Rocks Rd options soon to be clarified

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 12:00 01/02/2014

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Steps are well under way to assess whether a dedicated walking and cycling path around Rocks Rd can be created, with a decision likely by August.

A draft of the findings of the investigation phase of the waterfront walking and cycling improvement project was to be delivered to council soon, city council road safety adviser and project manager Marg Parfitt said.

"A lot of information-gathering is coming together now. A draft is due soon and stage two will follow, which is about developing a long list of options," Mrs Parfitt said.

A traffic study that ended in 2011 resulted in a council resolution which supported further investigation into a walkway-cycleway around the waterfront. It was ratified in the 2012-22 Long Term Plan and 2012-15 regional land transport programme.

The Rocks Rd proposal is the flagship project of the council's walk/cycle/schools package.

The council resolved in 2012 to set in motion the investigation phase of the planned $6 million waterfront walkway and cycleway, to be partly funded from Nelson's $21m regional transport funding entitlement [R funding] and more than $1m in rates funds.

R funding is made up from a fuel excise duty and a portion of road-user charges for light vehicles. It is distributed regionally on the basis of population, to be used for the development of transport options, which include cycleways, buses, walkways and roads.

Nelson ratepayers are contributing $51,700 to the $220,000 investigation phase with the rest funded by the New Zealand Transport Agency by way of a subsidy and direct contribution.

The council is leading the study, backed by NZTA.

Opus secured the contract to deliver it, with help from a steering group made up of council staff and councillors Paul Matheson and Pete Rainey, NZTA staff Andrew James and Jason Morgan plus Nelson architect Ian Jack, who has advised on several waterfront development projects.

Council communications manager Angela Ricker said early work had involved people seeking the views of users around Rocks Rd and conducting cycle counts.

Incorporated in the investigation phase was a long list of factors to consider, including heritage, land, buildings, landscape, geotechnical issues, user numbers, parking, the structural wall and environmental coastal issues.

A range of options that will evolve from the investigation phase will be discussed in a steering group workshop, before councillors and NZTA held a further workshop prior to seeking public input.

The public engagement process, which Ms Ricker said would not be formal consultation but a means to gauge people's thoughts, would involve open days, iwi hui, meetings and online feedback options.

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She said the feedback would be used to guide any changes and refine options, before a final decision in August on whether the project would go ahead.

"There's no pre-determination and if the study shows it can't be done, it won't go ahead," Mrs Parfitt said.

The 2013 census data reveals that more Nelsonians cycle to work than in any other part of New Zealand, making more than 1150 trips per day. The data shows 8. 7 per cent of the Nelson workforce bikes to work, against a national average of 2.9 per cent.

After a political furore last year that the study was to incorporate assessment that Rocks Rd would be turned into a three-line highway, NZTA acknowledged that the council did not want to see clearways or three-laning on Rocks Rd, and the feasibility study would not investigate these as options.

Mrs Parfitt reiterated the study was "not about freight on Rocks Rd".

A waterfront protection lobby group said last year it wanted the walkway-cycleway feasibility study abolished.

Waterfront Association chairman Jeremy Matthews said that as long as the waterfront remained designated as a state highway, and therefore the region's main freight corridor, the encouragement of more amenity and recreational users was a "dangerous and possibly tragic development".

- The Nelson Mail

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