Like most cities Wellington has been damaged by Covid and some flow on effects from more people working at home. But unlike most, Wellington is now subject to radical changes to its centre, which will likely inflict enormous damage on its so called Golden Mile (GM), which runs from the Cenotaph near Parliament to the Embassy Theatre at the end of Courtenay place – a distance of 2.6 kilometres.
Needless to say this has been subject to supportive analysis by consultants brought in from Auckland and overseas – Denmark.
In essence the radical plans will ban private cars from the entire length of the GM as well as taxis and the likes of Uber, who bring customers into the city and help make it a viable shopping, cafe and restaurant precinct. Whether trucks will be able to deliver product when they wish, courier vehicles and tradies is yet to be determined in detail but will be seriously constrained.
In addition the small streets that connect to the GM, from Stout Street to Blair Street in Courtenay Place, will be blocked at their ends so any cars entering them will have turn around at the end and leave via their entrance. Trucks longer than say 8 metres will be exempted from this absurdity for parts of the day.
Bizarre as this might seem this project was one of the outcomes of the failed bid to approve a flyover at the Basin Reserve, so vehicles could get the airport and Eastern Suburbs more efficiently through an additional tunnel.
The Wellington City Council is joined up with the Greater Wellington Regional Council and the NZTA in whats known as Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) to work on a full range of projects. So far LGWM has come up with policies to slow the traffic with lower speed limits and a new pedestrian crossing on Cobham Drive which is route one on the way to the airport.
The radical proposals for the GM include widening footpaths and cycle lanes. Buses in Lambton Quay will be confined to about half the street width they currently have and will generally not be able to pass each other. The current speed limit is 30kph and only a tiny number of cyclists ride the GM.
If this was all fixing a publicly recognised problem I would be supportive but it is not. It’s an expensive solution to a basically non existent problem, driven by ideologues and now consultants who have vested interest in it proceeding full speed, unlike Wellington’s traffic.
First, there is no real problem for vehicles on the GM and nor do the pedestrians need wider footpaths. Second, the construction phase will take months if not years doing enormous damage to business, as Aucklanders have discovered. Compensation for affected businesses will need to be considered and very soon.
There are some real problems the Council could deal with. First deep clean the streets, particularly in Courtenay Place which is dirty, fix rubbish bins with doors hanging open, plant the median strip in Courtenay Place and paint lamp posts. In addition provide sleeping facilities for the street people on the GM and better manage those unsociable people in the Te Aro area and preventing more crime.