Trams-Action is an advocacy group for better public transport based in Wellington, New Zealand.                                                                                              last updated 26/09/2019


Artist's impression:  Modern tram-trains in Wellington.  Left: In Lambton Quay / Hunter Street, one on its way to the airport, the other on its way to Queensgate in Lower Hutt.   Right: The same tram-train in Ngauranga, using the suburban network tracks, shared with the units.  Courtesy of:  W.W. Trickett.


Wellington: A great place to live in but not so nice to get around in, particularly during peak hours.


Wellington’s streets are often congested. Public transport in Wellington is a mess. It is reliant solely on buses, which cannot provide the required capacity. A major reconstruction of the routes and timetables was undertaken last year which drastically reduced the level of service. To make matters even worse, the fleet of 60 trolleybuses was removed and replaced by diesels and 10 battery electrics with a vague promise of more to come but no action, adding to Wellington’s transport emissions - an inexcusable state of affairs.

There is also a suburban heavy rail system which serves Johnsonville, the Kapiti Coast and Lower and Upper Hutt but it ends in a stub terminal, right on the edge of the Central Business District (CBD). This forces people to interchange just to complete a basic trip into the city, the worst possible transport model for rail transit. The inconvenience is a major disincentive for potential users, making them prefer to drive instead.  After all, the state highway is a continuous spine so why isn’t the rail?

Several studies carried out in the 1990s pointed the way to extending the rails through town using either light rail (on the Johnsonville line) or tram-train on the Hutt line and eventually the Kapiti line, too. The 1999 Regional Land Transport Strategy foresaw rail services extending to residential suburbs as far afield as Whitby and Stokes Valley. However, this was all forgotten when the time came to replace the aging English Electric multiple units and an opportunity was lost.

In 2013, a proposal to build a flyover at the Basin Reserve, a frequently congested road interchange, was rightly thrown out. This resulted in the formation of Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM), a collaboration between the Wellington City Council (WCC), the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC), and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). After a lot of fluffing around, they came out with some very weak and vague proposals.  So far, LGWM has been a total waste of time.  Despite Trams-Action consulting with them no less than three times, they have refused to acknowledge the essentiality of a mass transit system going through the corridor of highest demand (the CBD) and having it linked seamlessly to the existing rail system.  They have not even acknowledged that mass transit must be rail-based, leaving the door open for such untried systems as trackless trams or bus-based systems, which would leave the discontinuity at the railway station a permanent blight on our transport system.


TRAMS-ACTION’S ASSESSMENT OF LOCAL BODY CANDIDATES, 2019.  A guide to voting for a decent public transport system.

Local body elections are upon us, and it’s time for the citizens to have their say.  The following represents Trams-Action’s assessment of the candidates in the local body elections 2019 for the Greater Wellington Regional Council and the Wellington City Council, including the mayor.  It is based first and foremost on their stated support of an integrated rail system such as Trams-Action is proposing, secondly on their support of any light rail system and thirdly on their opposition to building more road capacity, such as a second Mt Victoria tunnel.  It also takes into account of their opposition to wasting money on so-called “vanity projects” which will only drain money from more important projects.  We firmly believe that more roads are not needed to install a decent light rail system and that a decent light rail system will negate the need for more roads.  Putting in more roads first, will merely encourage more people to drive and make the uptake of public transport even more difficult, at the same time, making the city less pleasant to live in.

A note on the voting system and strategic voting.

The voting system is STV (single transferable vote) so candidates have been ranked in order based on a clear affinity for regional light rail and rejecting the “road expansionists”.  The idea is to first choose those candidates you definitely want in your preferred order, then put those you don’t mind, and finally leave blank (i.e. do not rank at all) those you don’t want under any circumstances.  Remember that if an outsider you vote for doesn’t get in, your vote goes down to your next choice.  With that in mind, here we go…


We start with the GWRC, as these councillors will probably have the greatest influence on whether light rail goes ahead or not.  It is essential that ALL members of the GWRC, regardless of which constituency they are in, realise the importance of a region-wide rail system with on-street capability.  Hence the transport views of all the candidates (with the possible exception of Wairarapa for now) need to be taken into account by those voting in their constituency.

WELLINGTON CONSTITUENCY.  23 candidates for 5 seats.  In this case we have a plethora of good candidates, more than enough to fill the five seats.

(1)  JOHN KLAPHAKE. Strong open support for regional light rail.  A clear stand-out.

(2)  THOMAS NASH. Aware of the benefits of light rail compatible with the existing system.

(3)  ROGER BLAKELEY. Sitting councillor, supports light rail using existing gauge, likely chairperson for GWRC.

(4)  DARAN PONTER. Very effective sitting councillor.  Took the rap on the bus fiasco when others were missing in action.  Sees the benefits of light rail.

(5)  SAM SOMERS. Impressive young man.  Well aware of regional light rail and openly says so.

(6)  ALEXANDER GARSIDE. Converted light rail supporter during the campaign.  Talks about an 80 year regional plan with ambitious public transport policy.

(7)  VICTORIA RHODES-CARLIN. Young, focussed on biodiversity, freshwater, climate change and transport.

(8)  HELENE RITCHIE. Long-serving councillor. Supports light rail.

(9)  DAVID LEE. Good green credentials, aware of mass transit.

(10)  TONY JANSEN. Has come out and supported light rail when asked.

(11)  RAY WILSON. Driver for NZ bus.  Not much on policy but supports light rail.

(12)  PHIL QUIN. Dompost opinion writer.  Realises importance of rail network, not appeared at any meetings.

(13)  JILL FORD. Vague, nothing standout.

(14)  YVONNE LEGARTH. Nothing standout.

(15)  ANAND KOCHUNNY. Strong on values, but no actual policy whatsoever on his extensive website.

(16)  TONY De LORENZO. Very vague statement. Claims financial responsibility.

(17)  DEANE MILNE. A tradie, talks about transport impacting our personal and work lives. Could be a closet road expansionist.

(18)  BRYCE PENDER. Fixing the buses and public transport. Claims big picture thinking. Taxi driver, so may have a conflict of interest regarding light rail.

(19)  GAVIN BRUCE. Farmer focussed on predator control, water, planting native trees. Openly a road expansionist, against light rail.

(20)  LESLEIGH SALINGER. Road expansionist, against light rail. Ignores climate change.

(blank)  GLENDA HUGHES. Represents the Wellington Party, a strongly pro-roads party which sees no case for mass transit of any sort. Damaging to the environment and the city’s amenity.  From their website: “Our city’s network of core roading infrastructure needs to be finished.” Their statement on LGWM “Behind the gloss, pomp and shiny trams, it’s mostly a dud” clearly reveals their negative attitude to light rail.

(blank)  PHILIP O’BRIEN. Also represents the road expansionist Wellington Party.

(blank)  TROY MIHAKA. Another member of the road expansionist Wellington Party.

LOWER HUTT CONSTITUENCY. 6 candidates for 3 seats. One excellent candidate. I have ranked all the sitting councillors the lowest as Lower Hutt is currently too road-focussed.

(1)  JOSH VAN LIER. The standout candidate.  Strong on extending the existing rail system via light rail.

(2)  PETER GLENSOR. Focussed on transport with a leaning towards rail, was involved in the rail upgrade.

(3)  LEONIE DOBBS. Seems to give transport a high priority but nothing of substance.

(4)  KEN LABAN. Sitting councillor. The usual noises about climate change and the environment but nothing of substance.

(5)  DAVID OGDEN. Sitting councillor. Nothing notable.

(6)  PRUE LAMASON. Sitting councillor. Too road focussed, especially the proposed Melling interchange. We need a change, not a road interchange.

PORIRUA-TAWA CONSTITUENCY. 7 candidates for 2 seats.Difficult to find any positive candidate to support.



(3)  CHRIS KIRK-BURNNAND.  The only one with a website but nothing much on it.




(blank)  BARBARA DONALDSON.  Sitting chair of the transport committee but did not front up to the meetings on the bus disaster, nor does she have any clues about regional light rail.  Vote her out.

KAPITI COAST CONSTITUENCY.  2 candidates for 1 seat.

(1)  PENNY GAYLOR. Sitting councillor, focussed on trains and public transport with links to Wellington.

(2)  NEIL MACKAY. Mentions sustainable transport, but nothing specific.

UPPER HUTT CONSTITUENCY: 4 candidates for 1 seat.

(1)  ROS CONNELLY. Seems the best bet, judging by her statements, especially on transport.

(2)  STEVE PATTINSON. A close second.

(3)  BILL HAMMOND. Claims background in the transport industry without being specific.  Vague.

(blank)  MARK CROFSKEY. Representing the road-focussed Wellington Party. Specifically mentions enhancements for SH2 and SH 58.

WAIRARAPA CONSTITUENCY: As this constituency will not be affected by light rail in the near future, we have not assessed or ranked the candidates.


9 candidates for 1 seat. Rather short of talent here, with only the first three worth considering. The rest are strategic votes.

(1)  CONOR HILL. Top notch transport policy. The ONLY candidate who firmly supports light rail and is against this trackless tram nonsense. He also has great ideas on housing policy and is totally against vanity projects including the runway extension. Best candidate by the proverbial country mile.

(2)  NORBERT HAUSBERG. Strong on reducing transport emissions. Became a fervent advocate of regional light rail after learning of the 1992 Superlink study.

(3)  JENNY CONDIE. Interested in light rail “if the business case stacks up”. Mentions low carbon transport and population growth in the north, but blind to the need for an unbroken rail spine through the CBD.

(4)  ANDREW GRANTHAM COX. Vague, harmless old man. Strategic vote only to keep the worst ones out.

(5)  DON NEWT McDONALD. Desperation measure to keep the road expansionists out.

(6)  JUSTIN LESTER. After first supporting light rail, he went off on a trackless tram tangent. Blind to the financial dangers of installing an untried system as compared to a well-proven system. Poor track record as mayor but we reluctantly give him a ranking as those below him are even worse.

(7)  AJAY RATHOD. Appears to be strongly in favour of roads, especially a second Mt Victoria tunnel. Climate change does not feature anywhere on his manifesto or his speeches. Others below him are even worse.

(blank)  ANDY FOSTER. His policies would encourage more car use, while he pays lip service to climate change. Hypocrisy of the worst kind. From his website: “Delaying the second Mount Victoria tunnel and Basin Reserve improvements for reasons of political ideology is unacceptable,” he says. “There are several aspects of the LGWM package that show it is clearly anti-motorist.” Judge for yourselves.

(blank)  DIANE CALVERT. From her website:  “… it looks like [LGWM] were captured by the light rail movement, ideological views…” She goes on: “It also looks like that 50% from the SH1 funds has been applied to prop up a seemingly unviable mass transit investment.” Straight out of the last National government’s agenda. Endorsed by the Wellington Party which has not stood a mayoral candidate, in support of her. The worst possible candidate.


LAMBTON WARD:  7 candidates for 3 seats. Difficult to find a good third choice here. This ward will get immediate benefits from the introduction of light rail.

(1)  IONA PANNETT. The standout candidate and an effective long term councillor. Strong supporter of light rail over the years, also very prominent in opposing the flyover. Strong environmental credentials.

(2)  TAMATHA PAUL. A young flyer. Strong environmental credentials and could be convinced about the need for light rail.

(3)  HARRY SMITH. Another young candidate. Strong on housing and environmental issues. Could be convinced regarding light rail.

(4)  BRIAN DAWSON. Has done good work in the community and housing sector but not strong on light rail.

(5)  SHAN NG. Nothing on transport. Diversity and good representation. Not turned up to any meetings.

(blank)  LEE ORCHARD. No view yet on a second Mt Victoria tunnel! Not convinced about light rail.

(blank)  NICOLA YOUNG. Long term sitting councillor but definitely against light rail. Time to replace her with some young blood.

SOUTHERN WARD:  4 candidates for 2 seats.  This is the next ward to get benefits as light rail expands southwards.

(1)  LAURIE FOON. Green candidate, emphasis on public transport, without being specific.

(2)  FLEUR FITZSIMMONS. Sitting councillor with good policies.

(3)  HUMPHREY HANLEY. Sustainable transport and other good policies.

(4)  THOMAS MORGAN. Some strange statements in his manifesto.

EASTERN WARD: 7 candidates for 3 seats.  This would be the next ward to reap the benefits of light rail, once it gets through Mt Albert.  Update: The original version was written before the Eastern Ward candidates’ meeting took place.  Following that meeting, we have made significant changes to the rankings previously given.

(1)  SARAH FREE.  Very effective sitting councillor.  Supporter of sustainable transport, specifically light rail.

(2)  CHRIS CALVI-FREEMAN.  Experienced transport planner strong supporter of light rail, having pushed for LGWM to put mass transit ahead of more roads.  His reply to Steph Edlin at a youth engagement with LGWM was misinterpreted and misreported in the media.

(3)  TERI O’NEILL.  Good sustainable policies.  Would prefer mass transit to more roads.  Unsure of her attitude to light rail, but no second Mt Vic tunnel and overall many good ideas and policies.

(4)  BERNARD O’SHAUGHNESSY.  Claims to support light rail, but also supports a second tunnel.

(5)  STEPH EDLIN.  Thoughtless, with strong support for a second tunnel and against light rail.  Needs to realise that the idea of improving public transport is to negate the need to expand roads.  Climate change doesn’t feature.  Great to have young people standing, but should have done her homework first!

(6)  AJAY RATHOD.  No concrete policies, just a vague “will listen to the voters”.  Wants a second Mt Victoria tunnel.  No climate policies.

NORTHERN WARD: 8 candidates for 3 seats. No one stands out as specifically supporting light rail. Really only two candidates worth supporting.

(1)  JENNY CONDIE. See comments under mayoral candidates. Talented and unlikely to support road expansion.

(2)  JILL DAY. She supports “… massed transit [sic!] (light rail or trackless trams), the second Mt Vic tunnel, unlocking congestion at the Basin Reserve, improved cycling infrastructure, improvements to the rail corridor and bus priority through the city.” However, has definitely stated “no more roads” at a meeting.

(3)  PETER GILBERD. Sitting councillor, wants “a step-change in public transport uptake, supports trackless trams and hybrid buses. At least he hasn’t stated he wants more roads.

(4)  GRAEME SAWYER. His website has not changed since 2016, with his major issue being his opposition to medium density housing in his area. Single-issue candidate, but as long as he’s not advocating for more roads, he can’t do any harm on the transport front.

(5)  JOHN PETERS. Not seen at any meetings. Statement in the WCC website talks only about himself.

(6)  MALCOLM SPARROW. Sitting councillor, roads focussed.

(7)  TRACY HURST-PORTER. Seems anti-cycling, from her statements.

(blank)  JOHN APANOWICZ. A member of the road expansionist Wellington Party (mentioned earlier).

ONSLOW-WESTERN WARD: 9 candidates for 3 seats. Most candidates make few if any statements on transport. Only the first two candidates stand out.

(1)  CONOR HILL. Top candidate. See notes on his mayoral candidacy.

(2)  MICHELLE RUSH. Accountability and future-proofing infrastructure. Background in sustainable urban design but nothing specific on transport. Against more roads, and did put her hand up for mass transit, of whatever type.

(3)  RICHARD MCINTOSH. Green candidate, claims to be focussed on environment, waste minimisation, a working transport system, and very much on future-proofing but does not inspire.

(4)  REBECCA MATTHEWS. Wants a reliable bus service and transport that meets our needs for the future, but not specific on what that might be.

(5)  RAY CHUNG. Mentions infrastructure challenges, consultation, transparency, liveability of the city and manageable rates. Nothing specifically on transport.

(6)  ROHAN BIGGS. Focussed primarily on fiscal responsibility and lowering rates by eliminating wasteful spending but also mentions housing and transport. Was not clear, but will probably not want light rail.

(7)  SIMON WOOLF. A lot about his credentials but almost nothing on policy. I have a feeling he prefers road expansion to light rail.

(blank)  ANDY FOSTER. Road focussed. See notes on his mayoral aspirations.

(blank)  DIANE CALVERT. Endorsed by the Wellington Party. See notes on her mayoral campaign.

Photos: Tram-train in and around Karlsruhe:


Far left and middle left: Sharing the main lines with units and trains. Middle: In a pedestrian mall. Middle right: In the street. Far right: In segregated right-of-way.

See the excellent presentation by Brent Efford, the NZ agent for the Light Rail Transit Association, entitled “Direct through service beats two stub terminals”, presented to the Railway Technical Society of Australasia on 14 February 2019 which gives excellent background on the ongoing battle to bring tram-train to Wellington, despite the many obstacles and naysayers.