Push for funding for cycling pathways

Palmerston North deputy mayor Jim Jefferies has made a pitch to get the New Zealand Transport Agency to start helping fund the city's cycling and pedestrian pathway projects.

The city's ratepayers receive no help from the agency for what could be a multi-million dollar investment in developing and improving walking and cycling facilities.

The council has already completed the Mangaone Stream loop around the city from Maxwells Line to Flygers Line, at a cost of $650,000.

It has almost finished its 11.7km, $800,000 Maxwells Line to Riverside Drive pathway along the Manawatu River, with just the section behind houses in Buick Cres to complete. The track is expected to reopen by the end of June.

It is also under way with plans to extend the $767,000 pathway from Ashhurst to Raukawa Rd all the way to the city, for an estimated additional $1.3m. The investment was supported by 8 submissions on the draft annual plan.

Plans to build a new pathway from the Fitzherbert Bridge to Linton were given a $150,000 boost by a committee of council this week, providing $400,000 in the coming year to progress the project. The project was supported by 10 submitters, including the army, which has offered help with construction.

The council is now investigating plans for a cycleway to Longburn (33 submissions in support), a route to Bunnythorpe, and options to better link the Ashhurst Domain with the township and the other side of the state highway (six submissions).

The council also faces calls from several submitters for more cycle lanes to be provided across the city.

But so far, no money has come from the agency.

Jefferies tackled the agency's regional director Jenny Chetwynd at Horizons' Regional Transport Committee yesterday.

He said it was disappointing that only 10 per cent of the spending the agency had approved for walking and cycling initiatives around the country had been spent.

His information came from NZTA's mid-term report for the 2012-15 spending round, which identified the main area of underspend was in walking and cycling projects.

Local authority claims for payment at the end of December amounted to 10 per cent of the money already approved for 2013-14, where claims for up to 50 per cent were expected.

Jefferies said cycling and walking were priorities for Palmerston North, with no shortage of projects that could benefit.

"This is something we are very conscious of as a city. It's a real priority for us, and we received a lot of submissions, yet we get zero application for that area.

"When we see it not being used elsewhere - can we help?"

Chetwynd held out little hope that Palmerston North could benefit from slow progress in other areas.

She said the agency was committed to getting the projects that were in its national land transport programme completed.

Manawatu Standard