The bus tunnel – no more safety, but lots more buses

Bus congestion in Pirie St on a recent weekday morning

Residents around Pirie St will have noticed a letter from the Council this week about a proposed traffic resolution affecting the Hataitai bus tunnel. The letter suggests that the changes have the support of the Mt Victoria Residents Association, but unfortunately the Council is being somewhat economical with the facts.

The gist of what the traffic engineers are proposing is that the tunnel should be re-designated as a bus lane, which will permit the Council to enforce its use – effectively providing a deterrent to the sorts of drivers that badly injured Earl Krauskopf last year. So far, so good. But there are some essential facts missing from the letter.

The first is that the Council currently lacks the legal authority to enforce bus lanes. The Council’s Director of Infrastructure, Stavros Michael has said that:

“I advised that Council has now concluded a contract variation with our Parking Services agent …. and are in a position to commence the process pending a minor process confirmation by the Police Commissioner. In any event this ability will be available to Council well in advance of this proposed resolution been considered and adopted by Council.”

On the surface this sounds positive. However it’s clear that the enforcement authority is by no means a done deal, and there appears to be no project plan or timeline to implement the enforcement activity. In addition, we understand that the contractor only has a single enforcement camera to cover the entire Wellington region, so enforcement could be sporadic at best.

But the key problem is one that is not even mentioned by Council officers in their letter – that changing the designation will result in the tunnel being open slather for every bus in the city.

Currently the tunnel is governed by a Greater Wellington Regional Council bylaw that restricts the use of the tunnel to in-service commuter buses only – effectively Go Wellington, Valley Flyer and Airport Flyer services; not-in-service buses and tourist buses are banned. But changing the designation would open the flood-gates to every operator in the region, putting another estimated 70-90 buses a day up the narrow residential streets of the neighbourhood.

So the whole idea of making the tunnel safer seems to have gone completely out the window. Instead, we’ll have more buses, more congestion, and only sporadic enforcement. This is not what the Mt Victoria Residents Association signed up for at the meetings to discuss the matter with the Council, the bus company and the Police, and we feel deceived and let down by the officers concerned. It seems only fair that they are honest with local residents about what they are actually planning, and the implications of those decisions.

As noted in the Council’s letter, consultation on this poorly thought-through proposal is open until 5pm on Friday 9 July. We would encourage all local residents to oppose the traffic resolution, and to call their Ward Councillors to express their views.

Kent Duston
Acting President
Mt Victoria Residents Association

3 Queen Street: Advice for prospective purchasers

Local residents may have noticed the recent listing for auction of 3 Queen St, a small three-bedroom cottage that is being sold by the estate of its late owners. A number of people have contacted the Mt Victoria Residents Association to ask about developing the site and the implications of demolition, so we thought it might be useful to potential purchasers to post some information online.

We understand the cottage pre-dates 1930, which means any proposed demolition will be covered by the current Demolition Rule in the District Plan or the new District Plan Change 72, depending on when the application is lodged with the Council. In both cases the intention of the rules is to prevent the loss of the neighbourhood’s character, and so demolition is not a matter of right – a resource consent needs to be sought from the Council.

Under the current Demolition Rule the Mt Victoria Residents Association can be consulted as part of the process, and details of how this works are here. However this will change when District Plan Change 72 comes into effect, but at the time of writing the final details of these changes were still being completed by the Council. In all cases we suggest you contact both the Council planning department and a suitably qualified planning professional (such as an architect) for guidance on how to proceed.

MVRA has the view that the character of Mt Victoria depends greatly on the retention of the current buildings and streetscape. The neighbourhood contains a mix of quite grand and remarkably modest homes, and the clear desire of many residents is that this combination of buildings is retained. This means that we would much prefer homes to be restored, renovated and improved rather than being demolished altogether, as this will enable the character of Mt Victoria to be preserved and the social history contained in the buildings retained.

In effect, this means we are generally opposed to the demolition of buildings solely for convenience. While there are some circumstances where retention of the existing building may not be feasible (this might be a good example), much of the character of the neighbourhood has been lost and replaced with buildings of dubious merit, such as the Roger Walker-designed leaky home below.

We would therefore encourage prospective purchasers to make enquiry with both the Council and suitable professionals before assuming that demolition is the only viable approach for 3 Queen Street.

Kent Duston
Acting President
Mt Victoria Residents Association

Celebrate Matariki on top of Mt Victoria with the Carter Observatory

The Carter Observatory is kicking off the annual Matariki celebration with a public observation of the rising of Matariki, the Pleiades constellation on Monday 14 June.

This will occur at the summit of Mt Victoria from 6.30-7.30 am and will involve mana whenua from Taranaki Whanui ki te Upoko o te Ika greeting the rising, along with astronomers from Carter Observatory giving another perspective. The observation is open to all members of the public, and it is weather dependant in that if it doesn’t happen on the 14th, the Carter Observatory won’t be re-scheduling it – however they’ve informed us that they will be there no matter what the weather.

So if you’d like both a cultural and a scientific appreciation of the stars in our skies, set your alarm clocks early and make your way to the top of Mt Victoria!