It's time for Wellington City Council to deliver on its Island Bay Cycleway promises
The Island Bay Cycleway has been caught up in the excruciating delays to the Newtown Connections project
The Newtown Connections project is being delayed - again. The latest update from Wellington City Council includes an "an in-depth look at parking in Newtown and Berhampore" and notes that "the information will be used as part of detailed planning to help shape future transport changes in these neighbourhoods". It will also "be considered in the development of a new city-wide Parking Policy".
Good stuff, I guess, but then the council admits "consultation for Newtown Connections will now also happen in mid-2020. We were expecting to consult on a proposed package of bike routes and street changes in Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook in November/December however it is important to have the new Parking Policy in place first."
Hang on a minute. Mid 2020? That will be a full three years since the current round of Newtown Connections consultation started in August 2017. 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.
Climate emergency anyone?
It gets worse. Don't forget that in October 2018 the council absorbed The Parade Upgrade in Island Bay 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. That's now not going to happen until late-2020 at the earliest, over three years since since The Parade Upgrade was approved 13-1 by council back in September 2017.
Three years 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.
If we're talking about the judicial review then yes, it was embarrassing. Still not as embarrassing as the spelling on this sign though
Maybe it's time to talk about unhitching The Parade Upgrade from Newtown Connections and just getting 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 pre-existing commitment that was made at the end of a very long and public consultation process. 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. 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 clear that nothing is going to happen in the south of the city before 2021 so doesn't this entire capital budget need to be re-visited anyway?
In an effort to be constructive about this here's what I think the council (both councillors and council officers) should be investigating:
Three years (or more) is too long to wait. It's time to get The Parade Upgrade underway
In addition, my challenge to every Wellington City Council candidate in the upcoming local body elections is to make a clear public statement that:
While we're on the subject it would be good to hear what the WCC mayoral and ward candidates think about the current state of walking and cycling in Wellington. Here's a few questions: