It’s been a few weeks now since the local body elections were held and the dust is settling on the final results around the country. Here in Christchurch we have a new mayor in Phil Mauger and also six new Councillors. So what does this potentially mean in terms of cycling and transport overall in the city?
The balance would appear to have shifted a little away from those Councillors who supported the cycleway work to date. This was not helped by the unseating of former Urban Development and Transport Committee Chair Mike Davidson in Papanui by Victoria Henstock.
Mike appears to have been a victim essentially of a single-issue campaign against cycleways and the Wheels to Wings Cycleway in Harewood in particular, which has been repeatedly framed as a “controversial cycleway no-one wants”, thanks to the misinformation fed to many locals (I’m looking at you, media and politicians…) and despite the consultation evidence showing that to be patently wrong, especially after the initial consultation design changes.
There was almost another incumbent loss when initially it appeared that cycleway supporter Pauline Cotter had lost out to Ali Jones, but in the end it seems that Cr Cotter has snuck back in by 16 votes. That’s probably another important cycling vote to continue to have around the Council table. It was also a rather shrewd move I think on Mayor Mauger’s part to make Pauline his Deputy Mayor; hopefully that also gets the Council working together as one team.
As for the remaining new Councillors, I would say that they represent a mix of those who will or won’t probably support a lot of things on the cycling front (or other sustainable transport and road safety initiatives). In the pre-election statements via the excellent policy.nz site, most candidates kept their cards close to their chest with suitably vague and generic statements (e.g. what do “simple” and “more economic” cycleways really mean?). However, recent interviews with the newly elected Councillors gave a bit more guidance as to those who likely will or won’t cause trouble – although sometimes it may still come down to specific situations as to how some Councillors will vote case-by-case.
Certainly Phil Mauger and his supporters at Council seem to have some cycleways in their sights, as well as other proposed measures that might affect traffic flow or car parking. However, I suspect that they may not generally have the numbers around the table to undo a lot of what has been started already or is proposed such as the new Transport Strategic Plan. And we might actually be pleasantly surprised by some Councillors when they get their heads around the benefits of providing more cycle (and walk)-friendly street environments.
That’s not to say that we should all relax and rest on our laurels. Probably now more than ever it’s important to make sure that your voice is heard at Council, both in terms of written submissions but also in getting in front of Council and having your say directly.
What do you think of the new City Council?