Council officers with Manners Mall plans.
Mayor Kerry Prendergast, the Council's Transport Portfolio Leader, says the decision will allow the Council to further improve the main public transport route through the city, helping to improve bus reliability and get the many thousands of people who use buses where they want to go more quickly.
"We have already made improvements in Lambton Quay, Courtenay Place and Willis Street to help reduce delays and this is a crucial next step," she says. "We know not everybody will be happy with the decision and it hasn't been an easy one – but after considering all the community feedback and the detailed information and advice we have had from a range of transport experts, we are convinced that this needs to happen.
"About 50 percent of Wellingtonians already walk, cycle or use public transport to get to work, which is fantastic," she says. "However our population is predicted to grow significantly over the next 20 to 30 years and it is our job as a Council to make decisions that prepare for that. As more people need to get around, the most efficient way will be by public transport.
"This proposal is important because it strengthens the city's main public transport spine, is in line with the Council's Transport Strategy and the Ngauranga to Wellington Airport Corridor Plan and along with other improvements, will help make our public transport system more reliable and more attractive."
She says Wellingtonians will get a new shared public space in lower Cuba Street, improving pedestrian links to Civic Square and the waterfront and compensating for the loss of public space in Manners Mall. The shared space was not a feature of the original proposal but developed this year in response to public concern about the potential loss of public space.
A New Zealand Transport Agency subsidy and revenue from the 40 additional street car parking spaces that will be created as part of the project will fund about two-thirds of the $6.2 million worth of roading and transport improvements planned. The Council plans to spend another $4.9 million on public space improvements, including the lower Cuba Street shared space and changes in Wakefield and Dixon streets.
Construction will start early next year unless an appeal is lodged with the Environment Court and work is expected to be complete before the 2011 Rugby World Cup.