Light Rail basic questions go unanswered

This election was far more sedate than I had expected. Candidates stood up and said their pieces and there were some questions asked. There was no robust debate - not in my ward anyway. There may have been stronger clashes elsewhere that I have not seen. But it didn't happen in the mayoral race either - at least not in the half dozen or so mayoral forums that I witnessed.

So why was this? It wasn't as though there was shortage of issues to clash about. Take light rail (modern trams really).  The Greens kept on mouthing the mantra that light rail was the answer; certainly it was to be preferred to motorways, more tunnels and flyovers. Virtually no one questioned this.

When can politicians say no

There are times when, as a politician, you have to say no. I have had that reinforced on the campaign trail this week. Everybody wants something; most of the things wanted have some merit. There is never enough money to say yes to everyone and everything.

It is hard to say no clearly, firmly and finally. This was nowhere better illustrated than by a question about light rail at the Tuesday night meeting of Mt Victoria and Mt Cook residents. 

Personally I am not sold on light rail, but I am dead against it either. I want to see the feasibility study to see how the cost stacks up relative to buses, what routes it would be suitable for, how it might be paid for, and by whom.

Reinvent Wellington

Campaigning for public office is the most fun I've had in Wellington legally for many years. And I've now gone onto YouTube to promote my message. I don't think any other candidate has done this, and goodness knows whether it will make a difference. But it's fun, and what's bad about that?


Artificial pitches big issue in city council election

Only three of the seven candidates for the mayoralty and the Lambton Ward are unequivocal about their support for more artificial pitches on sports grounds.

The Yellow fever people have started a website which is about "Helping Wellingtonians Elect a Turf-friendly Council." Various candidates contributed their views.

Here's what I said "My policy on artificial pitches is simple; build more of them, and start now." There's no mucking around there. I then go on to discuss how they might be financed. For me raising rates is out, but a bit of borrowing, some commercial sponsorship and some 'pay to play' changes to finance the debt are all on the table.

Wellington faces international business challenges

Wellington has some important challenges which it must face, fight and beat if it is to prosper and deliver its citizens the lifestyle they seek.
It's well known that the quality of the lifestyle is a very important factor for migrants making decisions about where to invest and live.
A recent study identified it as a decisive factor for Asian migrants seeking a home for themselves and their capital. This assumes factors such as the banks being safe, the government and legal system being honest and the currency being stable are more or less equal across various cities.

Bad process makes for bad decisions

On Thursday morning I attended one of the worst meetings I have seen in a long long time. It was the Wellington City Council's Strategy and Policy Committee which was trying to make a decision about buses using the Hataitai bus tunnel.

The tunnel is supposed to be just for buses - cars, bikes and pedestrians are barred, although they do sneak though.

Trolley buses use the tunnel to connect to Hataitai, and the residents have no problem with that. Out of service trollies  also go through the tunnel to return to the depot at Lyall Bay. Again no problem. Out of service diesels were the issue for residents.  They are noisy, shake houses and move through early in the morning and late at night.

Back Biking: keep cyclists safe

We ought to do more to make cycling safer, easier and more enjoyable in Wellington. There are many motorists who take a 'them and us' attitude to cyclists, regarding as Lycra loonies who clog up intersections and delay them getting to their destinations. This is a wrongheaded approach.

I don't intend to go cycling myself any time soon, but that is not the point. Cyclists are citizens and riding is healthy, fun and is the chosen means of transport for many.

I was at the City Council's Strategy and Policy Committee on Thursday morning. The committee was hearing oral submissions about lowering the speed limit to 30kms along the Golden Mile.

Retain talent to promote growth

Wellington needs to do more to retain its talented and creative people and to attract more of the same to the city.

That's the message I gave to a large audience at the Ignite function this week.

 Why?  Wellington's rate of economic growth is slow - just under the national average and as a country we aren't moving ahead economically. The latest unemployment and retail sales figures are just more evidence of that.

Low economic growth, or none at all, hurts everyone and makes all our decisions as a country harder. If the pie isn't growing, it means that for one group in society to have more, some other group has to do without or make do with less.

Encroachment review awakes a sleeping dog

In this city many homeowners are using bits of land that they don't own but are treating them as effectively part of their property. It's all quite legal. These are called encroachments, and generally they have been signed off by the city council. Sometimes the people allowed an encroachment are paying a fee for the privilege; others are getting the encroachment for nothing. I have got a planter box at my front gate which is on council land, but I got a licence with the title of the house. Others have car pads, or garages or play areas.

City Parking needs regime change

Back in January I wrote that the parking policies of the city council needed some regime change.  This was after some public comments from a council manager that the parking policies were about changing behaviour not revenue gathering. Gosh we all had a good laugh about that.

After some good work by the DominionPost we learned that the council contracts its enforcement to Armourguard (which used to be a security company) which operates a subsidiary called Parkwise which employs the wardens on the streets. The wardens get rewards like iPods and trips to Aussie over and above their pay for good performance, and Armourgaurd gets a fee for each ticket issued. So there's an inbuilt incentive to issue tickets - that's a no brainer.