Wasteful and ill-disciplined councils

Mostly this blog is focused on national policy issues and national economic developments.  But local government matters too.  Often the choices local government make affect us at least as much as questionable central government choices do, and  –  so it seems –  they are typically based on less-robust analysis, and with less transparency and serious accountability.  The cavalier approach towards the use of our money –  from people who would not be so rash in their private lives, with their own money –  would almost beggar belief.   “Almost” except that public choice literature has been analysing for decades the incentives, and absence of constraints, that lead to such behaviour.

In the headlines this week have been the efforts of the Auckland Council.  The Mayor, it appears, commissioned a $1 million report on a possible new ($1.5 billion) sports stadium, which his own fellow councillors have not been allowed copies of.  The Mayor and his office –  again – defy for months the provisions of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (the local government equivalent of the OIA).   The first element of the purpose statement in the LGOIMA is

The purposes of this Act are—

(a) to increase progressively the availability to the public of official information held by local authorities, and to promote the open and public transaction of business at meetings of local authorities, in order—

(i) to enable more effective participation by the public in the actions and decisions of local authorities; and

(ii)to promote the accountability of local authority members and officials,—

and thereby to enhance respect for the law and to promote good local government in New Zealand:

Something that too many mayors, councillors, and local government bureaucrats seem to treat with contempt.

The Wellington City Council is at least as bad as any of them.  On the LGOIMA, I gather that requesters have still not been able to get from the council documents relating to the subsidy the residents of Wellington are paying to Singapore Airlines (now to provide additional flights between Wellington and Melbourne).   It is as if councillors  –  and their staff –  believe we work for them, not the other way round.

On spending, we don’t have anything quite as expensive as a $1.5 billion stadium –  not happening for now, but presumably only a matter of time.  But that is about $1000 per Aucklander.    Here, we’ve had the desperate desire of councillors to kick in $100 million or so to extend (privately-owned) Wellington airport’s runway (a project fortunately stymied, at least for now, by the courts), $90 million to refurbish and strengthen the Wellington Town Hall, $165 million for a convention centre and film museum.  Not one of those projects would be likely to survive the scrutiny of a proper cost-benefit analysis, but that, of course, doesn’t deter our council.

And the waste –  and the arrogance – flows all the way down to individual neighbourhoods.  I live in Island Bay, a pleasant seaside community of about 8000, where the residents as a group tend to vote for big-government parties (around 60 per cent of the party vote in last year’s election went to Labour and the Greens).  We had the misfortune to be the test-bed for the Council’s cycleway policy (which I wrote about here).

The plan was for a cheap cycleway all the way from Island Bay to the city.  Never mind that the supporting analysis never stacked up, or that hilly Wellington is one of the least propitious places for cycleways anywhere.  Years later, we have a deeply unpopular cycleway to nowhere (running a couple of kilometres along one of the safer wider roads in Wellington, before petering out just as things start to get tricky for the few potential cyclists).  The Council spent $1.7 million putting the thing in –  originally they thought to spend less than that getting the whole way into the city –  and is about to spend another $4 million to change the scheme, and in doing so they still avoid responding to the clearly expressed preferences of residents in a fairly well-designed and run “vote” organised by the residents’ association.   $700 per resident –  almost as bad as a sports stadium on Auckland’s waterfront, and a great deal of aggravation later – all to impose something that local residents simply don’t want, and wouldn’t choose to spend their money on.  But councillors have a dream……while we have a nightmare (expensive, unattractive, and dangerous).  One might suppose that on an issue that affects no one outside the local neighbourhood, majority local preferences should be an absolute basis for not proceeding, not wasting public money.  As it is, there is next to no effective accountability, since Island Bay is subsumed in a larger ward and of the local councillors who voted for the scheme, one resigned shortly afterwards to become an MP in rock-solid Labour seat, and the other has announced he is moving to Christchurch and will be standing down at the next election.  The Residents’ Association is reduced to taking costly and risky legal action against their own council.

But today I wanted to highlight another small Wellington City Council excess.  It is of no wider interest, except as symptomatic of the way our money is wasted by councillors up and down the country.  As I said, Island Bay is a pleasant seaside place.  Just to the left of the photo, fishing boats lie at rest, and the eponymous island guards the entrance.  There is a pleasant sandy beach, good for swimming (if somewhat bracing).   There weren’t a lot of people around when I took this photo on a cool late-autumn morning, but on summer afternoons the beach is often crowded and finding somewhere to park can be a challenge.

island bay

And so what is the Wellington City Council in the process of doing?  Why, removing probably half a dozen carparks  on the main road (you can see where the dark new seal is by the van) –  and others on the side street –  as part of putting in a new roundabout.  This little project is said to be costing $400000.  There was, it appears, no consultation with either residents or beach users.

Both roads are wide, and neither is particularly busy (I walk down there most days).  There is no obvious problem, no apparent record of accidents, but that doesn’t stop the Council frittering away public money.  I guess we should be grateful for small mercies: a few years ago when the sea wall was damaged in a storm, some councillors wanted to rip up the road (past the new roundabout) altogether and let the sea “take back its own”.  Fortunately, they lost that battle.

Each individual project like this doesn’t sound like much.  But they add up, and before you know where you are, hundreds of millions of hard-pressed ratepayer’s money is being lavished on the big stuff with little rigour, less transparency, and not much accountability.   It is a shame there is no way to have councillors put rather more of their own money on the line: perhaps for each new initiative they vote for councillors could consider making a personal contribution equal to, say, ten times the average per capita cost of the project in question.   When the mayor, Justin Lester writes a personal cheque for $4000 as a contribution to the convention centre, and another for $2500 for the town hall refurbishment or the runway extension, I’d start taking the views that underpin his wastefulness (with other people’s money) a little more seriously.  Of course, even then it might just be considered a campaign expense on a journey towards Parliament.  Instead, we go on with citizens being plundered to pursue the whims of councillors and specific vested interests.


52 thoughts on “Wasteful and ill-disciplined councils

  1. The system of local authorities in NZ is broken. They are asked, mandated actually, by central government to do so many things without the necessary funding. Add in that they elected Councillors are treated as poor cousins of MPs and Council staff are generally not the same skill quality as govt employees and we have a recipe for the disasters being experienced across the board in NZ local authorities. I can’t think of one city, district or regional council that is praised or admired in NZ.
    I err in the side of localism but not as it is organised, funded, resourced or regulated currently.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would have thought that Phil Goff would have learned some lessons with the Rugby World Cup stadium that the John Key government wanted to build on the harbour waterfront and even offered to pay the full cost of around $400 million to build it. It was rejected by Aucklanders en masse. Our preference is to keep the architectural meritous Shed 10 heritage rusting tin shed intact.


  3. That Island Bay roundabout – Seems totally unnecessary but then I don’t need to turn the big new electric buses around so they can do their return journey back into town.

    Reef St is becoming their new depot with a $1.5m super duper battery charging station so the batteries can be charged up in minutes. They say 450kw charger – hope your home electricity supply is stable when this happens.

    Progress they say but I have my doubts

    You talk about productivity a lot. How many many hours (including the 3 stop-go men on occasions) does it take to build a simple roundabout?


    • Indeed, the new roundabout is mostly about giving buses a safer turnaround point. The current location (at the Parade end of Reef Street) has been a problem for years: you’ve got buses doing a U-turn on an intersection that not only hinders traffic going along the Parade, but which simultaneously creates a dangerous for three separate pedestrian crossings (even more so when the driver mis-calculates the turn, and has to back up a bit over Shorland Park entrance crossing).

      So, from that point-of-view, it’s an entirely sensible infrastructure decision. The cost? Maybe a bit pricey.

      And maybe people might be encouraged to bus to the beach if they can’t find a park. There’s a bus that’ll take you nearly all the way there. 😉


      • Even if that is the Council’s justification, they could have routed the buses along Trent St and then have them come back along Reef St. No need for a $400000 roundabout, no need to remove parking places at the beach.

        But, of course, the council would no doubt prefer everyone cycled…..


      • I’m sure the Trent Street residents would have been thrilled to have suddenly become a main thoroughfare for the dozens of buses that run that route every day!


    • There’s only half a dozen houses on one side of Reef Street, and the people who moved into those houses knew full-well that they were on a bus route. Moving the bus traffic onto Trent Street would be a *massive* change in circumstances for over two dozen households.


      • I don’t know that that is quite true. The bus route has always, til now, ended at the Parade/Reef St corner. And, at present, there is a big construction project going on in Trent St – all those buyers could have known too (indeed, in the Council’s medium density ambition might have valued a bus at the door).

        In practice, I’d probably have been moderately content if either a roundabout has been put in at Parade/Reef St, or if a roundabout at Reef/Esplanade had been done as was done at the bottom of Houghton Valley round, which didn’t remove carparks. It looks as though it should have been able to be done.


      • The #32 and (I think) some of the school buses travel down Reef Street. Many off-service buses also use Reef Street when coming from the Kilbirnie depot to do the various routes that start around the Southern Bays.

        A roundabout at Parade/Reef St. might have been a goer, but there’s the significant issue of the pedestrian crossings there that allow for easy access to the park.

        The Houghton Bay “car-park area” was already there before that roundabout went it (technically it was just a wide bit of pavement that people used to park on, and which was re-purposed to being a ‘proper’ car-park when the new layout was put in). I imagine if the will was there, the same sort of re-purposing could be done outside the IB Surf Club (which already acts as a de-facto car-parking area), or perhaps some of that scrappy dog-exercise area on the corner of Reef St. and the Esplanade could be converted to parking (since most dog-walkers in the area now seem to be happier taking their dogs to the west-end of the beach).


  4. When you look at those mayors who wanted to repeal the law allowing citizens to challenge the creation of Maori wards, you have to wonder what sort of councillors slither in. Elections seem to be a soft touch? I am pro cyclist but I realise cycleways are a pain in the wrong place. Once cyclist reach critical mass (though) the cars have to amble along (I noticed this in the narrow streets of Tokyo). How about candidates have to respond to twenty questions including possible future scenarios?


  5. What sort of governance reform would you envisage that could create greater accountability for local councils? I’ve wondered whether central government ministers should directly appoint a proportion of councillors, on the basis that a reasonable proportion of the population seem to hold central government to account for local government failings (eg housing). Though no doubt that would have it’s own downsides.


    • There are only a handful of acts of Parliament that local body politicians need to be familiar with but many are elected without any knowledge of those acts which they will be operating (i.e., making decisions) under. Due to this lack of fundamental knowledge about the procedures, organisation and governance of a local authority, there is an over-reliance by some elected officials on the advice of non-elected officials. Anecdotally, I have heard many a criticism by ratepayers that their elected members are merely ‘rubber stampers’.

      A requirement to pass a basic test on the relevant legislation before being able to register as a candidate would to my mind be a good idea. The materials to study up on this requirement before taking the test would be made publicly available in the same style/manner as the drivers licence test.

      Additionally, given the way that all the staff of a local authority are directly responsible to the CEO, not the elected members, I think it might also be good if CEOs had to be re-appointed by the public. So, initially a CEO is appointed by the elected members, but once his/her 5 year term (which is perhaps too long) is coming to a conclusion, the ratepayers ought to be able to vote yes or no to his/her re-appointment.


    • I don’t know, but as a start perhaps a mandatory postal referendum on all new major projects (in Wgtn’s case, say more than $10m), and the capacity for people in an affected neighbourhood to demand a binding referendum on proposals affectly mainly them (with the ability to block such spending, but not the ability to mandate new spending).

      Statutorily limiting the scope of councils might also help: I want the streets maintained and kept clean, I want the drains to work well, there is probably scope for public libraries etc, but perhaps councils shouldn’t be allowed to run, or to subsidise, commercial enterprises, to promote festivals for special interest groups, and so on.

      The other big issue is urban land, where councils are at the coal-face keeping land and houses unaffordably high. I’ve long favoured establishing a presumption in favour of being able to build a two-storey house on any land in New Zealand (there would be exceptions – flood plains, seismic stability etc- but reverse the presumption, and require a high test before allowing councillors to prevent people building houses on private land.


      • It would be interesting to see just how a sort of hybrid form of direct democracy in LG would work here in NZ. Central government wouldn’t like it however, as they benefit tremendously from the economic development/leisure industry type ‘glory’ projects of local government. And given the public cannot employ any tax minimisation strategies regarding rates, this really suits central government.


  6. “The Mayor, it appears, commissioned a $1 million report on a possible new ($1.5 billion) sports stadium, which his own fellow councillors have not been allowed copies of.”

    A $1m dollar report? Nice work if you can get it! Surely this cannot be correct.

    A real problem in both central and local government, is the prolific use of consultants. If the public ever get a chance to see this purported million dollar report, I am guessing it will be made patently clear that within the council organisation itself, there will be many, many staff who have the capability to produce (what I assume would have been) an evidence-based report to a professional standard. Anyone with a Bachelors degree should be able to do so. Why would the job be “commissioned” instead? And, given the purported cost, I wonder whether the work was tendered via the GETS platform, as it would be interesting to read the tender document.

    The LGOIMA issues aside, a million bucks, is just not believable. Even if the consultancy charged out services at $300 an hour (which would be ridiculous given the type of qualification needed to do the work) – that would equate to 3,333 hours spent on the project.


      • Oh for goodness sake. The commissioning/acceptance of that kind of cost is absolutely unbelievable. PWC should be required to breakdown those costs into consultancy hours, expenses and incidental charges by each section of the report so that the public can judge for itself whether they received value for money – or whether as GGS suggests we have a form of legal corruption going on in NZ.

        Did they do some kind of world tour for their partner/consultants working on it, or something similar in the gathering of their data/ evidence? Or are their charge out rates in excess of $1,000 per hour?

        Consultancy costs in LG are a real issue that just doesn’t get near enough exposure to sunlight.

        Liked by 1 person

    • The use of consultants has nothing to do with a lack of expertise within an organisation, it is purely ass covering. If things work out, the person engaging the consultants takes full credit for the success. If it turns into a nightmare, the person engaging the consultants has someone to point at while shouting that if only they were let to make the call it would have been okay. The consultants chatrge like a wounded bull because they understand they will always be the scapegoats.

      Liked by 1 person

      • What I would like to know is how the $1million contract got awarded to PWC in the first place. Why not Deloittes or EY or Peat Marwick? Who is Phil Goff’s best mate in PWC?


      • But they are never the scapegoat. When was the last time a consultancy firm went broke over making a pigs ear out of anything? The council itself (and its ratepayers) is always the last man standing.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I would be inclined to suggest that it is more than ass covering. It is highly suspicious how the Labour government has managed to award contracts to 100 independent working committees? Perhaps ranked by how matey you are with the government ministers? Perhaps corruption at the highest levels of government?

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I think each suburb should have a sub-council to spend say up to a third of the rates. They can control roading changes and town planning too – so if the suburb doesn’t want high density housing or a cycle way it doesn’t have to have it. Also local volunteers/retired folk might do a lot of the council work – run the library, mow the park, do some road maintenance and maintain community halls etc. Even run a bus service. The idea is the sub council rates can be reduced down by local savings – so the rates become lower.

    But for lifestyle areas on the fringes they can’t stop new roads and housing – as growth needs to occur somewhere. So in the built up areas town planning becomes the choice of the residents – but not in the rural areas. Basically the opposite to what we have now.

    Also you should vote for your local sub council – and then be able to choose any main councilor from everyone standing – and not be only able to vote for your local ward councilor. Again not like we have now. Thee are often councilors in other wards you would like to vote for but can’t.

    I think Switzerland has a system like this – the average council constituency is is only 1800 people I think – the smallest is about 30. Supposedly works well with a lot more community involvement.


  8. Michael, there is another structural way that lets Local Authorities escape scrutiny. Most councils borrow via the Local Government Funding Authority (LGFA), rather than by issuing bonds in the debt market themselves. Auckland is too big to borrow via LGFA entirely, and some, such as Dunedin City have chosen not to use the LGFA. Provided a given council meets certain financial metrics (e.g. debt/income ratios), they can join and borrow through the LGFA, which itself accesses funds by issuing bonds in the domestic bond market.

    The structure enables the councils to reduce their borrowing costs somewhat and is simpler, as the councils do not need to run their own debt issuance programs, which also involves the pesky requirement to front up to institutional investors, who may ask questions about how they operate and how much borrowing they may be planning.

    LGFA charges each council a margin, based on their specific credit metrics. So if a council gets extravagant, their debt cost will rise, via wider interest rate margins, plus the actual increase in debt that needs servicing. But so long as they sit inside the LGFA credit thresholds, they can go ahead and borrow. In public debt markets, if a borrower chose to issue a lot more debt, investors would become wary and require higher interest rates to compensate for the estimated increased risk of default. At extremes, borrowers will not even find willing investors.

    I think the LGFA structure has an inherent weakness, as the discipline imposed by markets only happens very indirectly. Wellington City Council announced, I think as part of their Annual Plan, or 10 year Plan, that they project debt to rise substantially. The Mayor announced that Wellington has a ton more breathing room than Auckland, Christchurch or Tauranga, implying that the increase of debt was easily manageable. But each of Auckland, Christchurch and Tauranga have had significant growth or earthquake burdens to bear.

    I liken the LGFA to the Eurozone, in that borrowers have had easier access to funding than historically. We have seen debt/GDP levels across some European countries climb and climb until investors eventually balked when social and political upheavals reached crisis levels. I don’t quite see that happening across the councils in NZ, but I don’t like the fact that borrowing via the LGFA reduces transparency and market discipline.


    • Yes, good point. And the problem here isn’t so much in the goodish times, but when stresses start to arise when the pressure will go on LGFA from within its membership to soften credit criteria, and thus let situations worsen.

      For smaller councils, it would probably make sense just to borrow directly from banks, rather than issuing thru LGFA or directly on the market.


    • And as I understand it, I think each council borrowing from the LGFA acts as a guarantor (on a proportional basis of the overall bond issuance) in the event of any default by one of the LGFA members?


      • Yes I think that’s correct. That creates interesting possibilities. If a council breaches the debt/income ratio of 250% they are required to repay all their LGFA debt and go it alone. That preserves the integrity of LGFA debt. I think the LGFA Board dont have the power to approve a change, but there must be some way that can happen. This issue is pertinent for Auckland, where their debt ratio is close to 250% and is why they have been so reluctant to take on infrastructure projects without government support. This rule is stymying infrastructure projects there.
        Another possibility is that councils that worry about others drifting in the wrong direction, choose to leave.


      • And if they can’t repay all their debt and ‘go it alone’, so to speak, do all the other member local authorities have to step up in the repayment of that debt with respect to their role as a guarantor? Again, I’m not sure about how the contractual arrangements actually work, but if you think about such a situation occurring as a result of a legal liability that a local authority might incur (but has failed to provide for in their budgets), it does provide food for thought.


  9. Thanks. Looking through it, I can see no reference to the loss of parking at the beach (sea side of The Esplanade).

    It also looks like the sort of proposed change that might usefully have been highlighted in the local community paper, as i suspect few people who aren’t paid to, read the public notices of the Dom-Post.


  10. Michael
    To comment on a couple of points in your note about poor Council disclosure.
    Before going into the specifics, I applaud your overarching point. It feels as if the regime is broken. Phil Goff’s ability to spend $1m of council money on a piece of research which he has then sought to keep private just seems wrong.
    When Councils undertake major spending initiatives, it feels as if there should be some form of after-the-fact audit to determine if it hit budget and is delivering according to its KPIs. As anyone who has read a council annual report will know, they tend to put costs in one section and benefits in another and generally make it difficult to cost specific initiatives.
    But on the specifics.
    • Wellington City Council, Wellington Airport and Singapore Airlines have an incentive agreement. Some, but not all, of the details have been disclosed. The airline is naturally highly sensitive about any commercial details becoming public. Not least because this service was also publicly supported by other airports and civic authorities. Wellington Airport does disclose the aggregate of its airline support initiatives, but not specifics. The disclosures are part of what is released each year to the Commerce Commission. Specifics are not disclosed because the Airport’s customers are in competition and are strongly opposed to their competitors knowing too much about their activities.
    I (naturally) would argue that Wellington ratepayers have got bang-for-their-bucks with this support package. The Singapore Airlines service is performing well and there has been a very substantial increase in Asian visitation and regional spend.
    None of which means that Council’s initiative shouldn’t be subject to scrutiny, but “full public scrutiny” would be highly counter productive. Hence the thought that a rethink of the regime is in order.
    • With regards to the Wellington Airport runway extension project. You are incorrect to say that it is held up by the courts, unless you mean that it is awaiting for Environment Court approval. The Civil Aviation Authority exercise of its powers was the subject of the full High-Appeal-Supreme Court trifecta, which tweaked how CAA should go about its task. The Airport has reapplied to CAA to have it determine what safety features the airfield requires after it is extended. That is the immediate hurdle, which is expected to be followed by the Environment Court process.
    However, I think your main concern about Council’s support of the extension was that you feel Council could “kick in $100 million or so” without full disclosure of the facts. I totally reject that possibility. The Airport (34% council owned and 66% privately owned) has constantly made every effort to both identify and disclose information relevant to the project. It has made no secret of its need to have Council and in due course Government support. And it has indicated that it anticipates that Council and Government will receive a full business case to justify their support.
    Unlike the support of the Singapore Airlines service where there is a clear case for commercial confidences, no reasons are apparent for anything less than 100% disclosure of the extension business case and full public scrutiny.


    • Thanks Tim

      On the SQ support, I guess my position is that councils shouldn’t be in that business, but that what airport companies do is their business (and I guess that of the Commerce Commission).

      On the runway extension, the situation you describe was what I had in mind – all I meant was that Council hadn’t yet been put in the position of having to decide, a different situation than we migth have assumed 18 months ago.

      My real concern re the runway extension isn’t things being kept secret – I’ve assumed it would be subject of open scrutiny before and after – just that as far I could tell (on my own analysis of the earlier information released, and that of some other economists) the case doesn’t look economically robust for the council. We’ve debated that before, and perhaps will again if it gets to that point.


  11. I fully support the comments by sorethumb::
    “When you look at those mayors who wanted to repeal the law allowing citizens to challenge the creation of Maori wards, you have to wonder what sort of councillors slither in. “.
    There is a campaign by the ” right thinking PC” brigade to get Maori wards into Local councils. In their push for Maori wards there is no mention of costs nor of who gets to be on these wards.
    Refer to actionstation.org.nz for the pro-Maori wards propoganda.


  12. 1) Regarding the cycleway, such facilities would not be required if cyclists didn’t keep getting killed by car, bus & truck drivers. On-road cycle lanes have proven to be ineffective & cyclists continue to be killed or have car doors opened on them.

    Therefore as a minimum standard it has become necessary (& should be required) to provide separate cycle facilities or joint cycle/ped facilities (cyclists & peds might maim each other but seldom kill each other). We expect separate footpaths for pedestrians and traffic lanes for cars – cyclists should be no different. The easiest & safest way to do this is to strip out all the parking (why should private businesses be subsidized by on-street public parking?) but this always raises howls of protest & leads to less than desirable mix and match solutions.

    2) I agree with all your comments about local government. The proposed legislation should require them to undertake proportionate business cases on all their spending. If NZ is to be more productive then making local government more productive is part of the story


  13. I would abolish local government altogether, just as the provinces were abolished in the 1870s. Key functions such as consents would be standardized and centralised. Other necessary functions such as clean water, local roads and sanitation would be managed by a government agency, employing contractors. Local government today is a huge burden on the economy and householders. It is inefficient, ineffective and open to corruption. It is deeply concerning that this coalition government appears ready to give local government even more discretion.


  14. Hi Michael, this project was asked for and is being paid by the Regional Council as party of the new bus services (including electric double decker buses) starting 15 July.
    Quite extensive consultation was done as outlined by one of your previous commentators. This included a presentation at the Residents association, a drop in information session and advertising of the traffic resolutions in the DomPost. See https://wellington.govt.nz/~/media/have-your-say/public-input/files/consultations/2017/11/traffic-resolutions-bus-stops/tr161-17-reef-street-newbusstop.pdf?la=en

    Because the double decker buses need to recharge before heading back to the city, GWRC asked for additional layover spaces and a stop on the other side. Yes, this did mean some loss of car parks, but our traffic designers tried their best to minimise this.

    Sarah Free, WCC Councillor, Eastern Ward


    • Sarah

      Thanks for commenting. Your explanation is useful. As I noted earlier though, the consultative document did not refer to losses of carparks on The Esplanade. I’d also have been more relaxed if you/GWRC had put in a roundabout where it toook out no beachfront carparks (eg using the scrubby land on either side of the Reef St intersection, or using the Brighton St/Esplanade intersection where there is lots of space.

      But, as we all know, GWRC aren’t very keen on cars.



      PS Maybe WCC could consider setting up an email alert system to which people can sign up to be alerted when the Council is consulting on things affecting their suburb?


  15. Your characterisation of $700 per island bay resident is disingenous, because you’re implying that Island Bay exists in a vacuum. Of course, it does not. When someone drives from Island Bay to town, or takes the bus, they impose costs on the entire city in the form of traffic, or a bus seat. This is particularly relevant for those who choose to drive, because each car has a significant impact in Wellington, due to the city’s geography forcing all traffic into a handful of choke points.

    So, if you can incentivise some people to bike rather than drive, you’re reducing costs on the entire city. A cycleway seems like a logical way to do this, especially with e-bikes plummeting in price every year.

    It is fair to say that significant chunks of the project were botched – most notably, the fact that WCC abandoned the rest of the route connecting Island Bay to the city. I believe this had something to do with availability of matching funds from the Government, but the details are hazy.

    Anyway, my point is that Island Bay is not an independent community. If it wants to secede from Wellington, and pay for its own transport, water and rubbish removal, I suppose it can investigate doing so. But if you’re part of a wider community, you need to accept that you will impose costs on that wider community, and sometimes that wider community will ask you to trade things off as well. This is part of living in a community, and being an adult in general. ,


    • On this specific occasion, I disagree. Since Island Bay is the end of the line, to all intents and purposes the only people who benefit (or lose) from the Island Bay bit of the cycleway are Island Bay residents. A cyclrway could be run from Berhampore to town. But I agree that for that sort of hypothetical cycleway, it isn’t only Berhampotr/Newtown residents who are affected, because Island Bay people use it as well. So in principle, the I Bay bit of the cycleway should be solely subject to local resident views, while the Berhampore/Newtown bits should be subject to views of I Bay residents too (but with a low weighting, since there are very few cyclists).

      My wider point is about distinguishing things that unavoidably have a citywide effect (one could think of the convention centre or the town hall) from those which only affect residents in a specific neighbourhood. The principle of subsidiarity argues for as much decisionmaking as possible to be made at as low a level as possible.


      • So you think Island Bay car commuters have absolutely no impact on the rest of the city’s traffic?


      • That was the point I forgot to add: there are very few cyclists, so my working assumption is that the cycleway will make no material difference to city traffic congestion etc. If so, local effects dominate, and local views should decide (or be paid a high degree of deference by councillors). In this case, the point is strengthened by the fact that The Parade is a wide safe road, and I’d be surprised if anyone was deterred from cycling to town by The Parade (as distinct from the difficult rest of the trip).


      • Ah, yes. I expect it probably has created some new cyclists, but not enough to matter – but that’s due to the botching in the execution I mentioned, not the presence of a cycleway itself. A better-designed, better-connected cycleway would have done a better job of getting cyclists on the road. In time, this will probably happen.

        And I supremely doubt that the residents of Island Bay would have been perfectly okay with a cycleway if it was perfectly executed and 100% connected to the city.


  16. I suspect the answer to that partly depends on how many new I Bay cyclists such a perfect cycleway created. My prediction would be 50 or fewer. Perhaps we’ll know one day – if the council/govt waste even more money on the even more expensive remaining segments.

    If the answer were to be 500, that would be a fair chunk of I Bay residents/voters.


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