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.

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.

Consultation to start on Basin Reserve flyover on 2 July

The NZ Transport Agency has announced that consultation will start on the Basin Reserve flyover and a second Mt Victoria tunnel on Saturday 2 July. As expected, the options are being limited to a flyover and a tunnel that totally demolishes Paterson Street, rather than including the more enlightened options from The Architecture Centre.

The Save The Basin Reserve campaign has more information (including the media release) here.

First world fire protection – but third world emissions control

Representatives from the Wellington Tunnels Alliance met with the Mt Victoria Residents Association before Easter, so that they could inform local residents about the night closures of the Mt Victoria tunnel. It was largely an exercise in window-dressing, as the timing of the closures, the traffic arrangements and the putative mitigations for local residents had all been pre-decided by the engineers before the meeting.

While the verbal briefing was useful, the Tunnels Alliance staff had failed to arrive with the requested documents – such as the traffic management plan and the hazards mitigation plan – so it was hard to draw any concrete conclusions about the effectiveness (or otherwise) of the arrangements. These documents have now been requested under the Official Information Act. However what did stand out from the briefing was the fact that the Tunnels Alliance appears to have little interest in filtering the exhaust emissions from the tunnel, which are vented into the grounds of Wellington East Girls College.

The engineer present at the meeting noted that the current tunnel ventilation system was not very efficient, and that the upgrades would result in a far better removal of toxic fumes from the tunnel …. into the grounds of the school!

He also noted that it was unlikely that the nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide and diesel particulates would be filtered, confirming our earlier suspicions – that the traffic engineers are prepared to spend tens of millions of dollars on protecting drivers from tunnel fires that have never occurred in 80 years, but won’t spend a cent on filtering the emissions that kill 400 people per annum.

It’s a very strange world we live in.

The Gang of Numpties

The Gang of Numpties (l to r): John Morrison, Jo Coughlan, Ian McKinnon, Ngaire Best, Ray Ahipene-Mercer, Leonie Gill, Paul Eagle, Justin Lester, Simon Marsh

Nine self-styled “rebel” Councillors recently voted to call an extraordinary meeting of the Wellington City Council in order to acquiesce to the demands of the NZ Transport Agency.

No longer content with its role as a neutral part of the public sector, the Transport Agency has recently begun active lobbying for its preferred roading options. Following comments to the DominionPost where an anonymous staff member described the actions of elected Councillors as “playing silly buggers” – in clear contravention of the public sector’s Code of Conduct – the NZTA Board sent a letter to the WCC seeking additional support for the Basin Reserve flyover, extra tunnels and road widening.

In a sickeningly spineless display led by the self-styled protector of the Basin Reserve, Cr John “Mystery” Morrison, nine Councillors duly lined up to ambush the Mayor and give the secretive NZ Transport Agency everything they wanted. Clearly, expecting these Councillors to require the designs for the roads, flyovers and tunnels before providing their support was a bit much – as was expecting them to have the nous to figure out that the roads destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars in value for taxpayers.

That’s right – the payback on the Basin Reserve flyover, the second Mt Victoria tunnel and the four-laning of Ruahine St is only 0.4. So for every $100 million in cost, taxpayers will see a scant $40 million in economic payback, although this didn’t seem to upset the Gang of Numpties at all. It also didn’t seem to phase the DominionPost, who despite thorough coverage of the debate have failed to mention that their beloved roads are a money-losing boondoggle.

Having pushed for the extraordinary meeting, the Gang of Numpties were rewarded with a resolution that … barely changed anything. The Council endorsed the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan (which it had already voted to support), noted that it was multi-modal (i.e. includes public transport, walking and cycling), appointed a committee to work on public consultation, and noted that further support would require that the Agency actually front up with the designs. So it was all a bit of a storm in a teacup, despite the DominionPost doing their level best to talk it up.

From the point of view of the Mt Victoria community, the key issue with this drama is that one of our Ward Councillors – Deputy Mayor Ian McKinnon – has lined up with the Gang of Numpties. This is unhelpful, given that our community will be heavily affected by the flyovers and tunnels, the road noise and pollution. It should be expected that one of the Councillors representing the local community would be voting to protect local homes, not demolish them. Perhaps the next step is for local residents to contact Cr McKinnon and enquire why he’s putting the needs of itinerant motorists ahead of the needs of the people who elected him.