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Nothing changes: council supports roading plans but pushes cycling and walking too

by Lindsay Shelton
Wellington.Scoop
The Wellington City Council’s big roading debate on Wednesday turned out to have been a bit of a fizzer. Nothing has changed. The Transport Agency continues to develop its secret plans. Wellington’s suburban communities still wait to learn what’s going to be forced on them. Battles are yet to be fought.

However, if you try to find a more optimistic view, awareness and concern about suburban expressway plans has risen substantially. And the council has been able to emphasise that the plans – when they are finally unveiled – are supposed to include improvements for public transport, walking and cycling.

The staff report to the meeting, though it arrived at the last minute, encouraged councilors to support all things for all people.

They voted for only one specific roading plan: extra peak-hour lanes on the Hutt Road between Ngauranga and Aotea Quay.

Where things were controversial, they voted for vague statements. They supported changes which would separate traffic flows round the Basin Reserve, but these are “subject to satisfactory design.” Not that anyone could believe that there could be any satisfactory design for a flyover. And they supported “improvements in Wellington Road and Ruahine Street,” without mentioning that this is likely to mean that these streets will become four-lane expressways.

Mayor Wade-Brown seems to have been won over because a majority of councilors were willing to vote that they:

Support the provision of public transport improvements, and travel demand management, walking and cycling measures.

And that they

Support the requirement for public consultation on the proposed NZTA projects on State Highway 1 and be an active and supportive partner during the consultation phase of these projects

Consultation will be a minefield for the council. Communities in Horokiwi and the Kapiti Coast are each on record as saying that the process as run by the Transport Agency did not work for them. The council will be hoping that its participation may make the process more user-friendly. Yet its own record on consultation isn’t encouraging.

Into the mix – and announced only one day before Wednesday’s extraordinary meeting – is the Regional Council’s government-financed Public Transport Spine Study. Light rail is included in the $1m brief, which is to look at public transport from the railway station to the hospital. Supporters of light rail are confident that the economics of their preferred transport system will win out in the study. In the official announcement, Mayor Wade-Brown gets to make a strong statement about light rail.

“Light rail, as one option, has additional potential to bring in investment along its route, as shown in many cities overseas from Nottingham to Portland. Efficient public transport is crucial for our economy.”

Fran Wilde admits that the bus system is near capacity. She hopes for innovative solutions. But she doesn’t mention light rail.

Read also
The Mayor posts a message on Facebook: “The vote last night simply re-affirms the Council’s support of N2A, which has been the case since 2008. The strengthened commitment to consultation is important, and I’m glad I was able to shepherd the Council into backing it.” More from the Mayor.

4 comments:

  1. Paula Warren, 21. April 2011, 18:42

    I listened to the meeting. What was clear was that councillors simply endorsed the plan that they had signed up to in 2008. They weren’t endorsing RONS, but rather (and many made this very clear in their statements) a multi-modal plan.

    The confusion arises because both RONS and Ngauranga to Airport have the same roading projects. That’s quite different to the case in Kapiti, where the councils had agreed to Western Link 1, and RONS had a major new expressway that no-one wants.

    The difference in Wellington City is more subtle but equally real – it’s context. Ngauranga to Airport puts the projects in a multi-modal context, and things like the investigation of changes to the Basin Reserve are to achieve improvements in public transport and walking/cycling, not to improve car movements. That means that there is a far lower risk of roading projects (if they go ahead) inducing additional traffic and impeding public transport movements.

    And the road projects are just scheme assessments, that will look at scope and options and cost. And then a decision will be made on whether any of the options are appropriate and should proceed. Whereas in RONS, a cost benefit of 0.4 (i.e. for every dollar you spend you get 40 cents worth of benefits back) doesn’t make the project not economically vital regardless of what other options there are or whether the community want it. Go figure!

    So well done Celia and WCC. Now let’s get on with implementing Ngauranga to Airport. Which includes exciting projects like implementing the walking and cycling plans, extensive bus priority measures, integrated ticketing, real time information, and so on.

     
  2. Ferdinand Hendriks, 21. April 2011, 21:39

    I attended the council’s extraordinary meeting. It was arranged as a result of a request from the NZTA, who, it seems, had become confused about ongoing WCC support for the N2A plan. The confusion being some comments made by the Mayor which were reported in the newspapers. But the Council was a partner in the development of the N2A Plan, and has consistently supported it since it was adopted by the Regional Transport Committee in October 2008. This support is reinforced in the current WCC draft 2011/12 Annual Plan. What more could the NZTA be asking for?

    This was my first attendance at a council meeting and I was looking forward to a lively and intelligent debate which would let me assess the performance of the Mayor and her team of Councillors. What I witnessed was something of a dysfunctional family. It didn’t look good for the public consultation process on which such high hopes are pinned. I heard Councillor McKinnon, Councillor Foster and Councillor Eagle all expressing different points of view on the N2A plans, and then they were all appointed to join the Mayor to participate in the NZTA committee on public consultation.
    Eighteen people had applied to make public submissions at the meeting, but only five were heard. Each speaker was given 3 minutes to present their case. This was not a generous deal.

    I left the meeting with a distinctly uneasy feeling about what the future will hold for Wellington. I do hope that Councillor McKinnon’s eloquent confidence that the NZTA will shortly produce their full plans so that the consultation process can get under way, is not in vain. In the end, as Councillor Morrison so strongly reiterated, all the WCC did at the meeting was to basically agree again to what was agreed in October 2008. Will this satisfy the NZTA?

     
  3. Brent Efford, 21. April 2011, 23:29

    A big and worrying issue is that, although NZTA has residual responsibilities regarding public transport left over from the Labour Government, under the current Government it has become a hyper-road-warrior agency advancing highway expansion and serving the interests of the highway lobby no matter what. Just like the old Transit NZ.

    That the Spine Study is a partnership between that agency, the Wellington City Council (whose bureaucrats are maneuvering to block light rail whatever the Mayor may once have said) and the Regional Council (who may have the major share of responsibility for rail in Wellington but don’t want to extend it any further) indicates that we may be about to embark on a futile $1M exercise which will be as resultless as every other similar study for the last 130 years. Bad faith, and the oil/highway lobby, rule.

     
  4. Bryan Pepperell, 30. June 2011, 23:52

    The fact is that NZTA do not accept for whatever reason the unattended crisis of post Peak Oil . When the NZTA representatives came to speak to Wellington City Council I asked them if they took the IEA revision of Peak Oil back to 2006 seriously. Their reply was the MED did and side stepped my question. None of the Council reps have demonstrated a grasp of the problem of the energy bank in free fall. – End of story.

    Councillor Bryan Pepperell