Part of the so-called Golden Mile around Wellington’s Lambton Quay area (File photo, Radio NZ)
Part of the so-called Golden Mile around Wellington’s Lambton Quay area (File photo, Radio NZ)

The BulletinNovember 4, 2020

The Bulletin: Wellington’s future being thrashed out

Part of the so-called Golden Mile around Wellington’s Lambton Quay area (File photo, Radio NZ)
Part of the so-called Golden Mile around Wellington’s Lambton Quay area (File photo, Radio NZ)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Wellington’s future being thrashed out, second community case in Christchurch, and the US election is finally here.

An issue that hasn’t been covered heavily in The Bulletin recently is the various issues coming to a boil in the capital city. The decisions made now have the potential to reshape the future liveability of Wellington for decades to come. To vastly simplify the current situation, it remains a highly desirable place to be for those who own property or have good incomes – but an intense housing squeeze and transport issues are putting pressure on everyone else. There was an excellent feature on the issues several weeks ago by Stuff’s Rob Mitchell.

The key document being contested is the Wellington spatial plan. Stuff’s Mandy Te reports 2900 submissions came in on this during the consultation period, with mayor Andy Foster saying a range of views were represented. The aim of the plan is to create space for tens of thousands more residents, which will require intensification, but potentially affect the heritage and character of many parts of the city. It would also have implications for the direction of future district plans, making it a highly influential document. The Talk Wellington blog (which heavily favours ‘density done well’) has put forward some options for how it might be done in practice. Heritage groups, including Keep Wellington’s Character and the Mt Victoria Historical Society, argue that a city’s heritage has intrinsic value and shouldn’t be lightly swept aside.

On these points, Wellington is not a city that has a lot of room to spread north any more, based on the current model of growth. TradeMe data reported on by Radio NZ shows that the city of Porirua is now the most expensive part of the country for rental accommodation. That’s partly because of the nature of housing in Porirua, which tends to be larger and more standalone. Further to the north, pressure is also coming on the Kāpiti Coast. As an aside, Kāpiti District Councillor Gywnn Compton told me during the election campaign that he wouldn’t be surprised to see more high-rise densification in places like Ōtaki in future, provided transport links were improved accordingly.

Speaking of transport, big changes are coming here too. The public has given backing for a radical overhaul of inner city of Wellington around the Golden Mile area, reports Stuff’s Joel MacManus. Footpaths would be widened, permanent bus lanes created, and private vehicles removed from the area. For those that remember Wellington City from a time when it was dominated by cars and gridlocked, this is a significant evolution.

The other elephant in the room for Wellington is the one with footsteps heavy enough to shake the city – the ever-present risk of earthquakes. Right now, a potentially landmark case is playing out in court, reports the NZ Herald’s Georgina Campbell. The Council is trying to take control of the much-missed (by me, at least) Adelaide Hotel, an earthquake prone former pub down the road from the Basin Reserve which has sat unoccupied for years. The current owners are considering demolition, but that could be difficult because of heritage status. Progress on a decision that is likely to set an important precedent is expected in the coming weeks.

There are more issues of course, but what does it all add up to? The central government politicians might be in Wellington, so have a first hand view of how it plays out. But really, these are all issues for people and communities to make their views heard on. For those who want a say in the future of Wellington, the time to push is now.

A second community transmission case has been linked to the Sudima Hotel in Christchurch, with the person being a close contact of the first case. Our live updates reports the second person has just one close contact, who is now in isolation, but has tested negative. There was another urging for people to use the app, because one of the people visited a Christchurch supermarket – but only about 20 people signed in there over the course of the day. Otago University public health expert Nick Wilson has called for an urgent review of the managed isolation system, on the grounds that there have now been “six border failures since the start of August”.

Finally, the US election is here. At the time of writing, voting is underway, and results will start coming in this afternoon NZ time. Catherine McGregor will be running our live blog for the day as it all unfolds. It’s not just a presidential election – 35 Senate seats are also being contested today, with Democrats hoping to win enough races to overturn the Republicans’ current 53-47 majority. I know everyone always describes current elections as ‘the most important in a generation’ or whatever, but this one really is up there.

It’s a bit on the nose to follow up US election news with this, but the Kim Dotcom extradition case will finally be coming to an end today, possibly at least. The NZ Herald’s (paywalled) David Fisher reports the Supreme Court will today decide whether Dotcom and three others are liable to be sent to the US, on charges relating to the Megaupload business. Dotcom himself has always maintained that he is the victim of a conspiracy from the US government, and has vigorously defended the extradition through the courts.

Geoff Simmons has quit as leader of The Opportunities Party, to become the first post-election leadership casualty. I reported from the AGM last night at which he made the announcement, at which Simmons said the decision was based on a need to transition the party, and for his own personal reasons. It was something that had been telegraphed in an earlier post-campaign story. As for the party itself, deputy leader Shai Navot will take over in the interim, ahead of a formal leadership election process. The party got 1.4% of the vote in 2020, and is currently eagerly awaiting the special votes, because they’re likely to overtake the New Conservatives on 1.5%.

Meanwhile in other post-election stuff, Shane Te Pou follows up his earlier piece about Māori representation in cabinet with a new one about the upcoming minefield of fixing Māori health outcomes. And Gone By Lunchtime is back for a new episode, incredible really given how much they put themselves through during the campaign, but you can’t keep a good podcast down.

Industrial water users in Wairarapa are looking at a serious water shortage that could force businesses to shut for months at a time, reports Stuff’s Piers Fuller. New rules are coming into place in 2022 which would require minimum flows for the Waingawa River, and if those minimums are reached then industrial use would be first to be curtailed. The looming crisis is giving more urgency to calls for a new reservoir in the Tararua foothills. However, like with Auckland, the only genuine long term solution might end up being a permanent reduction in wasteful water use, so that it is still available for vital household, industrial and agricultural purposes.

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Then Minister for Local Government Rodney Hide and Prime Minister John Key at the announcement of the Super City decision. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Right now on The Spinoff: Zoe Walker Ahwa reports on concerns being raised about alleged patterns of inappropriate behaviour by two fashion photographers towards young women, and what it could mean for the industry. Tuari Potiki argues that the cannabis referendum results show an appetite for serious reform of drug laws. Former Auckland deputy mayor Penny Hulse looks at the Super City ten years on, and whether she was right to oppose it at the time. Ben Fahy writes about how Covid-19 sped up changes in the world of money. Alice Webb-Liddall writes about the new website that has consolidated data about and involving Māori, making it easier to access statistics that impact lives. I write about Fonterra’s new sustainability report, and what the co-op believes it is getting right and wrong. Dietary Requirements speaks to Monique Fiso, a chef who is leading the kai Māori renaissance. And Alie Benge reviews the bright and breezy local sitcom Golden Boy.

For a feature today, a piece on the complex legacy of the RSE scheme, and the employment of fruit pickers from the Pacific Islands. Writing on E-Tangata, Litia Tuiburelevu and Hugo Wagner-Hiliau write about how it is an example of dumping poor-quality work on people who have little choice but to take it, while also being vital for the New Zealand economy. Now that there’s a massive labour shortage, the question turns to whether RSE workers will start to get the respect and fair treatment they deserve. Here’s an excerpt:

While many families were eager to traverse Te Moana Nui a Kiwa in search of a better life, we must be mindful not to romanticise the government’s intentions through rose-tinted revisionism. Pacific peoples’ invitation to the party was, first and foremost, fuelled by an economic need to fill critical labour shortages in low-paying, industrial jobs — work that was wholly undesirable to a growing Pākehā middle class.

New Zealand welcomed these families with open arms for almost two decades, turning a blind eye to overstayers as long as the economy needed them. It was a capitalist agenda masquerading as generosity. As David Mayeda, Tara Leota-Seiuli and Torisse Laulu write, Pacific peoples were classified as cheap labourers, “valuable only to the extent that they would serve as physical labourers in our textile, cleaning, meat packing and factory based industries”.

But with the global oil crisis of the 1970s and rapid economic downturn, Pacific peoples were “othered” and imagined as a permanent, foreign threat to the New Zealand economy. These racist myths rendered Pasifika as parasites on state resources, a viewpoint bolstered by political campaigns characterising the community as violent, belligerent dole-bludgers unable to assimilate to “Kiwi life”.

In sport, yet another horse was put down after the Melbourne Cup yesterday. As the Guardian reports, it’s the seventh horse killed on the conclusion of the race since 2013. Anthony Van Dyck (the name of the horse, not the jockey) was a pre-race favourite, now he’s off to the glue factory. Animal rights organisations say there will always be deaths as a result of horse racing, because of inherent issues in the sport.

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