan several times. And yet on the City Council website, there is a Masterplan for the Miramar peninsula that is in draft since 2016. So what? When? How? SF: That must also come up onto the agenda as an urgent item. So we have been raising it both in there, and I have actually been raising with our CE as to when can we start doing some master planning? And the answer has really been that we need to wait to understand what the iwi arrangements are going to be with what they want to do in Mount Crawford, from when they decide to buy that land. And then look, I think it’s quite complex and I wish it was simpler, but there is an MOU which does set out that we will expect to have some green space there, some attention of the preservation of those historical sites. And there will be a little bit more housing, you know, instead of a prison. So that’s the way it will go. The question is how the community has an input into that so that we get the optimum outcome that we can. That must also come up onto the agenda as an urgent item. BP: Of course we’ve got this number floating around of 300 homes which they plan to build. Looking at just a map and the 2 road that get there, it’s actually really hard to imagine the 300 families could go and live there. SF: I don’t know how many live in this area now Benoit BP: It depends what you call the area I guess SF: The area that’s served by these roads, probably as many, probably 300. I could find that figure out just to understand what a proportion that extra 300 is. On the plus side, at least we do have the number 24 bus route here now, where we never had a bus route. So that has been a plus. But I agree with you, it’s something that we will have to make sure that the planning is done to ensure that it’s going to work. BP: And also, I guess that the community is involved. When you look at the Masterplan, you say some people say we should actually wait to see what the iwi wants to do with … SF: That’s the staff position, yes. BP: Don’t you think that the iwi would actually benefit to know what the community wants before they do their planning? SF: I think they would be interested in having discussions with the community, but I can’t say that for sure, because I haven’t had the opportunity to meet with them myself. I’ve been asking for that as well. BP: They were a signee of this MOU in 2017, right? Where you had the Crown, the City Council and the iwi siging an agreement saying that for this particular area, there would be a lot of open consultation. SF: Well nothing has happened as yet. And there are actually no fixed plans. So that’s partly why people, I think people are getting a little bit anxious because they think things are happening, but you can’t really consult with or have consultation until you’ve actually got some idea of what you’re doing. That’s generally how it works. So, I mean, I think people have a rough idea of what we need to try and achieve. We need to try and achieve a balance of those things, recreation, historical preservation, obviously environmental protection. And obviously, the iwi has a right if they do purchase the land to do something with it. But until you have a little bit firmer plans, it’s probably really difficult to have a fruitful discussion with the community because they need something to comment on as a starting position. So yeah, we will get there. I feel frustrated about that as well. And to be fair, I know it’s actually something Andy’s raised a lot as well. BP: Oh I’m sure. SF: And you can ask him when you interview him. BP: It’s been his position during his campaign to become Mayor. He had an extreme interest in what was happening at Shelly Bay and Mount Crawford wasn’t on the map at that point, but I’m sure it was at the back of his mind. To finish this tour of the Miramar peninsula (because you’re an Eastern ward Councilor)… So we’ve done the Airport. We’ve done Shelly Bay. We’ve done Mount Crawford. We’ve done transport … The Cobham crossing SF: We’ve done transport, a little bit anyway. And I do support that Cobham crossing, I must tell you, I do support it. I would have preferred, for me, the road to be elevated a little bit so that people could walk or cycle under it. But that is quite expensive and the coroner’s report, because somebody did die there, unfortunately about five years ago, trying to cross that road. The coroner’s report, which I’ve never had the opportunity to see does say there must be a safer crossing there. BP: I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere, anyone saying they’re against the crossing. Everyone’s for the crossing, it’s how we do it. I guess it’s just a shame that once again, after a very divisive debate around Spatial Plan, we can’t seem to do something which doesn’t antagonize groups, in this case drivers versus cyclists. I’m very supportive of cycleways myself, but one can see, in the media or on the field, how these two groups can, at times, be already aggressive towards one another. This is not going to make them any happier with a traffic light there in their way. SF: This is something that I have been thinking about because I really do support the need for a safer crossing there. I don’t think the advantages or the importance of it have been emphasized enough. So the thing I would probably say is it is going to connect to an existing pathway that goes to the West of the ASB center and comes out actually on Tacy street. And that pathway is there, it’s kind of hidden by the bushes. And then that Tacy street connects really directly to the supermarket and to the Kilbirnie shops. So crossing there will make a lot of sense. What we’re doing is basically we’re asking people in cars to slow down, not even everybody will have to stop, but occasionally a car might have to stop for, I think it’s about 15 seconds, but it’s about the delay. And so that a person doesn’t have to walk an extra kilometer or doesn’t have to risk getting killed. The point being that we don’t yet know how many people are going to want to use it. BP: I used to actually take my bike with a trailer to go to Newtown and get my kids, and I’ve stopped doing it because crossing, the other way around from Cobham drive to Kilbirnie, was just too dangerous. So I think everyone, even the Airport is for that crossing, but maybe there was an opportunity to find a solution that was perhaps a little bit more consensual across the community. SF: Well, we were told it would cost about $11 million to do something different … BP: But [compared to] $6 billion, it’s a drop in the bucket. SF: If I’d have been writing the checks, I’d written a check for a beautiful underpass and the road would have just risen on another gracious curve and would have just enough headroom to get cyclists and walkers on the same level, so they wouldn’t have to climb up, they wouldn’t have to go down. But that’s not the solution that we’ve got on the table, but I do think we need the solution. We need a solution, so I am supportive of it. So I’ll just put that out there. And I’m sorry that this has become so polarized actually as an issue, because I think what is coming across as motorists are looking more alarmed than they need to be. I don’t think people need to be as alarmed over it as they are. And I’m always sorry, when a community gets like quite upset about an anxious about things. When I think that personally it lets they don’t necessarily need to be quite so upset about it, but we’ll see. BP: At the moment, 8:00 AM weekdays, the queue starts before … SF: The cutting in Miramar! It’s terrible. BP: And with an additional traffic light, it’s not going to be 15 seconds. So I think you know, because how queues form, right. SF: I know how bad it is at eight o’clock and that’s why I am affected by it as well, because I do drive my car quite a bit of the time. And I know it’s terrible at that time. So I try for myself, I just try to adjust the times I go, but not everyone has that luxury, but I either go at about half past seven or I wait and go at about nine o’clock because I know it is it’s terrible. BP: Okay. I am personally extremely committed as you know to making a difference for climate change. But even this particular occasion, I actually struggled to see that it wasn’t a kind of a forced way to get people out of the car. And the problem is of course that the alternatives are either bikes, which is not for everyone, or buses which we know the service we have at the moment [is terrible]. So if we had a reliable service, that was very frequent, that was affordable, that was green then yes, there are options. You don’t have to take your car to drive. SF: Well, hopefully we’re also getting the bus priority lanes. BP: But then timing, that’s the same. Timing? SF: I know. And I did try to persuade the powers that be that we needed to announce bus lanes at the same time. So we weren’t just focusing on taking away some convenience. We were focusing on how it’s actually going to speed up another mode. I’m afraid government doesn’t work like that. It’s sort of you do things in bits and pieces and finally they do make a bigger picture, but it takes time. BP: You could think that all those years of consultation Let’s Get Wellington Moving would have actually allowed some proper planning and it’s actually shame that for the first time they actually decide to deliver something is something that will come across as slowing traffic. SF: To be fair, Benoit, I went to a community meeting and I heard this view that you were saying, that’s common view that it’s just going to slow down traffic, but then I started to hear quieter voices that actually did speak up in favor of this crossing and they were quieter and there weren’t as many of them. But it’s like I say, there are a variety of voices in the community and there are people who desperately want this crossing because they’ve got the kids walking to school and they don’t want to have to take them in the car, because it feels all too dangerous. You know, there’s older people that actually that sear exercise okay. You know, and their pleasure is walking from Miramar into Kilbirnie for a coffee or to do their shopping. And they don’t necessarily all have cars. So actually we have got some people in the community do desperately want this. BP: And I think it’s amazing. And in fact, with the new cycleways, the idea is that the uptake of biking will come and there’ll be more and more bikes. And this crossing will be heavily used. SF: And people are walking. See, one of the things I noticed about Cobham drive, how many more people are walking and running, and we didn’t use to see that prior to this. So you challenged me the other day: “what are we actually doing to make a difference for climate change?” And I would probably point to our Spatial Plan and the steps we’ve made to make the city more dense, but we will back that up with better public transport and better and safer cycling and walking, you know, we’re doing what we can. The Regional Park BP: One last thing I would like to ask, Sarah, and thank you for your time: 2016, the City Council announced a Regional Park north of the prison on Mount Crawford; in 2019, Justin Lester, even announced that it was a done deal, that central funding and local funding  were all lined up. We just need to do it. That was 2019. Where are we at? I made sure we got it into our Regional Spatial Plan as well, because it wasn’t there. SF: Well, that’s that goes back to that Miramar Master planning that we were talking about before. I made sure we got it into our Regional Spatial Plan as well, because it wasn’t there. So it’s, I want to said there’s meant to be a park. You know, they showed all the green spaces right around the region. I said, this is meant to be a park in Miramar peninsula. So that did happen. So you just, I don’t know exactly where it is right now, and that is actually quite frustrating. And it goes back to that Miramar Master planning thing, and the fact that everything seems to have been held up because of some of these other big picture things happening, like the rights of first refusal on land. It will happen. I’m really confident it will. I don’t think they’re going to put housing all over the peninsula, don’t panic. BP: We need more housing, that’s for sure! SF: We need more housing, but we also need green space and that will come. It’s not easy for us to get out of the peninsula and go elsewhere. So we need to make sure we’ve actually got the green space and the recreational opportunities that we need right here. BP: A very good point. Hey, thank you so much for your time, Sarah. It’s been really informative, I think we’ve covered everything. So thank you so much. Cheers. SF: Thank you.

    • A conversation with Tamatha Paul
      • One year, to the day, after the vote on Te Atakura – First to Zero implementation plan, I met with Tamatha Paul, Green Councilor at the Wellington City Council to discuss climate change, airport expansion and other developments in the East. In this conversation, Tamatha and I reflect on Wellington’s journey to become a carbon neutral city. After the release, earlier this week, of the IPCC report, the call for action has never been louder and more pressing. Introduction;The City Council (01:43);Climate Change and Te Atakura (08:00);Expanding the Airport in a climate emergency (23:00);Shelly Bay and Mount Crawford (30:42). Music: https://www.bensound.com Introduction Benoit Pette: Kia ora! Today is the 11th of August, 2021. And I am sitting with Tamatha Paul. Tamatha is a New Zealand activist and politician who currently serves as a Wellington city Councilor. At 24, this is your first term. And you are Councilor for the Lambton ward. Prior to this, Tamatha was 2019 President of the Victoria University of the Wellington Student Association making you the second Maori and first female Maori to be in that role. Today, we will be discussing the City Council, the climate change, Airport expansion and Shelly Bay/Mount Crawford? Good morning Tam. How are you? Tamatha Paul: Good. How are you? BP: I’m really good. Thank you. Do you feel like you had a good break? TP: Yes, I had a great break, spent time with the family, which is really important. The City Council BP: Yeah. That’s important. (…) I actually wasn’t aware that half way through the year the Council was going in recess. I was trying to reach out to you guys and couldn’t! So do you feel like the vibe around the table is better than earlier in the year? TP: Yes. The vibe is a lot better. And I think that the Winder report, which was produced, you know, a few months ago has given us some really good direction on how we need to clean up our act and be better at doing our job on behalf of people. So, yeah, I think it’s better. And the other thing too is with having the Mana Whenua reps around the table, I think that gives people even more of a responsibility and obligation to behave themselves. BP: Yeah absolutely, it’s important. What do you think are the most significant things that the council, and you, have achieved over the first half of this term? TP: I would say that for me, my two most significant – it’s not even two – but I would say as a newbie, I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done in the climate change space, acknowledging that there is still far to go in reaching our targets. I think I’ve tried and tested different mechanisms to affect change. So, one would be, you know, what the airport loan, and withholding that from them. That’s trying out a method of accountability for those who pollute. I’ve tried investing through bringing forward the $200 million for cycleways and also public transport advocacy to look at mechanisms, to encourage alternatives, to polluting activities such as driving a petrol car. I’ve tried working on policies and strategies and seeing how that works. In helping with the Te Atakura implementation plan, and I’ve tried with notices of motion. So bringing forward that notice of motion on the banning fossil fuel free vehicles in the CBD. So I’ve tried a range of different tools on one issue. And just as a newbie, I’ve been testing what works and what doesn’t work, but then also returning to my grassroots foundation and organizing protests. So helping with organizing the protest on Courtenay place, around city safety and managing to secure $10 million to improve the city safety, which was another portfolio of mine prior to the restructure. I think it’s been going well. And I think like personally, I’ve been trying every different tool and lever possible to see which ones are the most effective and which aren’t and I think that’s resulted in quite good change, and I think I’ve really hit the ground running. And I really reject this idea that your first term is about learning. And then your second term is about action. Actually, we’ve got just nine years to significantly reduce our carbon emissions and to radically transform the way that we live out everyday lives and to enable Wellingtonians to make the right choices by the environment. So you know, you don’t actually have the privilege of three years to learn. You have three years to act significantly, you know? So that’s what I’d say about my first bit of my term. Yeah. BP: Having lived through this first part of your term, politics is actually quite gruesome. How has it been going for you? Do you feel this has been painful at times? How’s the experience been for you? TP: I think it’s been really rewarding and actually finally seeing some good representation of young people and students and Maori voices around the table, for me, that’s been really special and important. I think, like I’m able to handle the kind of more petty parts of this role, because I feel a sense of obligation towards the environment, and to people who need their political representatives to be making future facing decisions. I guess the only kind of time that was personally really challenging for me during the last two years would be the Shelly Bay decision, because either side of that falling on either side of that, neither the decision felt particularly good. And I have strong feelings about Maori land and preserving that. So that was personally very challenging seeing colonization so deep in personally, and I guess, contributing to the grief of that whole process was personally really challenging. So I think aside from that everything else has been super manageable and exciting, I would say. BP: Exciting enough to run again next year? TP: Well, if the people want me and need me to do that, then I, of course I would. That’s the space I operate from as a deep sense of gratitude, because, you know I shouldn’t be around the council table. Like I’m not your typical counselor around the country. And I wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for a super grass roots, super engaged campaign. And so, you know, I feel super grateful for those people who sacrifice their weekends and time to door knock and all of those things to get me here. So, if they want me to do it again, of course, I’ll do anything to serve their interests in their aspirations for the future. Climate Change and Te Atakura BP: So watch this space, I guess. Speaking of climate change, it is everyone’s top of the mind at the moment. The climate emergency was declared by the Wellington City Council two years ago. And a year ago, to the day on the 11th of August 2020, Te Atakura First to Zero was being voted in. And of course over the past few months, we’ve seen a lot of extreme weather events throughout the world. And closer to home, we’ve got the South coast which got flooded in March this year, and in April last year. And of course, very topical, we had the IPCC report was released on Monday, which is a very, very bleak. Do you think that we are seeing a shift in the climate now, that this is happening now? TP: Without a doubt, without a doubt. You just go for a walk around, our forests and our beaches, and you can just see signs that the environment is not able to sustain frequent extreme, these extremes that we’re getting. And it’s really upsetting. BP: And so communities, businesses and central government there’s a lot of pressure on them to change societies, the way we live etc. What do you think the local government can do to take part in the change that is needed towards climate? TP: I think the main … there are lots of different … The really positive thing I think about tackling climate change are there are so many ways that you can tackle it. And it really, every decision that everyone from local to central government makes needs to have a climate lens over it and not just a climate lens, but we actually actively have to be making decisions based on what is the best outcome for the climate. So from a local government perspective, I think you have to look at what your country or your city, or, regions emissions profile and work from there. There’s a lot of different levers that local government can pull in terms of addressing climate change. I think the major ones are looking at spatial form and where housing is in looking at density and making sure that you have as many people packed into spaces where there is good access to public transport, so they don’t have to rely on private vehicle use. And it’s also about looking at the provision of alternatives to private vehicle use. So really good active transport infrastructure and really good access to public transport as well, and really, affordable and reliable and efficient public transport systems as well. You can also look at the kind of green side of things and making sure that you’ve got lots of indigenous biodiversity and planting in green space and water sensitive, urban design, because all of these things contribute to climate change. But also waste as another major issue. So looking at the way that people dispose of and consume and their daily lives. So I think that’s the really positive part of it all is that there are so many ways that you can tackle climate change and theoretically, if everybody does their part in that there is really exciting potential there, I think. BP: Yes but Tamatha, all those actions you talk about are listed in the Te Atakura implementation plan. And what’s worrying is that targets being set in that document, which if we roll out all the actions that are being listed (and some of it derives from the central government actions), we still don’t meet, in Wellington, our targets by 2030. So there’s a gap of 19 points, if we look at the projection. So if we look at the document, there are still gaps, and so we need to find ways to reduce more or Wellington wouldn’t have done it bit to achieve carbon neutrality. What will be done to close that gap? TP: So the first thing to acknowledge is that Te Atakura, when it was adopted last year, didn’t take into account lots of different decisions that we have made now. So a lot of the measurements are based on kind of middle of the road status, almost status quo decision-making. For example, investment in cycleways, as Te Atakura stands, that was not taken into account that we would do a three years of rapid rollout of the temporary connected cycleways across the city, nor that we would invest in the full package of cycleways across the city to the value of $200 million. Same with the Spatial Plan. It’s not taking into account that we would go above and beyond officer’s recommendations in terms of density. And we’ve actually, I think, gone straight quite a way, from the recommendations and have been more ambitious and how much density we might be able to enable throughout those plans. So the first thing to acknowledge is that Te Atakura, when it was adopted last year, didn’t take into account lots of different decisions that we have made now. So a lot of the measurements are based on kind of middle of the road status, almost status quo decision-making. TP: So yes, your point is correct. And that there’s that 19% that we that we haven’t identified. However, I think there’s two parts to that. One part is that the private sector and Wellington contributes significantly to our missions as a city. And at the time that that document was created, we didn’t have a plan for how we would work with the private sector to support them towards carbon neutrality. So that’s currently being worked on and that will give us more of a concrete pathway towards carbon neutrality, but also we, as decision makers are being more ambitious than the actions that are set at in Te Atakura, such as the cycle ways, such as the Spatial Plan. Because those are the two key levers, transport and housing that will get us to carbon neutrality. So Te Atakura, as a document, because it’s made by officers and the institution, of course, it’s going to be not as radical as we might think because the reality is it’s contingent upon politicians to actually action those things, which  is not the most reliable thing in the world. But the reality is that politicians have been even more ambitious than their plan. BP: Which is great. You would find a lot of people being satisfied with this. Should we expect, then, a revised version of Te Atakura implementation plan with the new measures you just cited, for example, cycleways and all that? So should we expect a newer version of the implementation plan? TP: So what’s exciting about the long-term plan that we’ve just passed is that the full investment in Te Atakura is that we have got space to significantly level up our ability to measure carbon and to put that into decision making (…) because if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, which is I think the point that you’ve made consistently over the last few years. So having that is really important alongside all other actions, we can’t just wait on getting that measuring, we have to be acting in the meantime. But I think once we’ve got that measurement framework in place, that means that when we make decisions on investing in the central library rebuild, or strengthening buildings and civic square, or giving money to the airport, or all of these major decisions, we will actually have a figure that looks at how many tons of carbon might be emitted in each decision we make and have real details in terms of the climate implications. The level of detail I would like is actually almost in a budget sense: in order to stay on track with our targets, how much carbon can we actually afford to emit a year and almost have it as a budget. And so every decision that we make tracks along that [for example] “oh, we’ve just committed to remediating the Central Library, that means this many tons, that means we only have this much more to work with over the next decade”. So I’d like to see really pinpointed accuracy and that decision making, otherwise we’re just taking stabs in the dark. BP: Okay. So in terms of reporting to the community, if Te Atakura implementation plan is not updated with those measures and the actions … TP: That’s not necessarily Te Atakura being updated, that’s just something that’s happening as a consequence of the implementation. BP: Okay, so what as a community can we expect to see to ensure that we are on the right track? TP: Before we go onto that, the implementation plan, I think there will need to be a real big concerted community push if people want that to be updated I guess it’s provided a blueprint and we’re getting on with it, but I’m not sure that maybe rejigging it as the most useful use of energy at the moment. But, you know, there’s potential there. Like if people really want it, we can definitely organize around it and get that done. But, in terms of keeping the community up to date, I think that’s really important to see the progress that we’re making. You know, how many people are not using their cars anymore? Obviously you’d get the basic measures, how we’ve tracking along in terms of our targets, but you want that real detailed look at how things are going. And I would hope that we would be able to develop a dashboard. So we’ve been talking heaps about how do we communicate the story to  Wellington about how we’re progressing in our journey together. Because that’s the journey we’re going on together. It’s not just Wellington City Council. You know, people have to actually want us to be making these decisions and then want to make those behavioral choices. And I think we’ve been doing really good in trying to enable people to make different choices, lifestyle choices, but there’s still so much more that we need to do. So, I think a dashboard would be a really cool way to communicate that story to everyone. BP: Well, especially since the City Council in general, I think it’s actually quite good to communicate. I mean, there’s a lot of tools you can actually use to get information out of the Council. But surely there must be a channel just laying out the plan and how we are tracking along that plan. You talked about one of the ways to reduce emission is to create a more compact city. You’re obviously very aware that construction is far from being carbon neutral or even having a roadmap to be carbon neutral. Concrete is an extremely high emitter. And if we need to learn anything from COVID, working from home worked. Life was going on, even if we were all spread in our homes. How does this Spatial Plan where we build more houses fits with the reuse, reduce, recycle philosophy that applies to housing, where we could actually reuse the office buildings and repurpose them into housing, thus avoiding transport needs, construction emissions, boost businesses in the burbs, even while maintaining an income for businesses in the CBD? So I guess my question to you Tamatha is: “do we need a CBD?” TP: I think it works for Wellington. Definitely. I think you’re right in that building more houses, undoubtedly has impacts on the environment and it affects the natural environment. But I think from a climate perspective now, even before we add in that climate lens, we know that New Zealand as a country, the whole picture as a country, more and more people are moving to the cities. So we’ve got an urbanization trend and that’s positive for climate change in that when you have people living in cities, it’s easier to put in place lifestyle options that contribute positively towards a climate safe future. I’ve just read a massive article about this. The more houses that we can build or the more housing we can provide, not necessarily build within a city is positive, because it means that you can have an impact on more people’s like travel behaviors and work behaviors and all of these things. So that’s, I think the first thing to say.The second thing is you’re absolutely right, and that there are increasingly more organizations or businesses moving out of the CBD or the central city and there’s our surplus of office space that should be, and could be turned into houses. I think it’s an awesome idea, I think it’s an excellent idea. And I know that Wellington City Council, I think last triennium began experimenting with that idea. So we’ve repurposed one building on Willis street into Te Kainga: 50 offices were converted into apartments and they have been reserves for low to middle income workers and families, which I think is really awesome. I think that offers a really cool and unique opportunity to be repurposing those buildings, as you say, and there’s going to be a surplus amount of carparks that we don’t need anymore. There’s heaps of car parking buildings around the city. So how might those be repurposed into … maybe not necessarily housing, but something more useful, a 21st century view of things as opposed to car parking buildings. I think it’s a really good opportunity and one that we should be making the most. The second thing is you’re absolutely right, and that there are increasingly more organizations or businesses moving out of the CBD or the central city and there’s our surplus of office space that should be, and could be turned into houses. I think it’s an awesome idea, I think it’s an excellent idea. Expanding the Airport in a climate emergency BP: It it seems to me, listening to what you’re saying, it’s one of the lever that the City Council, which is in charge urban planning, can actually leverage. Thinking of change of habits and in the way of living … the Airport expansion, what do you think of that? Do you support this project? TP: To be totally transparent with you: in the case that we have to vote on this, I’ll not give you a black and white answer, but I think expanding an airport and at the middle of a climate crisis is reckless and irresponsible. And that’s why the Airport needs to be held to account. It’s been extremely frustrating reading – because I’ve read the whole expansion proposal, the full-length document – climate change is not mentioned once! Like just the two words are not even, they don’t make an appearance at all throughout the document. So that’s very frustrating, especially because they are aware that there is a massive concern for us as a city. And especially the people living in the area, that’s a major concern, so I just found it quite frustrating. It’s quite reckless. … expanding an airport and at the middle of a climate crisis is reckless and irresponsible. BP: It was interesting, yes: they do talk in this particular document on the project about the constraints that the community is placing on them, the legacy, their location, that is an asset, and at the same time, a constraint. It’s an interesting read. So what can we do then? By the way, to step back a little bit, the Airport expansion we’re talking about is the airport transforming half of the golf course – which in the District Plan is a buffer between the Airport operations and community – they want to convert that buffer into a plane park. What can the Council do to get in the way of the Airport expansion? TP: There’s actually not a lot that the Council can do because of the way that the statutory environment is set up. You’ve got like, it makes no sense to me, but you’ve got, people like the airport who are Requiring Authority who can designate land to their operations. And simultaneously a massive part of the process, the consultative process with the community. And there is very little room for Councils to, you know, the consenting authority and the planning, the people who are planning, doing the plan, their annex, the designations to actually oppose it. And that’s a way that capitalism is upheld by structures … because it removes community’s ability to actually oppose something in the interest of the environment. There’s actually very little way that Council can intervene in that process. BP: Well, actually – I’m just throwing an idea out there – the Council being the community, do you think Councilors could issue a public statement to say, we, as a city, we oppose this project? Is that something you think the Council could do? Because actually it would be quite powerful. It would at least clarify that, within Wellington, we are against, or for. Do you think it’s something that could potentially make a difference? TP: It could do. I don’t know if the numbers would be there around the table, but I think it’s definitely the … BP: It is a good test! TP: It is a good test! To see people’s commitments to tackling climate change and being realistic about it. And I think the only thing that’s stopped me from doing that is I’m just not sure if we will have to make another decision on it at all in the district planning process. Because I wanted to make a submission during the process in April on the expansion, to say that I thought that expanding any airport in a climate crisis, I see it as irresponsible. I sought information about whether I could or couldn’t make a submission and whether we would, or wouldn’t make a decision in the future that might be impacted by me making a submission, whether it’s a conflict in that I’ve got a predetermined decision that I would already make and I didn’t get a very clear answer back on that. I was chasing around looking for an answer. I couldn’t really get a decisive answer. So I’m not actually sure. BP: That’s crazy, right? I mean, as a politician, not being able to express your opinion in a free fashion is mad, right? So speaking of the district plan, and maybe it’s a bit technical here, but there are actually at least two chapters just dedicated to the Airport and the noise it can and can’t do. So yes, on one side of the Airport has the potential to overwrite the District Plan and potentially be even more destructive to the social fabric in the East. But putting that aside, could, should [the District Plan] be the place to put a cap on emissions and say: “We’ve measured emissions at the Airport. You’re emitting 100,000 tons of CO2 per year. You just can’t go beyond this. You can expand if you want, but you cannot emit more than that.”? TP: I’m not actually sure. Because the additions to the RMA around carbon emissions are relatively new, I’m not sure exactly what the application of those look like. And I’m not even sure if they are into effect yet. So I’m not actually sure what the scope of how that might apply, but surely that’s something that can be considered, as a rule in the District Plan, but that’s still quite unclear. But it’s definitely something I will investigate throughout the process. And that’s why I really wanted to be the deputy chair of the planning and environment committee, because I know that it’s all the subject matter of that committee that matters the most for climate change. So your transport, your housing, your District Plan, all of that is super important. And being in that position, you have more access to information and the technical advice and expertise working on these plans, I’ll find out for you. I’ll just commit publicly to doing everything I can to really holding people to account for the contributions to climate change. Shelly Bay and Mount Crawford BP: That’s very important. There are other developments, of course, in the East: Shelly Bay, Mount Crawford is another one, potentially. 650 homes, being built over there but back to what we were talking about earlier, first of all, none of those developments align with the Spatial Plan. It says we should be building close to the inner suburbs, along the main transport spine and greener. Well, you can argue the greener, maybe they’re going to do it, but who knows? But these two simply don’t align. Back to what we were saying earlier around the reuse, reduce, recycle in housing, and I appreciate it’s not an easy answer there, but did you think this was like the best approach to let Shelly Bay happen? And will you support the plan of 300 homes being built on Mount Crawford? TP: That’s is a hard one to answer … I don’t think that the infrastructure is there currently to support that many people living out there. So obviously, like we need to look at the provision of three waters infrastructure, but also transport infrastructure as well. And I don’t mean roads, I mean reliable, decent, affordable buses and all that kind of stuff. I think that that’s a really hard one to answer because obviously there’s the concerns that you’ve outlined. But I think there’s a whole lot of other considerations in there that played into a lot of people’s decision-making for example, things that I’ve heard from people who are a part of that iwi about the things that ambitions or aspirations that they have for that particular area. My understanding is that Mount Crawford might not even necessarily be a development and that actually, as an iwi, there hasn’t been a conversation about whether that land should be housing developments or not. So that’s why I said potentially. BP: Do you think that, like Shelly Bay where most of the community inputs has been shut – it is an Special Housing Area – consultation really never happened. Do you think that perhaps there should be more consultation for Mount Crawford? TP: Well, I think consultation can be tricky because you do get a lot of nimbyism. Whether you agree or not, I think that nimbyism can overtake some of those public participatory processes, which isn’t a reason not to do it. It should definitely be done, but I understand why you would have those concerns out in the East, because like I said before, the infrastructure is just not there to support more growth. That’s why I advocated so strongly for density and growth in the inner city, because we have access to public transport. We are, for most people, in walking distance from town and workplaces in educational institutions and all of that good stuff. I think the intensity in the inner city, and like you say, ideas like repurposing existing buildings is really important before we look out to those areas. I don’t really have a stance on developments out there. But particularly with Mount Crawford, because that is actual really viable land in comparison to Shelly bay, which might be super vulnerable to sea level rise, Mount Crawford itself is viable and you might do a number of different things with it and it will probably be there for a long time. And so I think it’s really important that whatever happens there truly honors what the aspirations of the iwi are, because it’s stolen land, that land was actually stolen for crown defense purposes, which is also not all good. BP: What can we do to fight nimbyism? What can we do to create better engagement? What can we do to create a better consensus across between the different parties? TP: I think they would be less nimbyism if more creative solutions were explored. I think that’s where people’s frustration is. It seems like there will be drastic and significant change in the neighborhoods as opposed to first exploring the alternatives, like repurposing office buildings or upgrading our social housing and building more of it, or you drive along Kent and Cambridge terrace, or walk along, it’s just all car yards. So it’s really frustrating for people to see all of the space being wasted by car yards and stuff like that. Prime land that would be perfect for housing, that potentially light rail might run alongside one day soon, hopefully, that’s being used to sell cars! I can see how infuriating that is for communities and it’s not even looking good. So I can see where the frustration comes from. Absolutely. But again, that grip of capitalism that protects places like this car yards and stuff from being used and, you know, towards the needs that really exist out there is so entrenched through a lot of different systems. And so that’s why I say we need to try really hard to explore different and creative ways of doing things. There’s no silver bullet in this whole situation. And we can’t say just because we’ve enabled density in the central city that the housing will necessarily come, we have to be actively exploring alternatives, state provision of housing through things like Te Kainga, rebuilds and conversions and all types of different creative ways to look at the provision of housing. BP: So this will be my last question: Do you think there’s an opportunity perhaps in the District Plan to provide those suburbs, where more developments will eventually happen, that what what’s coming their way will be of good quality, well thoughts, well integrated with transport, with greeneries? For example, I am a big fan of ensuring that for whatever new developments that’s coming, there’s 10 to 20% of the surface area dedicated to green space. Do you think there’s an opportunity there to actually create a better consensus? TP: Yes, there’s always an opportunity through planning processes to do all of those things into capture and honor people’s aspirations for the places they live and their homes. And I know that cause I’m halfway through my master’s and planning. So I’m learning all about the different ways that you …it’s not just about tokenistic public participation at the end. It’s actually about understanding what those aspirations are and understanding how to enable them, but also honoring the fact that we are in multiple crisis, the biggest of which is climate change. So the answer is yes, there is a lot of potential to do lots of different things, but the District Plan is just one part of enabling all of that. And you actually need decision-makers with really good relationships with central government and Chief execs at different ministries and people in the private sectors and developers and architects, and people that specialize in green spaces and all of these different connections in relationships to create an ecosystem of people who want to create a vision for Wellington. That’s really important. This conversation on the district plan, it’s so important and we do it so rarely that, of course we have to nail it. But it’s just one part of that vision. And so I would encourage people next year. You know, when you’re making the really important decision about who you’re going to elect, or reelect that you really take a look at what relationships they’ve built and what conversations they’ve started or are having with all of those different players. City building and city making as all about the art of relationships with different people and being able to realize those dreams using a number of different levers. So I think that’s the most important thing. And the District Plan, we need to nail that. That has to be on point as well. It’s actually about understanding what those aspirations are and understanding how to enable them, but also honoring the fact that we are in multiple crisis, the biggest of which is climate change. BP: That’s a beautiful way to close the discussion. Thank you so much, Tamatha, for your time and your availability and good luck with the District Plan. TP: Thank you so much.

    • The fine art of consultation
      • Following years of standstill, of unending consultations, it seems Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) has now taken a different approach to deliver. A radical one. They came forward with a solution to deliver a safe crossing over Cobham Drive, and started “the consultation”, which can be summed up as: “my way or no way”. See for yourself: you have until Wednesday the 28th, 5 PM, to take part in the consultation, and this happens here. You will be going through a couple of screens telling you how important a safe crossing is required (and who can disagree with that?), and that the traffic light is the best option ever. And the worst too because you don’t get to choose between this one or another. So the question you are asked to answer is: Do you support a safe crossing over Cobham Drive (agree, disagree, etc)? It’s a real shame because, I, for one, had been chasing Wellington City Council, and LGWM repeatedly to see this consultation out. I was keen to see how it would shape up after rumours a decision on a traffic light has already been enacted. I was also curious how this petition favouring the bridge option would be baked in the consultation. So when it started, there was some relief: At last: LGWM starting to plan pedestrian crossing, with traffic lights, on Cobham Drive. But boy, there has been as much consultation here as Airport Flyer since 2019: none. It’s also interesting, as LGWM can offer options to choose from when they want or care. For example, the public got presented with three options to get traffic off the Golden Mile. This is proof that when they want to be creative, they can. But it seems the $10M for a bridge is way too much for the Eastern suburbs, which continue to be let down. It will be interesting to see how the thought of diverting Mass Rapid Transit to the South, instead of the airport, will be socialised. Unsurprisingly, Fleur Fitzsimons, Southern Ward Councillor, finds the idea makes sense. The consultation hasn’t been any better in the few public meetings LGWM bothered to organise. Here are a few direct quotes from the team who came to “listen” to the community: (…) We do not think this is going to increase congestion substantially, we are already queued and stopped now (…) (…) We have a finite budget; Mass Rapid Transport is not going to be cheap. The main concern is around safety and the second is around congestion (…) (…) Consultation is no referendum, consultation is feedback on the proposal to date (…) (…) The crossing will likely go ahead with construction beginning December, (…) Some arguments LGWM put forward went beyond safety. They suggested the traffic light was also introduced to reduce reliance on cars. This, for the author of this blog, is gold, and cannot happen soon enough. But what are the alternatives today? Buses? The Airport Flyer? The Mass Rapid Transit? Exactly. This traffic light will only make life worse for those who simply can’t use any of these failing or absent services, or would like to bike but can’t (whatever their reason is). In conclusion, I wished this consultation had been called what it was: a done deal presentation. Once again the local democracy will come out of this process bruised, voters (if there is any left) will end up angrier, or become more apathetic. In recent years, we have seen: City Councillors voting against their community (for example Shelly Bay).City Council Officers simply ignoring what was voted by Councillors (the Watts peninsula shared path, Planning for Growth).Or the other way around: Councillors overwriting what Officers had presented following a city consultation (Spatial Plan heritage protection). This begs the question of how can we make our communities better represented, better connected with the city or town they live in. The consultation process has been and is an absolute mascarade and needs a deep rethink. In another article, I will look at what a good consultation process should look like and what solutions exist to implement it.

    • A mid-term City Council assessment and the Eastern mega developments
      • It’s that time of the term where we look back at the achievements of our  City Council, and the challenges that are still ahead. We are a little past the half–way mark of this term, and some Councillors are openly wondering if they should stand for the next election, in a bit more than a year. To make an informed decision, and help voters get to know their Councillors better, we browse here the closed and open issues, most of them being inflammatory. We will then ask  the appropriate Councillors for their position, and for their plans to address these concerns. The unexpected Before diving into the deliverables of this Council, let’s talk about two events that have been (mostly) out of its control. Of course, it’s hard to not think straight away about COVID lockdown.  Yes, it has opened so many new opportunities, but  it has been a huge challenge for our administrators, one that none of them could have possibly been prepared for. Another massive hurdle has been water pipes. Yes,  Councillors who’ve been around for some time wear some responsibility for the geysers or clog-ups that we’ve had since the end of 2019. But accountability is almost impossible here, so let’s agree, again, it was  another challenge the City Council must front up for. What has been done? What have been the salient points which have been in full control of the Wellington City Council in the last year and a half or so? In chronological order. We had the safer speed limit, that got voted in. This was followed by the Shelly Bay vote (for the sale/lease of Wellington City Council owned land for the Wellington Company development at Shelly Bay). We won’t cover again here how upsetting this has been for our local democracy, but one day, bills will have to be paid, and for some, the due date will be no later than October 2022. We will just say this: ten storey buildings, at the end of a narrow, windy road, with no transport spine in sight, and a majority of councillors who were opposed to the development when they were voted in. Then we’ve had the introduction of the Maori ward, which will be first seen in action in 2022. To be honest, I am pleased to see all the efforts to make our city more inclusive, with greater equality, regardless of the minority you belong to. It shows how progressive our little city is, and our City Council is a good reflection of that. Spanning across 2020 and 2021, the Spatial Plan consultation occurred: to say this was divisive is an understatement, and its vote in June 2021 has left many haggard: the YIMBYs (whatever that means) screamed victory, but what’s the taste of that when “the other camp” is left with fear and grievance about losing what they feel makes Wellington so special? I had expected much better consensus building from the City Council, better engagement, and consistency across the different consultations Wellingtonians went through. Instead, it was a scream fest, and whoever clapped the hardest won. In March, the Long Term Plan (LTP) was debated and voted on. The contribution to a “seawall” for the airport was voted out. The Council also voted a massive commitment to cycleways. What seemed very unclear, though, was how the LTP supported Te Atakura, a program that is yet to have a plan that will deliver the emissions reduction the city needs to reach its targets. So while the cycleways are a step in the right direction to reduce our emissions, it would be good to know whether everything else will stack up – as the flash floods on our South coast are only the beginning of what climate change has for us. Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/121204034/wellington-south-coast-residents-fear-winter-storms-as-council-waits-for-lockdown-to-end Credit: Stuff Date: 23rd April 2020 " data-medium-file="https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/1587597648074.jpg?w=300" data-large-file="https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/1587597648074.jpg?w=672" src="https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/1587597648074.jpg?w=672" alt="" class="wp-image-1663" width="504" height="284" srcset="https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/1587597648074.jpg?w=504 504w, https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/1587597648074.jpg?w=150 150w, https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/1587597648074.jpg?w=300 300w, https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/1587597648074.jpg 710w" sizes="(max-width: 504px) 100vw, 504px" />Wellington South Coast has been subject to significant flooding in April 2020 and March 2021 What’s still controversial? There are so many controversies brewing up or already well advanced that you would think Councillors would be all out there laying out their  action plans, with open, cohesive communication. Let’s browse the points of contention. Of course, Shelly Bay’s sibling is Mount Crawford. It would be interesting to get one view, just one, from one Councillor, on how they see this new monstrosity. Yet again, don’t scream NIMBY before having a view at the land yourself. I mean, there are physical laws you can’t bend, for example putting a truck in a shoebox. Well, that’s very similar here, all being relative of course. Neither Shelly Bay nor Mount Crawford tick any of the Spatial Plan guidelines. Speaking about hearing our Council on the.single.biggest.development.project in Wellington, namely the Airport expansion – has anyone heard, apart from Tamatha Paul and Iona Pannett, any other Councillor, whether City or Regional, stating support or opposition? Or is everyone happy to throw the climate emergency through the window and the Eastern suburbs at the same time to satisfy growth, the economy, or any obsolete 20th-century pipe-dream? For all eco-anxious Wellingtonians out there, let’s remind ourselves aviation is responsible for 7-8% of worldwide emissions, and 20% emissions in Wellington. And while on the topic of climate change, we are soon approaching the first anniversary of the vote for the Te Atakura implementation plan. We all remember how this “plan” didn’t stack up and didn’t give any confidence that Wellington will reach its emission reduction targets. The document, to date, has a 19 points gap between the reduction needed in 2030 (43% reduction target by 2030) and the reduction achieved if all actions are unrolled (24% reduction  by 2030, including central government actions). My question has been and still is: even with an LTP allocating funding to Te Atakura, how do we know it is even sufficient? If you find someone at the Council who can give you that information, please let me know. The buses are, it’s said, being sorted. Very much like Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM), the progress is extra slow. Since 2017, the new temporary-old-buses/network/operating model plagued Wellington and killed the desire to use public transport.  WCC has been prompt to say it wasn’t their fault, it is the Regional Council’s (GWRC) responsibility instead. But then the Regional Council was quick to say it’s the bus operator’s fault. And if it’s not the bus operator, it’s the fault of the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) …So it has to be Stephen Joyce’s fault, then? Well, in this case, that has to be your fault then, reader/voter. Beyond this blame game, daily cancellations continue to destroy confidence in our bus network, cancellations that Metlink is addressing by … reducing the number of scheduled buses during peak hours. Of course, the East, already subject to heavy traffic, hasn’t been helped by the constant deterioration of the bus service and the lack of airport flyer. The latter not being under operation today is solely the making of the Airport wanting to squeeze enough dollars to compensate for the loss of car parking on their turf: Source: https://www.wellingtonairport.co.nz/news/airport-updates/greater-wellington-regional-council-take-over-airport-cbd-bus-service/ " data-medium-file="https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/screen-shot-2021-07-14-at-10.35.15-am.png?w=300" data-large-file="https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/screen-shot-2021-07-14-at-10.35.15-am.png?w=672" src="https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/screen-shot-2021-07-14-at-10.35.15-am.png?w=672" alt="" class="wp-image-1658" width="504" height="120" srcset="https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/screen-shot-2021-07-14-at-10.35.15-am.png?w=504 504w, https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/screen-shot-2021-07-14-at-10.35.15-am.png?w=1004 1004w, https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/screen-shot-2021-07-14-at-10.35.15-am.png?w=150 150w, https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/screen-shot-2021-07-14-at-10.35.15-am.png?w=300 300w, https://insidewellington.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/screen-shot-2021-07-14-at-10.35.15-am.png?w=768 768w" sizes="(max-width: 504px) 100vw, 504px" />https://www.wellingtonairport.co.nz/news/airport-updates/greater-wellington-regional-council-take-over-airport-cbd-bus-service/ I could talk about the Civic Centre or the Library, but the wind gushing through empty buildings is so strong there that any attempt to have a discussion would be covered by the noise. I could also allude to the promises about a Regional Park, north of Miramar (2016 and 2019) but the result would be the same. Very much like the shared path around the peninsula. And for heaven’s sake, please WCC, remove the draft of the Miramar Masterplan from your website (2016), it’s a disgrace. I almost forgot the cherry on the cake (yes, it’s a black forest, the cherry comes on top of the icing), the promised traffic lights on Cobham Drive, where traffic is at its worst. LGWM admits the consultation is a tick box exercise, and the decision is made. Please residents, spare yourself some time, don’t engage. Yes, you too, the 7,500+ who signed the petition for a bridge. And if you need proof, here it is: What next? So of course, this may sound like a massive rant (although I do make suggestions from time to time, like here, here, or here). It is difficult, however, to ignore the ultra massive developments happening in the East: Shelly Bay ($500M), Mount Crawford (probably as much), the Airport 2040 Masterplan ($1B). One would argue that LGWM is solely for the purpose of unlocking the East ($6B). Altogether, that’s, you’ve guessed it, 8.billion.dollars to deface the Eastern suburbs. So how much is this über-plan clearly articulated? How much of it has it been the making of the residents, locals and Wellingtonians at large? How well has this been owned by our City Councillors and Mayor? Or are the residents of this city completely sidetracked and this is only the making of big money? How much do we have to gain from that? How much do we have to lose? What is the impact on climate? Is the East the most pertinent location for all this extravaganza? All things considered, I find the City Council is more often a force to fight against than a force to get support from. The East is seen as an economic pump for the rest of the city, where any resemblance to local democracy and its residents are sacrificed on the altar of growth. All the heavy stuff is thrown at the East, but let’s pay lip service to their wellbeing by putting in traffic lights, it’s cheaper, you know. Traffic lights which soon will be in the way of all the trucks blocking SH1 day and night to cover the earth with tar, concrete, rock, etc, etc, etc. So now that everything is laid out, I will be very keen to hear from the people who are accountable for all of this, our Eastern ward Councillors, and the Mayor. After all, assessing a situation from a bird’s eye view, proposing a vision, articulating a strategy: this should be their bread and butter. So I’m asking Councillors Free, O’Neil and Rush and Mayor Foster to spare an hour or two with me, please, to browse these topics in a recorded discussion which will be published on this site. A view, a vision, a strategy: a year away from the next election, it’s the perfect time to start sharing it with your electorate.

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