A shared path that will never come

Sometimes, out of the blue, a thought pops out of nowhere. Early in April, it suddenly occurred to me we hadn’t seen much progress on one of the Innovative Streets projects voted by the Wellington City Council, the one between Shelly Bay and Scorching Bay.

The project was about creating a trial shared path along Massey Road, with a one-way lane dedicated to cars, and another one for active transport. It was born out of the significant number of people who enjoyed that stretch of road during lockdown, something locals were keen to cement into the Miramar landscape. This project had however been voted once shortly after lockdown, then cancelled, then voted again. Surely, we ought to see some shovels in the area. So I took to Twitter to ask for an update.

The tweet didn’t receive many replies from the City Council, but I got the opportunity to discuss it with Councillor O’Neil on a separate issue, and during that call she informed me the project had been cancelled, again, to her greatest disappointment. The reasons weren’t clear though, and we both went on trying to get more information. The response came mid-April via two separate emails from the Innovating Streets team. The first one was sent to Sarah Free:

“These past few months have seen us try and learn from different street activations as part of the Waka Kotahi Innovating Streets projects. We have had three well-supported pop-ups operating in Newtown and the central city, and we have started talking with the Brooklyn Community about trying out an uphill cycle route up Brooklyn Road.

Next on our plan is Wilson Street in Newtown, and Massey Road. We’re pleased to let you know that we are gearing up for Wilson Street off the back of the popular pop-up outside Black Coffee. We have, however, had a slight change of plan with Massey Road.

We’ve had to rethink the timing of Massey Road given the bigger picture of Shelly Bay Road and the benefits of looking at Te Motu Kairangi as a whole rather than push ahead with a temporary change in just one section. Through the innovating streets programme we have a funding window that closes at the end of June and we think the area deserves and needs a more considered approach than we could give it in the remaining two months before the end of June. It’s an area of huge interest and importance given the almost complete cycleway around from Evans Bay, and we know we will soon be talking with communities about options for Shelly Bay Road and Massey Road. We’ll keep you updated as things progress.”

On the same day, EMPI, an ardent supporter of this programme of work, received a very similar email. This comes as a huge disappointment. In this email, it is very clear the Councillors had been presented with a fait-accompli: despite them voting twice in favour of the project, City Council Officers have taken the unilateral decision to ignore the outcome of the vote and have come with a better plan. This was a painful reminder of another occasion where the decision of the community had been overturned by the Planning for Growth team.

In the case of the shared path on Massey Road, it’s only because a member of the public asked the question that Eastern Councillors enquired about the project. And it’s only after their enquiry that they found out the Innovating Streets team had moved on, without notifying elected members nor the community. Talk about democracy.

Moreover, the argument about considering the whole area is very rich coming from the City Council; the initiative to paint a coherent future for the peninsula together with the local community is called the Miramar Masterplan; its last draft is on the City Council website and is dated 5th of December … 2016 (despite numerous attempts from the community to get this initiative completed)!

This Masterplan is to be added to the stalled project in the East. In 2018, the then-Mayor Justin Lester announced the creation of the long-awaited Regional Park up Mount Crawford. When I asked the City Council if there was any progress, the response came from Mr Lester directly:

Sadly, not a single shovel has even turned up North of the Peninsula, for a project that was funded, agreed on, more than two years ago. It is very frustrating to see these great initiatives, supported by the local community, not receiving the attention they deserve.

To date, there is no plan to progress the shared path around the northern end of the Miramar Peninsula. After Shelly Bay (the development), Shelly Bay (the road), the Masterplan or the Regional Park, it is difficult not to feel let down by the City Council or to experience first-hand how dysfunctional it can be. Soon, the community will be consulted on the pedestrian crossing over Cobham Drive: how will it go this time?