Miscalculations in the Regional Council’s large-budget planning – long term Plan 2015/25

Miscalculations in the Regional Council’s large-budget planning

The Long Term Plan contains a number of large budget items which do not contribute towards Wellington Region’s resilience or sustainability.

I would like to go over four items:
– Flawed BRT system
– Hybrid buses replacing trolleys
– Gating of Wellington Railway station as part of integrated ticketing package
– Cross harbour water pipeline

Last week, we heard oral submitters speaking on the challenge of finding a regional climate change strategy that has realistic targets and actions.

Every major international institution is calling for rapid greenhouse reductions including the World Bank, International Energy Agency, the G7 and most recently Pope Francis himself.

Pope Francis says “many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power (are) concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms…”

Most recently, torrential rain in a band from Paekakariki to Petone produced major disruption with slips over SH1 and Sh2 …..and the main trunk railway line.

This Plan does not contain any measures to double track and tunnel the vulnerable stretch of track on the north/south junction north of Pukerua Gully.

By not investing sufficiently in sustainable transport infrastructure, the Council is implicated in the structures that promote unsustainable forms of travel.

However, city states are stepping up to the challenge. Auckland is now investing heavily in heavy ….and light rail at the same time.

Modern light rail, increasingly popular in North America and Europe was discarded here in Wellington in favour of a Bus Rapid Transit system with three major mis-calculations:
– Inflated construction costs
– Split route weakening the benefits available from incremental land value increase along the growth spine
– no consideration of amenity values and patronage growth that typically follows

This Plan ditches our zero emission trolley buses for outdated million dollar diesel hybrid vehicles on the exact date of June 30th 2017 and calls this a transition to electric vehicles.

A major bus construction company Volvo, has now decided that hybrids are outdated technology, shifting all their production to battery electrics.

Yet, replacing batteries with lithium ion would allow the trolleys to operate as long run battery buses, utilising both overhead wiring and rapid end of line charging.

The integrated ticketing proposal has a $30 to $40 million component for gating of Wellington Railway station. Yet, in Europe public transport does not use gating.

Heavy spot fines for passengers not carrying a ticket ensure compliance.
This honesty system also eliminates slow boarding.
A 30 second stop is enough time for hundreds to board through multiple exits.

This is potentially a $30 million plus saving.

Public transport and the next generation, a NZTA publication, predicts a large, sustained growth in public and active transport use, particularly among Generation Y which is not captured by our weak projections, but is indicated by the sustained patronage growth on the Kapiti rail line.

It is just a matter of “Provide and they will come!”

Submitters at our long term plan hearing were almost without exception seeking capital expenditure to be shifted to safe cycle ways and public transport.

A major component of our rate increase is indeed debt funding of Matangi trains replacing
the 50 year old Mavag Ganz trains.

However, the hundred million or so dollars, pales into insignificance when compared
to the $2.4 billion being spent on new roads in the region.

However, this imbalance is not noted anywhere in our long term plan.

Resilience or sustainability, or neither?

A new $90 million cross harbour pipeline will double water availability for eastern suburbs.
But this is not conservation or resilience!

The pipeline might survive a major earthquake,
but will the Hutt aquifers supplying the water survive?
…. or the local connecting pipes?

Homes that survive liquefaction and a tsunami will need domestic rainwater collection tanks and compost toilets in order to be habitable.

However, every house in the eastern suburbs could be supplied with a domestic tank
for $3 million now. So why the $90 million spend!

There are considerable savings to be had, and these plans need more work.
I will not be supporting this 10 year plan due to the poor business cases
surrounding the items described.

However, I do support Cr Sue Kedgley’s recommendation that ”WRC notes that the date for the termination of trolley bus services may need to be extended beyond June 30 2017 so as to provide sufficient time for a smooth transition from trolley buses to their replacement buses.”  (Cr Kedgley’s recommendation was subsequently adopted with no opposition, which opens the door a little towards a transition from trolleys to battery electric buses).

Cr Paul Bruce 30th June 2015

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