21 May 2019

Council lawyers defend handling of Island Bay cycleway

9:02 pm on 21 May 2019

Consultation over changes to a controversial cycleway in the Wellington suburb of Island Bay revealed that those who lived in the area wanted it to revert to the original layout, the City Council's lawyer has told the High Court.

Island Bay cycleway, Wellington.

Island Bay cycleway, Wellington. Photo: Supplied / Google

The cycleway was unveiled in 2016 and instead of it running alongside the carriageway in the usual configuration, it ran between carparking and the kerbside.

Several safety concerns were raised in a post-construction safety audit.

Wellington City Council then embarked on a consultation process to look at options for revamping the cycleway and making it safer, but the Residents Association asked the High Court to review that process.

It wanted the court to make a declaration that the council's decision to build the cycleway was unlawful and also an order quashing that decision.

Yesterday, the Residents Association's lawyer, Con Anastasiou, criticised the way the council handled public submissions on the cycleway revamp.

He said it assessed the submissions using an analytical tool normally used to sort out preferential voting in Council elections and that, along with the weighting given the public's various preferences, skewed the result.

However, the council's lawyer, Nick Whittington questioned that.

He told the High Court on Tuesday that the analysis of submissions was not just based on people's rankings of the various cycleway options, but also on statements they made about each different option.

"To the extent he suggests this skews the analysis, reading this report no one could have been in any doubt that people who registered an IsIand Bay address preferred to revert to the original layout, whether Option E or A or by saying they wished to revert.

"That was loud and clear from [the] report."

Mr Whittington said 78 percent of those living on The Parade in Island Bay preferred a roadside cycleway, but when submissions from all over Wellington were considered, there was a preference for the cycleway to be at the kerbside.

High Court in Wellington generic, 2 Molesworth St, Pipitea, Wellington 6011

The High Court in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Aaron Smale

Mr Anastasiou was also critical of the so-called "mayor's option" for the cycleway, which was drawn up by Mayor Justin Lester shortly before the council voted on the project.

However, Mr Whittington said Mr Lester had based it on design work already done for the cycleway and it was open for him to make such a proposal, having read reports from engineers.

"Parliament has put the roads in the hands of local authorities with staff who do this, and council who make decisions based on standing orders ... which they vote on.

"So it was perfectly within the sphere of competencies granted to councils for a councillor to make a proposal like this having taken advice."

Mr Whittington said the mayor's proposal suggested minor changes rather than anything to substantially transform the project, which meant no re-consultation was required.

He also said a report commissioned to discuss the council's engagement and implementation of a cycleway framework for Wellington found consternation over what had happened in Island Bay was spilling over into the council's engagement with other communities regarding cycleways.

Mr Anastasiou also raised questions about a "syndicate" set up before formal consultation began, but Mr Whittington said that had been done to help with the public engagement process and act as a conduit for ideas about the cycleway.

He said despite what they say now, none of the Residents Association members could have been under any misapprehension about their role in that.

"As part of their role in the syndicate, [the Association] attempted to impose on that process certain requirements such as that the Council must weight submissions in favour of those living in Island Bay...

"That was pushed back on strongly by others in the process, Cycle Aware and the Council officers, but there was no suggestion that breached [expectations]."

Justice Churchman reserved his decision.

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