Green light for Wellington’s $350m walking, cycling, public transport plan

Wellington city councillors were warned not to pick things apart before giving the green light for further work on $350 million worth of walking, cycling, and public transport improvements.

The council’s Planning and Environment Committee met via zoom today to consider the City Streets package.

It’s part of the $6.4 billion Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) transport plan that also includes removing private vehicles from the Golden Mile, a second Mt Victoria tunnel, and mass rapid transit.

The indicative business case for City Streets has identified 19 routes into the city for improvements to be made at an estimated cost of $350 million.

Before the meeting, four councillors wrote to Mayor Andy Foster saying decisions on mass rapid transit and state highway improvements should be made before LGWM “tinkered with” streetscape improvements.

“It’s like buying new curtains when your house needs re-piling”, councillor Nicola Young said.

The big issues needed to be decided on first, starting with reducing traffic in the central city, Young said.

Councillor Diane Calvert added that LGWM did not have “the social licence to experiment further with the CBD’s streets and footpaths”.

Councillors Simon Woolf and Sean Rush also signed the letter.

But some of their colleagues told them to stop “stuffing around” at the committee meeting today.

“If we want to pick things apart and slow them down, then our city’s just going to stay like it is for a very long time. We don’t get these opportunities coming along very often,” councillor Jill Day said.

“I don’t think that this paper is the time to renege on very clear priorities on a whim,” councillor Teri O’Neill said.

Calvert failed to get an amendment across the line to remove Karori bus route improvements from the City Streets package and put together a case for it to be a stand-alone project led by the council.

Rush was also unsuccessful in an amendment to withhold a tranche of funding until after the council had received indicative business cases for mass rapid transit and state highway improvements.

Foster said City Streets had always been a critical part of the LGWM programme, which was not just about roads.

“We’ve also had feedback about getting on with things and being seen to be getting on with things.”

Business cases for the big-ticket items would be before the council by either October or November, he said.

Foster said City Streets was a comprehensive package that he didn’t want to be split up.

“Councillors, I do hope that you will support this very strongly and we can get on with doing this and show our city is moving forward and Let’s Get Wellington Moving is moving forward”, he told his colleagues.

In the end, the City Streets package was approved, which will unlock funding to begin more detailed investigation along the 19 recommended corridors for improvement.

Councillor Jenny Condie summed up the meeting by saying: “So today we are approving this kind of umbrella business case that will give you the go-ahead to do 19 more business cases. If there was ever a more Let’s Get Wellington Moving sentence than that, I don’t think there ever was.”

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