COMMENT: By Georgina Campbell

After the epic failure of the Basin Reserve Flyover, there needed to be consensus on Let's Get Wellington Moving, something which mayor Justin Lester has been hell-bent on building.

But the push for everyone to be on the same page might have come on too strong, and the resulting tension is starting to be revealed.

When Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced the LGWM indicative package it was all sunshine and pancakes. The government had at long last made its decision and it was time to get on with the job.

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There was a whiff of the serious power the Greens appear to have wielded, but that's really ramped up with Julie Anne Genter's secret letter saga landing in the House for days on end these past two weeks.

At the announcement, the fact both regional and city councils needed to endorse the package seemed more of a formality than posing any risk to the project's future.

When Wellington City Council issued a press release saying councillors had unanimously voted to support the package it was just as sunny.

But councillors have revealed this week there was stormy weather behind the scenes.

They told the Herald they felt they were presented with a "take it or leave it" deal over LGWM ahead of a council vote to support the package.

They claim mayor Justin Lester told them Genter threatened to resign if the Greens didn't get their way.

But Genter said she never threatened to resign and Lester has denied the claims.

Wellington mayor Justin Lester has made it his business to build consensus on Let's Get Wellington Moving. Photo / Georgina Campbell
Wellington mayor Justin Lester has made it his business to build consensus on Let's Get Wellington Moving. Photo / Georgina Campbell

After the indicative package was announced Lester wasted no time in holding public meetings to build consensus and support for the project.

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He's been criticised for doing so too early when the plan was so light in detail.

At the beginning of the meeting to vote LGWM through, councillor Diane Calvert put forward a motion to temporarily suspend some standing orders to remove time limits for speaking.

It didn't go through.

It's no wonder some councillors felt like the government-endorsed LGWM plan was getting shoved down their throats.

Lester certainly won't be happy with them publicly airing their concerns about the quality of a LGWM package that's put a second Mt Victoria tunnel on the backburner, and shafted the trenching of Karo Dr and a second Terrace tunnel.

He puts it down to the silly season of local body elections.

But that cuts both ways, Lester is also seeking a second term in the top job.

An artist's impression of the Let's Get Wellington Moving plan. Photo / Supplied
An artist's impression of the Let's Get Wellington Moving plan. Photo / Supplied

By rigorously throwing his support behind the project and having played a leading role from a local government perspective in negotiations, Lester has pegged his reputation to the project.

Also, don't forget he's running on the Labour ticket.

Lester didn't need every one of his councillors to vote in favour of LGWM to get it across the line, but having support for something doesn't sound as good as having unanimous support.

He would have known Greater Wellington Regional Council was lined up for a unanimous vote and surely wouldn't have wanted anything less at his own council.

As it turns out GWRC did vote unanimously, just a couple of days before it was WCC's turn.

Yes Wellington needs to get moving, it's waited too long already.

But this is Wellington, people like to have their say, and the city has a track record of projects turning into a disaster when the community feels shut out.

Think of the Island Bay cycleway fiasco.

The very reason Lester is trying to build consensus is to avoid landing in another gridlock where progress and development is put on the never-never.

But he has to be careful to bring the community and local government along with him, which could be a tough job when LGWM is increasingly looking like the child of coalition politics.