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Mayor hints at central Wellington transport project

Incumbent Wellington mayor Justin Lester has hinted that a multimillion-dollar government-backed transport project is on the cards for Wellington.

Wellington City Council mayor Justin Lester. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Mr Lester, who over the weekend announced his bid for another term as Wellington’s mayor, told Morning Report the Let’s Get Wellington Moving project was something that would be announced by the end of the months and needed Cabinet sign-off.

“This is around a transformational shift in the way people get around, particularly between the CBD and the airport … it entails a multi-billion dollar investment in Wellington infrastructure,” he said.

While he seemed confident of an announcement backed by the government within the month – likely signalling something in the Budget on 30 May – he would not give much more detail.

“I won’t raise the ire of all of Cabinet and go announce it before it’s announced … it’s a large scale investment it needs Cabinet sign-off, it’ll be this month.”

“The last time we had a significant investment in infrastructure in Wellington aside from the upgrading of the trains … was 1978.”

Asked about the strong level of opposition to public infrastructure projects in the city in the past – such as the Basin Reserve flyover – he thought people would be “astounded”.

“I think we’ll have the government on board, there’ll always be debate in Wellington, we’re a highly democratic city.

“You compare side by side the Basin Reserve flyover with what our proposal for that part of the city looks like and it’s chalk and cheese. Look, I’m glad we didn’t end up with the Basin Reserve flyover because when you see what will be proposed I think people will be astounded.

“It’s a vast improvement and I’m looking forward [to] when that announcement happens by the end of the month.”

Mr Lester is also pushing two other promises as part of his mayoral re-election campaign: providing housing for the city’s homeless and curbing traffic through the city’s “Golden Mile” strip – referring to the route through Lambton Quay, Willis Street, Manners Street and Courtenay Place.

He said the traffic measures was something retailers and others had been asking for.

“We’ve undertaken consumer insight surveys, we’ve worked with our partners like First Retail, and what’s the constant feedback we hear? We want greater pedestrian friendliness, covered walkways, less traffic, better selection of food offerings, outside dining, cooler dining spots, they want to be able to sit down, less of a traffic dominance and focus.

“We do want to have a public transport spine, and that’s really important because that brings tens of thousands of people in each day and that’s great for retail as well, but we will take the private vehicles out.

“You’ll still be able to park in the CBD and the parking buildings will all still be there but on those high pedestrian routes making sure that they’re prioritised for people.”

He said buses would still go down the golden mile but it would be closed off to private vehicles.

RNZ