The next steps in the Love the Bay process were confirmed at Thursday's Wellington City Council (WCC) City Strategy Committee meeting. The main news is that a new councillor working party will oversee the rest of the process, which seems sensible. Another round of consultation on up to four options for The Parade will begin in late July, with the intention of making a final decision by September. Here's the full WCC media release: Island Bay cycleway – next steps decided.
The next steps to determine the fate of the Island Bay Cycleway have been decided
The Dominion Post also reported on Friday that an Island Bay cycleway solution is expected by September. Reading the article raises some concerns, however, mostly about the Island Bay Residents Association (IBRA) interpretation of events.
First of all, there is a serious factual error in the article, which is most likely to be a mis-quote. IBRA does not have anywhere close to 2,000 members, as stated. Although I have asked them on several occasions to confirm the size of their current, active membership they have always refused to do so. However, an educated guess is that the actual number is at best, in the low hundreds and maybe fewer than that. A quick scan through their published meeting minutes shows the average attendance at their monthly meetings is around 40-60 people (that's certainly true of the few meetings I've attended) and the attendance at their AGM was "approximately 50" with 3 apologies. If IBRA would like to be transparent about the actual number of people they currently represent they are welcome to do so in the comments below. The likely explanation for the mistake is that the reporter confused discussion about IBRA's membership with the number of people who participated in IBRA's February 2016 survey on the cycleway. That brings us to another serious issue.
If IBRA claimed in front of the council that 2,000 people participated in their survey then they are guilty of some fairly generous rounding up. The actual number was 1,792. More importantly, by continuing to claim that the survey showed 87% of Island Bay residents are against the cycleway IBRA are wilfully mis-representing the results. The problems with the IBRA survey are well-documented and include the fact that as a non-random, self-selected survey the survey results cannot be inferred to the entire population of Island Bay. That is a simple mathematical fact. The only factually correct statement that can be made about the survey results is that the vast majority (65%) of the population of Island Bay eligible to take part in the survey chose not to.
Let's be absolutely clear here. Every single member of IBRA is entitled to express their opinion. IBRA are also entitled, as per their objects, to say what they think the "wishes and relative priorities" of their members are. However, what they are not entitled to do is knowingly misrepresent the results of a badly designed, 15 month old survey as being what the majority of Island Bay wants now. To continue to do so is being dishonest.
IBRA's representatives at the meeting also criticised the two research reports recently released by WCC, telling the councillors they were "factually incorrect". They went on to say "this is a lot of money to pay if [the reports] are not factual, unbiased and objective. Going forward, I urge that information is reflective of the community and that's how you get community acceptance". You could now be forgiven for thinking you're at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party because that is some truly Alice in Wonderland level of logic. I noted in my blog on the research reports how valuable it is to finally have some independent, professional research that clearly shows there is still a very wide range of views within Island Bay, that those views sit along a whole range of intensity, and that those views are still in a state of flux. Anyone reading those reports with an open mind can be in no doubt that there is not a clear majority in Island Bay either for or against the cycleway and that the issue is far more complex than that anyway. Sorry councillors, but when you read those reports you will realise you are not going to get the solution handed to you on a plate.
In psychology, dissociation is a detachment from reality. That IBRA would criticise these reports as not being reflective of the community demonstrates a complete unwillingness to accept reality, or even that there might be a different reality. It's the kind of intransigent reliance on 'alternative facts' you might expect from climate change deniers or anti-vaxxers. It also shows an incredible amount of hubris and is insulting to all the Island Bay residents who participated in the Love the Bay process and expressed their views in good faith. It seems that as far as IBRA are concerned your views don't count unless they reconcile with theirs, which is disappointing when one of their objects is to "ensure all viewpoints can be heard and represented". I also have to wonder what Global Research and Empathy Design think about their work being publicly disparaged as "factually incorrect"?
Who's representing all the people who support the cycleway or are neutral? Not IBRA
As I've already stated IBRA members are absolutely entitled to express their opinions. IBRA are also entitled to express an aggregated view on behalf of their membership, if they are confident one exists. I honestly believe it's important that IBRA are an intelligent, articulate and representative voice in this conversation. But one of the key principles of the Love the Bay process was to be willing to change your mind in light of new information. IBRA members* would do well to reflect on that before they lose all individual and collective credibility.
I've actually been trying to join the Island Bay Residents Association for the past couple of months. Despite sending a couple of emails with the required information to email@example.com and also filling in a form on their website, I've yet to receive any acknowledgement, let alone confirmation that I'm a member. I certainly don't seem to have been added to a mailing list. IBRA seem happy to lecture others on what democracy looks like, but not so good at practicing what they preach.
I also realise that when I refer to 'IBRA' or 'IBRA members' in reality I'm probably referring to the IBRA Committee. I have no idea how well or how much the IBRA Committee consult with the wider membership before they take a position on anything.