Over the past week the Christchurch City Council has been hearing submissions on the city’s draft Annual Plan, and feedback on cycleways, including the Wheels to Wings – Papanui ki Waiwhetū major cycle route, is overwhelmingly positive.
Last year I wrote to clarify that during the two rounds of public consultation on the Wheels to Wings, only a minority of submissions opposed the project. “How terrible it would be for the community to be denied the cycleway on the basis of this minority opposition?” I said at the time.
The Draft Annual Plan 2023/24, which outlines the Council’s spending on projects and day-to-day services over the next financial year and how they’ll be financed, was released for public feedback in March. While the Council canvased views on a wide range of topics in the Annual Plan process, cycleways are a hot topic in the public’s submissions, and once again only a minority are in opposition.
My own Community Board’s submission, for example, specifically addressed the Council’s Annual Plan proposal to not start construction on the Wheels to Wings cycleway for 12 months. Deferral of construction would be a breach of the Council’s long standing commitment to deliver the cycleway, we said. Here’s that part of our submission in full:
The Board is pleased (consultation doc p.20) that a Council priority is “Completing the Major Cycle Routes so we can deliver longstanding commitments and make the most of Government subsidies that may not be available later.” The Board refers to its previous submission in support of the Wheels to Wings cycleway, and suggests that to propose “…not starting construction on the Wheels to Wings cycleway for 12 months to give councillors and staff time to work closely with the community to address concerns about the cycleway’s design” (consultation doc p.21) is at odds with the Council’s stated priority. The Board further notes that the Wheels to Wings cycleway has already been through two rounds of public consultation, a hearings panel process, and that the scheme design has been approved by the Council. To defer construction would be a breach of the Council’s long standing commitment to deliver the cycleway and of trust with the community.
What about submissions from members of the public? A number of elected members (including me) actively encouraged participation in the Annual Plan process, at times making reference to the Wheels to Wings. I encouraged people to submit if they wanted the cycleway to proceed. My colleague Cr Victoria Henstock delivered a flyer to some in the area with the encouragement “If you want the cycleway paused, please submit on this proposal”.
More than 800 Annual Plan submissions were made in total, and Cr Sara Templeton has helpfully provided some analysis. Nearly half of all submissions mention the cycleways programme, and 80% of those were supportive “…and keen for us to get on with them asap.” Of the 297 submissions that specifically mentioned the Wheels to Wings, 79% were against any deferral. Many of the relatively few who did oppose the project appear to “think that the scheme design is to be reconsulted”, writes Sara, but that is not the Council’s plan – the proposed delay is to “allow staff and local Councillors to work further with the affected communities on previously identified design concerns as part of the detailed design process” – so a finessing of the design, not a re-design or re-consultation.
Question for readers
Did you have your say during the Annual Plan process? What are your thoughts on the support for the Wheels to Wings?