Mar 2020 – Update on Council’s response to Covid-19

Update from Your Local Wellington City Councillor –Diane Calvert

Wharangi Onslow-Western Ward/ Economic Development Portfolio Leader

I hope you and your families have settled into this unprecedented situation of a nationwide lock-down as well as can be expected. It’s been a steep adjustment curve for everyone including me and my family. I recommend ZOOM for getting together with multiple people online. I’ve used it for meetings, family catch ups and with friends at ‘wine time’.

Thank You

First up, a big thanks to our Council team and all those other essential workers who remain out there on the frontline helping to keep us all safe and make the lockdown achievable.

Over the past week, the Council’s priority has been putting in plans to keep our essential services (water, sewerage, electricity, roading, community housing, community welfare) going and provide support for the most vulnerable members of our city. These plans and services are now mainly in place and from this coming week some additional services may be able to start up even if no face to face contact is required

My communication to you

All councillors are able to work as we stay home in our respective bubbles. New legislation has been passed so we can attend formal meetings online and not in person.

I have kept my communication to you all at a minimum, until now, as I know there was a lot of information out there, some which was being updated hourly and daily. As we settle into this lockdown, I am starting up regular updates to keep you current with key Council news, and business, and community support. Many of you have asked me for further information and or provided ideas. I will continue to do the best I can to answer them or at least put you in touch with the right people or organisation.

I have updated my website with relevant Covid-19 information covering key Reference sites, Community welfare, Things to do (from your couch), Council services, and Public transport. I will also be adding to this over the next week or so with more information on Council’s approach to a rates relief package and economic recovery measures

I have also suggested to our Council team that we should set up an online mechanism to capture people’s ideas and share suggestions. We did this with the Karori Project in 2017 and we could easily do something similar city wide as we have the available software. More news on this to come.

Our local economy

Within my portfolio of Economic Development, I have been in regular contact with local business leaders to see how they are doing and what we as a Council need to do to help them bounce back. There is no disguising the fact that in particular our hospitality, retail, tourism, tertiary and film sectors are taking an immediate big hit and will take time to recover.

We will need to rebuild our economy to make sure it can still provide a variety of jobs, good housing and the level of vibrancy our city has become known for. More about how the Council will be supporting the recovery will be announced soon.

Take care, stay home and stay safe

Diane

Feb 2020 – Water problems are a city emergency

The water infrastructure problems in Wellington are escalating. Until now we have been dealing with matters on a case by case basis. But real systemic issues are coming to the fore – too many issues to manage in our normal reporting and accountability structure. Time has come for this to be treated as a civil emergency. It has to be the #1 issue for the Council to deal with.

Within my ward, the Karori Residents Association have been campaigning for water pollution signs to be placed at the Karori Stream. The three agencies involved – WCC, GWRC and Wgtn Water – have been reluctant to do so. We now find out that most waterways in our city have similar pollution.

Having dependable water infrastructure is a core Council service. When we don’t have it, it impacts on our community, economy and the reputation/brand of our city.

As one of your local councillors, I am working with my colleagues to ensure that the matter is dealt with appropriately.

This means that in the first instance we need to deal with immediate problems, take key responsibility and get proactive communications going. In the medium/long term we need to get real action on improvements that people can see, address our community concerns and make sure we have planned sufficiently for our future including allocating funding.

This will undoubtedly impact rates unless other funding sources can be found.

The Council is meeting this week on the above. I will keep you informed on developments.

Postscript – Since the Water infrastructure issues have come to light, the CEO has instigated a review and the Mayor has established a taskforce to ensure all issues are identified and there are robust plans for the future

Oct 2019 Local community listened to – but it comes at a cost

In March, the local community (across all ages) rallied together about an application for a Botte store. Many people said its pointless objecting- the best you can hope for is reduced hours. Others said it was just “nimbyism”.

However the community were not deterred. Over 200 people attended a local community meeting at short notice. A petition circulated with over 300 names.  In total there were 538 objectors although only 178 were formally approved due to some  names and addresses not being legible or objectors outside of a 1km radius.   This was unknown territory for many and the process seemed very complicated and pitted against the objector.

I spoke with many people across the community. The general feeling was there was no need for an off-license and especially in the proposed location. It shared an entrance with the local Post shop, and the community noticeboard. It was directly across the road from the Library, pocket park and Plunket rooms. It was within a couple of hundred metres of a creche, local church, other village shops, supermarket and bus stops. The small Village area is a vibrant area frequented by many of all ages. The location already has a local pub, restaurant and supermarket selling wine and beer. Access to alcohol is available in a controlled and open manner. People who were objecting were doing so on the basis of the long term good of the whole community and not for their own personal interests. As a local resident and knowing the area well, I was happy to advocate for them and seek the support of the Mayor and fellow ward Councillor Simon Woolf.

The local village trust- Khandallah Cornerstone, which runs the local town hall, stepped up and led a formal response. While the Council provides the licensing committee administration, it is not the decision maker. Usual forms of  council consultation and participation do not apply.  The process is dictated by legislation and case law and very much a court type procedure. Legal advice and representation was definitely needed if the community’s voice was to be heard effectively and points of law be addressed. Several locals also did significant research and presented their findings which helped substantiate community concerns.

Cornerstone  funded the legal challenge out of the own resources but will need seek help from the community to recover costs. Fundraising details will be released shortly but anyone can make a direct donation to the Trust if they wish.

After a three day hearing in August, the District Licensing committee issued their decision on 8 October 2019. The application was declined.

we conclude that this new off-licence should not be granted. We consider that if this new off-licence was granted, there would be more than a minor impact on the amenity and good order of the locality. We have also been unable to satisfy ourselves that the applicant is suitable to be granted a new off-licence.”

The decision  was very comprehensive and gives a detailed account of submissions and the committee’s views. It is a landmark decision and will benefit other communities facing a similar situation.

We now hope the landlord of the building which is a community charitable trust – Johnsonville Property Trust, takes heed of the local community’s wishes and finds a suitable tenant to complement the village area.

Other comments are here

https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/wellington/115112133/good-folk-of-khandallah-arent-wowsers–theyre-good-citizens-with-a-fair-point

https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/114967567/khandallah-bottleo-proposal-faces-largest-groundswell-of-objectors-the-capital-has-ever-seen

 https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/116412524/controversial-proposed-wellington-liquor-store-denied

 

 

Sep 2019 – Libraries are Us

The closure of the central library in March 2019 was a shock to us all. The decision was made swiftly in the best interests of both Council’s staff and visiting public. It was sudden and the grieving process is still underway, from disbelief, sadness, anger, acceptance through to hope.

The central library was not just somewhere with books and magazines. It was a meeting place, it was that warm, dry, and calm space welcoming everyone of all ages across our diverse communities – the community living room. It nurtured learning with from young to old with a wide variety of different activities from baby rock ‘n’ rhyme through to photo booths celebrating the style of dress from the suffrage campaign.

Council staff have worked extremely hard in getting services back up and running. Some suburban library hours have been extended, more flexibility in where books can be returned has happened and new pop up spaces have been put in place-Arapaki in Manners St and the National Library. It has also been an opportunity to try something different. The pop up library in Manners St is combined with the Council service centre – a one stop shop for Council.

There used to be service centres in main suburban libraries and as Mayor I want to see this happen again. We have a great branch library and community centre network and we need to better utilise these spaces in helping Council stay better connected with all communities.

Council now has completed the deal on the third and final central library space which will be in the Harbour Centre right in the middle of Lambton Quay – meaning easy access to everyone.   This will be the biggest of the three central libraries with 1400 square metres plus a café. It should be open early in the new year. The Council is also investing in a new warehouse space in Johnsonville to store the books. We do not need to store them in expensive city locations when they are only a click and collect away within 12- 24 hours.

So what’s happening with the old library? Currently a group of construction and engineering industry experts are finding solutions for the right way forward and we should know more within the next month or two. It’s not that easy given its location. The building is essentially an iceberg. What you see above ground is only a fraction of what lies beneath in terms of services, foundations, storage, exposure to sea level rise and connections to the other buildings around Civic Square.

Whatever the solutions, we do need to think how we make our library space fit for the future whilst still providing that wonderful type of space and amenities that Wellingtonians have come to love. Spaces that better meet our modern and culturally diverse needs is more important than the building itself

As Mayor, I want Council to consider a public private partnership to enable a more stunning space to be created. In addition to a new library space, let’s look at opening up some of the ground space facing into the square for hospitality and retail helping to activate the area even more. Let’s also look at bringing Capital E (the home of creative learning for young people) back into the square.

It will take strong pragmatic leadership, which I will bring as Mayor, so we can all make Te Ngākau Civic Square the civic, community and cultural hub that it once was.

August 2019 – We can get Welly actually moving on transport – if we get back on track now.

  • Three years ago we had visionary thinking on our transport needs but it was not grounded in realistic and achievable plans
  • The problems we face now is that we can’t afford it all. We went too big on ideas and that’s blown out the cost and time making the package unaffordable and unworkable.
  • To get back on track we need to cut back the transport programme to a manageable level, be transparent and engage better, action NZTA advice and re-prioritise and re-sequence the big stuff – tunnels, roads, mass transit

Three years ago….

Three years ago, Wellingtonians were adamant that they had waited too long and wanted to see a decent transport network providing for all modes but most importantly sorting out the bottle necks along State Highway 1 (SH1) from The Terrace through to the eastern suburbs.

Three years ago, the mayoral candidates promised sorting out the transport including more lanes to the airport and additional tunnels at The Terrace and Mt Victoria.

Three years ago, light rail advocates started intensively lobbying. Ideological values started to drive the agenda. Grand plans started to form around light rail and a large urban regeneration/ intensification programme to help justify the cost with the development of another main transport route servicing a small geographical area out to the East.

Three years ago, Wellingtonians were asked what they wanted in terms of transport. It was like kids in a sweet shop. We wanted it all plus more. Money seemed unimportant especially if taxpayers were picking up the tab.

From what I saw, the initial drawings were impressive however Council or the public never got to see the details, costs and trade-offs until the Government’s indicative package was announced by the Minister of Transport, the Mayor of Wellington and Chair of Greater Wellington in May 2019. There continues to be a lack of real details, engagement on and transparency about what is planned.

What’s gone wrong?

We know that what we want and what we can actually afford are two different things, especially when we are primarily taxpayer/ratepayer funded. We went too big on the ideas and that’s blown out the cost and time.

The Let’s Get Welly Moving (LGWM) team (made up of NZTA, WCC and GWRC) decided they would ask government for it all without any compromises. I’m not sure what planet they were on but it looks like they were captured by the light rail movement, ideological views and wanting to reshape the city out to the south and east. The infrastructure challenges coupled with a route out to the east across earthquake prone land adds even more challenges, complexities and cost. Needless to say, the National Transport Fund (which funds transport projects) couldn’t afford it all.

It was at this point, the LGWM governance group, which included the Mayor, determined not to get guidance from its members (ie the full set of elected members) on what should or should not be put forward including sequencing of projects. According to the Chair and CEO of NZTA, final negotiations occurred between the Minister of Transport -Phil Twyford (who also held the Housing portfolio at this point) and the Mayor.

So now we have ended up with a programme that is much wider than its original scope, with very limited funding options and a very unhealthy ratepayer burden. Despite the fanfare, all that the government and Councils have effectively committed to is a series of ‘early improvements’ and to complete business cases for the big stuff.

Business cases are still two years away at least and any funding is not guaranteed. The expected funding of 100% for the SH1 improvements has been whittled down to 50% (the other 50% to be picked up by the ratepayer). It also looks like that 50% from the SH1 funds has been applied to prop up a seemingly unviable mass transit investment. The additional Mt Victoria tunnel may only happen after mass transit is put in place (10 years at least) and the additional Terrace tunnel is off the radar. The government’s indicative package is ultimately flawed in terms of the projects, the sequencing of those projects, the funding burden on ratepayers and the sucking dry of available transport funds for the wider Wellington region.

How do we get it back on track?

  1. Cut back the programme to a manageable level, action NZTA advice and re-prioritise and re-sequence the big stuff – tunnels,  roads and mass transit.
  2. NZTA have advised that the extra MT Victoria tunnel should be built before mass transit. New leadership in both Wellington City and Greater Wellington will be able to better support and champion the expert advice received from the government’s transport agency (NZTA).
  3. As Mayor, I will get SH1 improvements back on the agenda and ensure they are not continually side-lined. Anything less will mean that businesses and people will walk away from the eastern side of our city.
  4. I will get the planned improvement to the Golden mile bedded in along with providing as much support as possible for a stronger bus network.
  5. I will de-couple the mass transit/urban re-generation project from LGWM programme so it becomes a standalone programme and better managed accordingly with the focus on more housing.
  6. I  will work with the Government and our Councils with openness and transparency that will give them confidence that their contribution is truly welcomed and affordable.
  7. All Wellington city council elected members will be allowed to have a strong voice in the future shape of the programme.

Underlying all these actions, I will ensure that our carbon footprint continues to decrease by less congestion, more active ways of travel, more public transport and more encouragement of non-fossil fuel vehicles.

 

Mission Impossible?

 

Yes, I’m campaigning for Mayor of Wellington city. There’s a twist however: I’m not promising lots of bright shiny stuff, or things that give you a warm fuzzy feeling, or that I’ll save the world or give you a fantastic long list to make me look like Superwoman.

“What I am promising you is that I will deliver you a functioning bus system.” Hah impossible!, you won’t get in or you can’t do it, you might say.

Well let me tell you, I can, and I will. I will do it without a big political machine behind me or a major benevolent sponsor or a crown observer. I will do it because the people of Wellington have backed me and said this is the Number 1 thing the Mayor must do for Wellington now. (more…)

Diane Calvert for Mayor

Diane Calvert Standing for Mayor of Wellington city

Media Release – Diane Calvert Standing for Mayor of Wellington city

Wellington City Councillor for Wharangi/Onslow-Western Ward Diane Calvert has announced her candidacy for the upcoming Wellington City Council mayoralty.

“We know our city is special; the home of the arts, a creative capital, a loveable city that is remarkable. I believe in Wellingtonians, what we can do and how we can do it, but our city has fallen into a rut over the last decade.

“Our city needs real leadership that’s for Wellingtonians and not just the Beehive. Bold leadership built Wellington, and it’s time for bold leadership again.” said Calvert.

“Wellington’s population is growing and we need to support this growth with a stronger economy and integrated solutions in housing, transport and infrastructure for all our communities.

“Our leaders have to be courageous now, we can’t keep accumulating debt expecting our children to pay the bill”.

Calvert continued “Let’s Get Wellington Moving” programme will not deliver what Wellingtonians need now nor in 20-years when it might be finished. That’s 20-years too late. Buses should be the top priority, not an afterthought. We can’t afford a programme that isn’t fit for service now and certainly won’t be fit for our city’s future needs.”

“Our leaders have to be honest, they can’t afford to keep making promises they won’t live up to.”

“Wellingtonians have had enough of overspending and secret deals. We want honesty, transparency, and accountability in decision making.

“Wellingtonians have had enough of promises without progress.”

Local councillors share public’s concerns with Parliament’s Transport & Infrastructure committee

Cllrs Calvert & Woolf presenting to committee

Wellington city councillors Diane Calvert and Simon Woolf were pleased to be able to provide direct customer feedback at the Transport and Infrastructure committee at Parliament today (Thurs 25th July 2019). (you can view the recorded meeting here http://bit.ly/2SRm8xv -councillors presentation is at approx. 51 minutes)

Councillors Woolf and Calvert recently released the results of an online survey they ran seeking feedback on the current state of the bus service and shared those results today with the committee.

Key findings from the survey of 468 respondents are;

  • 91% of respondents say their experience of the new bus service is worse than before July 2018
  • 72% of respondents are considering alternative options to get to town with the majority considering car
  • 46% of respondents say they are using the bus less than before July 2018

Councillor Woolf says “For some time we have been actively advocating for our city’s residents and wanted an independent snapshot in time to support our ongoing concerns about the bus service provided by Greater Wellington Regional Council. The survey results clearly show that there are still significant issues being faced by bus patrons These issues are slowly eroding both the social and economic fabric of our city and impacting of the health and well-being of our citizens.”

Councillor Calvert says “What we need as an additional early improvement is a coordinated bus transport improvement plan, covering the whole city, to be delivered over the next 10 years while investment and delivery for mass transit is completed. The plan would not only consider additional routes, capacity, bus types and priority lanes but also look at better fares to attract more patrons.”

Councillors Woolf and Calvert believe further and broader improvements to our bus service will provide speedier and greater value to ratepayers, have a strong impact on reducing cars on the road and get us quicker to our carbon-neutral targets. They say improvements can still carry on in parallel with other work on new roads and mass transit routes but at least people will still be able to get to work, school and home when they want.

Councillors Calvert and Woolf are advocating for a governance group to be formed by representatives of New Zealand Transport Agency, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council (similar to the Lets Bet Welly Moving group) to govern the current bus service improvements in the city. Calvert says “this means that there will be a fairer and more equitable representation and accountability of those contributing to the bus service including taxpayer funding, ratepayer funding, infrastructure and service delivery.”

The Colour Aubergine

 

When I stood for Council three years ago, I was not affiliated (and still not) to any central govt political party.  In fact politics was not a focus of mine other than general interest.

After being on the receiving end of Council’s decisions impacting my local community, I stood for Wellington City Council to provide a higher standard of governance (to ensure we make more robust decisions) and to improve how our Council listens to and engages with local communities so we make better & more inclusive decisions. Becoming a local government politician has enabled me to achieve just that.

My loyalty is first and foremost to the city, its residents and its future. I don’t need to adhere to any political party to achieve this but do share many similar values to the blues, reds and greens. This helps in being able to work collaboratively even if, from time to time, you have opposing views on what needs to be done. (more…)

Our city’s bus service needs more work

A news release from myself and Simon Woolf

Wellington city councillors Diane Calvert and Simon Woolf recently ran their own online survey of bus patrons focusing on the Karori service (commuter peak period).  The survey was conducted in May over a three week period and there were 468 respondents with 49% from Karori. Results were collected and analysed independently. (more…)