Peter Williams: The anti-car movement plaguing New Zealand

Opinion 17/06/2021

OPINION: So Wellington’s Golden Mile is in the not too distant future going to be car-free. Only pedestrians, cyclists, and some buses will be allowed up most of Lambton Quay, then around on to Willis Street and into Manners Street and Courtenay Place. 

Now, this is part of the Let’s Get Wellington Moving campaign which has actually achieved not much since it was launched, whenever it was. Is this the way of the future? No cars in the middle of the city? 

There are very quickly two schools of thought on this. The promoters of it say they will be creating a vibrant and welcoming place to live, work and play and make it safer to walk, bike and scoot. They also say that widened footpaths and more space for bikes and scooters will increase access and lead to more customers for the retailers. 

But the retailers are far from happy. They say that retail stores need to be easily accessible and that as many customers have already deserted the city in favour of suburban shopping malls where it’s easier to park, this proposal will only make things worse. They go on to say, “it is particularly disappointing that the transport bureaucrats seem to have failed to explore the opportunities for central city businesses that would come by reducing congestion and making it easy for customers no matter what mode of transport customers choose. A key failing is that there is no research about the barriers that already exist to shopping in the central city and whether the anti-car proposal will make things worse.” 

And they say there are issues with supply vehicles getting decent access to the shops as well. 

“Let’s Get Wellington Moving started out as a well-intentioned programme to reduce congestion through the CBD but has become fixated on delivering high-speed buses, at a time when the Regional Council is cancelling dozens of services. Many retailers will be fearful that the anti-car fervour will spread, with Wellington City Council set to debate a proposal to ban cars from the entire CBD, which would be the best thing Wellington City Council can do to support retailing in Porirua and Lower Hutt.”

So people in Wellington, what do you think? But also what about the rest of the country? 

There is a fervent anti-car movement developing, and keeping people out of cars is becoming more and more a common theme. Do you want cars in the middle of your town? Is Wellington doing the right thing here? 

But if they’re going to make the heart of the city’s shopping into a pedestrian mall, should they do what all good malls do as well - and that is to provide plenty of parking for non-city dwellers to come to town, park and do their shopping?