Wellington cycleway plans to be independently reviewed
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has announced an independent review into the capital's controversial cycleways.
In a press release issued shortly before 5pm on Friday, the mayor's office announced that Wellington City Council had partnered with the New Zealand Transport Agency to conduct "an independent review of the capital's cycling plan".
The announcement comes days after rival mayoral candidate Jo Coughlan met Transport Minister Simon Bridges to discuss the possibilities of consulting on other cycleway options, while still retaining central government funding.
Councillor Paul Eagle, a leading critic of the Island Bay cycleway, said the announcement of a review was "a major embarrassment for Wellington".
"From what I make of it, the Government is questioning our competence in delivering the [cycleway] programme."
However, Wade-Brown laughed at this.
"Paul's had a consistent line that everything should always be revisited in cycling, it seems. It's NZTA wanting to make sure that the cycling fund can be delivered on. And I would have thought that he was one of the people who was giving the Government concern about the ability to deliver."
She said the idea for a review had come from the NZTA, and the agency was paying for it. It will be conducted by management consulting firm Morrison Low.
"NZTA is doing the consultancy and I don't know whether they're doing several around the country, but I think the initial focus on Wellington was due to our really quite ambitious delivery dates to achieve. The urban cycling fund may not be there forever."
She believed the review would be looking at the best ways to invest future funds and ways to push through "easy wins" that were "most effective and least controversial".
Coughlan said she welcomed the review, which had "obviously come about thanks to the meeting I had with the minister".
"Essentially they'll be doing risk analyses of time and money, and seeing if there's ability to reallocate spending from one part to another, and look at selected work and seeing if we're getting the best outcomes, and further explore the logic of the process in terms of where they're heading with the cycleways," she said.
Councillors have been asked to meet Morrison Low next week to give their own feedback.
The Government has allocated about $53 million for nine cycleway projects, including the first stages of a cycleway linking Wellington to Lower Hutt.
Hutt Rd is the next major cycleway being tackled by the council after Island Bay's which was completed in March.
That cycleway has plenty of admirers, but also many critics, who feel its kerbside design has ruined The Parade and made it unsafe for residents to use their driveways.
Eagle said the trigger for the review would have been the fact that, at every dinner table, someone was talking about the Island Bay cycleway.
"The minister [of transport] must be pretty upset that the capital city is floundering over trying to deliver cycleways," he said.
"The question on everyone's lips is, 'Are you going to sort out Island Bay first?' Because nothing is going anywhere until you do."
He said that, if Bridges had lost confidence in Wellington's ability to deliver cycleways, he should just say so. "This is wasting ratepayers money on more reports."
Bridges, and Wellington City Council chief executive Kevin Lavery have been contacted for comment.