19 April 2014

A mayor for light rail

21/07/2010 10:26:00 a.m.

1 Comment

Mayoral hopeful Celia Wade-Brown wants light rail rather than tunnels for more cars.

Mayoral hopeful Celia Wade-Brown wants light rail rather than tunnels for more cars.

Capital Times talks with mayoral hopefuls in the lead up to the Wellington City Council elections in early October.

MAYORAL candidate Celia Margaret Wade-Brown is proud of her golden $17 suit jacket.
“It’s from the expensive rack at the Salvation Army shop on Taranaki Street. You should mention that,” she laughs.
Wade-Brown says asking other candidates a “source of clothes question” would provide amusing answers from this year’s candidates.
“I do have a problem with Miss Universe [supported by Jack Yan], but other people in Wellington do sustainable fashion well.”
Wade-Brown’s love of recycling and everything green (including membership in the Green party) was planted early.
Her grandmother “Nonna” was an early source of inspiration, and growing up in a London council flat made them close companions.
“The flat was next to the Paddington main line. Steam trains used to rattle the coffee pot on the stove. We would plant flower seeds together on our sooty little balcony, and she taught me how to cook,” says Wade-Brown.
The young Wade-Brown travelled on the red double-decker buses to Kensington Gardens for day trips.
“The gap year I took in Cape Coast, Ghana, as a laboratory assistant in a girl’s school was an influential time, I made friends from many nationalities.”
Wade-Brown loved university in Nottingham, where she acted in the drama club and was president of the philosophy society.
She moved to Wellington in 1983 (and still lives in the same Island Bay house) for a career in IT and teaching, before being elected to council in 1994.
But she never forgot her grandmother’s desire to make life colourful in a cosmopolitan city, and put her green fingers to work as the Wellington City Council Environment Portfolio leader.
Capital Times met Wade-Brown on the Paramount Cinema’s balcony, and she was quick to point out problems with our “golden” public transport spine.
“Look at Courtenay Place backed up right now; 20 cars and two buses behind the first pedestrian crossing, and the mayor says private cars are not a problem?” she says. “We wanted this street for public transport, walking, and cycling at peak hour times, but Kerry [Prendergast] stopped that.”
Wade-Brown has two sons, 16 and 19 years-old, and the eldest recently had an inner-city incident, and is recovering from a collision with a car on his moped.
“He went into the back of a car. It’s was a bit of the teenage recklessness, and he has learnt a lesson in keeping his distance.”
Public transport should be the city’s focus, in order to make it a cleaner and safer environment to live in, she says.
“If Copenhagen can go from 15% cycling up to 37% in a much colder climate, then we can improve on our lowly 4%. Many women I know want to bike, but don’t because there is no feeling of safety.”
There are exceptions to the rule, but she says men are generally more “kamikaze” on their bikes than women.
Wade-Brown is currently working on a proposal to remove some parking in Balaena Bay, so the bike lane can continue to Shelly Bay, as part of the Great Harbour Way.
She wishes the current mayor would “lighten up” and not treat important issues as “black and white”.
“She needs to realise there are very competent people in different fields, it’s frustrating how dismissive she is of people. What I’ve found out is I don’t have all the answers, but by working with others you find direction.”
Wade-Brown believes the priority for Wellington is building a $200 million light-rail network.
If elected mayor, she would try to halt the building of two new tunnels at Mount Victoria and the Terrace, in favour of a light-rail network.
“New tunnels will bring more traffic into city. With the population growth predicted, we actually need to change how we do transport.”
She believes future generations will be more willing to pay for light-rail than tunnels, as it will provide resilience in the face of peak oil.
“With light rail, Lambton Quay, Courtenay Place and Adelaide Road would carry nearly double the passengers of the existing bus network. If you look at Lambton Quay now you can tell it’s not a bold statement, we are now entering bus jam status.”
Targeted rates increases for businesses near the new lines will help pay for them, she says.
“It’s a mechanism we don’t have in New Zealand yet, it’s a tax increment for funding in a specific area. We get the area to agree on improvements and help pay it off over time.”
The scheme would affect businesses more than residential properties.
“I really struggle with the government’s focus on roads with no benefit cost-ratio higher than one – it means you’re spending more than you gain,” says Wade-Brown.
However, she claims she’s not anti-car.
The city has a “good balance” of transport use at the moment, but if light-rail is postponed congestion will build, she says.
Wade-Brown also wants more funding and power divested to the community.
“Village planning models can work, and directing more finances to the people who actually live in the area is good.”
In her time away from council, Wade-Brown likes to kayak around the harbour and take her mind off the inner-city pressure.
“It’s such a good way to clear my mind. I need to get better at being pithy, but I’m just interested in so many things. And I have a dog called Storm,” laughs Wade-Brown.

What car do you drive?
I prefer my Scott bicycle for getting round Wellington. The family has a Subaru.
What is your favourite and least favourite Wellington something?
Most favourite: browsing in the Central Library and walking in the Town Belt. Least favourite: people going through red lights.
What is one issue in the past three years that has made you angry?
Landlords who rent out flats that are cold, damp and draughty, and won’t take advantage of subsidised schemes to upgrade the housing.
What needs the most attention in Wellington, public transport, or waterfront, why (please say one)?
Public transport: we need lower fares, more punctual buses, weekend services to all areas, cleaner fuels and the introduction of light rail.
If you were a dictator, what first thing would you implement in Wellington?
Local community support for democracy to resist dictatorships!
What was your worst/best subject at college?
Worst:  Latin. Best: a tie between Chemistry and English.
What is your biggest weakness (humour us)?
Fairtrade milk chocolate.
In six words describe your talents.
Friendly enthusiasm, logic, compassion, honest leadership.
If you were an animal what would you be?
A dolphin.
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1 Comment

Don't worry, we wont make this public

Ryan at 12:55 p.m. on 22 July said

Great stuff Celia. This city needs more and smarter public transport, and leaders who know how to work in teams.

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