Wellington councillors vote to investigate car-free central city by 2025

Wellington City councillors have voted to investigate a move that would effectively ban cars from the central city by 2025.

A notice of motion, led by climate change portfolio leader councillor Tamatha Paul, asks council officials to prepare a report that explores a fossil-fuel-free CBD.

It was supported by all councillors apart from Nicola Young and Diane Calvert. Mayor Andy Foster was not present for the vote.

Paul told councillors at a meeting today her vision for the city included pedestrianising it, decarbonising, and opening up the streets for people.

She said the city was in dire need of transformation.

“It’s scuzzy, it’s unsafe, and it’s outdated.”

Urgent urban design improvements were needed to keep people safe during the day and at night, Paul said.

She said Wellington was in a lull: “It’s cool to hate Wellington at the moment”.

“It’s up to us around this table to determine what the future of the city looks like”, Paul told her colleagues.

Councillor Sean Rush said from his experience overseas, it was a liberating feeling walking around the middle of a city without motor vehicles.

“There are parts of our CBD that just cry out for that pedestrianisation. I think it will be challenging for the whole of it to be car-free but nevertheless I support the work being done.”

Nicola Young said she couldn’t support the motion due to its timing.

She said getting people out of cars required the city to have affordable and reliable public transport, not constant lists of cancellations.

“I’m sure the time will come when the central city is pedestrianised, pedestrianised central cities are very attractive, but you need to have good public transport.”

Councillor Iona Pannett acknowledged there was room for improvement when it came to the city’s buses, but said Greater Wellington Regional Council has made considerable improvements since the “bustastrophe”.

Councillor Diane Calvert voiced concerns about the council officials’ capacity to do the work.

Councillor Teri O’Neill said studies overseas showed going car-free results in increased foot traffic to businesses and less air pollution.

She said space currently taken up by “gas guzzlers” could be transformed into space for workers, the arts, and housing.

“Imagine if every empty car park could be repurposed into housing.”

The report will be brought back to councillors for consideration by September 30, 2021.

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