Councillors question community support for proposed Tahunanui cycleway
A proposed cycleway in Tahunanui has been stopped in its tracks after councillors decided there wasn't enough community support for the recommended route.
Council staff presented the routes for two proposed cycleways at either end of Rocks Rd to the works and infrastructure committee on Thursday.
The first one, connecting the Maitai River with the start of Rocks Rd, was passed by the committee and will be funded and built by the New Zealand Transport Agency.
However the second, designed to run north to south through Tahunanui, prompted strong debate between councillors over its location and community support for it.
Council staff told the committee it would connect existing trails in Tahunanui reserve to Golf Rd, Green St, Roto St, and Bolt Rd and then link up with existing cycle paths at the airport.
They said $1.29m proposed project met criteria for the Urban Cycleways Programme, a central government fund to increase cycle networks across New Zealand, which meant council would have to cover just a third of the cost.
Staff said they'd received about 60 submissions from Tahunanui community members during consultation and had held information days. The route was designed to encourage "interested but concerned" cyclists to give biking a go.
However, some councillors were mindful there appeared to be more public support for a parallel route along Pascoe St as a better alternative.
However council staff advised the committee that while a route along Pascoe St might be possible in the future, land and access issues meant it wasn't workable within the June 2018 completion requirement for the Urban Cycleways Programme fund.
The council were left to decide whether to approve the proposed workable option, which would have government funding but might not be favoured by the community, or toss it out in favour of potential future options which may or may not get government funding.
Councillor Matt Lawrey said while it pained him to speak against a cycleway, he couldn't support it as he didn't think it had enough community backing.
"I want the cycleways to be where people are and where people want to be and I'm not convinced that this does that," Lawrey said.
"We are talking about $430,000 of ratepayer money, and I don't know if I want that to go into a cycleway that doesn't get used a lot because if that happens it will make it increasingly difficult for us to get funding for cycleways that we know will work."
Cr Luke Acland said as the only option for a route that existed end-to-end through Tahunanui, while it may not have ticked all the boxes it was better to do something than nothing.
"I hear the concern in the community but it seems to me that this is not the only project that can happen down there," Acland said.
"This is part of a network and I think we're looking a gift horse in the mouth by not continuing with this project."
The proposal was lost in a 3:3 split vote. Councillors Paul Matheson, Stuart Walker and Acland voted in favour of the route, while Lawrey, Bill Dahlberg and Gaile Noonan were opposed.
Bicycle Nelson Bays cycling advocate Chris Allison said he was pleased the route wasn't approved as it was not the best option for Tahunanui.
He said it didn't have enough connections to areas people wanted to get to, nor was it an appealing route,.
He said it could have ended up being like the cycle path on St Vincent St - under-utilised.
"It gets to Gloucester St and then kind of stops and because it's not a complete route it doesn't get much usage," Allison said.
"[The council gets] really hammered by people because they've done something and people aren't using it."
He said he didn't think that just because the council had access to a government fund they should spend the money on an unsuitable option, but hoped there could be a way for that fund to be reallocated to another cycle project.