Shelly Bay Shenanigans and the GHW

How will proposed developments at Shelly Bay affect the Great Harbour Way/ Te Aranui o Pōneke? GHW Trust chair wrote this letter to the Dominion Post.

Chocolate Fish, Shelly Bay


In the heated debate about Shelly Bay and the scale of development, people have made valid points regarding the inadequacy of the road upgrade, should development proceed.

Shelly Bay to Scorching Bay is one of the most important and well-loved sections of the Great Harbour Way; one of the most important recreational spaces in Wellington. The proposed Heritage Park at the north end of the peninsula will make it an even more attractive destination.

If hundreds more cars and trucks will use it daily, then walkers and cyclists need substantially better protection. How can the council accept a 6-metre wide road with 1.5 metres of pedestrian space when its specialist report recommended a 14 metre-wide road and 8 metre walk-bike path? Maybe parts could be one-way for motorised traffic.

NZTA’s announcement this month to support the seaward Petone-Ngauranga section means Wellington’s 72km Great Harbour Way will become a magnet for commuting and tourism.

The current Shelly Bay plan could diminish and perhaps even sacrifice that opportunity. Council has invested in appropriate pathway provision elsewhere such as Evans Bay and Oriental Bay. It seems ironic and short-sighted that on this particularly attractive section Council is not staunchly requiring compliance from developers.

At last! NZTA commit to “fixing the gap” in visionary Great Harbour Way

The Great Harbour Way/ Te Aranui o Pōneke Trust hailed NZTA’s decision to proceed with funding the iconic Hutt Valley-Wellington cycling and walking seaward path, announced by Minister Julie Anne Genter at Point Jerningham. The occasion also marked the start of work on a separated cycle path around Evans Bay, another key part of the GHW.

Celebrating the NZTA announcement and the start of the Evans Bay Cycleway: Ron Beernink, Celia Wade-Brown, Graeme Hall, Julie Anne Genter, Sarah Free, Hugh Wilson and Justin Lester (with the mayoral tie at a suitably Wellington angle!)

GHW and sea level rise

GHW incorporates wave protection on Marine Drive to Eastbourne

How will the Great Harbour Way/ Te Aranui o Pōneke manage with the sea level rise? Average sea levels are predicted to rise by between 0.2m and 2m by 2100. Much of the GHW is around 0.5m above mean sea level, so this is a natural concern.

However the GHW is pretty resilient against sea level rise, and indeed offers resilience to other critical infrastructure.

  • For a significant period, the issue will not be the overall rise in sea level, but the increase in storm events, higher high tides etc. We’re already seeing this, for example with the June 2013 storm that undercut part of the Ngauranga – Petone Rail line.

Storm damage to Petone -Ngauranga rail line, June 2013. The planned P2N section of the GHW would have protected the rail line against this.

  • While the GHW is an important active transport route, it’s less critical than road or rail routes. In the storm events that would close sections of the GHW, it’s likely that walkers and bikers will use alternatives or work from home.
  • A cycling/walking route acts as a resilient buffer between waves and road, as already happens on the GHW on Marine Drive between Seaview and Eastbourne. Adding resilience to the strategic Hutt Railway line is an significant benefit of the planned Petone to Ngauranga seaward cycling and walking path.

As mean sea level rises (for example if significant Antarctica or Greenland ice sheets melt), it’s likely that the GHW along with other infrastructure will need to be moved or modified – perhaps using floating boardwalks as is used on parts of the Waikato River Trails. But this will be easier than raising roads or rail lines.

The GHW, by providing good active transport alternatives, will reduce our fossil fuel emissions to levels that will hold off the worst effects of climate change and sea level rise. WCC has a Low Carbon Capital plan that aims for a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. Investing in the GHW, particularly by fixing the P2N gap that separates the Hutt from the Wellington CBD, will play a part in achieving that target.

New water fountain on the GHW

Councillor Sarah Free and friend, and Russell Tregonning (GHW) at the opening of the GHW drinking fountain

It may seem odd that a route that runs continually by the water needs a water fountain, but walkers and cyclists on the Great Harbour Way/Te Aranui o Pōneke will be grateful for a new water fountain installed at Chaffers Marina on the Wellington Waterfront section of the GHW. You can refill your plastic water bottle or drink directly. Canine companions have a special water bowl at the base of the fountain.

Te Aranui o Pōneke – a place for penguins

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Little Blue Penguin coming ashore

When you’re travelling the GHW, you might be lucky enough to see a little blue penguin, or kororā,. On shore, they’re vulnerable, and keep out of sight. But you may see one swimming off shore, where they feel more confident, or at dusk see them scurrying to their nests.

Unfortunately in many places along the GHW, humans have built roads between the shore and the penguin nests, and kororā end up as road kill. Places for Penguins provides safely located nesting boxes for kororā. Volunteers check the boxes every few weeks to monitor the progress of penguins. From June to December, they’re raising chicks, and from January to March the boxes are a safe haven for the annual moult, when they can’t swim or feed for a couple of weeks until their new coat grows back.

Another hazard for kororā are dogs – while your canine companion will enjoy an outing on the GHW, make sure it’s under control and not tempted to disturb our precious penguins.