The Transport Minister says he deliberately chose not to mince his words in a scathing letter over the state of Wellington’s $6.4 billion transport plan.
Michael Wood sent a letter to those in charge of Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) after an internal review revealed the project that’s meant to tackle the city’s growing congestion is at risk of failing.
He told them the situation is “unacceptable”.
But Michael Wood is less interested in finger pointing than he is in getting LGWM actually moving.
After demanding officials come up with a plan to resolve weaknesses within a fortnight, Wood has also asked for regular progress reports to come straight to his desk.
LGWM is a three-way partnership between Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and Waka Kotahi NZTA.
The plan includes doubling the Mt Victoria Tunnel, mass rapid transit from the city to the airport, bus priority, and better walking and cycling.
An internal review, publicly released last week, found LGWM has leadership problems, a detrimental culture, is inadequately resourced, and ultimately at risk of failing to deliver.
Wood sent a very frank letter to the LGWM Partnership Board saying the issues are “unacceptable”.
“Wellingtonians have been waiting too long on progress to unlock our capital city’s potential”, Wood wrote.
Asked today what message Wood wanted to send in the letter he said: “I chose not to mince my words quite deliberately”.
“I think the views of people in Wellington are really clear on this, that after quite a long time in digestion, after a lot of consultation, it is time to move on to delivering projects that are needed to give people in Wellington real transport choices.”
He thought the message was received well and confirmed he has spoken to both Greater Wellington Regional Council chairman Daran Ponter and Mayor Andy Foster.
Wood has given the Board two weeks to come up with a plan to sort things out, including recruiting staff, a strategic communications plan, and improving the culture and cohesion of the team.
He said he would need to see a meaningful and specific response to weaknesses identified in the review to give him confidence the project was under control.
The main thing that concerned him in the review was the lack of cohesion, Wood said.
“People are still seeing themselves as working for one of the three entities, I think if we get that fixed, that’s going to go a long way to resolving some of the other issues.
“We need to make sure this is a project which has strong cohesion in which people are working together and aren’t siloed in their separate agencies.”
Wood also wanted to see a clear plan from officials around implementing “low hanging fruit”- projects around walking, cycling, and public transport.
Following the impending meeting Wood said he would put in place “very regular” reporting straight to his desk so he knows exactly what’s happening.
Asked whether the LGWM programme director should resign over the situation, the Minister said any matters of employment were for the governance entity to make and not for him.
“Everyone has to take accountability for the fact that we haven’t had the delivery that we want. I’m mainly focused on how we get things moving now rather than finger pointing.”
In September last year LGWM programme director Andrew Body confirmed the project was undertaking an internal review.
Conducted by three independent reviewers, focused on governance, a gap assessment, people and culture, the baseline programme, and systems and processes.
The review was considered a standard process for a project of LGWM’s size.
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