There is still general agreement that a massive problem lies ahead of Wellington in fixing its transport system. Most days see congestion, where a slip or a tree over a road can lead to gridlock. It’s not surprising to know that we are one of the most congested cities in the world, surpassing both London and LA for frustrated morning commutes.
The discussion around ‘Get Wellington Moving’, and the options released a couple of days ago, have driven the message home to me again; we need an integrated and multi modal transport system that allows Wellingtonians to travel in the way that best suits their needs at any given time.
This whole debate, and after attending some of the meetings of Get Wellington Moving, has raised a new question in my mind: Where does Wellington actually start and finish and who should get a say in how it works better?
If you listen to many of the loudest voices in this debate, you would believe that Wellington is the CBD and a couple of the suburbs in close proximity - possibly numbering about 40,000 people in total. Sorry Karori, Miramar and and Seatoun that’s not including you. Johnsonville, no you don’t exist in the frame and Porirua, the Hutt Valley and Kapiti Coast may as well be 500kms away, such is their irrelevancy to these discussions. The people who dominate this debate believe that they alone should decide how Wellington connects and flows, and that nobody else has an interest.
As someone who was born and raised in the Hutt Valley, who at times has worked in Wellington and has lived in Porirua City for over forty years, I am happy to put up my hand and say “we are all Wellingtonians and this issue is something we must solve collectively.”
The Wellington CBD is powered by the labour force of the Wellington suburbs and the surrounding metropolitan cities. Several tens of thousands of workers move in and out and around everyday. Those same people need to access the airport, the regional hospital and things like Saturday sport, the Roxy Cafe or Spruce Goose! Slowing them down or indeed grinding them to a halt may satisfy the ideological grinches of the Save the Basin Group, but in reality people need to make a living, access healthcare and get their kids to and from school and sport. That is often hard to do on a bike or on light rail.
It appears to me that we have a once in generation opportunity to create a sustainable and attractive solution to easing congestion and improving the flow of people around our great region. The four options lie on the table are well thought through and deserve serious consideration. A second Terrace Tunnel and a Basin solution are vital if Wellington is to continue to function. Let’s remember that State Highway 1 finishes not at the Terrace Tunnel but at Wellington International Airport. Let’s ensure we give it the design, capacity and functionality to operate like a State Highway should.
If you are lucky and can walk to work from your home in Mount Victoria, I’m pleased for you. But don’t assume that everyone is so fortunate and has that choice in life. Wellington isn’t owned by those who live closest to the CBD, it’s a regional business hub and one we all need to be proud of and committed to it developing further.
So Wellington, let’s move on this now. We need to consider these options and think larger not smaller. Whether roads carry carbon emitting vehicles, buses, bikes or autonomous electric vehicles, we are going to need them as long as civilisation continues. Let’s accept that and get on with the job.
Euon Murrell is a business owner, Chairperson of the Porirua Chamber of Commerce and a former Deputy Mayor of Porirua City.