Kia ora tātou,
Listening to all the amazing presentations on cycleways last week was heartening. However, over the weekend I was saddened to realise that before Marianne and Lake had even had the chance to speak the words "Kids Freedom Network" council officers had already finished writing the LTP paper that you will be discussing on Thursday.
That paper relies heavily on the results of "targeted independent research conducted in parallel with formal consultation" to steer you back in the direction of the council's preferred Option 3 for cycleways, rather than Option 4 which was the clear preference of submitters.
The paper notes that "The two sources of feedback provides Councillors with a broad and balanced view of submitter and public feedback, and provides the opportunity to weigh up contrasting community opinion. This enables Councillors to consider the relative significance of survey and submission results in finalising the LTP". While at face value this appears correct there's a couple of really important points I'd like you to consider before relying too heavily on the survey results as being good evidence.
First, as I pointed out when I spoke to you last Thursday, framing is everything. While I am sure that the survey methodology here is sound and that the 4.4% margin of error is reliable, the survey questions asked and the context in which they are asked will always reflect the bias, prejudices and agenda of the surveyor. In this case I strongly disagree with WCC consulting on cycleways in isolation, which means that you only consulted the public on 12% of your proposed $1bn transport capex budget for the next 10 years. Having made that choice WCC also failed to provide information in the consultation document that might be considered crucial to the public's understanding of the issue, such as:
I challenge you to imagine how the survey results may have been different if any of the above information had been included and/or the context had been urban mobility and transport shift more generally.
The research survey findings are also very much at odds with the findings of a Let's Get Wellington Moving public opinion survey from 2018 (page 43) which found 50% support among Wellington City residents for "a network of cycle lanes through the central city", 25% opposition and 25% don't know/don't care. Is this survey any more accurate? Why the apparent shift in public sentiment in the meantime? I don't know, but it illustrates just how important framing and context are and how difficult it is to actually get this stuff right.
As I said last week I don't believe that the way you consulted on cycleways reaches the standard required by the Local Government Act and if it is true that "the research questions were the same as those in the public submission form" then all the research has done is compound that problem. I am honestly left wondering whether this survey would have got ethics approval in an academic environment and what processes the council uses internally to sign-off on a survey like this being used.
Second, council officers themselves aren't arguing that you accept the results of the research. If they were, you would be selecting Option A and just finishing started projects, but everyone at council already knows how utterly wrong-headed and unpalatable it would be to reduce funding for cycling. If you are presented with a survey outcome that claims to be 'scientific' i.e. producing a statistically valid result from a randomly selected population, then you have to either accept it or disregard it. Unlike a self-selecting survey a 'scientific' survey can't be considered indicative or 'a little bit right', it either is or it isn't. You either accept it as truly reflecting public opinion or you ignore it (you may be unhappy with the design, for example). The way that council staff use this research to make the case for another option entirely by positioning their preferred option as a compromise between what a poorly designed 'scientific' survey says and what self-selecting consultation says is totally subjective. Remember - the council's preferred Option 3 is not preferred by the research survey respondents or the consultation respondents, it has no public support.
If there's anything to takeaway from the research survey it should actually be embarrassment and concern. Council has clearly not done anywhere near enough over the past decade to get public buy-in to an essential part of the response required to climate change, congestion and wider issues such as housing and public health. If anything the research justifies investing even harder and faster in cycleways rather than the half-arsed 'try and have a dollar each way' approach suggested. This is absolutely one of those situations where councillors have access to more and better information than the public and need to show leadership and good communication, rather than just allowing yourselves to be a passive conduit of what you might perceive to be (in this case, a very questionable view of) public opinion.
If you've read this far thank you for your time and attention. I still believe that Option 4 is the only credible choice you can make from the cycleways options you consulted on. I was considering coming and talking about this during public participation on Thursday but I'm not going to do that, hence the email. Unfortunately, experience has taught me that by Thursday all the amendments will already be written and all the deals will have been done so there seems little point in expending any more time and energy on this.
Thanks for all your mahi.
On Thursday 20 May I spoke to Wellington City Councillors about their proposed Long Term Plan. Here's what I said...
Tena koutou katoa,
Thanks for the opportunity to speak to you today.
I want to specifically address cycleways. There's been lots of lovely, positive cycleways submissions already and I tautoko that but this isn't going to be one of them so apologies in advance. If you've had a chance to glance through my submission you'll already know I strongly disagree with you consulting on cycleways in isolation, rather than attempting a more holistic discussion about urban mobility and transport shift.
I find it ridiculous that you can declare a climate emergency and also know that transport produces over 50% of Wellington's carbon emissions but the only part of your $1b transport capex budget for the next 10 years that you choose to consult on is the 12% proposed for cycleways. You put cycleways funding up for grabs while not even asking the public to consider how the vast majority of transport capital budget gets spent, which is actually where all the emissions are.
However, what’s done is done and despite the natural disadvantage of not being the council's preferred option you got an absolutely clear message back from the public to spend more money on cycleways. 68% support for Option 4. So the vast majority of people who care enough to make a submission on your LTP support spending more money on cycleways.
A lot has been made of the council's need for financial headroom but we know that you've also received a lot of push-back about that. I'd like you to consider that it's not just financial headroom that you need but political headroom, legal headroom, reputational headroom and that you are already way shorter of those things than you think. The legal threat to the council around climate change is real. The political threat is real. In fact, what this consultation shows is that its not the rates hawks that you should be worried about getting organised but quite the opposite. Wellington is a progressive city and if you decide to ignore the results of this consultation and go down a fiscally conservative route that we can see now has not served us well in the past then I think you can expect some blowback from that.
The financial conservatism around cycleways makes no sense anyway. Your own website trumpets the fact that every dollar spent on cycleways delivers up to 20 dollars in benefits - information which might reasonably be considered very significant to the public's understanding of this issue but which you did not include in the consultation document. Wellingtonians will spend $13b on owning and running cars over the life of this long term plan and we're sitting here debating whether to spend an extra $100m over 10 yrs on cycleways, which equates to an extra $20 per annum on a $4,000 rates bill. That's 40c a week. The amount that households spend on cars is so vast - in the region of $12,000 per car per year - that any spending on cycleways only needs to reduce household transport costs by a fraction before it has paid for itself, and that's without even considering all the other benefits. Reducing the number of trips that need to be made by car is one of the biggest economic boosts a city can give its citizens.
There are approximately 700km of roads in Wellington, about the same in footpaths and around 30km of cycleways, so you can also spare me the platitudes about needing to balance priorities or that Option 3 is still a great deal for cycling. It isn't. The current transport network is completely unbalanced, it's dominated entirely by dependence on the least efficient mode - the private car - and it's actually hostile towards cycling. In the past decade you've built less than 20km of new cycleways covering about 2.5% of the network. During that same time over 600 people on bikes have been injured on Wellington's roads (I was one of them). That's more than one a week. More people have been injured riding bikes in Wellington in the past 10 years than have bothered to make a submission opposing the budget in this ten year plan. Who are you going to listen to? Who are going to say "we care about you" to?
I know there are some concerns about deliverability but you cannot deliver what you do not even plan to deliver and it's clear that the vast majority of people making a submission want you to at least try. Deliverability is actually just a question of priorities and you need to send a clear message both externally and internally that this is the plan and that these are the new priorities. And by the way, it's fine to note deliverability concerns and let the public respond to that, which they have, but if you're now saying that Option 4 was never going to be deliverable then you've breached the Local Government Act because if you knew that you should have said that. You set the parameters of this consultation, you put Option 4 on the table, you've heard what the public think, and now you need to deliver that.
Wellington City Council's Long Term Plan consultation is an opportunity to make our city more liveable, healthy & inclusive
Public and active transport infrastructure is an investment in the common good. As part of building healthy communities and creating a stable climate, public and active transport needs to become the default way of moving people around urban environments.
We all have different lives and different needs – getting children to school, people getting to work on time, elderly people getting around their community. No matter where we live or what our situation, all people – the elderly, disabled people, young people – should be able to move easily around our city in ways that build our health and take care of the planet. Regardless of where they live in a city, kids need to be able to move about freely in fun and healthy ways. To get on a bike, take a bus, walk, or scooter to school, their friends’ place, or sports practice across town. Good public transport, protected cycleways and walking paths can help us all move about our city independently and have fun on the way! A city that is great for everyone to live in and good for kids’ health, is one with lots of public and active transport and is easy to navigate without a car.
Wellington City Council is consulting on whether to build more cycleways in its new Long Term Plan. Building more cycleways for people riding bikes, scooters and skateboards is one of the key ways that we can give everybody more options for how they get around. Despite this, WCC has only built 16 km of cycleways in the last decade and Waka Kotahi (NZTA) says significant improvement is needed. WCC clearly need to be given the biggest push possible to build more.
Please support Option 4 - Accelerated Full Programme for building more cycleways in the council's Long Term Plan consultation, which is the only option that will deliver something close to a city-wide cycling network in the next decade. The impact on rates of choosing Option 4 over the council's preferred Option 3 is actually tiny (an extra $20 a year, or 40 cents a week, on a $4k rates bill) and the payoff could be huge. Remember, the more people using active transport and public transport the easier it will be for the people who really need to use a car to get around also.
Want to see more of this? Support Option 4!
Politicians need to recognise the opportunity we have right now to build active transport infrastructure that will take us into the future. If you budget for something you still might not get it, but if you don't budget for it you definitely won't get it. We need to aim as high as possible. Submit on the Long Term Plan and then get in contact with your local councillor directly to support Option 4.
Here's a really good LTP submission guide from Cycle Wellington and a fantastic quick submit form from Generation Zero
This blog borrows heavily from The Workshop's How to Talk About Urban Mobility and Transport Shift: A Short Guide and I'd like to acknowledge their awesome mahi.
Wellingtonians spend $1.3bn a year on owning and running cars and even the most expensive cycleways option in WCC's Long Term Plan only needs to save a tiny fraction of that to offset the very small impact it will have on rates
I hate that Wellington City Council have cherry-picked 'Building More Cycleways' as a key decision to be consulted on in isolation in their new Long Term Plan, rather than attempt a more holistic discussion about urban mobility and transport shift in the context of a climate and housing crisis. It actually feels like a cynical attempt to inflame the rates hawks and anti-cycling crowd and I'm sure it will generate the answer they're probably looking for. Maybe that's unfair but if WCC are aware of the latest research into how to talk about some of these things ('sell the cake not the ingredients') it doesn't seem to have flown through to this consultation.
However, what's done is done and one positive is that it means WCC have identified the specific impact of each of their proposed options for building more cycleways on operating cost, rates and capital cost. This is good information to have about a specific proposal and in this case it helps to highlight how stupid and self-defeating it is to be concerned about the impact it might have on rates.
For example, the operating cost impact of the Accelerated Full Programme for Cycleways in the LTP (Option 4) is $4.5m a year which translates to a 1.31% rates increase. Based on a rates bill of $4k per annum that's an extra $50 a year. That's right, $1 a week for a city-wide micro-mobility network. Um, that's actually pretty cheap for what we would be getting.
It gets better because the difference between Option 4 and WCC's recommended Option 3 is additional operating costs of $1.9m pa, which is an extra 0.55% on your rates, or $22 a year added to a $4k rates bill. That's 42 cents a week. These amounts are tiny.
Let's be fair to WCC at this point. They are generally terrified of rates rises and there are already significant rates rises in this LTP. However, what I think is not helpful is that they have made no attempt to contextualise the rates impact of building more cycleways in terms of household spending on transport.
Transport is a significant expense for most Wellington City households. 85% of all Wellington households own one or more cars and it costs around $12k per year to own and run a car in Wellington. There are over 110,000 cars in Wellington City, which means Wellington is spending a massive $1.3bn a year on owning and running cars.
$1.3bn a year is a ridiculously large number. By contrast even WCC's Accelerated Full Programme to build more cycleways is an average of $22.6m capital spend per year over 10 yrs (2% of $1.3bn) and an increase in operational costs of $4.5m per year (0.35% of $1.3bn). What this means is that a city-wide cycling network only needs to reduce Wellington's household car running costs by more than 0.35%, or around $42 per car per year on average, before it has paid for itself. Why is this even a discussion?
With average fuel economy if cycleways mean you drive one less 5km round trip per week you will save $45 in petrol every year. If cycleways mean you spend 10 hrs fewer parking in the CBD per year you will save $45. Put another way, if a city-wide cycling network delivered a modest 5% reduction in the average cost of running a car it would be worth $65m per year, approx 14 times the cost of the rates increase per year and 34 times the difference between Option 3 and Option 4.
Hey, I'm not an economist and I'm not pretending that this is a proper business case but the point is that it doesn't need to be. The difference between the cost of a full cycling network and what Wellington spends on cars every year is so vast that it's a no brainer to invest more in cycling and micro-mobility. A full cycling network only needs to contribute to very small percentage reductions in household travel costs and it will be worth it (and that's without even considering all the other ways cycling can contribute to a well-connected, integrated transport system that works for everyone).
In fact, I reckon how WCC has framed Building More Cycleways in the LTP consultation omits crucially important information, is mis-leading and will not result in informed feedback. If it isn't technically below the standard required by the Local Government Act then that says more about the Act than the quality of information WCC have presented. Don't fall for it - when you provide feedback on the LTP make it very clear to councillors that you support spending the maximum possible on Building More Cycleways (Option 4 - Accelerated Full Programme).
Footnote: WCC reckons there might also be a sector capacity issue with building Option 4 - Accelerated Full Programme. That's being disingenuous. The sector won't ramp up the capacity unless it sees a strong commitment from WCC first. WCC needs to send the sector a signal by putting the budget in place. You might not spend all the budget but if you don't commit the budget in the first place then you're guaranteed not to do it. It's recently come to light that WCC has only built 16km of cycleways in the past 10 years. That's unforgiveable and is exactly why the sector doesn't believe WCC really intend to do more in the next 10 years.
If you are interested in local government in Wellington please support this call for Wellington City Council (WCC) to create an electronic database of councillor voting records
If you're already on-board you can go straight to the bottom and sign up. If you would like to know more read on...
Wouldn't it be great to be able to easily find out how Wellington City Councillors have voted on a range of issues across a triennium? Although records of voting in WCC meetings are currently accessible via the minutes of individual meetings these are in pdf format and there is no easy way to collate, search, filter and analyse these records to see patterns and trends, or see the voting records of particular councillors or areas of interest. Putting voting records in an electronic, searchable, publicly accessible database would make analysis of council voting a lot easier and there would be significant benefit for anybody interested in local government in Wellington including journalists, residents associations, commentators, advocates, academics and voters. Hopefully it would be used to inform voter decision-making and boost engagement during the lead up to the October 2022 local body elections.
WCC have been asked to create a database of voting records on at least two previous occasions. In 2016 someone made an Open Data request on the data.govt.nz website which the council declined within a few hours stating that "no data set is held outside of individual meeting minutes which record resolutions. The Council has no provision to create this type of data set. The minutes that record all resolutions are available on the Council’s website". The council declined a similar request from a councillor in March 2021 with the council claiming that "it would be a very significant piece of work to make this user-friendly and searchable to a member of the public". I don't think that's true or that the council is trying hard enough to make this work, particularly considering the significant public benefit.
This linked spreadsheet shows the voting from the council’s 18 February 2021 Annual Plan/Long Term Plan Committee meeting and was created in approximately one hour, despite being an exceptionally long meeting with a lot of votes. The council may wish to explore other more sophisticated solutions but even if council staff manually populated a publicly accessible spreadsheet it should add no more than 20 minutes to the minute taking process of an average meeting. Four types of meeting account for approximately 70% of all council meetings. They are full council meetings, the Strategy & Policy Committee, the Annual Plan/Long Term Plan Committee and the Regulatory Processes Committee. If the council focused on these meetings initially it should create no more than 20 hrs additional work per year (based on approximately 60 meetings x 20 mins). The public benefit of making this information available in this format will vastly outweigh the relatively minor cost.
The plan is to make a request under Section 15(2) of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) for WCC to create an electronic, searchable, publicly accessible database of council voting records over a full triennium, including a back-dated request for all voting records during the current triennium. Section 15(2) of the LGOIMA requires a local authority to generally "make the information available in the way preferred by the person requesting it", which in this case would be in an electronic, searchable format.
The second part of the plan is to gather as much support as possible up front which is where you come in. If you think this is a good idea please add your signature to the request using the Google Form link below. You can sign as an individual or on behalf of an organisation but if signing for an organisation please make sure you are authorised to first. There's also a link to the draft letter which you are welcome to make comments on. If any significant changes are made as a result signatories will be notified and given the opportunity to withdraw their signature although the substantive intent of the letter (to request an electronic database of voting records) will not change. I'll be collecting signatures for a couple of weeks (until at least 14 April).
Thanks in advance for your support! If you have any questions please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
At Wellington City Council's Long Term Planning meeting on Thursday they finally showed their hand and tried to kill off Island Bay's long overdue Parade Upgrade for good.
As foreshadowed in last week's blog Mayor Andy Foster's draft Long Term Plan (LTP) removed funding for The Parade Upgrade entirely, breaking a 3 year old promise to the Island Bay community. However, during a long and chaotic meeting a couple of amendments were made to the draft plan for consultation that offer a small glimmer of hope.
So what happened at the meeting?
Councillors were voting on what will be included in the draft LTP that goes out for public consultation. The Mayor's initial draft proposed removing funding for The Parade Upgrade entirely, along with reducing funding for cycleways across the board. The recommended option would cut WCC's funding for cycleways (outside the scope of Let's Get Wellington Moving) from $75m across 10 years in the 2018-28 LTP to $67m across 10 years in the 2021-31 LTP.
In order to follow this you need to remember that first councillors vote on any amendments they want to make to a proposal (the substantive motion). If the amendments pass they become part of the substantive motion and then councillors vote on that.
An amendment was moved by Councillor Tamatha Paul to "make Option 4 (Full connection) the preferred option for cycleway infrastructure". This would triple the cycling budget to between $170-200m over 10 years, including The Parade Upgrade. The vote on this amendment was lost narrowly 7-8. Bizarrely, the deciding vote against it came from the Green Party's Sarah Free who also currently holds the cycling portfolio. Also voting against it were Mayor Foster and Councillors Calvert, Condie, Rush, Sparrow, Woolf & Young.
As a compromise Councillor Laurie Foon then moved an amendment to "increase spending for cycleways by $45 million over years 4-10 which will keep us under the debt to revenue ratio". This would increase the cycling budget over 10 years to about $110m but also back-end much of it into another LTP consultation (which happens every 3 years). It also means that by 2031 Wellington still won't have a connected city-wide cycling network. This amendment passed 10-5 with Mayor Foster and Councillors Calvert, Rush, Woolf and Young voting against it (in the substantive vote it then passed 11-4 with Councillors Calvert, Rush, Woolf and Young voting against it).
There was confusion over whether that amendment included The Parade Upgrade or not so Councillor Foon moved another amendment to "request officers to advise us how the Island Bay project can be included within that programme". This amendment passed 12-3 with Councillors Calvert, Sparrow and Woolf voting against it (in the substantive vote it passed 12-3 with the same three councillors voting against it).
Finally, the substantive vote also included a motion to "instruct officers to bring forward the resealing of the Island Bay Parade and simultaneously remove ghost markings, complete minor safety improvements and install buffers between the cycleway and parking lanes". This passed 15-0.
Where does that leave us?
It's hard to tell without more detail because councillors and council officers really did seem to be making a lot of this up on the fly. One thing for sure is that the draft LTP that goes out for consultation will not include the promised Parade Upgrade anytime soon (not until 2024 at the earliest). That means there's currently no chance of the upgrade being delivered within the 7 years after council voted 13-1 to do it back in September 2017. That is an absolute disgrace, especially after they went to court in 2019 to defend their right to do it, and won!
The full upgrade may yet appear in the LTP after 2024 but that will depend on council officer's advice back to councillors. In the meantime bringing forward the next re-seal of The Parade (from when to when is not yet clear) and the instruction to "install buffers between the cycleway and parking lanes" does provide some hope of one of the key elements of the upgrade being delivered but that's going to be pretty tight to do within a re-seal budget. Of course, it does make perfect sense to do as much work as possible at the same time. We'll have to wait for more detail on that.
All in all, what happened on Thursday was a big downgrade of the upgrade. Although the upgrade is not yet dead it's definitely on life-support.
According to WCC this is just fine
Why have the council been stalling on doing The Parade Upgrade anyway?
It's a long story but put simply, they have been trying to get a bit too clever with the funding and as a result of delaying have then seen the costs go up.
When council made the decision to upgrade The Parade in 2017 they put $6m of WCC's own money in the following LTP to do it. Then they got a bit greedy. In order to extract as big a contribution as possible from Waka Kotahi to improve cycling in South Wellington in general they rolled The Parade Upgrade and Newtown Connections into one project. Unfortunately that had two damaging effects on The Parade Upgrade:
While all this was going the council have also seen the estimated cost of the upgrade slowly increasing. Partly because they discovered they would have to dig up a lot more drains than they thought in order to deliver the raised Copenhagen style lanes they had promised, and partly because if you faff around endlessly the cost of things does tend to go up.
Is the upgrade really going to cost $14m?
Nope. The $14m figure popped up last year when WCC threw a Hail Mary pass and put an application in to fund The Parade Upgrade as a shovel ready COVID-19 recovery project. Let's be clear - that is the absolute top end of what it could cost to deliver what was always a pretty over-engineered solution. If money is now tight and some unforeseen cost pressures have genuinely emerged around this project there are definitely other options.
The "Mayor's compromise option" that they settled on for The Parade Upgrade was a nice bit of PR but really just a combination of two of the options they consulted on in 2017 - Option C's raised Copenhagen style bike lanes in the residential areas and Option D's angle parking for cars at the shops. This was actually confirmed by the High Court during the judicial review.
This is only my opinion but if money is now an issue here's what I think should happen in order of priority:
What's proposed above is really just a combination of Option B in the residential sections (instead of Option C) and Option D at the shops (as originally agreed). One of the helpful things that the judicial review established was that as long as the decision the council made was within the broad parameters of what was consulted on then they were free to mix and match options in making a decision.
In summary, with or without a contribution from Waka Kotahi I think WCC have plenty of flexibility available to them to deliver a cost effective upgrade within the parameters of the original consultation and the decision already made. If they really want to get the cost down and significantly improve safety & comfort then they should remove on-street parking. This would be in line with the Parking Policy but might require more consultation (possibly through the traffic resolution process).
Whatever the amount would the money now be better spent elsewhere?
I've heard the argument that the current cycleway is ok and the money could be better spent elsewhere but I'd argue against that primarily for two reasons:
We shouldn't allow the council to use their own negligence as a bargaining chip in a re-negotiation of the scraps of funding that active transport gets in the first place. Once the bar is lowered to that point it will never be raised again.
So what should we do?
More detail about what is now proposed is needed and hopefully that will be included when the LTP goes out for public consultation. In the meantime keeping emailing councillors about how unhappy you are with The Parade Upgrade not being delivered yet and the reduction in funding for cycling in the LTP generally. Some of you have already done that and it is having an impact.
When the LTP goes out for consultation we will also need to make submissions. More guidance on that will come out closer to the time.
Wellington City Council's draft Long Term Plan is a kick in the guts for cycling
Wellington City Council has just released their draft 2021-31 Long Term Plan and Budget for consultation and it doesn't make pretty reading for cycling. At best, it requires some huge leaps of faith to even consider it underwhelming. At worst, it's a disaster.
The big picture
Capital funding for cycling in this LTP is $67m over 10 years (or possibly only $61m,depending on where you look in the plan) which is just 9.5% of the $699m total transport budget and 2.7% of the $2,437 total capital budget.
That's down from $75m in the 2018-28 LTP, which was 10.4% of the $720m total transport budget. Unbelievably, despite Wellington City facing a self-declared climate emergency, capital funding for cycling has decreased in absolute and percentage terms. Cycling is also absorbing a wildly disproportionate 38% of the overall reduction in the transport budget ($8m/$21m) despite being only 9.5% of the total.
The impact is actually far worse when you look at outcomes because the $67m is also spread over far fewer projects. The still unfinished Evans Bay cycleway has jumped from $11m in the 2018-2028 LTP to $26m in the 2021-2031 LTP. The rest of the 2021-31 funding goes to Minor Works ($11m) and unspecified 'cycleways' a.k.a a "prioritised set of key priority route connections not included in Let's Get Wellington Moving (LGWM)" ($29m).
That means almost every cycling project in the 2018-2028 LTP that had funding specifically attached to it now doesn't, including significant amounts of funding that had been tagged for the South, West and other projects in the East (the poor North didn't even have much funding tagged in the previous LTP). Nearly every project on the map below that is not already completed will now not proceed (except for the shaded area in the middle which represents LGWM - and even that is unclear. See below). As of right now the only specifically funded cycling project in Wellington City is the Evans Bay cycleway. That's an appalling state of affairs.
Adding insult to injury the map below, which shows how much WCC planned to achieve by 2028 (well within the term of this draft LTP) is still on their Transport Projects website, although in typical WCC fashion it hasn't been updated since 2018.
Two of the key projects that are now unfunded are Newtown Connections, on which consultation with the public started way back in 2017, and the The Parade Upgrade in Island Bay. In the case of The Parade Upgrade council actually made the decision to go ahead with it in 2017 but have been procrastinating over it ever since, despite successfully winning a court case in 2019. More on The Parade Upgrade below.
Why are the council doing this?
Cycling is the only transport mode in the LTP singled out as a "key issue for consultation" despite being just 9.5% of the total transport budget. Why does cycling get put under the microscope rather than the other 90% of transport funding? This reveals a deep cultural bias within WCC towards the transport status quo and the primacy of cars in particular.
By singling out "Level of investment in Cycleways" as one of the "key issues that are proposed for community consultation focus around matters that have material impact on the achievement of community priorities and/or on the Council’s overall financial position" WCC is just baiting all the MagicTalk listeners. The council needs to be way smarter than this and take the advice of people like The Workshop to 'sell the cake, not the ingredients' and build a vision of a mobility culture. This shouldn't be a discussion about bikes and cycleways, which are like kryptonite to a small but noisy minority. This should be a discussion about creating healthy streets and more liveable communities where people can move easily around our city in ways that also take care of the planet. If you ask people if they want to pay for more cycleways out of their rates far more of them are going to reflexively say 'no' than if you paint them a compelling vision of the 15 minute city.
More importantly, it's obvious that despite declaring a climate emergency, trumpeting Te Atakura their Zero Carbon Plan, and increasing evidence that e-bikes and other forms of micro-mobility like scooters are exploding in popularity the council still sees cycling > micro-mobility > healthy streets as a 'nice-to-have' and certainly not core business. Have they even read the Climate Commission's draft recommendations to government? Funding for active travel and micro-mobility should be going up not down. It's certainly not moving us towards the 'balanced transport network' that we are always being promised. Ask yourself about the extent to which the transport budget in the draft LTP reflects this hierarchy in the council's own Zero Carbon Plan (I can save you some time, it doesn't).
Joe Biden is credited with saying "don't tell me what you value, show me your budget and I'll tell you what you value". The numbers here don't lie. WCC just doesn't value cycling. When push comes to shove and funding is tight their first instinct is to cut funding for cycling ahead of other transport modes despite all the evidence that it is the best value for money investment in transport. It's just not good enough and they need to sort it out. It may even see them in court one day.
Will Let's Get Wellington Moving save the day?
The council's get out of jail card seems to be to say "but all those active travel projects will now come out of Let's Get Wellington Moving (LGWM)". There's a few problems with that:
So what about the Island Bay Cycleway?
The council seems to have an almost pathological desire to keep the 'Island Bay Cycleway' PR disaster going. Even within the reduced cycling budget proposed in the draft LTP there's $29m of unallocated funding. It beggars belief that the council would actually prioritise funding for projects they haven't even identified yet over delivering on a decision that they already made 3 years ago, after a long & expensive re-engagement involving hundreds of community members. If you were an Island Bay resident who invested time and energy in the Love The Bay process, guess what? The council doesn't give a shit. They've got rid of the Love the Bay website (probably too ashamed) but you can still look at the Facebook page and remind yourself of the good old days when we thought spending hours sitting in council-facilitated workshops actually mattered. WCC should be viewing The Parade Upgrade as not just an infrastructure upgrade but a social license upgrade, because at the moment all trust in them to do the right thing is shot to hell.
I have repeatedly told councillors and council officers that The Parade can be upgraded for a sum much closer to the original $6m budget than the $14m that they seem to think it will, and within the 2017 consultation parameters. They just need to be prepared to listen to the people who actually use it on a daily basis. The $6m (approx.) required doesn't even need to be re-allocated from within the already grossly underfunded 'cycling' budget. $6m is less than 1% of the total transport capex budget in the draft LTP of $669m and a quarter of a percent of the total capex budget. WCC cannot possibly tell me that they can't re-allocate that funding from somewhere else because it's obvious that they haven't even tried. They could literally trim 1% off every other transport budget line item and it probably wouldn't even be noticed. They also wouldn't need to increase rates (not that rates increases and every other possible funding mechanism should be on the table here in general, including debt).
By the way WCC, the name of the project is The Parade Upgrade, not the Island Bay Cycleway as it is consistently referred to in this draft plan. The reason for this is that even the participants in the Love The Bay process could see the need to broaden the horizons of the project and call it what it really is - a change to the overall streetscape and the way people move around Island Bay. Once again, you are just asking for a fight by lazily serving up opportunities for the haters to hate. If the good people of Island Bay can see the big picture then you should be able to also.
A final thought
The saddest thing about this draft LTP to me is it's lack of vision. Yes, we face major challenges, including infrastructure, resilience, climate change and the Covid-19 recovery. But that's a time to be bold and visionary. Instead this plan feels like a sincere effort by bureaucrats to put things back on a business as usual footing as fast as possible. It's an attempt to fix problems with business as usual rather than grasping the opportunity to question what business as usual should even look like and then 'build back better'. This guiding principle mentioned by the Mayor in his media release about the draft LTP seems to sum up the problem pretty well.
It probably sounded great in their heads when they wrote it but to me it is completely disingenuous and an example of the kind of neoliberal nonsense that got us in this mess in the first place:
If you are unhappy about the treatment of active transport in the draft LTP or any other aspect of it let your local councillors know and keep an eye out for engagement opportunities.
What on earth is going on with Newtown Connections and The Parade Upgrade?
This is an updated version of a blog written in August 2019: Time to deliver
The Island Bay Cycleway has been caught up in the excruciating delays to the Newtown Connections project
The latest update from Wellington City Council about the Newtown Connections project tells us nothing new. It simply confirms that "the Council’s Parking Policy and Planning for Growth will be out for consultation in March/April and we expect these to be adopted by the Council in June. It’s important for this process to happen first before we can seek feedback on changes for safer and easier biking routes through the wider Newtown area".
The update doesn't even mention a date for the next round of consultation on Newtown Connections - we're left to assume that it will still happen in "mid-2020" as per updates from the council last year, but the way this project is limping along who knows?
Don't forget that even mid-2020 will be a full three years since the current round of Newtown Connections consultation started in August 2017 and nearly two years since the council last consulted publicly on the project in November 2018. I understand that it's complicated and I get that there are dependencies but this is still painfully slow progress, especially when the council recently declared a climate emergency. If nothing else it deserves much better and more frequent communication than we've been getting.
Climate emergency anyone?
It gets worse. In October 2018 the council absorbed The Parade Upgrade into the Newtown Connections project. At the time this seemed like a pragmatic decision in order to maximise the amount of funding available from NZTA. The expectation was that consultation on a preferred package of changes for Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook would happen in March 2019 and the council would make a decision in May/June 2019. Construction of the already approved re-design of The Parade would then commence in late 2019.
Just prior to Christmas last year the Dominion Post reported frustration over lack of progress on Island Bay cycleway. A routine council report updating progress on various cycleway projects throughout the city noted The Parade section in Island Bay had "major risks" and required intervention. Here's the relevant section from the report [Note 1]:
The situation is actually much worse than the Dom Post picked up. The update says that "NZTA will consider co-investing in The Parade once the Newtown and Berhampore cycling facilities are constructed". What? That shifts the start date for The Parade Upgrade out to after the completion of Newtown Connections, which will be a date in 2022 at the earliest but probably later than that. That's at least five years since since The Parade Upgrade was approved 13-1 by council back in September 2017.
Five years or more to start a piece of work that is already approved and essentially "shovel ready" is ridiculous. Aside from the funding the only plausible reason the council had to delay The Parade Upgrade was the Island Bay Residents Association's judicial review of the decision, which failed spectacularly but cost the council $80,000 in legal expenses to defend (which they chose not to recover from IBRA). It's actually disgraceful that the council appears to have known about this latest issue for at least the last four months and is yet to communicate anything formally about it to the local community, especially the part of the community that has stuck solidly by them on this through thick and thin. Pro tip: when even the people who are on your side start getting pissed off you’ve really got a problem.
I get the sense that some councillors might feel that The Parade Upgrade was the previous Mayor’s project but that’s garbage. It was dubbed the ‘Mayor’s compromise solution’ at the time, which was a cute bit of PR but nothing more. In reality the solution chosen was straight from the options that were consulted on with the community. Here’s what the High Court had to say when IBRA tried to make the same flaky claim: "to the extent that the ultimate option chosen was a hybrid of Options C and D, it arose out of the proposal that had been consulted upon" [IBRA v WCC para 129].
The fact is the previous council voted 13-1 in favour of The Parade Upgrade and seven of those votes are still on the council, including the current Mayor. They own this decision.
It's time to unhitch The Parade Upgrade from Newtown Connections and just get on with it. Yes, funding is a factor but there's also the cost related to destroying the public's trust and confidence in the council to ever deliver on its promises. This is a decision that was made at the end of a very long, expensive (~$240k) and public consultation process (Love the Bay), which the council then went to court to defend. It's not a new initiative jostling for budget among others and shouldn't be treated as one.
What the council actually agreed to in October 2018 was: "Through our LTP the Council has approved $8 million in ratepayer funding to improve connections in the south of the city before 2021, including the agreed redesign of the Island Bay cycleway [which was allocated $6m]. With the new direction and changes set out in the GPS, we can potentially leverage the committed $8.0 million of ratepayer funding to gain $32 million worth of changes in these areas by 2021, with the Government picking up 75 percent of the cost." It’s now obvious that nothing is going to happen in the south of the city before 2021 so the entire capital budget needs to be re-visited anyway. The council needs to be honest that a well-intentioned plan to fund The Parade Upgrade via Newtown Connections is a dead-end and find a new way forward.
Five years (or more) is too long to wait. It's time to get The Parade Upgrade underway
It’s my understanding that councillors will soon be receiving a briefing from council officers on Newtown Connections. In an effort to be constructive about this here's what I think the council should be investigating regarding the Island Bay component:
One thing for sure is that if the council don’t want the Island Bay Cycleway blowing up in their faces again soon they need to do something to get the project moving.
If you think The Parade Upgrade and Newtown Connections is taking far too long now is a really good time to let the council know about it. You can find the mayor and all councillors email addresses here, or you can email new WCC Chief Executive: email@example.com.
Note 1: The Quarterly report being presented to the WCC Strategy & Policy Committee on 5 March 2020 has mysteriously shifted the status of The Parade Upgrade back to Green but with no explanation of why
Note 2: The Quarterly report being presented to the WCC Strategy & Policy Committee on 5 March 2020 shows a capital underspend of $15m for the first 6 months of 2019/20, and a forecast full-year capital underspend of $42m
Here's what you've all been waiting for - the Wellington local body election 'poll of polls'
The table below summarises the endorsements or picks made by all the election scorecards for Wellington City Council that I'm aware of. If there's any missing let me know and I'll add them in if time permits. The only condition is that it needs to be in the format of having made selections or recommendations for each of the Wellington City Council wards, including Mayor.
**Updated October 2 to include Renters United**
So what can we make of this? Ultimately it's just a bit of fun but it does give some insight into which candidates have the most support across the political spectrum. The various sources are arranged in the table very approximately from politically left to right, although it's probably fair to say the overall balance of the sources leans to the left (to be honest I think it's really only Unions Wellington and Kiwi Blog who can be described as hard-left and hard-right respectively). Aggregating the number of endorsements or picks into a 'power rating' also puts equal weighting on each, which you may or may not agree with but you can adjust for that yourself.
It's also important to note that there's a number of different methodologies employed by the sources. Some are making endorsements about the candidates they think will best deliver on a specific agenda while others are simply predicting who they think will get elected. The methodologies are briefly summarised below and you can always go to the source website for more information.
One thing I think we can take-away from this is that you should be seriously considering giving a high ranking to candidates who have scored a 6 or 7 here. Likewise, candidates who have only scored 0 or 1 are probably best given a low ranking. It's the candidates in the range of 2-5 who deserve the greatest consideration in terms of where you personally decide to rank them.
If you only use this table to guide who you vote for then the new Wellington City Council will look like this:
Mayor: Justin Lester (5)
Motukairangi/Eastern Ward: Sarah Free (7), Teri O'Neill (4) and one of Chris Calvi-Freeman and Bernard O'Shaughnessy (both 3)
Paekawakawa/Southern Ward: Fleur Fitzsimons (6) and one of Laurie Foon and Humphrey Hanley (both 5)
Pukehīnau/Lambton Ward: Iona Pannett (7), Tamatha Paul (6) and Brian Dawson (4)
Takapū/Northern Ward: Jenny Condie (5), Jill Day (4) and Peter Gilberd (3)
Wharangi/Onslow-Western Ward: Conor Hill (5), Rebecca Matthews (4) and Richard McIntosh (4)
This is a very imperfect science but there's potential for a few shocks in there and it has to be said that Wharangi/Onslow-Western just looks like a complete bloodbath this year.
The most important thing of all is that you vote! Voting closes on October 12 but you should post your voting papers by October 8 to make sure they get there in time.
Unions Wellington: Made endorsements of candidates according to answers to a survey on "important workers rights issues like the living wage, but also other issues that effect union members strongly, such as climate change, housing and service provision". Number of endorsements not restricted to the number of spots available. All endorsements are shown in the table.
Renters United: Asked every candidate the same questions about the issues that most concern renters in Wellington. Rated every candidate that responded using a traffic light system. The top three grades for every ward including Mayor are shown here (except for Paekawakawa/Southern where only 2 councillors are elected) with a minimum requirement of a neutral traffic light rating. Iona Pannett and Lee Orchard tied for 3rd in Pukehīnau/Lambton.
Island Bay Healthy Streets: Made endorsements for Mayor and each ward based on a survey of local healthy streets advocates who were asked to "identify the candidates standing for Wellington City Council whose polices and track record are most aligned with a healthy streets approach. Put simply that means the candidates with the most progressive policies on transport, climate change, the environment, housing and urban development". Endorsements are ranked according to the survey results and restricted to the number of spots available, with the exception of Mayor where three endorsements are made. All endorsements shown in the table.
Save the Basin: Named its preferred candidates for Wellington Mayor and other local body positions, based on responses to a survey focused on plans for the Basin Reserve, including Lets Get Wellington Moving. Endorsements are unranked and not limited to the number of spots available. All endorsements shown in the table.
Generation Zero: Graded candidates based on a survey with "a variety of questions on the urgency of climate action, how they will respect Te Tiriti, how they will give effect to a Just Transition, how they will advocate for climate action, and their policies of growth and transport". The top three grades for every ward including Mayor are shown here (except for Paekawakawa/Southern where only 2 councillors are elected). Conor Hill and Andy Foster tied for 3rd in Wharangi/Onslow-Western.
Inside Wellington: The author made his own picks for who he thinks will be elected in each ward and as Mayor. These are picks rather than personal endorsements (there is a separate blog post for each race).
Kiwiblog: The author made his own endorsements of who he thinks should be elected in each ward and as Mayor. For Mayor the recommendation was "If you think that we need a more centrist Mayor, not beholden to the Labour Party and central Government, then rank Calvert, Condie and Foster 1, 2, 3 (in any order)" which is reflected here.
Here's the results of the Island Bay Healthy Streets 2019 Wellington local body election survey.
Healthy Streets™ is an evidence-based approach for creating fairer, sustainable, attractive urban spaces. The approach recognises that the key elements necessary for public spaces to improve people’s health are the same as those needed to make urban places socially and economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable.
A carefully selected panel of local 'healthy streets' advocates [Note 1] were invited to anonymously identify the candidates standing for Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council (Poneke/Wellington constituency) whose polices and track record are most aligned with a healthy streets approach. Put simply that means the candidates with the most progressive policies on transport, climate change, the environment, housing and urban development. For example, reducing car dependency through prioritising public and active transport, density done well, clear plans and targets to reduce carbon emissions etc. Specifically, respondents were asked to identify:
The results from the survey are listed below. The results are in alphabetical order (not ranked) but an asterisk next to the name indicates support from more than 50% of respondents. This is significant because in some wards despite appearing in the top 3 a candidate did not have support from the majority of respondents.
Mayor of Wellington (1 seat)
Motukairangi/Eastern Ward (3 seats)
Paekawakawa/Southern Ward (2 seats)
Pukehīnau/Lambton Ward (3 seats)
Takapū/Northern Ward (3 seats)
Wharangi/Onslow-Western Ward (3 seats)
If the above council was elected for Wellington City if would mean the introduction of 7 new councillors and the removal of 5 incumbents (another 2 are not running again). It would also mean a major shift in the gender split on council. The current split of 9 males and 6 females would be reversed, and there would be 6 males and 9 females on council. The average age on the council would also drop by 10 years from 54 to 44 and there would be a more representative spread of ages. Currently the youngest council member is 40 and the oldest is 65, a 25 year gap. The new healthy streets council would have 3 councillors under the age of 40 with the youngest being 21 and the oldest 65, a 44 year gap. The new additions would include at least one councillor who identifies as Maori and another who speaks te reo. As it turns out a healthy streets council would also be great for representation.
Greater Wellington Regional Council - Pōneke/Wellington Constituency (5 seats)
Whatever weight you put on these results just make sure you vote! You need to post your voting papers by Tuesday 8 October or drop them in to one of the locations listed here by midday on Saturday 12 October. You should have received your voting papers by now. If not then you might need to make a special vote.
If you found this post helpful please like and share widely. It's important!
Note 1. An invitation to participate in the survey was sent to 20 Wellington based members of organisations such as Women in Urbanism, Living Streets Aotearoa, Generation Zero, Cycle Wellington and blogs such as Talk Wellington and Eye of the Fish. There were 12 anonymous responses. Even I don't know exactly who responded.