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.