Diversity, Multiculturalism shunted aside in Councils CBD “Quick Win”
Wellington City Council’s scheme to turn the capital’s restaurant and entertainment district into a car-free zone was sprung on business proprietors there in the middle of the Covid–19 series of alerts.
Traders in the Courtenay Place district have united under their SOS (save our street) banner and are stating bluntly that the car ban will put them out of business.
Businesses in the area now believe that the council’s ambition to implement the scheme so rapidly meant that the time was similarly compressed for the multi-racial restaurant proprietors to learn about it.
The restaurant and entertainment district proprietors speak more than a dozen different homeland languages.
Council notification pamphlets were stuffed under doors. With English prevailing as only a second language many proprietors failed to understand the implications of the car-free scheme. Call-back numbers were overloaded and again lack of English was a problem.
The car-free inner city leg of which the Courtenay Place entertainment district is part is cited by the council as the “quick win” segment of the wider Lets Get Wellington Moving scheme.
Proprietors there say that comprehending the council’s officialese was a problem, as in the instance of the true meaning of “re-purposed” side streets.
These are exactly the streets that the traders require for re-supplying them and which thus need vehicular access. Especially if the frontage is to be turned into a mall.
A number of the traders in this district recall what happened the last time a car-free zone was proclaimed in the area.
This was the Manners Street mall. It was subsequently restored as a thoroughfare.
But not before the department store James Smiths went out of business in the aftermath of the mall installation.
LGWM is a joint venture between Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and the New Zealand Transport Agency.
Businesses in the area believe that the car-free scheme for the capital’s downtown commercial artery and thus the “quick win” proclamation had much to do with an official survey centred on interest groups such as cycling clubs.
Wellington City Council and the Wellington Regional Council are both territorial local authorities that declared a “Climate Emergency.”
Traders believe that the sponsors of the car-free scheme were and still are determined to identify a problem that does not in fact exist—congestion.
They point out that the streets and the pavements are as busy as they should be in a capital city CBD.
They believe that the real constant congestion will come when vehicles are unable to transit the CBD main routes and instead have to thread their way through residential streets.
They cite as the major existing problem the back- ups caused by the bottleneck centred on the Basin Reserve and which continues to intensify following the blocking at the planning stage of an engineering solution in the form of the second Mt Victoria tunnel.
Promoters of the Lets Get Wellington Moving scheme claim it is all about moving more people with fewer vehicles.
SOS claims though that a large number of bus stops will vanish in the overall car purge.
This in turn will compound an access problem caused by the elimination of 100s of car parks along the main commercial artery, along with the disappearance of parking in the “re-purposed” side streets.
SOS believes that omitted from all this is the existence of the Courtenay Place entertainment district as a virtual 24 hour trading zone which by definition smooths out peak time congestion incurred by the capital’s eight hour office working day.
Faced now with the reality as opposed to the abstract concept of diversity, inclusion, multiculturalism the Wellington City Council will now have to adjust to the procedures applied in other multi racial cities when abrupt, radical town planning change is imminent.
Interpreters will have to be engaged and the council itself assured that all the business proprietors in the entertainment and restaurant district understand what is about to take place.
The random stuffing of pamphlets through doors and entranceways is one indicator how the practical application of multicultural administration now needs to be embedded in the Wellington City Council, in place of its much-publicised and vaunted theoretical emphasis on social equity.
Without being hampered by the need to translate the Wellington City Council’s information hand-outs the Wellington Chamber of Commerce meanwhile is similarly mobilising its members over the car-free zone scheduled for the other end of the commercial route which is the capital’s shopping boulevard stretch sometimes known as the Golden Mile.
In total this route scheduled to be purged of cars is a clearly-defined 2.3 kilometre arterial serpentine stretch of the inner city starting at the gates of Parliament adjacent to Lambton Quay, running up Lower Willis Street, and through the entertainment district of Courtenay Place, ending at the Embassy Theatre, famed for its association with Sir Peter Jackson’s Hobbit saga. .
One contention is that the pedestrian pavements along the 2.3 kilometre route are already as wide if not wider than those of the Ginza, Fifth Avenue, or Oxford Street
The inner Wellington car-free conversion is one part of the Let’s Get Wellington Moving programme budgeted at $6.4 billion which extends from the Ngauranga Gorge in the north to Miramar in the south.