Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mental wards

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With all the consultation going on recently, I would have missed the significance of the council's Representation Review if it wasn't for a post by Zippy Gonzales. I haven't had a chance to form an opinion on the merits of wards vs at-large systems, but one of the proposed options seems crazy to me: the amalgamation of five wards into three. The consultation document (347kB PDF) makes it clear that wards should group together "communities of interest" which it defines as "grouping[s] of the population, on a geographical basis, which has social and economic coherence". So I ask you: what does Te Aro have in common with Makara!?!

Proposed ward changes for Wellington City CouncilI realise that simple geographic boundaries can never perfectly define "communities of interest", but some of these changes just seem perverse. From an urban form point of view, which has a major influence on local government issues such as transport and building regulations, it's bizarre to group together the highrises of Lambton Quay with the quarter-acres of Karori and the windmillphobic imitation farmers (and a few real farmers) of Makara.

It's clear that some changes need to be made. For instance, the soaring population of the Lambton Ward means that voters there are increasingly under-represented. But some of the variations on the 5-ward option make much more sense. For example, options 2 and 3 both shift Wadestown to Onslow/Western and Roseneath to Eastern, emphasising the "inner urban" character of the Lambton ward.

As usual, I've come to this late: public input closes today. If the arguments above don't convince you to submit against the 3-ward option, consider this: in that option, the most over-represented ward would be the Northern one. And that's Peter Dunne territory.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I'm a little too tired to write any proper posts at the moment (I'm still not sure how I managed to write yesterday's), for reasons that will become clear soon. So in the interim, here are a few little Wellington snippets.

Terrible drawing of the Hannah PlayhouseOne of my favourite Wellington buildings won an award for enduring architecture from the Institute of Architects.

A group of commercial landlords are fighting the Harbour Quays development (page A4 of today's DominionPost - not online), on the basis that it will "suck the soul" out of the CBD. Or out of their currently high rents and profits, perhaps? But they do have a point, at least if it continues as a bargain-basement office park monoculture with poor connections to the rest of the city. Developing the old ports and rail yards is not a bad idea in itself, but it needs to be denser, with a mixture of uses and conceived as a seamless extension of the CBD rather than as an "alternative" to it. The council have been trying to improve urban design standards there, and Ernst Zollner from the council said that "the Statistics building hasn't worked". I'm not sure what criteria this was based on, since it attracted a moderately positive article in Architecture New Zealand and a sustainable building award from the Ministry for the Environment. I quite like it as a building: it's just the whole concept of an "office park" that I object to.

The crafty bitches (their words, not mine!) behind the popular BitchCraft urban craft fairs have now come up with CraftWerk. The first one starts at the Paramount Theatre on the 13th of July at 5:30pm.

Georgia Dimock has written a nice article over at My Wellington about the influence of Wellington's topography on our urban form, and the joys and frustrations of living among the hills.

While I appreciate the more creative examples of street art and graffiti in the city, being the middle-class faux bohemian that I am, I've never liked tagging. However, I've found a reason to start liking it: it irritates the hell out of Karl du Fresne.

And finally, while I've tried to avoid turning WellUrban into a personal blog, I suppose I'll have to post something about my involvement in the 48 Hours film challenge: after all, everyone else has. I survived the toilet scene; I survived (and rather enjoyed) the basil-infused olive oil scene; but I almost didn't survive Che's car. And we never did find that key.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Hot off the press

The first provisional results from this year's census have just been released. There's not much available yet, just census-night counts of population and occupied dwellings down to area unit level, but it's enough to have a look at growth patterns over the last 5 years. Here's a dot-density map for population growth in Wellington City (click for a larger version), where every red dot indicates 5 new people since 2001, and every blue dot representing a population decline of 5 people:

It's not surprising to see that most of the growth has been in inner-city Wellington. The raw numbers show that there are now nearly 4000 more people living in Lambton and Te Aro, an increase of over 40%. If you include Thorndon, Aro Valley, Mt Cook, Mt Victoria and Oriental Bay, central Wellington now has over 6,500 new residents.

The other growth area is in the northern suburbs, with over 3000 extra people. Unsurprisingly, most of this is in new subdivisions like Churton Park and Greenacres, and unlike the new inner-city dwellers, it's a fair bet that most of these people will be driving to work.

A few area units lost population, including Berhampore and Awarua (the hills northwest of Ngaio). The decrease is not large (1.5% and 3.3% respectively), so it may be an anomaly that will be corrected when the final counts are released, and it's otherwise hard to explain given that they are surrounded by areas of moderate growth. Looking at the occupied dwellings figures, however, shows that Berhampore actually has 5% more dwellings than 5 years ago: perhaps this is a sign of reduced household sizes due to gentrification.

Friday, May 26, 2006


The F69 propeller in the Graving Dock Gardens, Waitangi ParkAs I mentioned earlier in the week, the propeller from F69 has been installed in the Graving Dock Gardens at Waitangi Park, and there's an article about it in today's Dominion Post. Here's a photo of the propeller in place, with the native coastal plantings about half complete. Once these and the Wind Gardens are finished (about the end of next week), the amount of accessible open space will be significantly greater than when the park first opened during the Arts Festival.

Not that the park is exactly overcrowded as it is. The promenades, skate park and children's playground are busy most of the time, but even on a pleasant weekday lunchtime, the large green field was nearly deserted:

Waitangi Park field
Yet Waterfront Watch continue to insist that the adjacent spaces earmarked for new buildings should instead be used as "open space" that we're supposed to be desparately short of. If this large open space is empty so much of the time, wouldn't it make sense to use the surrounding areas for a mixture of buildings and more intimate public spaces, complete with shelter and public activity?

I know that the field is sometimes much more popular, and that we need a space this size for special events, but even at its busiest (the Fat Freddy's Drop concert during the Arts Festival) it wasn't completely packed, and that was with a large part of the field taken up by tents! That says to me that the field is about the right size, and that the nearby sections of the city would serve the public better by creating a range of spatial experiences to complement the broad openness of the field.

There's a reference to this in the current issue of The Listener. The lead article (not online) looks at urban design and development issues in all New Zealand's major cities, and portrays Waterfront Watch as "the public voice" saving Wellington from rapacious developers. Lindsay Shelton is quoted as saying "Waitangi Park is a big, open extravanganza, but its openness is going to be destroyed by the big buildings they're going to put in beside it". Leaving aside the question as to whether a handful of 3-5 story buildings at the edges would have much impact on such a large space, it ignores the question of whether such openness is actually desirable or appropriate in a city that gains its special character from compactness and verticality rather than wide-open spaces. So a letter seemed in order (update: published 5 June 2006):
Ian Athfield is right: Wellington owes a lot to its "historically strong edges which haven't yet eroded". This has limited sprawl and created a CBD that is compact, mixed-use and relatively sustainable, and it is this density and diversity that gives us the buzz of a much bigger city.

Yet Waterfront Watch wants these qualities kept away from the waterfront. You misrepresent the debate by describing it as a struggle "between citizens who want more public space ... and developers eyeing the returns". There are plenty of ordinary Wellingtonians who want the waterfront to be part of the city, with all the complexity and variety of uses that that implies.

Of course public space is vital, but the quality of urban space is not measured in square metres. It is a function of good design, appropriate location, shelter and active edges, and that requires a judicious balance of buildings and space, not an unqualified "openness". Wellington's Midland Park and Cuba Mall are popular because they are surrounded by buildings, not despite them.

Waitangi Park is well-designed and innovative, and popular while the sun shines, but often empty otherwise. Doubling its size would produce little public benefit, whereas the buildings proposed for the adjacent carparks would bring activity, shelter and spectacular architecture to our beautiful but under-utilised waterfront.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Raising the bar: an artist's bar

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I recently read on Gridskipper that Switzerland has an official H.R. Giger bar. There used to be one in Tokyo, too, but it became a yakuza hangout before closing down, which puts even our dodgiest bars to shame. While the very idea of a Giger bar is disturbing (should you ask for the menu, or will you be on it?), it made me think: which New Zealand artists would lend themselves to having a bar based upon their work?

Colin McCahon would be an obvious choice, especially since he painted a bar once before. ALAC wouldn't be happy if all the patrons followed McCahon's drinking habits, so perhaps the bar should have some jugs of pure water on hand so that they can pace themselves. Scrawling on the walls would be encouraged, but expect Te Papa's critics to get up in arms if they dared to put any of his paintings near the bar fridge.

Drinks table at the (fictional) Albrecht barA Ralph Hotere bar could be spectacular and stylish, with plenty of fluorescent and neon lighting by Bill Culbert of course. But if all that black starts to get you down, a trip to the Gretchen Albrecht club would be just the tonic. Of course, all the stools and tables would have to be oval or semicircular.

The Martin Thompson bar would be a great place to get pixellated, and it wouldn't matter if you spilled your drink at Judy Darragh's place. The et al bar will never be short of conveniences, which is just as well, since there will be plenty of vodka. And Dick Frizzell could give us the ultimate tiki bar.

The (fictional) Beer WhirlerA Len Lye bar could be quite disconcerting and even dangerous after a few drinks. No, it's not just you: the walls really are spinning and the bar stools are starting to shake. Nevertheless, it will always be popular and famous for its centrepiece: the Beer Whirler.

Just to be serious for a minute, though, the obvious candidate would be Misery, and I wouldn't be surprised if the ambitious Ms Thompson already had plans for one. It would be perfect for Cuba St, the staff uniforms could be something quite special, and her Auckland shop (there's rumoured to be a Wellington one on the way) has plenty of design details that would translate well into a bar. We can always hope.


The scaffolding is finally coming off the Chaffers Dock building, revealing its most distinctive feature: the southwest corner.
Southwest corner of Chaffers Dock
Okay, so it's not quite so dramatic without the gratuitous Photoshopping, but it's still a delightful example of Art Deco streamlining, and makes it clear why this is one of Edmund Anscombe's most important buildings. While it was still wrapped in scaffolding, I had a hard time convincing visitors to Wellington that this bulky, blocky mass was a significant part of our heritage.

Chaffers Dock - west elevationThe new colour scheme, while a little bit dull, brings out some of the detail and emphasises the horizontal lines of the building. I'm not so convinced that the new penthouse floor fits in with the rhythms and materials of the building (what's with that Monteiths-bar stone cladding?), but I'll reserve judgement until it's a little bit closer to completion.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


No, the frigate hasn't broken up even more: this is the propeller from F69 being installed in the Graving Dock Gardens at Waitangi Park. The structural work for these gardens looks pretty much complete, and planting is well underway. The Graving Dock itself now has its gabions and reeds, and finally the water is flowing through the wetlands again. The adjacent Wind Gardens also look close to completion, so it looks like everything will indeed be completed by the end of this month. Once that's all done it will be much easier to appreciate the overall concept and plan of the park as a whole.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Do you recognise any of these buildings? Hide the following paragraph if you want to try identifying them.

NZ Parliament House (bottom left) compared to Wikipedia photos of (clockwise from top left) Ottawa Government Conference Centre, San Francisco Opera House and the Lincoln Memorial
Chances are that if you are a Wellingtonian you will recognise the building on the bottom left as Parliament House. If you are an architect or if you work near Parliament (and that probably covers about half my readership) then you would have spotted it reasonably quickly, but others might have taken a while to identify it without prompting. For all its dignity and elegance, there's not much that for a non-specialist immediately makes it distinctively different from other grand Neo-Classical buildings, in this case from Ottawa, San Francisco and Washington DC. But if I show it in context, it's a different story:

NZ Parliament House and The Beehive
The Beehive, for all its practical problems and apparently arbitrary oddness, is instantly recognisable. The word "iconic" has almost reached semantic satiation through mindless overuse, but in this case it's true in the proper Peircean sense of visually signifying Wellington: for decades it was the default image for the city, and in many places still is. I love the fact that we're no longer simply summed up by a symbol of bureaucracy, and that today we're more likely to be represented by the image of a public sculpture (Ferns, the Nikau Palms, the Bucket Fountain): it's a change that says something important about Wellington's evolution as a city. But the Beehive is uniquely recognisable as a Wellington building in the way that the more traditional and elegant Parliament House could never be.

Pop philosopher Alain de Botton seems to disagree, though. De Botton, who will be talking in Wellington tonight to promote his book The Architecture of Happiness, was quoted in Friday's Dominion Post as saying:
"It's almost like its first mission is to look unusual. ... The Beehive doesn't really seem to be in dialogue with the old bit. It almost seems like it's just decided to step up on stage and do its own thing without really thinking what's around it."
Comparison of columns on The Beehive and Parliament HouseI used to think the same thing, as it seemed to have very little in common with the adjacent Parliament House. But if you look at the colonnades of the two, you can see how the new building has interpreted the column heights, rhythms and cornice of the old. In fact, the photo used by the Dominion Post article is from an angle that shows this very strongly. Combined with the shared use of Takaka marble, this gives a sense of continuity that may not be immediately apparent, but is quite strong once you know what to look for. It could even be argued that there's a greater stylistic clash between Parliament House and the adjacent Parliamentary Library, since the battle of the styles between Victorian Gothics and Classicists was as vitriolic as that between 20th-Century Modernists and traditionalists.

It appears from drawings by the architect (Sir Basil Spence) that the Beehive was intended to complement the existing building, so whether or not this was successful, there certainly is a dialogue between old and new. These drawings (which were published along with Robin Skinner's article in the March/April 2005 edition of Architecture New Zealand) also show that, far from being the result of the mythical "sketch on a dinner napkin", The Beehive was carefully thought through by Spence before being passed over to the Ministry of Works. This myth seems remarkably hard to kill, and still appears in the Wikipedia article (I'll get around to editing it some day) and all over the web. Skinner's article discusses the origins of the myth, and also reveal's Spence's rationale behind the circular plan: it would echo the curve of Bowen and Molesworth streets, and he believed that a circular form was appropriate for the sloping site, as it would act as a "peg in the ground" to visually stabilise the site and stop "an aesthetic slide down the hill".

So, rather than The Beehive being an arbitrary attempt at novelty, it appears that it was the result of a genuine engagement with the site and architectural context. The results of this engagement may be of debatable aesthetic success, and they are not exactly obvious to the layperson, but they have produced a building that in a few decades has become part of our folklore. There are even dark rumours of Masonic symbolism, hidden numerological meanings and cosmometallurgical significance: you'll be reading more about that soon. And it may be a period piece, a tacky hangover from 60s Modernism, yet time has moved on to the stage where it's almost reached the level of kitsch that leads to ironic celebration and thence to real appreciation.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Quay to the city

View along Lambton QuayIn contrast to last week's petrol-headed budget, here's some positive news for Wellingtonians who see their city as a place to be rather than a place to drive through. As I wrote last November, the Golden Mile speed limit reduction that so incensed Peter Dunne is just part of a plan to improve the pedestrian experience in the CBD. Detailed plans for the second component (a comprehensive public space upgrade for Lambton Quay and the adjoining streets) are now up on the council's website, and public feedback is invited by June 19th.

Some of the improvements are cosmetic, such as replacing trees, upgrading street furniture and installing uniform paving, but there are a couple of initiatives that make small gestures towards reclaiming city space from cars. By relocating taxi stands and parking to side streets, they will make room to extend the kerbs and footpaths, thus providing more room for seats and trees. Also, the pedestrian crossings along the eastern side will be raised to footpath level, making it easier to cross and sending a message to drivers that this is primarily a pedestrian space.

Farmers Lane - conceptual sketch of improvementsThe designs also aim to improve pedestrian connections with the Terrace by upgrading the dingy Farmers and Masons lanes. The detailed design review (369kB PDF) still only has a "conceptual sketch" of these improvements, but it looks like Farmers Lane will have its southern section set aside for pedestrians, using trees as bollards, with "green walls" on buildings facing both Lambton Quay and the Terrace. The staircase will have its heavy concrete banister replaced, and some artwork or lighting will try to brighten it up a bit, but it remains to be seen just how much of a difference these will make to a very difficult space.

Only two councillors voted against the speed reduction: Jack "Open Space" Ruben and John "Mystery" Morrison. Cr Morrison, who is also against such monstrosities as bus lanes (the horror!), claims that
"Ultimately the drive is to to get motor vehicles out of Lambton Quay and that will turn Lambton Quay into a ghost town."
Ah, that explains why car-free spaces like Cuba Mall are deserted. Oh, hang on...

Anyway, I don't know where he gets the idea that the council is planning to pedestrianise Lambton Quay, though perhaps he's been reading my submissions and mistaken them for council policy. Personally, I think it would be a fantastic idea, as would alternative proposals to restrict traffic to the eastern half of the Quay and turn the western lanes into an exclusive bus and light rail corridor, but there's no indication that the council has any plans to do this. And as for Morrison's paranoid fantasy that the council is full of "anti-car" zealots: would an anti-car council rip up one of the city's oldest neighbourhoods to make way for a $40 million "bypass" to nowhere?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Pubic transport

Warning: irritable political post ahead. See my latest Wellingtonista post if you want something more lighthearted!

Some commentators claim to be "bored" by the Budget, but I'm just depressed and angry. $1,300,000,000 extra for roads, and $0 extra for public transport. Even more irritating is the headline writers' tendency to conflate "improved transport" with " more roads", something which is certainly not the case in Wellington where people have been switching to public transport to the point where more capacity is desparately needed. How many quiet, sustainable, upgraded trolley buses could have been funded with the $80 million put aside for just preliminary surveying and design of Transmission Gully? Why are improvements to rail services routinely derided as "unaffordable" when such vast sums are poured into private transport?

There's something grimly funny about the typo (or Freudian slip?) on page A5 of today's Dominion Post:
"The $1.3 billion Budget increase would plug the predicted $862 million funding gap ... Rising road construction costs, increased pubic [sic] transport services and falling fuel tax revenue were blamed for the shortfall."
So the only mention of public transport in the article is to blame it for reducing road funding! And the typo suggests that public transport has become the unmentionable nether regions of media discussion about transport.

On a related topic (because urban form is inextricably connected with transport issues), today is the last day for public input on Palmerston Middlish Lincolnshire Farm. Dougal List from the council kindly clarified some questions I had about the development, but I'm still concerned that this is car-centric thinking. Here's what I submitted:
I'm glad that this will not be a typical sprawling dormitory suburb, but will at least have some local employment, shops and some medium-density housing, and that it is largely based upon a form of grid plan rather than cul-de-sacs.. I also concede that if greenfield development of this sort has to occur, then it it's better here than in Upper Hutt or Kapiti.

However, I'm still appalled that while the structure plan (436kB PDF) mentions the "importance of making the connections", there is not a single mention of public transport. This development will be 3km from the nearest train station, and unless the Johnsonville line is extended as light rail through Newlands to here, commuters will be dependent upon cars and buses. There may be some potential to use the new development to connect bus routes from the surrounding suburbs and hence improve public transport connections for the area as a whole, but there is no discussion of this in the plan at all. This plan needs a concrete and measurable statement of public transport connection (with targets for frequency of service, travel times and proportion of residents within 400m of a stop) if it is to be compatible with the council's long-term plan to integrate transport planning with urban form.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Culinary extremism

Blurry, sparkly bar sceneJust for a change, here's a post that doesn't involve submission forms and feasibility studies: what are Wellington's most extreme eating and drinking experiences? For example:

Most decadent dish: My nomination is the Land and Sea at Crazy Horse: beef eye fillet and half a crayfish tail with truffle-infused whipped potato, for a mere $85.

Most stomach-challenging dish: No doubt there are plenty of offaltastic dishes out there on the secret don't-show-it-to-whitey menus of the more traditional Asian restaurants, but it's hard to go past (without gagging) the Stamina Chicken Combo at Kazu: hearts, "soft bone", liver, giblets and kimchi. On the other hand, just about any main at J J Murphy's would have a similar effect.

Most outrageous cocktail: What's that I hear? The Bling Bling at Matterhorn? Come on people, you can be more original than that!

Most unusual cocktail: The late, unlamented Rouge tried some odd experiments with savoury flavours and vodka, but Boulot's recent experiments with beetroot (e.g. The Beetlejuice) are quite spectacular.

Most unique beverage: OK, I know "most unique" is a grammatical travesty, but you know what I mean. Maria Pia's homemade digestivo, from a secret recipe of herbs and flowers, is an extraodinary one-off experience. But maybe there's something more original out there?

Harem's deranged decorMost deranged decor: Harem? Maya? The Backbencher's Winston-in-a-wedding-dress?

Most confusing toilets: I can only speak for the men's, but I think that Concrete's trough still has the edge over Rouge/Scopa's giant steel lillies. The latter hasn't yet felt the need for a sign politely pointing out the difference between the urinals and the handbasin.

Most gratuitous techno-gimmick: The Green Room's closed-circuit LCD monitors is a strong contender. But then again, Harem's strobing neon palm trees deserve a look (even if they make your eyes hurt).

Most interactive entertainment: There are plenty of karaoke dens around, but I think that Kai in the City's after-dinner waiata win out on this one. Shame on anyone who suggested Mermaids!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Back on track: Ngauranga to Airport submission

Monday was the deadline for submissions on the Ngauranga to Airport transport study, which sought public suggestions of possible solutions to growing transport demand through that part of the city. This is the study that appears to have triggered the "secret railway" article that I wrote about last month. That article was headed Rail link to airport considered, but as I discovered, the study itself makes no mention of rail for the airport, and in fact suggests no solutions at all: it was up to the public to promote whatever solutions they preferred.

So how many people took this opportunity to outline their vision for transport along this vital corridor? Thirteen.

Yes, a grand total of 13 individuals and organisations deemed this important enough to lodge a submission. I know that Wellingtonians are generally a contented lot (we're certainly not as miserable as Aucklanders), but surely if congestion is such a big problem, wouldn't more people have spoken up on this burning issue? I know that the publicity for this consultation has hardly been overwhelming, but surely a few more commuters who get regularly stuck in the Mt Vic tunnel or squeezed out of a bus from Newtown would have seen the articles and spoken up.

Anyway, regular WellUrbanites won't be surprised to learn that my submission promoted a public-transport-based approach, with light rail as its centrepiece. Given that the folks at Option 3 were also planning to support light rail in their submission, that means that at the very least, 15% of submissions mentioned this solution. If this doesn't come through as a serious option in the next round of consultation in July, we'll know that any previous talk of considering rail was purely lip service. Remember that Eric Whitfield (Transit's regional transportation manager ) said: "We anticipate some sort of rail [link] will come out of consultation... It's not just roads, we need to look at all modes of transport." Let's see whether the second phase backs that up.

For the record, here's what I submitted:
My primary wish for the study is that some form of Light Rail Transit (LRT) should be offered as one of the options at Phase 2 of the consultation. This could be achieved in two stages:
Any roading improvements should be explicitly aimed at benefiting public transport, rather than increasing road capacity.

Such a strategy would certainly be consistent with virtually all of the strategic considerations in section 5.3 of the Draft Problem Framing Report (1.3MB PDF). The only bullet point there that needs to be addressed is the last one: "Is it financially achievable?". When addressing this question, it will be vital to look at long-term social and environmental benefits, rather than making a narrow and short-term economic assessment. Realistic targets for farebox recovery rates and increased ridership, based upon overseas experience, are essential.

I take issue with the projected car ownership and peak time trip figures on paragraph 4 of section 4.1. These seem to be based on the old "predict and provide" model rather than realising that such trends can be changed through integrating transport planning with urban form, travel demand management and the provision of attractive alternatives.

If urban sprawl continues and no attempt is made to provide more capacity and higher quality for public transport, then of course vehicle trips will increase. But the WCC's focus on the Johnsonville-CBD-Airport growth spine, together with the increasing relative importance of the CBD (also in section 4.1), make this a prime route for a seamless, high-quality public transport link.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mystery bar number 31

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Last week's mystery bar was guessed by Johnny and confirmed by The Sifter, who reveals (and revels in) a dodgy drinking history stretching back to the mid-90s. It was indeed Gibbons Bar at the West Plaza Hotel in Wakefield St. It's not exactly the Hilton, but one should be able to expect a half-decent Martini at any hotel bar worth the name. I haven't dared test this, but I suspect you could get a better Martini at Blend next door, and that's supposed to be a backpackers!

Mystery bar #31 - barrel and sofaThis week's mystery bar used to be notorious for many reasons, and there would have been times when only the staunchest and/or dodgiest punters would have ventured inside. These days it seems a bit tamer, though it's still not the sort of place that you'd take someone you were trying to impress. Unless they really, really liked cheap beer.

Having said that, it was comfortable enough on a quiet Saturday afternoon, and there were no scary patrons in sight. Actually, there were almost no patrons at all, apart from a South African backpacker trying to chat up the Australian barmaid. The general impression, though, is that it would get very busy at times, and I imagine it gets hard to move when there's a rugby match on or a band playing.

Mystery bar #31 - wall detailThe decor is hard to describe. There are attempts at rustic effects (such as side tables made from halved beer barrels) and remnants of the building's historic fabric. There are signs that the last major renovation was in the eighties (gotta love those glass bricks!) and any recent redecorations are in a similar vein. But the underlying atmosphere is still generic kiwi working class pub, as seen anywhere from Kaitaia to the Bluff and at any time from 1940 to 1981. Some would call this a waste of a grand old building, but I imagine it suits its regulars right down to the (sticky) ground.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Waterfront update

ZoomIn map of Wellington waterfront changesThe OPT redevelopment is the most significant new project to be announced on the waterfront, but there are a lot of other things going on, both large and small. I took this as an opportunity to experiment with ZoomIn's Places and Groups functions, and created a Wellington Waterfront Changes group to map all the recent and upcoming develpoments (at least, all the ones I could think of). Many of these have been planned for a while, but there are a few interesting items that came up in the latest revision of the Waterfront Development Plan (115kB PDF) for the 2006/07 finanical year. These include:
  • The Chinese Garden may be sited at Frank Kitts Park, rather than at Site 4 (between Te Papa and Waitangi Park) as first intended. This change has been suggested by the Chinese Garden community, prompted by the fact that the building at Site 4 may take several years to find funding, leaving that site in limbo. No detailed plans have been produced for the relocated park, but the most likely location would be the roadside section where the mini-bungy is currently housed. Several people I know have said that the Waitangi site would never have been great for the Garden anyway, and now that Frank Kitts Park's function as an events venue has been taken over by Waitangi Park, the former will become more of a quiet reflective place, which suits the Chinese Garden brief well.
  • The south end of the Events Centre is going to get an upgrade, and though some may suggest that the best "upgrade" for that building would involve a large amount of high explosive, it seems that someone's going to get the challenging job of making it attractive while still allowing for truck access. There are still plans to include a pedestrian link across Jervois Quay to Willeston St, though the details are still to be worked out.
  • At Kumutoto, Shed 11 is likely to become the new home for both the Centre for Photography and the NZ Portrait Gallery, though funding needs to be secured from central government before this can be confirmed. Its identical neighbour Shed 13 will then take over its events and exhibitions role. When combined with the Site 7 building, the bars at Steamship Wharf (Loaded Hog et al) and the revamped public spaces (due by about September next year), it looks like this will be a very lively and diverse part of town.


I really haven't had the time or inside information to look into who's right and wrong in the trolley bus funding spat. I can't tell whether there are genuine disagreements over costings, whether it's a petty squabble over who does what, or whether the various parties are just bluffing in an attempt to force someone else to pay. What I do know is that this is hardly a good time to give up electric transport in favour of buses powered by imported and increasingly expensive fossil fuels.

Some people argue that the trolley bus wires are ugly and ought to go. Frankly, I've never thought of them as disfiguring, and I hardly notice whether the street I'm in has the wires or not (and I think I can claim to be relatively observant when it comes to Wellington urban details). Cities with far more architectural beauty to protect, such as Rome, Vienna and Amsterdam, seem to happily accept their overhead tram wires. Besides, given that the trolley buses have been with us for nearly 60 years, and that we had tram wires long before that, there's a strong case for regarding the wires as part of our heritage.

Another argument made against the trolleys is that the routes are inflexible. But that's part of the point! If you choose a particular home because it's close to a bus route, you don't want the route to change at the bus company's whim. One of the reasons that light rail is a better driver of sustainable urban form than buses is that the lines are a considerable fixed investment, which gives private investors the confidence to develop close to the route. Trolley bus lines won't have quite the same effect, but they certainly indicate that you can rely on the route to be there for a while. In any case, the trolley bus routes all go through the older, established suburbs, which are hardly going to experience rapid depopulation.

Others argue that the trolley buses are slow, clunky, inaccessible and have lower capacity. That's true of the old models, but hardly the case for the newer version (does anyone know whether these are any better at keeping the poles on the wires?). If you let any sort of infrastructure run down for long enough, it'll seem unappealing compared to more up-to-date alternatives. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I could suggest that the trolley buses and trains have been deliberately neglected to the point where people are getting sick of them, making it easier to ditch them in favour of roading. But while some people have invoked conspiracy theories about the demise of trams in the US, it seems more sensible to blame the usual mixture of incompetence and shortsighted tightfistedness.

The final argument is that the trolley buses aren't completely sustainable anyway, since our electricity is partly generated from non-renewable sources. That's true at the moment: from memory, I think only 60% of our electricity generation is non-polluting, but that's a damn sight better than 0% for diesel buses. But let's look forward to a time when more and more of our electricity is generated from carbon neutral sources, rather than limiting our imagination to what we have now.

For instance, Wellington could build just two wind turbines and power our entire network of trolley buses, electric trains and any light rail that we develop. That's a large upfront capital cost, of course, but it will make Wellington's passenger transport almost immune to oil price shocks. We shouldn't hide them away, either, but make them a symbol of our commitment to a sustainable future. Site them proudly on top of Mt Kau Kau and say "This is Wellington transport".

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mystery bar number 30

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Right, that's enough serious council-related malarkey for one week. Time for a bar!

I've already mentioned that last week's mystery bar was Scopa, which opened last week on the site of the ill-fated Rouge. The Bresolin boys have pared back the decor and broadened the appeal, serving everything from breakfast to eaux-de-vie. Or eaux-de-vie for breakfast, if you're so inclined. I thought at first that it would be more of a café than a bar, but then at 10pm on Monday night there was a table of people knocking back Sambucca shots, so I guess it counts as a bar.

Mystery bar #30 - entranceThis week's mystery bar didn't exactly impress me as much. It gives the impression of trying to be upmarket, but the decor is stuck in the eighties, and not in a glam way either: there's a lot of pastel and brass. It's comfortable enough, and there was live music when we visited, but all this does is lull you into a false sense of security. The sort of security that makes you think, "This place should be able to make a decent Martini".

And how wrong you would be. The staff were earnest and pleasant, but had clearly not only never made a Dry Martini before, but had only vaguely ever heard of one. They knew enough not to just serve up a glass of Italian vermouth, but the result was little better. After carefully specifying gin and asking for a 5-to-1 ratio (best not to attempt anything too dry in such a place, I then had to carefully explain to the incredulous bartender that no, I didn't mean 5 parts vermouth to one of gin, but the other way around.

Mystery bar #30 - the barThis seemed to evoke severe cognitive dissonance in the poor bartender, and I eventually managed to end up with something neither shaken nor stirred, but that at least had slightly more gin than vermouth. Well, I presume it was gin, but I couldn't tell, and didn't want to know, what brand of gin was involved: it was poured from an invisible dispenser above the bar. To top it off, three large ice cubes were plonked into the Martini glass, resulting in something that bore as little resemblance to a Dry Martini as the membership of Waterfront Watch does to the clientele of Havana. I managed to force down a couple of sips before giving up, and when I next get around to updating my Martini reviews, this will receive a very generous 2 out of 10. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you: the worst Martini in Wellington.

Time to submit

Today's the deadline for public submissions on the Wellington City Council's Draft Long Term Plan. It covers so many aspects of Wellington's future that I could have sent in about half of my posts from the last 10 months (has it been that long?) and called that a submission. But I wouldn't inflict that on the poor sods who have to read it, and besides, the tiny comment boxes on the online submission form wouldn't have handled it. In the end, here is what I sent in (with a few comments and links added):

Urban Development

I support the growth spine concept, though I would prefer to see even more emphasis on infill and CBD development and less greenfield. I want to see the concept plans for urban villages developed before any further "Lincolnshire Farm" type greenfield development occurs. On p73 there are outcome indicators for density and proportion of houses within 100m of public transport, which is positive, but I'd like to see targets for these.

No new greenfield development should be allowed without a comprehensive assessment of public transport needs. At the moment, the "Lincolnshire Farm" proposal doesn't mention public transport at all.

I wholeheartedly support the waterfront development programme [no surprise there!].

I support the upgrading of Cobblestone Park (p64), but I wonder whether that should be the highest priority. The area of Te Aro most devoid of quality public space is south of Courtenay and east of Taranaki, and thought should be given to acquiring some land here to convert an empty lot or carpark to a neighbourhood square or park. Ghuznee St should be one of the few parts of Te Aro to benefit from the bypass, and I'd like to see an improved streetscape (trees, street furniture, traffic calming) to make the most of this.

In relation to heritage protection, I'd like to see an explicit commitment to saving the Futuna Chapel.

Urban planning needs to be more proactive, especially in Te Aro and along the spine, rather than just being a curb on the worst developments. In particular, we have seen some buildings in Taranaki St that exceed the planned height limit, while other sites remain vacant or used for low-rise exurban-style big box retail. I would like to see the council act as a facilitator between various developers and landowners, encouraging co-operative development of mixed-use buildings of a consistent mid-rise (4-6 storeys) height built to the street edge, thus encouraging a more defined streetscape and a better pedestrian experience.

Urban development shouldn't just protect existing character and 'sense of place', but build towards the character of the future. In particular, we should emphasise those aspects that set Wellington apart from other New Zealand cities (density and walkability), thus enhancing and building upon our existing character rather than necessarily preserving the low-density "character" of some suburbs.


Most importantly, a light rail extension through the CBD, and possibly to the hospital and airport, should be very seriously considered. A "seamless passenger transport system along the growth spine" is indeed a must, and light rail would be the ultimate expression of this. Bus lanes don’t carry the same capacity, attract the same ridership or drive the same investment in transit-oriented development.

In addition, the trolley buses must stay and be upgraded! The short-term cost will eventually be seen as a bargain when oil prices continue to rise.
Some upgrading of roads will be desirable, but only when they make things easier for other modes (such as an overbridge at Waterloo Quay or at the Basin Reserve), not when they increase road capacity (such as any widening of Aotea Quay) and hence encourage more traffic into the city.

I would like to see a gradual reduction in the number of parking spaces in the CBD, but this needs to be balanced by making it easier to get around the CBD without a car, such as a free and frequent circulator bus or tram. When surface carparks are removed, they can be reclaimed as public space: the Lambton Quay footpath widening and Courtenay/Taranaki intersection are good starts, but I'd like to see a commitment to more.

Traffic demand management, such as road pricing, is an essential initiative but needs to be combined with increased public transport capacity. It's hard to see the proportion of commuters using a bus (p102) increasing from 31% to 35% without significant investment in public transport, given its existing overcrowding.

Cultural Wellbeing

I applaud the continuing investment in the cultural life of the city, and in particular I support the location of the NZ Portrait Gallery and NZ Centre for Photography at Shed 11.

I support putting as much of the City Archives as possible online. I would also like to see the online heritage building inventory, which used to be on the council website, restored. Wherever possible, these resources should be made open source.

Social and Recreation

I would like to see more investment in community housing, though preferably in a more integrated environment than in 60s-style "housing estates". Alternatively, some regulation that requires a certain proportion of each private development to be affordable housing might enable a greater diversity of people to live close to the CBD.

The homelessness strategy should include provision for a downtown wet shelter [rather than just kicking them out of Glover Park].

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Raising the bar: a market place

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My latest idle suggestion is not a bar as such, though a bar would definitely be an important component. I think Wellington should have a high-quality permanent food market, selling nothing but the best of local produce, and that it should include a restaurant and bar with a menu that changes daily based upon seasonal availability.

Suggested geographic range of produce for a Wellington market placeWhen I say "local" produce, I don't mean just within the Wellington region, as that would be too restrictive, but within central New Zealand: approximately from Napier to Kaikoura. That takes in Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, the Kapiti Coast, Nelson and Marlborough, each of which has its own distinctive range of food and beverages. Selling exclusively local produce not only promotes our producers and reduces food miles, it contributes to our unique sense of place.

I envisage something like a cross between Moore Wilson Fresh and the Martinborough Wine Centre, but with a restaurant and bar attached. In fact Moore Wilson could be the ideal company to run such a place, and this wouldn't compete with their existing shop (which is hardly struggling for customers anyway) since it wouldn't stock non-local ingredients or as wide a selection of bulk fresh produce. The Martinborough Wine Centre concept involves tasting stalls for individual producers, giving the sense of a permanent indoor wine festival. Local wine and boutique beer are obvious choices for the bar, but there could be some very creative cocktails made from local spirits and fresh ingredients. It's common in Europe for food markets to include a restaurant, and in this case it could either be a fine-dining venue or more of a casual deli. The complex as a whole would bring together many related aspects of food and drink in a celebration of local and seasonal ingredients.

The Odlins building seen from Taranaki WharfThere are many potential locations for such a market, but one stands out for me. The Odlin Building is part of Taranaki St Wharf, which acts as a "hinge" between the north-south oriented downtown waterfront and the east-west orientation from here to Oriental Bay. It gets a lot of foot and cycle traffic at rush hour, so it would be a good place for people to pop in and grab something fresh to take home for dinner. Office workers in this and the adjoining buildings could grab a sandwich from the deli and sit by the lagoon to eat it. Its unique focus on local ingredients would make it a tourist attraction, with maps and displays for each producer so that visitors could find out how to visit a winery that takes their fancy. At night, the restaurant and bar would complement the existing and upcoming venues in the vicinity. And the "wharf timber garden" in front could even provide supports for a canvas roof, hosting an outdoor farmers' market at weekends.

The ground floor space here has been empty since its completion, but I gather that it has been leased by Lion Breweries with the intent of sub-letting it. They're not in any hurry to find a tenant, though, since they're mostly keen on preventing their competitor DB from moving in here, next to the Lion-owned Mac's Brewery Bar next door. Also, tenants may be wary of opening here until the Taranaki St Wharf developments are complete, creating a critical mass of activity to reduce the risk. But I think that the market bar concept could combine a practical service with a unique destination appeal, thus making it an attractor in its own right.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Over the seas

Here are some more detailed renderings of the Overseas Passenger Terminal (OPT) redevelopment design. The first image to be released didn't appeal to me much at first: the additions at each end looked heavy and poorly integrated, while the balcony boxes seemed to break up the horizontality too much and the whole thing looked grey and dull. However, the model, animations and renderings from other viewpoints revealed much more sleekness, lightness and daring.

Wellington Overseas Passenger Terminal redevelopment, selected scheme: view from the east
Southern end

An important aspect of the southern section is that the new, taller element (6m taller than at present) is only half the width of the OPT itself, and is confined to the southeast corner. What looked like heavy columns on the southeast façade are actually thin blades, but from the southeast we were seeing them face-on, which gave them a more continuous appearance. From other angles, this part is much lighter, and the double-height public spaces (probably restaurants) at ground level would be much more inviting.

Wellington Overseas Passenger Terminal redevelopment, selected scheme: details of southern endFrom the west it's clearer that this section and the central section are quite separate. The taller part rises up to address Chaffers Dock and the John Wardle buildings at sites 1-3, creating a well-defined and active public space by the water. Immediately south of here is the ramp to the under-wharf carpark, and while this could indeed create a dramatic entry as it dips down across a cutout in the wharf, I have reservations about the way that it might carve up the public space. Nevertheless, the carpark itself is one of the most innovative parts of the design: not only does it remove cars from the building itself (meaning that this scheme added less height than the other candidates), it also provides the lateral rigidity required for earthquake strengthening.

Central section

North of here, the main section is much more similar to the existing building. While much of the structure will have to be replaced, and the building will be 3m higher, the landmark spire and roof will be restored. The two sides are different: while the eastern elevation (shown at top) has a series of square cantilevered balconies, the western balconies are contained within dramatic curving metal shells, recalling the cross-sections of ships' hulls.

Wellington Overseas Passenger Terminal redevelopment, selected scheme: details of central sectionMost of the ground floor here will be retail, and Wellington Waterfront is retaining a head lease on this space to ensure that rents can be below market rates, so that with any luck most of the existing marine businesses and services will be able to stay. There will also be two public cross-passages, which will make it easier for pedestrians to go for a walk along the wharf without having to commit to walking all the way to the end.

Northern end

The northern section seems to wrap around the long narrow structure of the main building. The prow takes the of from the existing roof and crank up the volume, giving a sense of dynamism and movement without trying too hard to make it look like a cruise liner. Beneath that, the dramatic cantilever of the roof is echoed by a long pergola that stretches out over a public first-floor terrace, providing shade while also emphasising the long horizontal lines of the building.

Wellington Overseas Passenger Terminal redevelopment, selected scheme: details of northern end
The ground and first floors will be publicly accessible, either as a destination restaurant or as some sort of "attractor" that is still to be determined, but may be some sort of cultural or entertainment facility. I don't know what material is planned for the ground floor panels at the end, but from these images it looks opaque and unfriendly, and I hope that a more active edge can be achieved here. The public promenade will be retained and upgraded all around the wharf, and there are also plans for a low-level fishing pontoon at the northern tip.

I'm impressed. Not only does this provide more publicly-accessible space than there is at the moment, it also manages to carry off at least two difficult architectural balancing acts. It creates fine detail at a human scale while providing large-scale legibility and performing the sort of dramatic sculptural gestures that are appropriate for such a prominent site. It also retains the familiar elements of a design that would have been a bit twee even in the sixties, yet adds a distinctly contemporary feel. And to those who would complain about the private apartments above, remember that these will not only provide activity and public safety but pay for the $10 million or more required to make the wharf earthquake-safe and enable the ground floor units to be leased at less than market rate.

The next stages of the process are about public input:
  • presentations to local residents, berth-holders and other stakeholders (tomorrow);
  • public open day (this Saturday, 13th May);
  • public feedback and possible design changes presented to Subcommittee (late June); and
  • resource consent application (October).
After the open day, the drawings, animations and model will be on display in the Project Information Centre at Shed 6. Some of the people at last night's subcommittee meeting complained about the public not having multiple options to choose from, but the feedback process will allow you to suggest whatever modifications you think it needs to provide a better result for the public. If you just say "I hate it" or "make it 20 storeys tall and paint it pink" then you probably won't have much sway, but if your comments are constructive and well reasoned then you should expect them to be taken into account.

Terminal apoplexy

From time to time someone asks me why I don't run for council, since I seem to have so many things to say about Wellington. But in case I needed it, last night's Waterfront Development Subcommittee meeting to discuss the redevelopment of the Overseas Passenger Terminal provided ample evidence that if I were part of that milieu (or should I say melée?), my already tenuous grip on sanity would be rudely torn away.

The meeting was supposed to discuss the design, and as the one image available so far hadn't convinced me of its aesthetic merits, I wanted to see the presentations, animations and model. That side of things worked wonderfully, since I was able to see enough spatial complexity, elegance, contextuality and sculptural boldness to convince me that it would be an architectural and urbanistic delight. I should have some images to post very soon, and believe me, the sole image that's been published so far does the design no justice at all.

But before we could get to this, there was the depressing circus of council politics, with a dash of extra bitterness added by the presence of Waterfront Watch. There were raised voices, allegations of fraud made and withdrawn, letters from solicitors and mind-numbing minutiae of the Foreshore and Seabed Act. Waterfront Watch seem to have given up on providing any rational argument for why they think their predilections would produce a better city, and now concentrate on attacking the procedure, dragging up subparagraphs and disputed minutes with the sort of sour-faced righteous joy that indicates they've spent far too much time in committees. Cr Ruben admitted that he also preferred the design to the ones that hadn't met the criteria, yet he insisted on voting against every single motion because of differences of opinion on the different implications of the words "consultation" and "feedback". Is this standing on principle or political point-scoring? In any case, the Subcommittee voted to proceed to the public feedback stage.

And in the middle of all this; in the middle of the snideness, slander and audibly popping blood vessels; in the middle sat the architects and urban designers, just trying to bring some beauty and vitality into the world.

After all that, I needed a drink. I also needed a meal, since the meeting had dragged its excruciating way from 6pm to 9pm. So thank heavens for Scopa, which is indeed mystery bar number 29, as Jules identified. A quattro stagioni pizza, a glass of Chianti, and a complimentary glass of berry-infused grappa from Enzo behind the bar: what more could one need? Actually, I know of one thing that was missing, but that's beside the point.

By stripping out some of the over-fussiness from the former Rouge, providing delicious food at astonishing value (every main is under $20) and adding a foosball table, they've pretty much guaranteed that the place will bounce back to become a Wellington institution. Imagine how great it would be to have a place like this in a stunning new building overlooking the marinas! But not if Waterfront Watch get their way.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Back on track: Courtenay to airport light rail

We're getting mixed signals about public transport at the moment, with a welcome (if belated) commitment to providing more buses offset by increasing fares and what seems like a petty and shortsighted squabble over trolley bus funding. But I'd rather concentrate on the future, so with (perhaps unjustifiable) optimism, here's the next part of my series about light rail for the capital.

Last week I looked at proposed CBD routes, and today I'll look at an extension from Courtenay Place to the airport. Unlike the CBD section, which would suit closely-spaced stops and a route shared with other modes, this section should be more of an express route with a dedicated right-of-way wherever possible. I haven't seen any detailed descriptions of exactly where a LRT (light rail transit) line might go to reach the airport, so I've made my own amateur investigation and come up with a suggestion. One possibility would have been to go via the bus tunnel and Hataitai, but that would miss out key nodes along the growth spine such as the hospital, Newtown and Kilbirnie. So here's my suggestion highlighted in solid red, with alternatives as dotted lines:

Possible routes for a Wellington CBD to airport LRT system - basemap from zoomin.co.nz
Courtenay Place to Basin Reserve
This should be straightforward, since Kent and Cambridge Terraces form a very broad boulevard. With a rearrangement of the median or the removal of some parking the line could easily have an exclusive right-of-way, and combined with signal priority at the lights this would make for a speedy uninterrupted trip down to the north end of the Basin Reserve. A stop here would serve Massey University, southern Mt Victoria and SoCo, and of course the Basin iteslf.

Basin Reserve to Newtown
Getting around the Basin could be tricky in heavy traffic, but prioritised signalling would help. Likewise, peak-hour bus/LRT lanes might be necessary on Adelaide Rd and Riddiford St, but the existing congestion along this corridor might mean a dedicated alternative route is called for, and I've suggested one below. The natural stop locations would be the hospital and the corner of Riddiford and Constable streets.

Newtown to Kilbirnie
Constable St is a straight run, but the eastern side of the hill involves the narrow, winding Crawford St and a fiddly intersection with Rongotai Rd. In an ideal world a tunnel or elevated section would make this a quick and easy trip, but for the moment I think this would require careful traffic management to prevent cars delaying the LRVs. I don't think the gradients would be an issue, given that trams used this route until 1961. There may be justification for a stop partway along Constable St, but I think the express nature of the route lends itself to just having a stop at Kilbirnie, near the corner of Rongotai and Bay roads.

Kilbirnie to Airport
There are plenty of possibilities from here on, and since this is not my stamping ground, I can't give an in-depth analysis of the ideal route. I've stuck with an obvious, if circuitous, route along Rongotai Rd, Troy St and Cobham Drive before heading down Calabar Rd to the terminal. This route has the advantage of plenty of centre medians, which could make this quite a quick section despite having to go all the way around the runway. There could also be a stop near Cobham Drive Park, thus ameliorating the unfortunate location of the indoor sports stadium.


All of the is based upon keeping costs and disruption down by using existing rights of way where possible. But if the government and councils really wanted to invest in a sustainable future (don't laugh) there might be ways to make this journey much more efficient without requiring bypass-like destruction.

One of the sections that might be most affected by congestion is the stretch from the Basin Reserve to Riddiford St. One commenter suggested that the council should be "buying back land to widen Adeleide Road to 35 metres, turning it into an avenue with rail in the middle", which is certainly possible given the wide setbacks to most buildings there, and that could be a good option. However, it still leaves the notoriously congested intersection of Adelaide Rd and John St , and with a cluster of heritage buildings right on the corner this would be hard to widen without serious disruption.

Possible routes for a Wellington CBD to airport LRT system - Adelaide Rd - basemap from zoomin.co.nzMy alternative would be to use a narrow strip along the edge of Government House grounds, then thread through the hospital and along its wide Riddiford St frontage to join Riddiford St near Mein St. Parts of it would require some earthworks, and it goes close to some houses in places, but it would provide a direct and uncontested route that bypasses both the Rugby St and John St intersections. To some, Government House grounds should be sacrosanct, and I certainly wouldn't endorse selling off chunks to developers, but I think the G-G should be able to sacrifice a tiny fraction of private greenery for long-term public gain.

Possible routes for a Wellington CBD to airport LRT system - Kilbirnie to airport - basemap from zoomin.co.nzAt the Airport end, the main difficulty is that the terminal is on the east side of the runway, meaining that any surface route has to make a long detour. However, if we're willing to stump up the money, putting a short tunnel beneath the runway might be worthwhile. I've suggested two alternatives here, both using a tunnel near the present pedestrian/cycle underpass. The first one uses Rongotai Rd as above, then Salek and Coutts streets, which while not having median strips are relatively uncongested. The second takes a more southerly route along Onepu Rd, then whizzes down an existing pedestrian right-of-way along the southern edge of Rongotai College. If this is not too narrow to be practical, it could be the quickest route, and it has the added advantage that a stop near Tirangi Rd could service the burgeoning Rongotai retail district.

I'm not a transport engineer so I can't be sure, but I think these alternative routes could speed up the journey considerably, making it much faster than a bus or car, especially at peak times. And imagine this typical scenario: 100 business passengers arrive on an 8:30am flight destined for 9am meetings in the CBD. They could get into 100 taxis, as they're likely to do at the moment, clogging the Mt Victoria tunnel when it's already horribly congested with commuters. Or they could get into a double-unit LRV train that takes up the same space as about 3 or 4 cars. If even a fraction of them chose the light rail option, it would obviate the need for a vastly expensive and disruptive expansion of the tunnel.