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

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Stern words

The Stern ReviewBy now you'll all have heard of the Stern Review, and some of you may even have read it! Far be it from me to comment on whether Labour's "radical greening" is merely pre-emptive bandwagon-jumping (pesky code of conduct...) but it's hard not to agree with the Greens that there's not a lot of detail, and this year's road-friendly budget is hardly going to help New Zealand become "the first country which is truly sustainable".

What can Wellington do about it? We can certainly promote more efficient buildings, and while No Right Turn correctly points out that agriculture is New Zealand's main culprit, transport still makes up a fifth of the country's greenhouse emissions, and it's the sector upon which the shape of a city can have most impact. Option 3 have already written about the need for a shift of thinking away from roads to public transport, and that the ongoing pouring of money into the Transmission Gully project is not exactly the "truly bold" thinking that we need.

Can we take any comfort from the knowledge that in August the city council's Strategy and Policy Committee resolved "that work to give effect to the Council’s implementation of the LTCCP and any future reviews of Council’s seven strategies include consideration of climate change impacts"? Possibly not, since "consideration" is hardly a strong word. Perhaps more forceful is the decision at the same meeting to "take into account the peak oil issue and rising fuel prices when making future transport investment decisions, by promoting and designing a transport system that encourages more efficient use of and reduced reliance on oil-based products." As I pointed out in September, this would seem to be incompatible with actions like replacing electric rail with buses, but one should never underestimate politicians' ability to divorce words from actions.

Perhaps the area where central government can most help out local government is by sorting out the tangled mess of funding around public and private transport. At the moment, the regional council has incentives not to increase public transport ridership, the bus lobbyists fight it out with trains, and the public generally gets stuck in the middle of Mexican stand-offs over things like trolley buses and track access charges as the various companies and agencies try to get the best deal. Surely, we should all be moving in the same direction.


At 3:15 pm, November 01, 2006, Blogger mikeymike said...

There are a few community led initiatives coming for reducing our climate impact. Initiatives which give us (as consumers) the tools to address issues locally.

Now that the "lack of political consensus" argument is dead Govt. needs to step up and put a price on carbon. Once this occurs public transport investment will provide a better return per unit of carbon emitted than private transport. Assuming, of course, that the subsidising of private transport (eg. road building) is recognised...

At 2:53 pm, November 03, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

I'm looking forward to hearing about them, guv!

It'll be interesting to see whether the govt can pay more than lipservice to this, perhaps by supporting one of the Greens' new climate change bills, especially the one that "stipulate[s] that two thirds of the National Land Transport Fund be allocated to public transport, walking and cycling, rail, coastal shipping and travel demand management"


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