Rebel councillors bypass mayor on road projects
Pro-roading city councillors have banded together against mayor Celia Wade-Brown to force an extraordinary meeting to ensure the survival of $2.4 billion of Government roading projects.
The New Zealand Transport Agency is asking the council for its definitive position on roading options that include a possible flyover to the north of the Basin Reserve, duplicate Terrace and Mt Victoria tunnels, and making Ruahine St four lanes. Failure to do so could result in the agency using the funding elsewhere in New Zealand.
The request from the agency was received on Tuesday.
Ms Wade-Brown supports the proposals in principle only - she campaigned against them last year - but she pledged to bring the issue to the council table within six weeks.
"I have requested the chief executive [Garry Poole] . . . to schedule a debate on the subject on . . . council agendas and a date will be scheduled at the earliest opportunity, taking account of officers' requirements to compile the report and the NZTA's consultation deadlines."
But that was not good enough for nine councillors, led by Jo Coughlan and John Morrison, who presented a signed requisition to Mr Poole yesterday.
Council standing orders meant Mr Poole had no option other than to schedule an extraordinary meeting on the day the rebel nine requested - Wednesday.
The agenda for the meeting is "to confirm Wellington City Council's position on the Wellington Roads of National Significance improvements on State Highway 1 south of Ngauranga".
Mr Morrison said he expected it to lead to full council support being given to the Transport Agency. "If we blow this, then it will be beyond comprehension. We have got to have the guts to send a clear message of support."
Ensuring the go-ahead for the projects, part of the Ngauranga to airport corridor plan, was vital for Wellington, which was facing the downsizing of the public service and other job losses, he said.
"We could be facing a rather bleak winter, so to kick sand in the face of $2.4b is totally and utterly irresponsible, both from the roading point of view and the economy point of view."
Transport Agency central regional director Jenny Chetwynd said the council had been asked to confirm that there was a shared understanding of what was to be investigated and constructed, before public consultation. "We've also asked the council to confirm it is only through the delivery of the agreed package of measures identified in the plan . . . that significant gains will be made.
"The [agency] is seeking confirmation of the council's continued support for the overall plan and its multi-modal approach, rather than specific endorsement of the design of the proposed improvements to State Highway 1.
"We appreciate that the council will have views on the specific design details once they are available, and we will welcome their feedback as part of the consultation process."
Council approval for the roading upgrades is not required, but the agency is reluctant to proceed without the city's backing.
It called for assurances from the council after becoming concerned about mixed messages from Ms Wade-Brown.
Councillors who signed the resolution: John Morrison Jo Coughlan Ian McKinnon Ngaire Best Ray Ahipene-Mercer Leonie Gill Paul Eagle Justin Lester Simon Marsh
The Dominion Post