Slowing down to go faster – solving Wellington’s transport problems

A train passes over the Ngauranga Gorge section of State Highway 1, north of Wellington.

A train passes over the Ngauranga Gorge section of State Highway 1, north of Wellington.

OPINION: Sometimes we have to slow down in order to go faster.

It's for this reason that next year, when we kick off our conversation with the people of Wellington about transport issues between Ngauranga and the Airport, our first priority will be just that. And this conversation needs to be about more than transport issues, it needs to be about how Wellington looks, feels and functions.

We're certainly not going to be telling you what solutions we think Wellington needs.

That's because we have very difficult issues to address, and we need to do it together.

This is your transport system, your region, your home. We want you to be involved in designing its future. We know you will have some ideas about what's best for Wellington. We're here to make sure your ideas are listened to and that they help shape the future.

So early next year, we'll be asking the community for their views.

Rather than roll out some pre-designed consultation process, we want to know how you'd like to be consulted with and what you think the principles that should guide our work should be.

Our new approach is to involve communities, stakeholders, and transport and urban design experts and how we move around and through the city safely and efficiently while protecting the look and feel of the place and minimising our impact on climate change.

We know that motorists regularly experience congestion between the airport and Ngauranga.

Furthermore, it's not just journeys on State Highway 1 that can be heavy-going.

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The local road network – particularly along Adelaide Rd – is often backed up.

This often means motorists taking alternative routes to avoid the congested area, impacting on other parts of the network and other users like cyclists and pedestrians.  It also means that essential business transport – like trades, freight and tourist buses – are less efficient in making their journeys.

We know that it's not just people in private vehicles who are affected.

Buses get caught up in the congestion, making public transport services slower and less reliable.

Bus Rapid Transit is an exciting opportunity to significantly enhance people's experience of public transport through the city, and we're currently working through its detailed business case. However, for BRT to perform effectively, we need to have a transport network that supports it.

We know that Wellington has a challenging topography, and that we need to think smartly to make the best use of our land and our transport corridors.

We know that the Basin Reserve is a very busy area through which north-south traffic and east-west traffic competes for limited road space with walkers and cyclists.

Our options are constrained because it has the historic Basin Reserve cricket ground, which as a region we are committed to protecting, along with many other cultural, amenity and heritage items of significance in this area.

It's well known that a number of options have previously been explored here, culminating in the Basin Bridge project, which has since been abandoned. We now have a good opportunity to look at the Basin and the area around it in the broader context of the city and its transport network.

Our region has further aspirations for a second Mt Victoria tunnel and a second Terrace Tunnel road – but before we consider revisiting these projects, we first need to identify a cohesive and integrated approach to the wider issues.

Another challenge we're facing is encouraging walking and cycling in the city.

Providing better and safer facilities increases the rate of cycle participation, helping to make us a healthier and more sustainable city.

We can take time to consider how the area can be integrated with urban cycleways, Bus Rapid Transit, laneway upgrades and urban regeneration.

And while these transport issues are geographically in Wellington City, these are matters for the whole region, as we all depend on access to vital regional assets such as the airport and the regional hospital. 

There are probably a lot of important things we've missed out. That's where you come in.

Next year, we'll be asking the people of the region to participate in what will be an incredibly exciting process – what we are calling a "collaborative partnership model".

Our challenge is to create ways for us all to get around the city, whether as a pedestrian, cyclist, motorist or public transport user.

Guiding this approach is the Ngauranga to Airport (N2A) Governance Group – a joint initiative between the NZ Transport Agency, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council to ensure co-ordination and integration of transport projects in the N2A area. 

The main transport corridor is between the Wellington Urban Motorway and Wellington Hospital and international airport - in other words, connections to the eastern and southern suburbs.

It's very early days and the process will be managed in several phases.

This is just the start of a new conversation which will involve many voices.

An early way for us to know that you want your voice heard is for you to give us your details via the interim website (

In the New Year there will be a new website and other ways to get involved in the process – but registering early means that we will already know that you want to be involved.

The city's leaders and transport officials are committed to hearing the many voices of Wellington and the region. 

We hope yours will be among them.

Paul Swain is the regional transport committee chairman, Celia Wade-Brown is Mayor of Wellington and Raewyn Bleakley is the regional director for the NZ Transport Agency.

 - The Dominion Post


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