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Riverside walkway/cycleway a priority

Editorial

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.

Leave a Reply to Bob Hughes Cancel reply

  1. Bob Hughes says:

    I strongly disagree with this as a priority. Forget it. I go along with councillor Robinson’s painted, dedicated cycle lane along Aberdeen Road — the shared road option.
    The riverside cycle/walkway would be foolish, wasteful and in no way long-term.
    Climate change, with predicted escalating higher seas and weather events make any near-sea level projects a no-go. Besides, our district’s ageing infrastructure needs to be the priority.
    For all this century, cycling has been my main form of transport and for the later part I make good use of the newly-built riverside and coastal pathways. I just love the amazing, safe off-road route to Okitu having no road traffic to contend with. Must say, I feel for the pedestrians I need to pass while ringing my bell.
    But for me, safer streets with cyclists sharing the road with more courteous motorised traffic has always been a priority.
    Nonetheless, I am pleased with what has already been achieved since our fledgeling cycle advisory group had its very first meeting with GDC’s roading engineer Peter Higgs about 12 years back.
    Apart from roundabouts, our local roads are far more cycle-friendly than beforehand. Although not perfect, we do have well-marked cycle lanes to remind all road users the streets are for sharing.
    And of course, there is the other thing; the recent Covid-19 lockdown gave us the opportunity to witness the blessing of less vehicle traffic.
    I envisage that sooner than we think, fewer vehicles on the roads will become normal.
    Whether it is zero carbon, peak oil, import restriction, or unavailable fuel, walking and cycling might again become the most common way of local movement, as it was not so long ago.
    With fewer trucks and cars to intimidate us, once again adults and kids on bikes will feel safe on the highways and byways — like it was when I was young.
    But I’m sure those marvellous recreational/commute cycle/walkways already completed will continue to be there for commuting, pleasure and leisure time.
    Finally, I commend Tony Robinson for his honest, level-headed view and once again cry out for safer streets for all.