Closer to the Heart

Dr Eric Crampton
Insights Newsletter
16 April, 2021

If you’d thought that sorting Wellington’s transport issues was at the heart of the latest efforts to solve Wellington’s transport issues, well, you don’t know Wellington.

For the past five years, Let’s Get Wellington Moving has been consulting with over ten thousand people and 75 stakeholder groups. This week, Wellington councillors held another whiteboard session mapping out potential strategies.

Councillor Diane Calvert was reported as saying they didn’t reach consensus but could agree on one thing: reducing carbon emissions is at the heart of Let’s Get Wellington Moving.

That tells you a lot about Wellington and the prospects of fixing transport.

Carbon emissions are one of the few things that transport planning does not need to worry about.

Transport emissions are covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme. If Wellington’s transport emissions go down, someone else buys the ETS credits and emits instead.

Council does need to worry about whether demand for buses and EV charge points might change, but it does not need to try to force emissions down through transport planning.

Normally, councils complain about costly mandates forced on them by central government. Here, Wellington is trying, at high cost, to fix something already being handled by central government.

Or maybe I have this all backward. A committed localist such as myself should perhaps welcome every effort by local councils to take over areas of central government responsibility, however futile.

Maybe we should put national defence at the heart of Wellington’s transport planning. If anyone ever lands tanks here, we want to make sure that the roads are congested enough that they cannot make it to the Beehive. A crumbling sewerage system will also create helpful pitfalls to stall the tanks’ advance.

Or maybe inflation should be at the heart of Wellington’s transport planning. Maybe you think that the Reserve Bank already has that well in hand, but can we really take that chance? When CPI looks to be running on the low side, Wellington transport could helpfully make things more expensive by stalling transit. They might need a plan for easing congestion if inflation ever creeps up though.

But in any case, under no circumstances should getting Wellington moving ever be at the heart of Let’s Get Wellington Moving. Because Let’s Get Wellington Moving isn’t about that, is it?

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