Boards reject Northern Corridor traffic management plan? Not really?

Recap: “Boards reject northern corridor traffic management plan” ran the headline on the Council’s article summarising the outcome of Friday’s joint Community Board meeting. What happened at the meeting, and what happens next? What does it mean for those intending to use the Christchurch Northern Corridor, and for those living downstream of it?

Council protest
Part of the ‘interactive installation’ protesting congestion and traffic increases downstream of the Christchurch Northern Corridor – see previous article for details.

I was in the public gallery of the Council chambers when the Community Boards met on Friday. I also captured some images of the ‘Turn On The Heat’ community protest held ahead of the meeting.

At the meeting

Richard Osborne (Council Head of Transport), Andy Richards (Council Project Manager), and Dr Shane Turner (DEMP author) introduced the Downstream Effects Management Plan (DEMP) and answered questions from Board members.

A particular concern for the Boards appeared to be the status of a package of Travel Demand Management Measures (TDM) under development by the NZ Transport Agency, the Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury, and the Waimakariri District Council. The NZTA is understood to have approved the measures, but they are yet to be endorsed by all partners, and some measures will be subject to public consultation and allocation of funding.

Cr Davidson speaks
Councillor Mike Davidson speaks at the Joint Community Board meeting

A new resolution was put to the meeting, replacing the staff recommendations (which were for the Boards to receive & endorse the plan, recommend that Council endorses it, and note that Council staff will proceed with the proposed interventions). The wording of the resolution appeared to be principally supplied by Cr Mike Davidson, with part provided by Cr Pauline Cotter.

The full wording can be seen in the photo below, taken while the minutes were being written in real-time on the big screen in the Council Chambers. [Edit: click through to read the draft minutes on the Council website.]

CNC DEMP JM

Key points of the new resolution are that the Community Boards:

  • Receive the DEMP
  • Do not endorse the DEMP
  • Note community concerns over the CNC and DEMP, note the TDM package of works, and note that not all TDM works or will be implemented before the opening of the CNC

The resolution also recommends that Council:

  • Does not endorse the DEMP
  • Investigates delaying the opening of the Council-controlled section of the CNC (south of QEII drive) until all TDM measures are approved and implemented
  • Proceed with all the stage 1 works proposed in the DEMP
  • Investigate a park & ride facility in the QEII Drive vicinity
  • Investigate a congestion levy on the Council-controlled section of the CNC
  • Provide north & south peak time public transport lanes on Cranford/Sherborne Streets

The new resolution passed with almost all members present voting in favour. John Stringer voted against the whole resolution, Ali Jones voted against the final two points, and Sally Buck against only the ‘congestion levy’ one.

What does it mean?

Did the Boards reject the DEMP? It doesn’t feel like it to me. The Boards received the document and recommended Council proceeds with the immediate works it proposes.

Is the council exposed to legal implications by not endorsing the DEMP? I am not a lawyer, but I don’t think so. A consent condition for the project is for the Council to implement a plan to address downstream effects prior to operating the Council-controlled parts of the CNC project. The full Council will make the final decision, but the Community Boards’ recommendation was for Council to proceed with the works proposed in the DEMP.

What’s next?

If all the meeting had done was receive the DEMP, not endorse it, and kick it up the line with a recommendation that the full Council likewise doesn’t endorse it but undertakes the works, this would be something of a hollow victory. The Boards would have made a public statement that they don’t like it, but ultimately the motorway would open and the traffic would arrive in St Albans.

The additional recommendations are where it gets interesting. Delaying opening the Council-controlled parts of the project may possibly not be a legal risk in terms of the project’s consent conditions, but might breach a contract between the City Council and the NZTA (“Council is party to a number of contracts with New Zealand Transport Agency in relation to the governance, funding and construction of the Northern Arterial Extension” says the staff report). The further work requested on park & ride facilities, a possible congestion levy (‘a huge amount of work’, advised a Council staff member), and public transport lanes will give our decision-makers more information on what additional traffic management options may be feasible.

The DEMP will now be on the agenda for the 13 June meeting of the full Council [edit: click through for the Council agenda – see item 15], and another protest is planned for that morning. Like all Council meetings, this one will be live streamed. If you’re interested, you can turn up in person or follow along online.

Question for readers

What do you think of the Community Boards’ decision? How do you think this will play out?

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