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After more than ten years, a dream coming true?

cycleway long awaited [1]

by Lindsay Shelton
The news of fast-tracking the cycleway and walkway between Ngauranga and Petone [2] may indeed be a dream come true, but there have been many false alarms about the dream.

The shared pathway is the most important section of the Great Harbour Way, which was launched in 2003, as the campaigners reminded us on Monday [3] when they talked about their dream coming true.

Local politicians have been unanimous in agreeing on the need for an off-road cycleway between Petone and Ngauranga since 2008, after a high-ranking policeman was killed while cycling near the Petone roundabout.

There’s always been strong community enthusiasm for the plan, with a community ride in 2010 led by new mayor Celia Wade-Brown, [4] though she acknowledged that some government organisations (yes, the NZTA) had not yet been persuaded.

In 2011, all regional mayors re-stated their “enthusiastic support” [5] for an offroad cycleway. In the same year, Fran Wilde – a civic leader accustomed to getting what she wanted – spoke firmly, but to no avail:

“The lack of a decent cycling facility on this stretch of SH2, which is used by a large number of cyclists each day, sticks out like a sore thumb in our regional cycling network. It’s generally agreed that a need for such a facility is long overdue.”

In 2012 there were the first signs of interest from the NZTA, which organised focus groups which it said were to help “an investigation process” in which a consultant would be chosen to investigate options for the shared pathway. But in 2013, no such investigation had been announced [6]. In June of that year, the work was only “about to start.” [7]

Mayor Wallace of Lower Hutt and Wellington Mayor Wade-Brown both welcomed this announcement, but both no doubt suppressed concerns at the lack of urgency with which the Transport Agency was dealing with such an urgent project, though Mayor Wade-Brown went so far as to say: “I have consistently asked for improvements.”

A report that funding had been approved [8] proved to be one of the first false alarms. [9]

At the end of 2015, the NZTA said it had chosen the seaward side of the railway tracks [10] for the new pathway, “based on community and stakeholder feedback,” and construction would begin in 2019 [11]. Everybody welcomed the announcement. But this was another false alarm. There was no sign of construction.

In 2917 the Labour Party said it prioritised construction by 2020 [12] – it didn’t happen.

But work has been continuing out of the public eye. And when designs were released last year [13], they looked pretty good. There was also public consultation last year, which means that a fast-tracked start to construction should be facing less than the usual obstacles.

But remember – it’s twelve years since the plan was identified as urgent.

News from NZ Government – May 23, 2019
Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter today unveiled designs for public consultation on the Ngauranga to Petone shared walking and cycling pathway. She also announced funding approval to begin construction on the Petone to Melling pathway.

“This project will provide people living in the Hutt with a congestion-free commuting option into the city,” said Julie Anne Genter. “With the rise of e-bikes and e-scooters, this path will provide people with more options for travelling between the Hutt, Petone, and Wellington City.

harbourside-pathway [14]

“The new designs show that the pathway will be an attraction for both visitors and residents alike. The 5 m wide path will include additional space for people to rest, picnic, and fish the coast.

harboursie-bridge [15]

“An iconic overbridge at Ngauranga will connect people to the coastal pathway. The project represents the most significant expansion of public access to Wellington’s waterfront in decades.

“The seaside path provides a critical resilience upgrade to the network, with protection of State Highway 2 and the rail line from erosion and damaging storm surges.

“In addition, the Transport Agency has approved construction to begin to extend a shared walking and cycling path from Melling to Petone. This path will make it safer and easier for people to walk, cycle and scooter to the train station, which will help reduce congestion and take the pressure of park and ride facilities.

“Ultimately the Melling to Petone section will connect to the coastal pathway and provide access right to the city. Work is expected to start on this section before the end of this year, with the project completed by the end of 2020.”