Posts tagged ‘infrastructure’


The ïŹ‚yover: every option now heard

23.07.2014

Embarcadero_Waterfront_s

Embarcadero Waterfront, photographed by Ricardo Martins/CC BY 2.0.

 

I was consistent about the Basin Reserve flyover in my campaign. Yes, I agreed we needed improvements to the area. But no, spending millions on it—it did not matter whether it was from taxes or rates at the end of the day, because that still meant you and me, as citizens—seemed foolish if there were better-value options out there. What I said in 2013 was: it’s not one flyover, it’s actually two, if you studied the wording in the plans. And by the time you add up the totals, it was looking like $500 million—and for what benefit? The more roads you create, the more congestion there would be.
   What if we could get the traffic improved there without the blight of a flyover—the sort of thing some cities were removing anyway, making them as liveable as Wellington—and save the country hundreds of millions?
   In San Francisco, when the highway around Embarcadero Drive (now just ‘The Embarcadero’) was removed (you can see it outside the dodgy hotel room in Bullitt), that area became far more lively and pleasant, where there are now parks, where property values rose, and where there are new transit routes. The 1989 Loma Preita ’quake hurried the demolition along, but there’s no denying that it’s been a massive improvement for the City. Younger readers won’t believe how unpleasant that area used to be.
   Admittedly, I get ideas from San Francisco, Stockholm, and other centres, but why not? If they are good ones, then we need to believe we deserve the best. And we can generate still more from Wellington and show them off. Making one city great helps not just our own citizens, but potentially introduces new best practices for many other cities.
   The Richard Reid proposal for the Basin was my favoured one given the traffic benefits could be delivered at considerably less cost and would not be a blight on our city, yet it was getting frustrated at every turn—the media (other than Scoop) had precious little coverage of it.
   A Board of Inquiry was set up and I am glad to receive this word from Richard yesterday.
   â€˜Our practice is very pleased with the Board of Inquiry’s decision to decline NZTA’s Basin Bridge Project. We are equally pleased that the Board has accepted the evidence we submitted against NZTA’s project on behalf of the Mt Victoria Residents Association and ourselves. Of particular note is the Board’s recognition of our alternative at-grade enhancement of the roundabout (BRREO) which we prepared as part of an integrated and holistic solution for the city.
   â€˜The Board notes: “We are satisfied the BRREO Option, particularly having regard to the adverse effects we have identified with regard to the Project, is not so suppositional that it is not worthy of consideration as an option to be evaluated” [para 1483]. The Board also stated that “We found that it [BRREO] may nonetheless deliver measurable transport benefits at considerably less cost and considerably less adverse effects on the environment. We bear in mind that BRREO is still at a provisional or indicative stage and could be subject to further adjustment by further analysis.”
   â€˜Given the Board’s comprehensive dismissal of NZTA’s application, it makes sense that we are given the opportunity to continue to develop BRREO. We look forward to working with NZTA, the Regional and City Councils.’
   Regardless of which option you favoured, I think you will agree with me that all proposals deserved a fair hearing. The Reid one did not prior to 2014, and that was mightily disappointing. I said to Mr Reid that if elected, every proposal would be judged fairly. Let every one be heard and be judged on its merits—and I am glad the Board of Inquiry has done just that.

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Posted in design, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | No Comments »


Responding to blog comments—and where to from here?

28.10.2013

WordPress, with its automatic deactivation of Jetpack after each update, messed up, so I have no metrics for the last two months of this blog. Nor did it send me emails notifying me of your comments. It would have been useful to know how the last couple of posts went, to gauge your reaction to them on the day, rather than seeing comments now after the election. Essentially, all I have of the last two months’ stats is the above: apparently 12 people popped by yesterday. I’m pretty sure the numbers were healthier during the campaign!
   In fact, Jetpack does not update automatically any more, which shows what a faulty product it is. I’d prefer to see WordPress get back to offering statistics separately, since it’s clear that the plug-in does not do what its makers claim.
   So I apologize to the two commenters who gave me feedback on the Kapiti Airport idea and the flyover. It’s true that if blogging were a more important platform for the campaign, I’d have noticed the foul-up with Jetpack, so I take some responsibility—and maybe it is naĂŻve to think that software works out of the box. It very rarely does. Take it from a guy who spent three days post-campaign reinstalling software.
   To David, I am talking about a long-term plan, for something to happen mid-century. However, your idea of going even further north has merit. If we regionalize, a major international airport located there could service Taranaki, Manawatu, Hawke’s Bay and the Wairarapa as well as Wellington.
   To Leon, sorry I didn’t get your vote, but this might explain my opposition to the flyover.
   There are a few issues here at play. First, it’s not a single flyover, but two. The first might cost in the $100 million region, and the second, I guess, will be about the same.
   As you and I know, whether it’s funded by rates or taxes doesn’t make that much difference to everyday Wellingtonians: we’re still paying for it.
   The time saving gained is minimal because, eventually, the flyovers will be choked with traffic. The bottlenecks will remain exactly where they are: the Mt Vic Tunnel and Tory Street.
   Now, if there was a plan that cost under $10 million for the immediate area and delivered the same traffic flow improvement, then it’s worth looking at. The good news is that there is: Richard Reid’s proposal, the one that seems to get no traction in the media, yet it’s elegant, and it works.
   Richard’s had a lot of expertise looking at these solutions and if Wellington indeed favours innovation—though the council’s decision to abolish the ICT portfolio is a retrograde step that signals the opposite—then we need to be hearing from him.
   When you think about the entire project as central government has envisaged it—two Mt Vic Tunnels (though I am beginning to see the merit of this part at least), two flyovers, and even more changes at the Terrace Tunnel end—we’re looking at $500 million.
   I’m just not convinced it will get us bang for the buck, especially if we ratepayers haven’t been told what the options are. All we tend to get, especially in the mainstream media, is “one flyover or no flyover”. If those were the sole choices—and they’re not—then I can see why you’d feel I might be letting the side down, especially since (I’m guessing) we both get stuck in traffic jams around the Basin Reserve on a regular basis.
   I’m deeply thankful for those who voted for me—18 per cent once the preferences were distributed is an improvement, as were 10,000 votes (or least a whisker shy of the number). We ran a grass roots’ campaign that was dismissed by some media, but we showed that Wellingtonians can think for ourselves and that we have a voice. We should create conditions in which our best private enterprise can do its thing, and not, as some of my opponents were so keen to do, go cap-in-hand to central government, thereby going against global trends by centralizing more power with national politicians. This city still needs a rebrand to overcome a tired one. On the campaign team, we have a desire to continue the points in my manifesto: it shouldn’t matter who is mayor. We should still try to identify the high-growth firms, promote innovation in our capital, and act on as many of the points as possible. Wellington is looking at a game-changing decade and we should grasp the opportunity.

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Posted in business, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Bridging the Rimutaka divide: Wellington needs Wairarapa

26.04.2013

In an interview today, the subject of regional reform and amalgamation came up. There’s quite a good site already seeking feedback on the process, and I’ve taken part in a 2012 forum on the subject as well.
   In 2010, the mood in Wellington, based on those I met in the campaign, seemed to be set against amalgamation. There were some suspicions, and I have to say I was among them: I could not understand how a Herald headline could proclaim it was going ahead when the article beneath simply stated that the Royal Commission had recommended the “super-city” as one of its options.
   But, as John Shewan told me before his retirement from Price Waterhouse Coopers, Auckland has found some real savings through amalgamation, wearing an apolitical accountant’s hat in his analysis.
   In the 2012 forum, the opposition to merger seemed weaker. There were many who were concerned at the loss of representation—we had been taught that flat management structures are more efficient, and this seemed to go against that instinct. However, some felt that amalgamation made sense—but of those, the Wairarapa seemed to be another world, and that maybe we should let them do their own thing.
   I have been wondering about the opposition to the Wairarapa being part of a larger Wellington. I know people there, and they don’t think much of grabbing train ride south to head into town. It’s less of an obstacle to come here than to, say, Napier, which is where some of the people at the 2012 forum felt it had a closer kinship to. In the times I’ve been north of the Rimutaka divide and talked to locals, I can’t say they feel that.
   The concern among those in Wellington might be driven by geography. That’s not an easy road to drive. I’ve seen Shaker Run. And does that mentally stop us from embracing the Wairarapa as readily as we should? Sure, we love those Martinborough wines, but isn’t it such a trek?
   Yet when you look on a map, Lake Ferry, which you can only get to via the Wairarapa, is far closer to us than anywhere else. Good luck telling a foreign visitor—or even an investor—that that’s not part of our region. And when I think of Martinborough and Wellington, I can’t help but draw a parallel with Napa and Sonoma, and San Francisco. It just seems a natural fit when it comes to marketing a region, and that if we’re saying that Wellington loves diversity, then is it so hard to accept a rural component right next door to us?
   But here’s why my thinking is really leaning toward inclusiveness: New Zealand’s industry is still largely primary products-based. People like me can talk all we like about growing our technological and creative sectors, and that is still something to aim for. We still need to do it. However, it won’t happen overnight. Right now, and even for the next generation, we’d be mugs to discount the Wairarapa’s rural base because that’s an important part of our economy. We also need to consider the land out there, too, and help make use of it effectively at a macroeconomic level. If people want reform, and if that includes merging councils, then I think we’d be poorer without the Wairarapa as part of Wellington.
   Our GDP, as it is, isn’t great: in fact, The Dominion Post revealed earlier this week that Wellington city’s GDP is flat. I did predict this in 2010 and said that we needed to nurture businesses properly.
   Is it, then, a change of mindset that we need? We can already see how the Bay Area in California is marketed: there are bridges to take those from the City northward to Napa and Sonoma. We have a less than ideal road and a rail link, both of which are being improved. With more Wellingtonians focusing on the work–life balance and enjoying everything from Toast to the air shows, those old “them and us” attitudes seem to be waning anyway. Maybe it’ll just take a different type of marketing to feel closer to our Wairarapa cousins?
   At the end of the day, it should be up to the people to decide. However, if we are to do so, then we must have all the facts. Right now, I’m not alone with these thoughts: this website outlines even more reasons the Wairarapa should stay with Wellington. And the Palmer report noted last year, ‘We believe Wairarapa to be an important part of the Wellington region and that its future prosperity would be adversely affected were it cut off from the region.’ I’d be happy to host a discussion—either here, on my Facebook group where your thoughts are welcome in refining my mayoral campaign manifesto on this website, or, if schedules allow, offline.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Are you receiving me, over?

19.07.2011

I’m putting this out there in case others have experienced something similar: is the New Zealand internet constantly down?
   I’ve had the same email address since 1995. Yet, this year, a noticeable number of New Zealanders have telephoned here, saying that their messages have bounced. Even one team member has said that, if she uses her home ISP, her messages to me also bounce. In one case, we had to resort to fax to get the document across.
   This year, I’ve clicked on (foreign) search engine results or advertisements to get to an error page. Only when I hit ‘Refresh’ does the page eventually come through. This has not happened with the same frequency as it does today.
   I’m sitting here today after sending three very important emails to channel partners over the weekend, and have not had a reply to them. I’m wondering, now, since I used a New Zealand ISP’s SMTP, whether I’m in the same shoes as the others who have tried to reach me. Certainly, in one case, the domain for FTPing was unreachable on Saturday on my first attempt. And TelstraClear—though it’s not the only party with sending problems, as I know one of my clients is on Xtra—does not send me bounces.
   I should explain that despite being HQed here, our server has always been Stateside. This was a consequence of some rules regarding foreign web server traffic back in the 1990s. As we knew that most of our traffic would come from overseas—a logical conclusion given that New Zealand’s population is so small—and as local hosting companies were charging what I thought were rip-off prices in those days, we’ve always been hosted either on the US east coast (New York and Virginia) or, since 2002, a dedicated server in the south.
   But it’s not as though this domain is so new that it doesn’t reside on DNSs around New Zealand.
   My theories are not conspiratorial, for a change. But they are concerning, because it makes me wonder about our national internet infrastructure, and how far we might have fallen behind in the last decade.
   I have heard, from people who know more about the infrastructure than me, that we have fallen considerably behind in the last decade, though I don’t know exactly in which areas other than overall speed and, as of this year, civil liberties, democracy and the rule of law.
   I suspect that with growing internet usage, local servers are not resolving addresses as efficiently as they used to. There are more addresses to hold on to, so if you aren’t at the very top of the list (Google, Facebook, etc.), then you’re going to be forgotten. And since my address is the company’s one, and not Lucire’s, it isn’t really going to be among those top ones.
   It might mean that from now on, I’m going to have to use our own mailserver, rather than our ISP’s, to get emails across. At least that’s based in Texas, and I can be assured that my emails are getting to the US and the UK.
   If anything happens, at least I know I’d get a fair hearing with the Americans on their own soil than I would under our American-imposed copyright laws.
   Anyone else here with an overseas mailbox—and not one of the webmail services like Gmail or Hotmail—experiencing similar issues?

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Posted in business, internet, New Zealand, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


Parts of Japan are decimated, and I think back to my grandfather

11.03.2011

My grandfather, Col. Tung Wan Yan, of the Chinese Constitutional Army, had a very interesting war.
   He was on a Japanese hit-list and was hiding in trees when some soldiers opened fire on him with automatic weapons. By some miracle, he escaped unharmed.
   It’s one of the close calls he had in China and Malaya during World War II.
   Last night, and for a little while this morning, I Tweeted some public notices to help get word out for the Japanese people, which is one of the few things my limited skill set allows for. I translated Tweets via Google Translate to keep people informed, especially those in Japan who might not understand Japanese.
   And my mind turned to him. He’s the one guy in our family who has met a lot more Japanese people than we can claim.
   Not because of any contrast, but because of similar motives.
   Immediately after the surrender, my grandfather created jobs for stranded Japanese soldiers in Malaya, so they could earn their passage back home.
   When you cast aside government orders, people are people—and compassion is a natural trait in most of us. They put down their guns and became brothers.
   If you ask me what part of my grandfather’s war record I am proud of, it was that immediate postwar work. Technically, it’s not part of his war record, though it is part of his military record.
   He had to get back to his family, too, but, as any leader would do, he placed others before himself. More importantly, these others included not only his own men, but those whom, a day before, were called ‘the enemy’.
   He was a few months younger than I am now, and had done way more than I ever could. In this and other respects, he was a better man than me.
   Tweeting public notices isn’t much compared with actual job creation and restoring public services and infrastructure in a foreign country.
   But what he and I have in common is that we believe that, in these times of need, we are all brothers and sisters in unity with the citizens and families of Japan.

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Posted in China, internet, leadership | 3 Comments »