Riverside walkway/cycleway a priority
The council decision last week to retain the Taruheru River Walking and Cycleway in its next Long-Term Plan (LTP), and to approve a budget of $62,000 for the local share of a business case to access external funding for it, was a relief.
This exciting project will create a scenic and safe east-west route through the city for pedestrians and cyclists. It was first mooted in the mid-1960s and has strong public support and clear wellbeing gains. A 4.5km extension of the popular beach and riverside walkway/cycleway all the way out to Campion Road, it has major urban transport, recreation and tourism benefits — and needs to be prioritised and brought, finally, to fruition.
It was included in the 2015-2025 LTP, with $2.85 million of part-funding allocated in 2019-2021. However, affordability and difficulty question marks saw the council shift in 2016 towards an Aberdeen Road cycleway, estimated to cost $3.8m, to provide an alternative “spinal” cycle route through the city.
A public outcry and intervention from Mayor Meng Foon saw that shelved and a feasibility study of the Taruheru extension commissioned. Made public in April 2017, it proposed 2km of timber boardwalk in the riverbed — to avoid conflict with property owners and add scenic qualities — as well as 2.5km of concrete footpath, plus adjoining connections to schools, sports clubs and neighbourhood reserves, at an estimated cost of $6.8m.
The 2015-2025 LTP had $9m budgeted for walking/cycling intersection and route safety improvements; $6.5m of that was yet to be spent when the 2018-2028 LTP was put together but its “back-to-basics” focus on major infrastructure projects and financial constraint elsewhere saw cycleway funding stripped back to $1.85m for its whole 10 years — much of that “local share” for the cycle link from Kaiti to the city that was meant to be long-finished by now — with the Taruheru extension retained, planned for 2021-2024, costed at $7.2m, and totally reliant on external funding.
As the report on this project that councillors received last week stated, local share is “usually a rates component” — but not always, and this project which will undoubtedly qualify for 68 percent funding from Waka Kotahi/NZTA (with the only issue ensuring it is promoted well enough to be prioritised by them), is a sitter for Trust Tairawhiti's wellbeing agenda.
The local share will be $2.3m — less than the council allocated to this project in 2015.