The demise of Wellington as a modern vibrant growing city has fast come to an end. A perfect storm involving central and local government actions and inactions have culminated in myopic, self-serving bureaucracy, economic stagnancy and contraction spreading from the CBD heart arterially out to the immediate suburbs, and it is about to get worse.
Over the last decade the Wellington City Council (WCC) has been captured by a ‘Greens’ led socialist left-wing rump that has dominated the decision-making with an ‘alarmist’ climate change agenda, seeking to turn Wellington into the ‘greenest’ capital city in the world. Unfortunately, this is it at any expense with little fiscal restraint and is actively aided and abetted by the ‘goldrush’ from the 6th Labour government. The city’s infrastructure is subjugated as the all-consuming priority is the ‘rapid rollout’ of carbon reducing strategies spearheaded by the cycleways projects of ‘Let’s Get Wellington Moving’(LGWM).
Previous mayor Andy Foster slowed the momentum but then along came the beguiling spin of Tory Whanau to spearhead Julie Anne Genter’s agenda that stultifies market led economic activity. It is the new socialist religion, an all-out attack on the capitalist economy wholly condemned as the sole engineer of a climate change catastrophe. Never mind that business generally wants and supports walkability, liveability, densification and treating the city as a living organism. Business just needs vehicular access as well to survive and then one day possibly thrive in the new ‘utopia’, a society that at this rate will be devoid of market led innovation and growth.
The reality is that effective market led business activity necessarily maintains civil society for it is required for their co-existence.
In the meantime, the business and social infrastructure of the city has endured lockdowns, the rise of social housing, mandates, an occupation protest and the permanent fall-out from the unannounced government policy of ‘work from home’. The pipes are bursting and public transport is unreliable. Small business and sole traders are squeezed out in unceremonial silence as inflation, recession, compliance and wage costs keep rising. Law and order has broken down as the city becomes a rotating ghetto of social problems. This is not an environment conducive to business or people activity. Left wing councillors are openly dismissive of business concerns with an ‘adapt or die’ philosophy in riposte.
At a fundamental level there is a WCC objection to business activity and certainly to economic growth.
The flagship cycleways project is the multiple scythe that cuts through the interconnectivity of small businesses just like the freeway that circumvents a town or the multiple lane vehicular thoroughfares that also pretend to provide access to local business and for community. The LGWM public process of ‘discovery’ and ‘consultation’ is an absolute fraud. The plans have been drawn up and then it is a divide and conquer strategy that Karl Marx would have been proud of.
‘Discovery’ is non-existent as stakeholders are blindsided as fast as possible into ‘consultation’. Community and local business considerations and input are of scant concern in the face of WCC led ‘rapid roll-out’. There is no cost/benefit analysis. Information is simplistically presented and without implication analysis. Pedestrian and cyclist safety, and access considerations for all citizens is lost to the necessity of the cycleway revolution, just in case the Labour government funding ‘goldrush’ should dry up post the next democratic election.
The submissions process is circumvented by a predetermined agenda and very active cycling lobby. Even when local community provide loud, transparent and open submissions (with 80%, 1300 citizens strongly opposed written submissions to the predetermined cycleway as in the case of Thorndon) the project is still thrust through with councillors openly admitting their intransigence to altering the predetermined and complete plan of the total cycleway network, even in the face of a clear community majority.
The WCC have dismissed their own guidelines for participation and community consultation. Local democracy in Wellington is broken. Those elected to uphold democracy have undermined it, refusing to listen to the will of the people. Ideology trumps public participation and over-rides democracy.
The equity of all CBD economic participants is in ongoing jeopardy as Whanau extravagantly claims a future decade of transformational progress coupled with 10 years of pain. The WCC prediction of population growth does not stack up with the reality of a contracting city economy and a decaying society. Council can not have it both ways. Business and markets need to be maintained to keep the city vibrant but the ‘rapid roll-out’ net carbon zero policies will further retard the fiscally unsustainable process. Rates collection will diminish as property values decline. Business tenants will gradually fracture, dislocate and possibly be in a position to relocate away from the city centre. The empty retail spaces and buildings provide easy haven for rising tides of social problems.
The mad queen, ‘lying on a park bench’, presides over a city that is imploding in very public view. The radical green left-wing rump of her council table and her CEO are driving a delusion of fast cycleway revolution to overthrow a fictional economic enemy. There is no sign of slowdown, rational compromise or of taking the people or business with them.
The ends justify the means in an idiotic self-defeating war. The net result is WCC no longer cares for its people, it only cares for an ideological, blinkered policy that is fascist and destructive in its manifestation.
John Key was right when he referred to Wellington as “the dying city”.
Alistair Boyce is the owner of the iconic Wellington pub the Backbencher.
If anyone would know, it would be you.
Sadly anywhere Julie Ann Genter has her policy fingers in pies spells doom for any place....she is not nickname Julia Ann Agenda for no reason.
Central Wellington is starting to rival central Auckland. It's dreary, feels neglected and a bit unsafe. You think you're back in lockdown mode. Once a place where you'd get excited about a mini-break, it's now to be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Definitely not somewhere tourists would find appealing anymore.
It perfectly meets the archetypal example of what happens when you let extreme Lefties and "progressive" socialists in general take charge of things. RIP!
Well done NZ. You've managed to trash both your major city centres.
At least Christchurch and Dunedin are still OK.
I recently transferred from Napier to Wellington. The few times I've been into the city it seems very quiet and subdued for a Capital City. In fact Napier can seem a lot busier at certain times of the year. There is no cycleway through the CBD or wholesale cancellation of parking spaces.
All the Labour/Greens politicians who have been in charge of Wellington over the years have just run it down as much as they could. This fits the left agenda perfectly. Unfortunately we are stuck with this lot for a while and will be sorry witnesses to the demise of this beautiful city.
Excellent article, Alistair.
You have described the demise of Wellington very clearly and accurately.
I, myself, lived in Wellington for 25 years, leaving in 2000. I still return often to visit family there and to just have a catchup.
The degradation of the city is clearly visible and is getting worse.
You’re right on the money Boycee. I worked in the CBD (for the vast part, not as a public servant) for more than forty years; now when I go there it feels like a continuation of the Covid lockdowns. There’s bugger-all of any obvious ‘vibrancy’ about it and the traffic congestion, road cones, lack of and expensive parking (thanks to inappropriate cycle lanes), all only reinforce my resolve to avoid the place whenever I can. Trendy ‘Lefties’ and dickhead ‘Greens’ have wrought their ideological havoc and I expect it will now be a very long time before it returns to its former glory. You’re right to be gutted with what’s going down and as for LGWM, what a joke!
Out here in Lower Hutt is where Wellington shops, Porirua must be loving it as well, witness the traffic on any Saturday, but no problem, we have parking, Wellington central doesn’t. What carparks are left are disappearing, I don’t go there anymore. Julie Anne Gentner’s gerrymandering of the WCC was masterful. She had the Green/Red numbers and within two weeks Whanau gave them all the available positions and the power for JAGs radical agenda. The independent councillors are still looking for work although Tim Brown accepted a
pointless position. Job done.
In the 1980's, when living on the Kapiti Coast, I loved going into Wellington because it was an exciting, happening place. Having moved elsewhere in 1990 for work, I recently visited the Wellington CBD. With a small errand to run in the city, I ended up driving out to Johnsonville because the likelihood of quickly and easily parking along Lambton Quay were next to nil. Sadly, Wellington's CBD, just like Auckland's, is rapidly becoming a city of irrelevance.
When I lived in Palmerston North twenty years ago Wellington was a lovely destination for a cheerful day of browsing, brunch, and generally enjoying the civic vibe of a great little city. Gradually that changed as parking became more difficult to find and prohibitively expensive for a fun day out.
Since then it has become impossible.
My only consolation is that in history cities never die as long as the country and nation endure.
They boom, decay, and revive again endlessly.
The current decline is driven by Marxist rhetoric and climate change delusions.
There is some evidence that they are starting to go out of fashion.
Sadly I won’t see it as it will take deacades to work out. It is a generational thing.
Any City that re-elects the likes of Iona Pannett gets all that it deserves.
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