By Bridget Gourlay
Wellington’s Golden Mile is getting a bit of a re-jig, but its future 10 or 20 years from now is what’s being actively debated as it’s one of the main issues in this year’s local body election.
Property tycoon Sir Bob Jones says he will put up a mayoral candidate on the platform of an exclusively pedestrian boulevard. This means no buses and no trams, just pedestrians and possibly a light rail train system.
In the 1970s Sir Bob famously supported Carmen, a transsexual brothel owner, as a mayoral candidate. He has yet to unveil his latest candidate to lead the Vibrant Wellington party, but claims he or she will inspire interest in local politics the way Carmen did.
In an opinion piece in the Dominion Post Sir Bob wrote that he wants free bicycle stands at 100 metre intervals that people can people can pick up and drop off and an amendment to the law allowing cyclists to not wear helmets for that area.
He says the streets that currently bear buses and cars could be used for partially outdoor cafés, florists, newsagents and a Saturday Lambton Quay street market should be implemented.
Sir Bob says “abrasive” buses will not be on the Golden Mile if Vibrant Wellington is elected. “Buses and pedestrians are a terrible mix.”
Other mayoral candidates do not agree.
Mayor Kerry Prendergast believes this could be a possibility in ten or twenty years time. However, she says public transport is “premier” for the Golden Mile, and she thinks taxis and service vehicles for retailers should still have access if the Golden Mile does get pedestrianised.
Under Prendergast’s leadership the Wellington City Council started work on the Golden Mile last month – a re-jig that will open Manners Mall to buses and create a new shared space in lower Cuba Street designed to improve bus services and provide clearer pedestrian links with Civic Square and the waterfront.
Ms Prendergast will be seeking a fourth term at the WCC election on October 9th.
Another candidate, entrepreneur Jack Yan says a pedestrianised Golden Mile would be lovely in summer but terrible in winter. He wants carless days for the city centre to be trialled during the warmer months.
“The thought of being blown about outdoors in the middle of winter while trying to enjoy a coffee hardly appeals…Wellington is unbeatable on a great day, and those great days happen most during the summer.”
Jack Yan says public transport needs to remain in the Golden Mile, as it has in many European cities with pedestrianised areas such as Stolkhom.
Councillor Celia Wade-Brown, who is also running for Mayor, agrees keeping public transport in the CBD is absolutely crucial.
“Lambton Quay is where many office workers commute to – it’s not only shops. Taking the buses out would mean many people would be tempted to switch back to driving in and that would increase traffic delays. Improving public transport in the heart of our city contributes to its economic vibrancy.”
Wade-Brown wants modern light rail system, connecting the suburbs, Hutt Valley and Porirua with the city centre.