1 Jun 2016

WCC told it let spokes fall off cycleway plan

6:44 pm on 1 June 2016

The way Wellington City Council conducted the rollout of a controversial cycleway in Island Bay has hurt its city-wide ambitions for the bike routes, an independent review has found.

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Photo: 123rf.com

The report into the city's cycleways, which was commissioned by New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), concluded people felt the path in the southern suburb was a poor solution that was delivered without proper community engagement and consultation.

It recommended it be reviewed and modified after further community consultation.

Read the report commissioned by NZTA (PDF, 1.3MB)

Earlier this year, nails were scattered on the cycleway and the local residents' association threatened a rates revolt if it wasn't dug up.

David Lee - a councillor for the Southern Ward, which includes Island Bay - said the cycleway was used as a political football. He conceded the council had failed in its handling of the plan.

"The whole concept of a cycleway - I think no one really had a problem with the actual concept. The way we rolled it out, there were definitely lessons learned from Island Bay. I don't think we did a really good job in terms of implementational rollout; it wasn't community-owned."

According to the NZTA-commissioned report, there was initially strong political support for the route.

But when the community reacted negatively to the location and design, with issues raised around the impact on drivers, pedestrians, businesses and homeowners, political support fell away.

Councillors interfered with decisions involving design and timing, and this hurt the project.

Mr Lee said it was politically hijacked by people sitting around the council table.

"It was a very good political football to bounce around or to actually kick around. That's what actually happened with Island Bay. It was used intentionally as a political football, for political gain.

"I think there's probably a reasonable list of people sitting around the table who used it as a political football."

Island Bay Residents' Association president Vicki Greco agreed that it was used politically, but she pointed the finger at Mr Lee.

"There were a couple of councillors who wanted this come hell or high water. They worked very closely with Cycle Aware [Wellington] and cycle groups [but] had no intention of consulting with the rest of the community, and they pushed this through no matter what."

Mrs Greco said the association had fought long and hard for three years to get something done about this particular cycleway, but no one was actually opposed to the idea of one.

"The majority of Island Bay residents aren't opposed to a cycleway. We've always wanted a cycleway, we've always had a cycleway. It's the way it's been managed, it's the way it's been pushed through - we've been ignored - and the current design.

"We'll be excited to work with the council to come up with a new design and a solution that works really well for Island Bay."

The report stated the fallout from the Island Bay project had jeopardised the council's other cycleway programmes, and had eroded the public's faith in the council.

NZTA regional director Raewyn Bleakley said it was sensible for the agency to get involved and seek independent advice on how the rollout was going.

"It's a wise step on our path to move in quite early in a particular set of circumstance where we could see that the community perception of how projects were being delivered was going to get would get in the way of project success."

The report said elected members should provide political support for a recommissioned programme and a review of the route in Island Bay, and decisions should be made on sound evidence and advice.

Ms Bleakley said there was a clear desire for cycleways in Wellington and she was optimistic the projects could be delivered.

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