COMMENT: By Georgina Campbell

Just because the decisions on Wellington's $6.4b transport overhaul have already been made doesn't mean people don't care about how those calling the shots made them.

Sparks were sent flying in the House this week over a letter Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter penned on March 26 regarding Let's Get Wellington Moving (LGWM).

Genter is refusing to release the letter she wrote to Transport Minister Phil Twyford, citing the need to protect free and frank expression between ministers.

Advertisement

Twyford has backed her up saying it's a convention of Government that letters between ministers, and certainly between governing parties, are not released.

But some have questioned the assertion that all letters between ministers are withheld as a matter of course, including Speaker Trevor Mallard.

Outside of parliament's bear pit, the most significant voice to join growing calls for the letter's release is Greater Wellington Regional Council's sustainable transport committee deputy chairman Daran Ponter.

As a Labour councillor he broke ranks with Labour minister Twyford by saying on the record he wanted the letter to be released in the interests of transparency.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford, at the launch of Let's Get Wellington Moving, says it's a convention of Government that letters between ministers are not released. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Transport Minister Phil Twyford, at the launch of Let's Get Wellington Moving, says it's a convention of Government that letters between ministers are not released. Photo / Mark Mitchell

He didn't mince his words either.

"Let's see what it is that she had pushed for and the direction that she has changed, because the things that have arrived on Wellingtonians' plate in relation to Let's Get Welly Moving are certainly not the things that they identified as projects they wanted when it went into the parliamentary process," Ponter told the Herald.

Wellington mayor Justin Lester on the other hand was not willing to rock the boat saying the letter was irrelevant.

He didn't think Wellingtonians were interested in it and they just wanted to get on with the project.

Advertisement
Wellington mayor Justin Lester at the launch of the Government's Let's Get Wellington Moving package. He says people don't care what's in the letter between Genter and Twyford. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Wellington mayor Justin Lester at the launch of the Government's Let's Get Wellington Moving package. He says people don't care what's in the letter between Genter and Twyford. Photo / Mark Mitchell

But as Lester is so fond of reminding the general public, LGWM is the biggest transport investment the city's had in decades.

It's therefore hard to believe Wellingtonians wouldn't be interested in how that investment was decided.

The only hint about what's actually in the letter was revealed in Question Time on Wednesday.

Genter said she voiced concerns about the lack of sequencing for the projects in LGWM, including a second Mt Victoria tunnel.

All the hype over the letter might be for nothing, it could be the dullest few hundred words ever written for all we know.

Artist's impression of the capital as part of the Let's Get Wellington Moving plan. Photo / Supplied.
Artist's impression of the capital as part of the Let's Get Wellington Moving plan. Photo / Supplied.

But the point is, we don't know.

Not even a redacted version of the letter has been released.

So instead a speculative narrative has been built based on the timing of the letter, advice Twyford then received on the second tunnel, and the fact big ticket roading projects have been put on the back burner or scrapped.

When you pull those threads together it's hard not to be curious about what's in the letter.

It shouldn't come as a surprise the Greens exerted political influence over LGWM, it is a coalition government after all.

The party-faithful would surely be disappointed if the Greens didn't take a hard line over deciding the future of the capital's transport network.

But it's a coalition government that's promised to be open and transparent.

So why not be transparent about how much or how little Genter said on March 26.