The first impression of the draft Ngauranga – Airport Draft plan is that it isn’t so much a “plan” as a statement of intent. The document states that it is a consultation, and appears to offer the chance for the public to make submissions, but in fact it is stating what appears to have already been decided by the City Council.

This impression could be mistaken, but the format of the document doesn’t easily lend itself to the idea of consultation, and is more akin to a publicity exercise. There are no options presented to the reader for example, and instead we’re given a set of intentions that may or may not be implemented over a 10-year period.

I need to scratch a little deeper, for instance reading the Urban Development Strategy and the Regional Strategy, which will hopefully reveal a little more of the justifications for the choices the Council has already decided on is putting forward in their ‘draft plan’, and hopefully illuminate how and why particular decisions are being made.

After reading this slim document all I’m left with is the feeling that their is a very general intention to develop inner-city Wellington, but that no-one is actually sure how. The options for transport are a dog’s breakfast, and although the greater weight of submissions in a previous process were in favour of light rail as a public transport solution (which implies they would be at very least willing to utilise the service, if not actively support it), the paper dismisses it out of hand as prohibitively expensive. But, digging in a little further we find that costings for light rail are hidden on the very last page. And, they are $35million cheaper than what seems to be the preferred option to improve the corridor in question, a second Mt Vic tunnel…

As I say, this is a set of first impressions. But the first impression is very bad. Options that involve high-fossil fuel use, including diesel buses and public transport, as clearly given priority, while options that could make Wellington an eminently liveable city (walking and cycling) are uncosted within the plan and clearly not considered important. The “urban corridor” is poorly conceived, and seems to be a matter of convenience in “planning” as opposed to an objective. While the document states that there is expected to be considerable growth along the corridor, how good transport will complement this growth is not apparent, except the ensure that everything is lovely and convenient at clear bottlenecks like SUV central outside the gates of Government House at the end of school.

The two things I did find interesting was the statement that integrated ticketing would be available by 2011, and that dedicated bus laneways would be created. I’d love to know people’s opinion on that, because it would be the only things in this plan that might actually encourage people out of their private transport. That in turn would have them increasing their walking in the city, which in turn might increase patronage of the shops. 

Seriously, who notices the details of retail outlets when they’re driving past at 30km/hr, not me.

I’ll put in some decent reading and get back to you.