Wellington’s governance and National’s non-appearance

Next week there’s a forum called Wellington: What Do We Want? How Do We Get There? being run by the Rotary Club of Wellington and Victoria University of Wellington, in association with the Dominion Post, at Victoria University’s Rutherford House. It’s pulling together a range of people to discuss local governance and whether local body amalgamation is a smart idea.

To Rotary’s credit, there’s an impressive range of speakers – including former Prime Minister (and Mt Vic resident) Sir Geoffrey Palmer, local and regional government mayors, economists, commentators, youth speakers, environmentalists and more. It looks like it’s going to be a good event.

However the chief architects of  this reform are notable by their absence; not a single representative from the National government has deigned to appear. Despite railroading supercity reforms through Auckland and stripping Canterbury’s democratic representation away – in other words, making the most wide-ranging and anti-democratic changes to local government in a generation – nobody from National feels inclined to show up to the seminar. It’s a bit difficult to see this as anything other than the government holding up two fingers to the capital.

However it’s not completely unexpected. At a recent Residents Association public meeting to discuss local issues, all our local MPs were happy to appear – except National. And the National MPs have also been notable by their absence from all the various public meetings about the Basin Reserve flyover, instead hiding behind press releases. No wonder they don’t have a single electorate MP south of Otaki.

But irrespective of National’s cynical approach to Wellington, it should be an excellent seminar. If you can spare a day on Thursday 25 October 2012, we highly recommend attending.

A gentle hum

The Dominion Post is reporting a persistent hum across the neighbourhood, for which inventive and interesting explanations have been proposed. (Our favourite: Mt Victoria is humming because no-one has taught it the words.)

Perhaps we should teach the words …. so we consulted a few songwriters to see what the explanation could be. Neil Finn had the view:

This gentle hum
Is just begun
This gentle hum
Make us one

Bruce Cockburn said:

Planet engines pulsate in sideral time
If you listen close you can hear the whine

Other explanations and sightings (hearings?) of strange humming occurrences welcomed in the comments.

Where’s the new tunnel going?

There’s been a bit of speculation over at Eye of the Fish about the location of the second Mt Victoria tunnel that the NZ Transport Agency – against all logic and economic rationality – wants to drive through our neighbourhood. So here are the photos:This is the view up Paterson Street towards Wellington East Girls High. The entrance to the current Mt Victoria tunnel is on the right, and the driveway to the left leads down to one of the houses in the street owned by the NZ Transport Agency, which contains …… the entrance to the pilot tunnel drilled in the 1970s (that’s the clump of bush by the cabbage tree). As far as we can tell, this is where the new tunnel will be going through, if the cars-at-any-cost traffic engineers have their way. Which also means that all the houses in Paterson Street up to this point (i.e most of the street) will be demolished.

Weed Swap at Waitangi Park on Sunday

To kick off Conservation Week (9-16 September) a weed swap has been organised for local residents. The idea is that you can bring your worst garden weed to Waitangi Park and swap it for a FREE native plant … which is a much better idea than leaving the weeds to flourish in the garden!

To find out more about identifying and eradicating weeds, there are resources on the Greater Wellington website here.

The weed swap is on Sunday 9 September from 1-4 pm at Waitangi Park.

Local house gets yellow stickered (updated)

There’s been plenty of focus on earthquake preparedness recently, with the Council stepping up education sessions around the city . There’s also been a rash of yellow and red stickers appear on some of the commercial buildings and apartment blocks around town, informing owners they need to take action to bring the buildings up to standard.

However we noticed a yellow sticker had appeared on a residential house at 59 Pirie Street a few weeks back, which seems a first for the neighbourhood. We understood the Council’s review only took in apartment buildings and the like, so we’re a bit mystified why a house – which seems no different to hundreds of others in Mt Victoria – suddenly got singled out. We’ll enquire with the Council to see if this is the beginning of a trend in the neighbourhood, but if anyone has any information feel free to add a comment.

Update: Here’s the comment from the Wellington City Council:

Further to your enquiry regarding the property at 59 Pirie St. I have checked our records and I can confirm the building is not a single dwelling but actually consists of 3 residential units. The building is single storey at the front and at least two storeys at the rear.

As I briefly outlined in my email yesterday, for the Council to assess residential buildings the building has to have 3 or more units and be at least 2 or more storeys in height. The building at Pirie St meets this criteria. If the building had been a single home we would not have assessed the building.

In respect of your other questions,

What was wrong with the property? The Councils engineers noted certain characteristics of the building which they considered in their professional opinion made the building earthquake prone.

A building can be earthquake prone for a number of reasons ranging from too many larger openings in external walls leading to a lack of bracing through to the building having masonry chimneys. If a person had a query or concern about their own building I would suggest they engage the services of a professional (engineer) to provide some advice.

Will other houses in the neighbourhood be looked at? The Council is checking all buildings across the city that meet the criteria as defined in the Building Act (refer section 122 of the Building Act). This means if there are other houses in the neighbour hood which meet the criteria (contain 3 or more household units and 2 or more storeys) the Council will be assessing those buildings.

What is the criteria for a property to be yellow stickered? A building will only receive an earthquake prone building notice (yellow sticker) if the Council is satisfied the buildings structural performance is less than 331/3% of the New Building Standard (NBS). A new building in the same location would be 100% of NBS.

I would note with No. 59 the owner engaged the services of a structural engineer and undertook some strengthening work on the building. The details of this work has been passed to our contract engineers to review. If our engineers are satisfied this “new” work has addressed the eqp issues they identified in the building the Council will withdraw the earthquake prone building notice.

Taking the p*ss

There’s been a gradual process of installing bus shelters around Wellington, and a couple have recently made an appearance at the bottom of Elizabeth St – where they’ll no doubt be welcomed by passengers waiting in the wind and the rain.

The shelters are provided by AdShel, a commercial company that funds the shelters by selling the advertising space on the side. Being an advertising company, they’re not unfamiliar with the idea of some self-promotion:

The way AdShel would like to portray themselves

The way AdShel would like to portray themselves

However some local wits have a somewhat more cynical view of the corporatisation of the local bus routes, and added a few amendments to the posters …

Altered AdShel poster

Um … yeah

True to their word, AdShel maintained the shelters at no cost to our local Council, and the altered signage disappeared a few days later. But in the meantime, we all had a good laugh at the wit of the unknown editor.

And we’re back!

After quite a few months in the wilderness of Teh Internets – brought on by a failed motherboard and a corrupted RAID drive – the Mt Victoria website has returned. Please bear with us for a few more days as we finish recovering all the old posts and comments from the Drupal system and make sure all the links work.

There have also been some changes in the web presence of a few of the other community organisations. Crossways has migrated to its own site here; the Mt Victoria Newsletter is moving to its own web presence; and the Residents Association is also moving into the Internet age. We’ll add links as they become available.

And a big shout-out to the great guys at Harmonic who provided the technical assistance to get our data off the old failed server and up onto WordPress – thanks team!

Hands Around The Basin – Sunday 25 September at midday

Holding hands @ Blundeston, Suffolk

The New Zealand Transport Agency plans to destroy the character of the Basin Reserve by building an expensive and unnecessary flyover around it. The ‘Road of National Significance’ will affect Wellington’s green belt and access to eastern suburb sports facilities and will cost tax- and rate-payers $97 million to move traffic congestion 300 metres. It makes no economic sense and will result in the shortsighted destruction of the Basin as a sporting and cultural venue.

Show your solidarity around the Basin Reserve and tell the politicians to ‘bowl the flyover’. And lend us your arms to give the Basin Reserve a hug of protection.

Join us at the Basin Reserve 12 noon on Sunday 25 September for speakers, information and music.

For more information email: kent@mtvictoria.org.nz or Phone Bianca: 021 641 123

Petanque in Buckle Street this Saturday


Living Streets Aotearoa are planning to play petanque in Buckle Street this Saturday 2 July at 1pm, reclaiming the area for people instead of cars. According to Ellen Blake from Living Streets:

Come to Buckle Street opposite the Carillion and play petanque for our community. Reclaim this ugly road space and turn it into a fun area for an hour or two with other Living Streets members and supporters. Bring your petanque set or join a team to protest the RONS being imposed on us as far as the airport. Weather permitting of course!

Sounds like fun – see you there!

Compassion costs $6 per day

Notable Mt Victoria identity and lifetime MVRA member Richard Giese died at the Rita Angus retirement village in Kilbrinie in February. He was 85.

In itself, this would be a sad but unremarkable death at the end of a long and productive life – but at the coroner’s inquest into his death this week, it was revealed that his body remained undiscovered at the retirement village for 12 days.

The operators of the retirement village – Ryman Healthcare – noted that making sure 85-year olds were safe in their units was an extra-cost option:

Susan Bowness, North Island regional manager for Ryman Healthcare, which runs Rita Angus and 22 other villages, said residents were able to request daily checks, for a fee of $6 a day.

According to their financial results for the half-year ending 30 September 2010:

We are delighted to report to you on a very successful first six months of the financial year. The profits and dividends are up substantially … The realised profit for the six months was $36.1 million, up 25% on the same period last year – and a new record for the company.

Perhaps one of the reasons that Ryman is so profitable is because basic human compassion is charged at $2,190 per annum. To state the obvious, having someone to make sure you’re OK is one of the reasons people move into retirement villages, and to discover that this is only done on receipt of a cheque would come as quite a surprise to anyone that had read one of Ryman’s brochures.

It’s all very well for Ryman to wax eloquent about “community” and style itself as operating “villages”, but in real communities and villages residents who have had heart attacks don’t remain undiscovered for 12 days. Perhaps Ryman needs to take a look at its corporate conscience and decide what kind of business it’s really running.