Wellington’s City to Sea Bridge
Wellington’s City to Sea Bridge

The BulletinNovember 10, 2023

Will the City to Sea Bridge survive Wellington’s cost-cutting spree?

Wellington’s City to Sea Bridge
Wellington’s City to Sea Bridge

The infrastructure icon could be demolished after the council decided against funding the full cost of Civic Square repairs, writes Catherine McGregor in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

A Wellington infrastructure icon faces the threat of demolition

I have a Polaroid photo of my sister and me sitting on the steps of the City to Sea Bridge. It was taken in 1995, just a year after the opening of the bridge decorated with steampunk-ish sculptures inspired by Māori legend and the ocean it overlooks. Almost 30 years on, the bridge remains a vital connection between the CBD and harbour, but its future looks shaky. While the bridge is not an earthquake risk, it suffers from serious structural issues – specifically, its piles do not extend fully into bedrock – and the council has decided not to fund repairs, instead earmarking a smaller sum to “investigate other options including demolition”. The vote was taken at yesterday’s meeting on the council’s long term plan, during which councillors made all sorts of funding decisions (though not final, binding votes) that will shape the future of Wellington.

Cycleway plans scaled back, airport shares may go up for sale

The Spinoff’s Wellington editor, Joel MacManus, was at the meeting and liveblogged the whole thing. Wellington Council is trying to cut hundreds of millions from its budget, jeopardising the transformative agenda that mayor Tory Whanau campaigned on last year. Along with the bridge decision – which also turns off the tap on funding for repairs to the Civic Square basement and the former Capital E building – cuts agreed to yesterday include $25m that would have switched swimming pool heaters from gas to electricity, and $71 to go from the citywide cycleway budget. Subject to public consultation period, the latter would “still mean the full rollout of all the planned cycleways, but the lanes would be of lower quality, with less physical separation between bikes and cars,” writes MacManus. The council also voted to explore selling its 34% stake in Wellington International Airport.

Water companies jostle to be first in line for Three Waters replacement

One issue that didn’t get much play at the meeting was the state of the water supply, the council apparently pinning its hopes on the new government to solve the city’s multi-billion-dollar pipes problem. This morning the NZ Herald’s Thomas Coughlan (paywalled) reports that Wellington Water wants to be a test case for a new system that National says will restore “local control” – minus Three Waters’ controversial co-governance requirement. Hutt City mayor Campbell Barry, who chairs the Wellington Water Committee, says Wellington has a “head start” because councils have already partly amalgamated water management, and he’s preparing a request to be first through the doors. However he remains worried that National hasn’t committed to giving the new water entities balance-sheet separation from councils, which would allow them to take on more debt to tackle their enormous repair-and-renewal backlog. Up in Auckland, Watercare has warned that it may have to introduce large price hikes from next July if balance-sheet separation doesn’t happen, BusinessDesk’s Oliver Lewis reports (paywalled).

Parking to stay on K’ Road for now

Staying with Auckland local government, Auckland Transport has backed down on plans to remove car parks on Karangahape Road after an intervention from Mayor Wayne Brown. At present parking is allowed during off-peak hours, but AT had planned to remove all on-street parking from next week, citing the “need to make way for 100 additional bus services, including the new Western Express”, Newshub’s Zane Small reports. With many K’ Road businesses up in arms, Brown stepped in and AT now says the car parks will stay – for now at least. “Sooner or later there’s going to be more buses going through K’ Road and you have to come up with some sort of result that allows for that,” Brown told RNZ. The delay will give AT time to readjust its approach, he said.

Keep going!