The public hearings for the draft Christchurch City Three-Year Plan were held last week. A key topic of interest here was the proposed $70 million spend on major cycleways around the city, and it got a bit of an airing from some of the submitters.
The most obvious submitter supporting the cycleways was local advocacy group Spokes Canterbury, who presented on Tuesday. Spokes pointed out what many here have also said – that the $70 million is an investment, not a cost, that will save the city money in the long run.
Because I was out of the country, Spokes also kindly presented the petition set up here at Cycling in Christchurch for those supporting the cycleway investment. Once we’d weeded out a few duplicates, there were 1716 people who had signed their support for making a more cycle-friendly city. Many thanks to everyone who took the time to add their name; it’s great that we were able to demonstrate a widespread support for cycling. (By way of comparison, eight years ago we were able to garner just under 1500 signatures calling for the removal of the cycleway moratorium that temporarily blighted the city)
In looking through the many submissions of the others who presented (see the agendas for 13-15 May on the Council website), it is clear though that many other people also strongly supported the proposed cycleways, including a number of the Community Boards, the Automobile Association, various Residents’ Associations, the Cancer Society, and numerous private individuals. I don’t think I saw any presented submissions that were against the cycleways (although it would be nice to see all of the submitted Draft Plan feedback online as promised – come on Council!).
The closest was perhaps a warning from the NZ Transport Agency that they have “a limited pool of funds for cycling activities nationally and [are] prioritising investment to those projects [that] will be most affordable and effective in reducing severe urban congestion.” This is true; nationally walking and cycling have typically only been allocated ~$15-20m a year by NZTA to help subsidise/fund projects (and a lot of that is going to Auckland at the moment). But then, I always expected that the Council was planning to wear most of this cycleway expenditure on the chin rather than seek the usual ~50% subsidy from NZTA (or perhaps they can dip into the Govt’s special earthquake rebuild funding?).
The other relevant news of the week was the Government’s latest Budget where, amongst other things, they noted that a “funding gap” still existed between what the Govt is planning to contribute to the Chch rebuild and what the City Council has said they will pay for. And this is at a time when the Council has also just reaffirmed its commitment to the major new “anchor” projects in the city, like the convention centre, stadium, etc. The Council and the Govt are still negotiating exactly how much each is paying for their share of the rebuild, and these negotiations must be resolved before Council finalises its three-year plan next month. So, despite the very strong support for the cycleways by the public, one hopes that they don’t become a sacrificial lamb to appease the Government into contributing more…
So now, it’s up to our elected Councillors to put their money where their mouths are. Some of them may also have to be mindful that we have local body elections in less than half a year – will that sway them for “a brilliant long-term investment for the city” or against “an unnecessary waste of money that could be better spent on more important things”?