Tuesday, 20 September 2016

"Wellington is on a Roll" - My Candidate Statement

Voting Papers went out this Week!

Here is my candidate statement that went out with the voting papers:

Wellington Regional Council Wellington Constituency Electing 5 Regional Councillors



My principal place of residence is in the Wellington Constituency area.

Wellington region is on a roll. More and more people are choosing to live in this special place. To keep moving ahead we need 20/20 vision, inspired policies and strong regional cooperation.

This means electing people with a proven record of achievement. I have been a leading surgeon and medical school teacher for 40 years and bring pragmatism and experience - not just talk. 

I'll fight for cheap, reliable transport, including light rail to hospital and airport, and safe, pleasant routes for pedestrians and cyclists. I am committed to a low-carbon future; clean swimmable waterways; green space and protection of our natural environment. 

I've been actively involved in Waterfront Watch, Great Harbour Way Trust, Fair Intelligent Transport Wellington, Ciclovia cycle days, NZ Climate and Health Council, Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, and Wellington Rugby Union's medical team. I am a volunteer guide at Zealandia and an Orpheus Choir member. 

Friday, 15 July 2016

A beautiful and functional Golden Mile

In the current mayoral race, there is talk of pedestrianising Lambton Quay. Opponents have mainly come from the business world who believe that their businesses would suffer keeping the cars out. But, there are relatively few car-parks on the Golden Mile, and as a recent letter to the DomPost (Patrick Morgan) stated  "people shop, not cars". Research from elsewhere shows that seldom is shopping made worse by removing cars, and usually it is improved as slow foot traffic increases past shops.
But there may be a problem if no public transport is allowed in the Golden Mile. Commuters would benefit from quick access to their place of work if such were provided--that is as long as the mode was fast. So what do other similar cities do? I visit my grandchildren in Zurich. This is the city that nzta research paper 396 proposes as that which more than others resembles Wellington in the form of its CBD. The researchers predict much greater public transport use for our capital city if we adopt Zurich as our model:there the main street ( Bahnhofstrasse) has light rail running through it, beautiful with trees and without polluting cars and buses thundering along --such a people-friendly and inviting space, and so practical. And light rail is so successful throughout Zurich city --per-capita trip-making rates on public transport are more than five times higher than Wellington because of it.
We need to quickly put light rail onto our public transport agenda.
This is the letter I have just had published in the DomPost on this subject ( the editor slightly shortened it)-

Dear editor,
Your editorial wisely promotes a “compromise on Lambton Quay” between attractive pedestrian access and better public transport. It just doesn’t name the solution-- light rail. 
A landscaped, bus and car-free Golden Mile with clean congestion-free electric light rail would boost public transport --recently introduced light rail on the Gold Coast increased public transport use by 25% in the first year. At the same time it would provide an escape from the unhealthy fossil-fuel pollution provided by the current dirty, low-capacity diesel buses jamming up the heart of our city. 
And as part of a light rail spine from railway station to airport via the hospital it will be cheaper than the planned multi-lane motorways and tunnels.
Canberra is building it now, joining the rapid uptake in Europe and North American cities. Why not us? Our compact city being narrow excludes any effective rapid bus scheme but is ideal for rail.
We mustn’t be left behind.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Zealandia--an oasis of calm and beauty.

This is a photo of a beautiful native plant named Poataniwha (Melicope simplex). It has been put up on the Zealandia web-site. Zealandia is a treasure-trove of native plants, birds reptiles and fish within walking distance of Parliament in our vibrant capital city, Wellington.

How lucky are we to have a mainland island of protection of our critically-endangered wild-life so easily accessible to all residents and visitors to Wellington?

I love volunteer guiding in this oasis of calm
( literally--it is much protected from Wellington's rather brisk breezes).

We all need rest and relaxation from the stress of our artificial urban environment. Enjoying our natural heritage in a place which aims to re-establish a remnant of our once forested land, full of unique birds and plants, restores my spirit.
I think many others have the same experience in Zealandia.

Historic climate action from NZ's Youth

Generation Zero, a youth-led organisation, was founded with the central purpose of providing solutions for New Zealand to cut carbon pollution through smarter transport, liveable cities & independence from fossil fuels.

I have had the privilege of working closely with Wellington GenZero members in supporting their campaigns for climate action.

They have now initiated an exciting initiative to write a Zero Carbon Act to fill the gap created by our government's inaction on climate change. Although the world's climate scientists and many world leaders are calling for reductions in greenhouse emissions, New Zealand's emissions are still growing. GenZero also want a UK-like independent Climate Commission which will advise the Government on Climate and ensure targets are achieved.The UK commission has been established since 2008 and is working well.
I am a Wise Response Society member--we have also been promoting the idea of a Climate Commission. We are endorsing GenZero's far-reaching proposal with enthusiasm.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Safe cycleways--build them and they’ll come.

Some motorists see cyclists as a nuisance. Thirty years ago, I was one of them. I was irritated if I had to slow down behind cyclists when they moved slowly on the hills, or when they ‘claimed the lane’ on a narrow road. But I didn’t ever have to feel the real death-threat posed by a ton or more of steel and plastic which protected me, but greatly threatened them, as I hurtled close-by. My ignorance made me intolerant.
But then a friend encouraged me to bike. What fun. It brought back childhood pleasures when my bike was my favourite toy. Later, as my aged joints deteriorated, I could feel the joy of regular bike-riding as well as knowing that I was benefitting my health with non-impact, joint-friendly and pain-free exercise. Soon I was persuading my patients after their  operations of the benefits to their joints and general health as they rehabilitated. And a common response to my advice? “I’d love to do more cycling, doctor, particularly to and fro work, but it’s too dangerous out there on the roads”.
We now know that an epidemic of modern diseases are associated with a lack of exercise. Also, recent research shows the major financial cost-benefit of creating cycling infrastructure compared with more road-building. And of overwhelming importance, we now know that we have to stop burning fossil carbon to counter our deteriorating climate and to reduce urban pollution from exhaust fumes.
As I’ve learnt more about the benefits of cycling, I now strongly reject my own previous attitude So, this week, when I saw a letter to the DomPost describing cyclists as ‘a minority holding the rest of the population to ransom', I needed to respond. I want to encourage more Wellingtonians to commute by bike. The advent of electric bikes makes the impact of hills and wind much less while exercising. It will be a game-changer for some in our compact city. Distances are small in our CBD:  this makes cycling a potential winner in Wellington. But we've got to persuade our car-obsessedgovernment and their road authorities( NZTA)
to stop their urban motorway plans and spend generously on public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure

Here is my letter published on 23 June under the heading “The benefits of cycling” --

Dear Editor,

Ellie Quigley ( letters 21 June) says that “the rest of the population is being held to ransom by a minority” ( ie cyclists). She correctly identifies health as a major benefit of cycling—it does this by encouraging more exercise thus saving public health dollars. Commuting to work by bike saves people time otherwise put aside for exercise. Cyclists take cars off the road reducing congestion for all.  Also, global population health benefits from emission-free and less polluting transport.. Is all this “holding the population to ransom”?
Yes, cyclists are a minority: this explains the thrust by modern urban planners to create separate cycleways to correct the imbalance with car numbers. Surveys show many more people would cycle given the improved safety that they provide. 

Build them and they will come.

Yours sincerely, 
 Russell Tregonning.

The picture ( thanks to hospital photographer Louise Goossens) is of me cycling on Riddiford St., outside my previous work place ( Wellington Hospital). There is no safe cycleway there despite recent upgrades to the road layout. I am not smiling. That's a grimace. I'm hoping I won't end up on the wrong side of the operating table.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

LetsGetWellyMoving in plain English

Bill English bad-mouths Wellington  for its "lack of 'progressive attitude' to transport solutions"
( DomPost 3 June). But then he appears to offer an olive branch saying "Lack of money is not a problem for the bottlenecks in Wellington's city infrastructure".
But Wellingtonians beware: what he means, of course, is ' Hurry up and make the decision to bore another Mt Victoria tunnel, bulldoze a huge swathe through your town belt along Ruahine St, destroy your citizens' homes along Wellington Rd so we can put a huge motorway through to the airport'. Because this is this government's and its NZ Transport Agency's (NZTA) agenda.

NZTA are such slow learners—first they muck up the Basin flyover plan at huge cost to taxpayers, appealing the decision to cancel it made by independent Commissioners after a long and expensive enquiry. And now they are still pigheadedly refusing to see alternatives to more roads--the obvious one for Wellington's constrained geography being light rail which can be installed for a fraction of the cost of the $1billion plus for their roading plans.

Besides cost, there are two other compelling reasons to cancel these motorways: climate change and health. The first is the greatest threat to the second. Also, more roads threaten health further by encouraging more private transport which promote air pollution, crashes and a sedentary lifestyle. And road congestion returns soon after building them (just look at Auckland).

We dodged a bullet cancelling NZTA's Basin flyover plans. Let’s bring this government and NZTA's thinking into the 21st century. GetWellymoving is our chance to stop this planned motorway madness.

The Minister of Finance says there's plenty of money. Both our City and Regional Councils have climate change action plans which are to encourage people out of their cars and create a low-carbon capital--these plans are completely at odds with the government's transport agenda for Wellington.

Our local politicians must now get Bill English's funds currently projected for destructive roads transferred to pay for all-electric, high capacity, congestion-free light rail from railway station via the hospital to the airport. If Mayor Brown can get the Government to cough up towards Auckland's recently-started light rail construction why can't we?

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Ten things you didn't know about climate change

Climate change is upon us. The global temperatures in 2016 are breaking all records. But we can act now to prevent the worst effects in the future.

Professors Tim Naish and James Renwick are touring New Zealand on behalf of The Royal Society of NZ . They will be presenting lectures on climate change entitled TEN BY TEN 2016: CLIMATE CHANGE  They say "Climate change is already redefining coastlines and the weather, both here in New Zealand and around the world. They ask--will it affect you, and what can you do about it?"

These two highly-respected climate scientists from Victoria University will give their take on this the biggest of issues – from the very local to the global.

I've heard them speak at the launch of this important initiative in Wellington last month. I can highly recommend their presentation. The link gives the towns and days when they speak.

My advice--Go & hear them.