No NIMBYs here!

In response to local concerns about the safety of the Pirie Street bus tunnel, the Wellingtonian has piped up and called us a bunch of NIMBYs. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For the record, the Wellington City Council voted last week to allow Not In Service diesel buses to use the bus tunnel, lifting a restriction that had been in place since 1993, and opening the narrow local streets to dozens more buses every day. This will, of course, do nothing to help the already dangerous state of the tunnel, will increase congestion for public transport users in the Eastern suburbs, and will add to the danger of local roads.

But to the central point – calling Mt Victoria residents a bunch of NIMBYs over changes to the tunnel is a bit rich. Every day:

    • We play host to 400 buses (now increased by the Council to 480) through the bus tunnel
    • A further 60 buses use Majoribanks Street and Hawker Street every day
    • We provide for 600 coupon parkers as overflow parking for commuters, meaning that local residents are unable to find parking near their homes
    • Local homes in Paterson Street are being threatened by demolition thanks to a second Mt Victoria tunnel
    • The proposed Basin Reserve flyover will increase the pollution and noise in the southern part of our neighbourhood whilst decreasing property values and quality of life.
    • To add insult to injury, Council traffic engineers have been refusing local residents safe pedestrian crossings over Kent and Cambridge Terraces for 25 years, and last year refused to put a pedestrian crossing on Pirie Street for the local school children. No other residential suburb in Wellington plays host to so much transport infrastructure.

      So it’s especially disappointing that a coterie of Councillors – led by the Mayor – voted to increase Infratil’s profits by allowing Not In Service diesel buses back through the tunnel, aggravating the congestion for local residents and public transport users alike. Apparently the diesel savings for Go Wellington and the resulting increased profitability for Infratil shareholders are more important to these Councillors than any safety issues in the tunnel, and it’s disappointing that no-one – such as an attentive local media – has asked why corporate profits rate ahead of the legitimate safety and congestion concerns of residents.

      For the record, the changes were opposed by Cr Iona Pannett, Deputy Mayor Ian McKinnon, Crs Stephanie Cook. Bryan Pepperell and Helene Ritchie. Those in favour were Mayor Kerry Prendergast, Crs John Morrison, Jo Coughlan, Ngaire Best, Hayley Wain, Rob Goulden, Leonie Gill, Ray Ahipene-Mercer and Andy Foster. Cr Celia Wade-Brown abstained due to a conflict of interest.

“Everyone should be blessed with a neighbourhood restaurant like Ambeli”

Cuisine Magazine has just announced its Restaurants of the Year 2010, and local icon Ambeli has been named winner of the Best Neighbourhood Restaurant award – and co-owner Shae Moleta (pictured) has won the Restaurant Personality Of The Year award.

For anyone who’s been lucky enough to sample Chef Sam Pope’s inspirational food and Shae’s warm and generous hospitality, the award is well-deserved. Ambeli has more than earned it’s place in our community, both as an outstanding local restaurant and as a huge supporter of community initiatives. As the judges noted:

You walk out of here feeling at least a small part of the world has been put to rights.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Congratulations Shae and Sam!

(And just in case you’ve eaten at Ambeli too many times this week, Mark Limacher’s Ortega Fish Shack & Bar just a few doors down the road was awarded Best Specialist Restaurant Runner-Up by the Cuisine judges. Congratulations, Mark!)

Nominations close for the upcoming local body election

Nominations for the local body elections closed today, and there’s a healthy list of contenders for both our local ward (Lambton) and the mayoralty. The confirmed ballot looks like this:

Lambton Ward Nominations

    • John Bishop
    • Stephanie Cook
    • Adam Cunningham
    • Michael Fowler
    • Marcus Ganley
    • Mark Greening
    • Ian McKinnon
    • Iona Pannett
    • Kris Price
    • Mayoral Nominations

        • Al Mansell
        • Bernard O’Shaughnessy
        • Bryan Pepperell
        • Kerry Prendergast
        • Celia Wade-Brown
        • Jack Yan
        • The total lists of candidates in every Ward can be found on the Council’s website. We’ll have some analysis of how the various contenders stack up for Mt Victoria residents over the next few days, as there’s a high degree of variability – from the serious players to the outright space-cadets. It’s going to be an interesting campaign!

“Swampy” Marsh should stick to broadcasting

The recent outburst from “Swampy” Marsh on the alleged necessity for a second Mt Victoria tunnel should give all Wellingtonians pause – and not just the voters in the eastern suburbs he was attempting to rabble-rouse. Because it’s hard to remember a press release from a politician (or even an aspiring politician) that packed so many factual errors into such a small number of words.

Swampy seems completely oblivious to the fact that the Wellington City Council – the body he’s trying to get elected to – has negligible influence on whether a second tunnel is built, as it’s part of State Highway 1. As any student of NZ’s transport system will tell you, this means that central government are the decision-makers, not the Council. If Swampy didn’t know that, he needs an immediate remedial course in the mechanics of democratic government. And if he did know that, it means he’s cynically dog-whistling.

Secondly, Swampy claims that he’s being approached by people complaining about ever-increasing commuting times. Unfortunately the facts about congestion aren’t on his side. The Greater Wellington Regional Council’s recent Regional Land Transport Strategy pointed out that both congestion and traffic volumes had dropped (not risen) over the last two years – the very period Swampy was complaining about. The objective traffic surveys demonstrate that it’s getting faster and easier to move around the Wellington region, in direct contrast to Swampy’s pronouncements. The report is freely available on the Internet, but perhaps he doesn’t have Google at his house.

And thirdly, Swampy’s pointless and un-implementable plan would result in the demolition of the homes of some Mt Victoria residents – which is hardly a good look for someone who is trying to get elected to a Council that needs to act in the best interests of the entire city. He may think it’s a local vote-winner to run the bulldozer through someone else’s neighbourhood, but it fails to demonstrate that Swampy has the clarity of thinking or the good judgement necessary to effectively balance Wellington’s complex needs around the Council table.

Our advice to Swampy: stick to broadcasting. Or if you’re going to run for one of the more responsible public offices in the city, take the time to check your facts first – it will save some rather awkward back-pedalling later.

The historic Ettrick Cottage in Paterson Street – just one of the Mt Victoria homes that Swampy Marsh wants to see demolished as soon as he’s elected to the Council.