What made the news in 2012

MARY BAINES
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2012

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The Wellingtonian

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The spotlight was on Wellington for The Hobbit premiere as the capital welcomed 55,000 Tolkien enthusiasts, giant cave trolls, Hollywood celebrities and Bilbo fans to Courtenay Place.

Although The Hobbit premiere may have been the big news event for Wellington in 2012, a lot else went on behind the scenes.

Wellingtonians saw pedestrian barriers being put up along the Golden Mile, proposals to make the capital a super-city, and the introduction of new screeching trains.

Transport issues were never far from the headlines.

A $90 million flyover was chosen as the preferred solution to traffic congestion around the Basin Reserve, despite concern from some Wellingtonians and some councillors.

Construction of the bridge is expected to begin in 2014.

The old English Electric trains had their final run in June and were replaced by a fleet of new Matangi trains that cost about $140 million.

Although the trains have been well-received by commuters and cyclists - for their bike friendliness - some residents along the Johnsonville line have been enraged by the high-pitched screech made by the trains, a problem that still persisted after eight months.

The decision to demolish the historic Tawa railway station was made this year, despite pleas of some locals and historians to save the 1930s building. It will be replaced with a modern structure during the next few months.

Wellingtonians have spent much of the year cordoned off from Willis St's bus lane in a bid by council to stop jay-walking. The metal barriers appeared after NZ Bus director Tim Brown was hit by a bus in July and other pedestrian accidents.

The city council flirted with lowering the Golden Mile speed limit to 20kmh, but after strong public objections, decided to keep it at 30kmh.

The earthquake strengthening of Karori Tunnel started in February and has gone on all year, reducing traffic to one-way in off-peak times.

Earthquake preparedness has been an ongoing discussion in the capital this year.

Wellingtonians have been especially concerned with the facades of buildings in Cuba St posing a risk. Thousands of buildings have been surveyed, and insurance prices of earthquake-prone apartments in the CBD have skyrocketed. This issue is likely to be a headache for the city council for many years.

More than 130 tenants in a block of Housing New Zealand flats on The Terrace were forced to vacate their crumbling apartment block in May amid fears the building would collapse in an earthquake or strong wind.

During the year we reported that the Opera House might have to close for strengthening and the council announced its offices and the town hall would close for work next year.

The New Zealand Fire Service announced it would spend at least $1 million to strengthen its central station.

The super-city issue was never far from the headlines and Wellington is now edging towards following Auckland's example.

In October, Sir Geoffrey Palmer's regional governance panel pronounced a "super-city lite", recommending a super for the region, with local councils slotting in on a lower tier.

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Wellington City Council changed its tune on this one. Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said in February there was no reason for change, but by the end of the year the council was considering other options.

We rated our councillors in a mid-term assessment and first-term councillor Paul Eagle came out on top with 70.1 per cent.

Some furious Newtown shop-owners complained about seemingly endless council roadworks around the Adelaide Rd-John St-Riddiford St intersection and the popular Ballroom Cafe closed in October after nine years.

Newtown residents also battled against new liquor outlets being introduced to the suburb, and eastern suburbs residents were angry they were unable to prevent the cafe at the ASB Sports Centre being granted a liquor licence.

On a happier note, a story about a collection of old photos found on the doorstep of a Johnsonville kindergarten became one of our best-read stories of the year.

We received a stream of phone calls and emails as people tried to find out who the photographs belonged to. Eventually they were returned to 83-year-old Nancy Macmillan, who had read the story in the paper.

Wellington sportspeople did us proud this year, most notably Paralympic swimmer Mary Fisher, who won a swimming gold medal in London. Cricketer Jesse Ryder made a sensational end-of-year comeback after being dropped from the New Zealand team for disciplinary reasons in March.

Some notable Wellingtonians died this year, including rugby identity Jock Hobbs, popular policeman Dean Gifford (our 2011 Wellingtonian of the Year), sports doctor Bill Treadwell, former New Zealand drama school Toi Whakaari boss George Webby and multi-talented businessman Lloyd Morrison.

- The Wellingtonian

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