Funding prospect for walking and cycling in southern suburbs

11 October 2018

Wellington City Council is aiming to secure up to $24 million in Government funding for walking and cycling improvements in the city’s southern suburbs – Island Bay, Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook.

The Government this year announced it will invest more money making walking and biking safer and easier, offering an opportunity for the Council to get more work done without needing more ratepayer money.

The Council has been talking with the NZ Transport Agency to determine how to maximise funding for the southern suburbs, where planning is under way in Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook for more walking and cycling infrastructure.

Mayor Justin Lester says the Council has approved $8 million in ratepayer funding to improve connections in the south of the city between now and 2021, including the agreed redesign of The Parade in Island Bay.

“With the new government’s policy statement on transport, we have the opportunity to make more improvements in more suburbs with the same amount of ratepayer funding.

“By partnering with NZTA under the new Government Policy Statement, we have the opportunity to fund up to $32 million worth of changes in these areas by 2021, with the Council paying 25 percent and NZTA paying 75 percent,” he says.

The Council is working towards an integrated plan for high-quality biking and walking connections from the south coast to the city – including the Island Bay improvements – for which it aims to achieve signoff from NZTA by mid-2019.

Councillors will consider the co-funding opportunity at the Council’s City Strategy Committee meeting on 18 October. If approved, it will affect when the redesign work in Island Bay will happen.

If Councillors agree to the revised approach, the Council will do some essential maintenance work over the summer, but postpone other planned work in Island Bay until NZTA has considered the integrated plan and decided how much funding it will provide.

This is likely to happen in the middle of next year.

Councillor Sarah Free, the Council’s Portfolio Leader for Walking and Cycling, says the maintenance work on The Parade will start soon.

“Starting later this month, we’ll do as much as possible to remove the old ‘ghost’ markings, and repaint the required road markings to make them clearer. We’ll also do some pre-seal repairs between Dee Street and Tamar Street so this block can be resealed early next year.”

A package of improvements in the wider Newtown area will be developed next year following more discussion and consultation with the community over the next six to eight months.

The first phase of engagement on the Newtown Connections project happened in June and July this year.

Of the 775 people who provided initial feedback, 85 percent thought it was important or very important to make it easier and safer for people to bike in and around the wider Newtown Connections area. In November, these communities will be asked for their thoughts on packages of options involving different routes and changes to streets. Consultation on a preferred package of changes for Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook will follow, most likely about March next year.

Cr Free says with this work, and the work Let’s Get Wellington Moving is planning, the city is well on the way to having an agreed plan for making this part of the city safer for people on foot and on bikes. 

“The key thing is that by delaying significant changes to the Island Bay cycleway until planning in Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook has been completed, we can potentially achieve a better, more coordinated result.

“It’s always been planned that the Island Bay facilities would form the southern end of a wider southern bike network. We’re now almost at a point where those wider connections can be agreed.”

The Council is in the early stages of developing a connected citywide bike network to make it possible for more people of all ages and abilities to choose to make some trips by bike. It has prioritised work in the eastern and southern suburbs, and from the north along Hutt Road, over the first few years as these are the areas where there is expected to be the greatest uptake when safer, connected facilities are in place.