I attended Wellington City Council's City Strategy Committee meeting on Thursday morning to talk about their new proposal for funding The Parade upgrade by rolling it into a $32 million integrated plan for the southern suburbs, including the Newtown Connections project.
Here's what I had to say:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this morning in support of the Southern Connection Cycleway Development paper.
I'll get straight to the point - I think the funding opportunity presented in this paper is simply too good to ignore despite some reservations about the delays it will cause to starting work on The Parade upgrade.
When I first read the paper I was disappointed that it meant work not starting for another year, although I'm glad to see that you are planning some much needed remedial work in the meantime.
However, on further reading I decided that on balance the opportunity to roll The Parade upgrade into an integrated plan for the southern suburbs is the right way to go.
The Island Bay cycleway was always intended to be just the first stage of a safe and comfortable cycling route all the way into the CBD.
So apart from the obvious financial benefit what's pleasing to see about this proposal is Island Bay again being recognised as part of a network plan.
What's even more pleasing is the recognition that cycling networks are not just about commuter routes to and from the CBD but also the inter-suburb connections.
Largely because of geography Island Bay, Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook are intimately connected and good transport connections between them are really important to the people who live there.
My sons are 10 and 12 and they often ride their bikes from Island Bay up to Berhampore to visit their Grandma. The first part of the journey along the cycleway is sweet. The second part is a nightmare and so they ride on the pavement.
As a family one of our most frequent destinations is Newtown. That's a journey of a just a few kilometres that we would love to bike more often and which is exactly the type of short, local journey you should trying to encourage people to get out of their cars for.
Island Bay absolutely should be brought back into a strategic business case for the southern suburbs and aligned with the Newtown Connections project.
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 NZTA don't come to the party.
But with both of those risks I think whether they actually turn into issues is entirely within your power to control.
If you are divided over this plan then it's a self-fulfilling prophesy that these risks will become issues. If you are united they won't.
Even in respect to NZTA's involvement I think that if you are united behind this plan then NZTA are far more likely to come on board. If you're divided that's less likely.
So yes, there are some risks to be managed. However, there's also some really good people among the council officers in this room and there's some really good people around this council table. The bottom line for me is that I trust you.
I'm pleased to report that councillors supported the proposal unanimously.
I was also very impressed by the comments made in support of this by councillors. It was a positive, well informed and forward-looking discussion and the most united I have ever seen the council be around anything Island Bay Cycleway related. It really feels like we are all starting to understand what we are collectively trying to achieve.
Read the council's media release here: Council to work with the Government on walking and cycling
Wellington City Council have made a major announcement regarding the planned upgrade of The Parade in Island Bay.
The good news is that it is now proposed that NZTA will fund 75% of the cost of the upgrade by including it in an integrated plan for high-quality biking and walking connections from the south coast to the city. Mayor Justin Lester says "with the new government’s policy statement on transport, we have the opportunity to make more improvements in more suburbs with the same amount of ratepayer funding [approximately $8 million]. By partnering with NZTA under the new Government Policy Statement, we have the opportunity to fund up to $32 million worth of changes in these areas by 2021, with the Council paying 25 percent and NZTA paying 75 percent”. $32 million is a massive investment into improving transport options in the southern suburbs.
NZTA are coming on board with a major funding boost for the upgrade of The Parade
The bad news is that it will mean a further delay of a year before any work starts on The Parade because the upgrade becomes dependent on the Newtown Connections project. However, Wellington City Council are proposing to do remedial work in the meantime which will include removing all the ghost markings and resurfacing the section of The Parade between Dee St and Tamar St.
Councillor Sarah Free says "the key thing is that by delaying significant changes to the Island Bay cycleway until planning in Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook has been completed, we can potentially achieve a better, more coordinated result. It’s always been planned that the Island Bay facilities would form the southern end of a wider southern bike network. We’re now almost at a point where those wider connections can be agreed.”
Although it's disappointing to be facing yet more delay before the upgrade begins it's really hard to see how the city council could possibly turn down the possibility of such a substantial offer of funding from NZTA. In fact, it would be financially irresponsible not to integrate the two projects. It's also great to see NZTA finally recognising the Island Bay Cycleway as being part of a bigger network picture. Props to the current government for creating the policy settings for that to happen.
Read more about the announcement here:
Wellington City Council email sent to stakeholders
Wellington City Council media release
Wellington City Council City Strategy Committee paper Southern Connection Cycleway Development - Funding Opportunities (pages 15-19)
In related news in November Wellington City Council will also be be seeking community feedback on packages of options involving different routes and changes to streets in Newtown, Berhampore and Mt Cook. Read more about that here.