A new direction? Wellington City Council listens to the community on a cycleway (Hutt Road) before implementing

bike pinched between car and busI read with interest yesterday (19th May) the Press release from WCC on the outcome of yesterday’s Transport and Urban Development Committee meeting regarding proposals for upgrading the Hutt Rd cycleway and associated road changes.

I attended and addressed the meeting about the inaccuracies, no acknowledgement of poor community engagement and lack of clarity in the paper tabled by Council Officers. Previously, I and other local resident and business communities had raised significant concerns (through both direct contact and public submissions) on the Council’s proposals and lack of community engagement.

It was and still risks shaping up to be another “Island Bay” experience for us locals, with Council officers seemingly reluctant to listen. NZTA had become aware of concerns and stepped in early with a technical review and have since agreed to ‘hold Council’s hand’ through the next stage. Thankfully Councillors have started to listen to feedback this time and have sent Council officers back to do more analysis of the communities’ concerns raised and to develop alternative options. This has resulted in their initial recommendations being amended considerably yesterday by Councillors. There was however little discussion about the inaccuracies in the paper. In the meantime some immediate improvements (e.g. resealing, widening in parts and moving lamp posts) to the current shared pathway have been approved.  From a safety perspective, this is a good start and a reasonably pragmatic approach.

Other options such as making driveway crossings more visible, removing parking, a new T2 lane and moving bus stops are still on the agenda, but this time the Council are first required to better investigate and engage on options.  I and others have also strongly recommended a new intersection at Spotlight (previously rejected by Council officers) and Councillors voted to explore that also.  While the Council publicly state in their press release that “The T2 lanes will be subject to improved capacity on the southbound motorway and could be some years away”, Greater Wellington Regional Council’s representative on the committee was adamant however that a priority bus lane (T2) was necessary by 2018 to give effect to their new bus network.  City Councillors did not appear to disagree.

What became apparent through the Council’s discussion yesterday (especially when the needs of other suburbs’ cycleways frequently crept into the debate) was the need for a more flexible approach to funding and better integrated planning across all of the city’s cycleway projects. And from the discussion around the Council table, it seems that the ‘new’ Great Harbour cycle way proposal is actually an ‘old’ idea that has been promoted and discounted over the years. Now it has been revived once again, I hope it gathers continuous traction and doesn’t drag on like Transmission Gully or get lost once more after an election.

If the Council follow through on their newly stated intentions, I look forward to seeing much improved integrated planning and design, increased community engagement and; more transparency and information around options for the community to consider early on.  Only then will we get a much better outcome for all pathway and road users.

And if I’m elected to Wellington City Council this year, I will ensure the focus remains on exactly this for the whole city.

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