Businesses say they need clarity after decision to remove cars from Wellington’s Golden Mile

The Wellington Chamber of Commerce says businesses aren’t getting the clarity and certainty they need following a decision to remove private vehicles from the Golden Mile.

A significant decision has been made in the Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) transport plan, with partners landing on a preferred option to transform the Golden Mile.

Private vehicles and car parks will be removed to significantly widen footpaths.

Buses will have a route via a single lane going in either direction and side streets will be closed off where they intersect with the Golden Mile- the exceptions being Taranaki St, Tory St, and Victoria St, as they are considered important access streets.

Changes will affect the stretch of the city that encompasses Lambton Quay, Willis St, Manners St and Courtenay Place.

The business case for the project will now be finalised ahead of a year of detailed design work.

Spades are expected to hit the ground in late 2022 and construction is expected to take two years.

But Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive Simon Arcus said the decision has come with hardly any further information for the businesses it impacts.

“Beyond announcing the option that has been picked, there is very scarce detail given, other than the hopes and platitudes articulated from the various spokespeople.”

Arcus said hundreds of businesses will be affected.

“There is no further information yet on service and delivery vehicle access, taxi stands, or how traffic flows may operate on and around the now cut-off side streets.

“These are all critical issues that the chamber and others raised during the submissions and engagement process over the past 18 months, so we certainly expected further details as part of today’s announcement.”

LGWM Governance Reference Group chairman Daran said the project team was looking at those issues.

He said the 12 months needed for detailed design work would also provide local businesses the opportunity to be involved in shaping the changes.

Arcus said he understood more information was coming, but what businesses needed now was clarity and certainty.

“The current retail and city business environment is trading tough, managing the continuing impacts from Covid, increasing imposts, and ongoing operating challenges.”

He also voiced concerns that the estimated cost of the Golden Mile changes could increase, considering the budget blowout for the overall project.

Treasury has warned LGWM will cost significantly more than first thought, $6.4 billion, and may not be delivered in full.

“You have to ask if this is the best spend of ratepayer and taxpayer funding, whether the same outcome could be achieved more cost-effectively, and how it links to improving the city’s overall productivity,” Arcus said.

Findings from surveys undertaken as part of the project’s analysis showed only 22 per cent of people arrived at the Golden Mile by car and just 3 per cent of those people actually parked there too.

The majority of people arrived by walking, cycling, scooter, or public transport.

Retail spend sharing analysis showed 67 per cent of retail spend came from those who had caught the train, bus, walked, cycled, or scootered to the Golden Mile.

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