No money for Island Bay cycleway fiasco in Wellington Mayor’s budget

There is no money to fix Island Bay’s botched cycleway in the budget that Wellington’s mayor is proposing for the city.

Southern Ward councillor Fleur Fitzsimons is ropeable and says the move is a total breach of trust for residents who have been “put through the wringer”.

The 1.7km cycleway, which was completed in 2016, has been the subject of court action, safety concerns, and budget blowouts.

The project that initially cost less than $2 million to build was unsuccessfully pitched as a $14m shovel-ready project earlier this year to fix.

Draft Long Term Plan documents reveal the cycleway has been turfed as part of Mayor Andy Foster’s proposal to reduce the size of the council’s capital programme.

Wellington City Council’s finances are under pressure from several issues including ageing water pipes, insurance hikes, seismic issues, transport plans and its social housing portfolio.

Foster has managed to reduce a forecast 23 per cent rates increase to 14 per cent, but at a cost.

“We are trying to cast a budget that walks that very fine line between a rates level, which is more or less tolerable, and debt levels, which keep the bankers happy, and providing the critical services that we need and obviously that starts with three waters”, Foster told the Herald.

Foster said the Island Bay cycleway presented a value for money issue because it was forecast to cost $10 million more to put right than the original build cost.

Deputy Mayor and cycling portfolio lead Sarah Free noted the budget proposal was still a draft document yet to be consulted on.

Although there was no money allocated for the cycleway, the road would be resealed in about 18 months time as part of regular planned maintenance, Free told the Herald.

She said the work would completely remove any lingering ghost markings and present an opportunity to think about small safety improvements.

Free said she questioned whether the full upgrade was a top priority, considering other cycling infrastructure and safety improvements needed around the city.

“We are having to make a lot of trade-offs with this budget.”

The current preferred option for cycleways in the draft budget is a “reduced programme”.

It includes finishing the eastern connections, $1 million annually for minor works, and $25 million for other prioritised routes pending decisions on Let’s Get Wellington Moving.

But Fitzsimons said not funding the Island Bay cycleway was a backwards proposal that risked losing any remaining community goodwill towards the council.

“This proposal is abandoning the people of Island Bay. The council came up with a solution, they now need to find a way to implement it or something close to it.

“It’s a total breach of the trust residents have put in the council to make a decision to fix this cycleway. We need to get on with it and find a way forward.”

A solution to remediate the cycleway was agreed to three years ago, yet nothing has been done to date amid several cost blowouts.

In fact, emails released to the Herald under the Official Information Act reveal that as of early last year the council didn’t even have a funding request or business case progressed with NZTA Waka Kotahi for the work.

A funding injection from Waka Kotahi will only be considered once the agency has received a business case to link Island Bay cycleway with a route through Newtown and into the city.

This would be considered within National Land Transport Fund funding availability.

Foster said if current circumstances changed, then the upgrade could be revisited.

City councillors will meet on Thursday to discuss the proposed Long Term Plan.

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