Friday marks 1,500 days since WCC agreed to upgrade The Parade, without a single shovel in the ground since
This Friday (5 November) is 1,500 days since Wellington City Council voted 13-1 to upgrade The Parade. So why hasn't the work started yet? Here's a rundown of everything that's happened (or not happened) in the four years since then.
On 27 September 2017 WCC's City Strategy Committee votes 13-1 to upgrade The Parade (only Councillor Simon Woolf votes against the proposal. Councillor Chris Calvi-Freemen is absent). The recommended design proposal simply merges the residential section of consultation Option C and the business section of Option D with refinements that incorporate public feedback (known as ‘the Mayor’s compromise solution’). The committee notes the estimated cost total to be $6.1 million (excl GST) to be refined through detailed design. The committee notes that officers will liaise with Waka Kotahi (as key partners in the Wellington City Cycleways Programme) to get feedback on the final design and layout, and to investigate any options for future co-funding of the cycleway. The committee also agrees that detailed design and the traffic resolution process will commence immediately for the adopted design with construction intended to commence in June 2018. $6m is specifically ring-fenced for the ‘Island Bay Cycleway’ in the 2018-28 Long Term Plan. Decision made, funding set aside so all good, right?
May - October 2018
In May 2018 the Island Bay Residents Association (IBRA) announce they intend to pursue a judicial review. Later in 2018 WCC also starts consulting on the Newtown Connections project, which will link the Island Bay Cycleway to the CBD. In October 2018 a paper comes to WCC's City Strategy Committee titled Southern Connection Cycleway Development – Funding Opportunities. The Committee agrees that in order to obtain Waka Kotahi (WK) co-funding for The Parade and the maximum WK contribution for Newtown Connections both projects will be rolled into one strategic business case. The committee notes that it will give consideration to a range of projects put forward for approval in the Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook area in May/June 2019 and that “we would expect that construction would not be completed on The Parade until the end of 2020 and mid 2021 for the Newtown connections area.” In reluctantly supporting the proposal I said to the committee “I do think there are some risks with this approach. An obvious one is that the extended time-frame provides more opportunity for attempts at re-litigation. There's also the risk that WK don't come to the party. The bottom line for me is that I trust you.”
November 2018 - now
Having made The Parade Upgrade dependent on the Newtown Connections project it then slowly and inevitably grinds to a halt. Here's a potted summary of that particular shambles. There's not a single timeframe stated here that was met.
May - June 2019
During May and June 2019 WCC goes to court to defend it's September 2017 decision to upgrade The Parade, which is subject to a judicial review instigated by the Island Bay Residents Association. In court a key part of WCC’s defence is “safety concerns and issues of non-compliance” with both the original layout and the current cycleway which were an important consideration in it's September 2017 decision-making. In it's judgement the High Court agrees that "Neither the status quo nor the original cycleway could be said to be reasonably practicable options given the safety concerns and issues of non-compliance that had been identified with them". WCC wins the case but incurs $80k in costs which it does not seek to recover from IBRA. Four years later none of the safety concerns and issues of non-compliance that WCC relied on in court to justify its September 2017 decision have been rectified.
The Parade Upgrade was not mentioned at all in WCC's quarterly reports to councillors between Oct 2017 – Dec 2019, which is a pretty shocking lack of oversight. In December 2019 the Q1 2019/20 report caused some concern and got media attention because it stated for the first time that “NZTA will consider co-investing in The Parade once the Newtown and Berhampore cycle facilities are constructed”. This was the first time that a dependency on Newtown Connections being completed first had ever been publicly mentioned. It shifted the start date for The Parade Upgrade out to a date in 2022 or 2023 at the earliest but probably later than that. That's at least 6 years after The Parade Upgrade was first approved.
April - August 2020
In April 2020 WCC submits the ‘Island Bay Cycleway’ as a $14m COVID-19 response shovel-ready project with the cost escalation put down to "additional drainage work and changing market conditions". The submission fails. In June I get so concerned about the ongoing delays and the statement in WCC's December 2019 quarterly report that I write directly to Waka Kotahi to clarify their position on funding. I also remind them that they were the instigators of the review into the Island Bay cycleway that spawned the Love the Bay process. Waka Kotahi was always intended to have a partnering role in The Parade Upgrade and had a shared interest with WCC in re-establishing ‘social license’ around building cycleways. Between July and August I exchanged several emails with Waka Kotahi and they eventually confirmed that they "could consider a funding application for The Parade Upgrade in Island Bay once this route [Newtown Connections] has been agreed, which is a change to our previous position that this route would need to be implemented“. Waka Kotahi tells me WCC had not been actively pursuing this with them. Emails released to The New Zealand Herald (including mine) highlight much finger-pointing between WCC and WK but very little action. Think about how mad it is that a private citizen moved Waka Kotahi's position further in the space of a month than WCC had in the previous three years.
April - May 2021
The council's recommended option for Building More Cycleways in their 2021-31 Long Term Plan consultation only includes funding of $6m for the Island Bay Parade Upgrade in Years 4-10, pushing the potential start date out to 2025 at the earliest. That would be a full eight years after agreeing to do it and despite the previously noted "safety concerns and issues of non-compliance". However, after massive pushback from submitters the council approves the 'Accelerated full programme' option for cycleways which includes funding for The Parade Upgrade of $14m in years 1–3. A big win. In May 2021 councillors receive a full briefing on the options for The Parade Upgrade. You can read the slides here.
So what now?
Councillors are due to make a decision about the next steps for The Parade Upgrade on Wednesday 10 November. The meeting papers should be published on Wednesday 3 November, only 1,498 days after originally deciding to do it (by 10 November it will be 1,505 days).
So does The Parade still need upgrading? Yes! The issues of safety and non-compliance that WCC have known about since 2017 and relied on in court to win the judicial review haven't magically resolved themselves. Weary cyclists and advocates may have got used to them or not believe things will ever get any better but it would be appalling for the council to try and take advantage of that now that they have effectively made the decision to upgrade The Parade four times - in 2017, again in 2018, by defending the decision in court in 2019 and by including it in the 2021-31 LTP.
More importantly, although the current cycleway can be described as functional it will never generate the kind of uptake from the "interested but concerned" potential cyclists that it was meant to. It certainly isn't anywhere near the standard of subsequent cycleway implementations in Wellington. In my view the key issues are:
Is this even remotely good enough?
Unless whatever the council agrees to next week fully addresses these issues they will once again be letting Island Bay down and once again letting the Island Bay cycleway continue to generate negative headlines. The most likely reason for them to be tempted to prevaricate about ifs, buts and maybes once again is the sudden emergence of Island Bay as a potential destination for Mass Rapid Transit as part of Let's Get Wellington Moving. Mass Rapid Transit options are due to be released tomorrow (Monday) but it needs to be stressed that any breaking of the ground in Island Bay is likely to be many years away. Even if it was quickly agreed and planned a Mass Rapid Transit route to the south would probably be delivered in stages with the CBD to Newtown coming first. Considering The Parade Upgrade is already four years overdue waiting what could easily be another decade or so to fix the current issues would be completely unacceptable. I'm sure that won't stop a certain amount of hyper-ventilating from some of the usual climate change deniers, rates hawks and bike-bashers though.