Bridge cycle link binned - for now

By Mathew Dearnaley

Auckland City transport chairman Ken Baguley believes Gt Barrier Island's main road should be tarsealed before cycling and pedestrian links are added to the harbour bridge.

He denied a decision of his committee yesterday not to support such links, given a potential cost to the Government's Transport Agency of between $23.8 million and $42.7 million, meant the end of the matter.

But after hearing cycling and walking advocates promote these as potential boon for tourists as well as Aucklanders, he said spending $5 million on finishing the part-sealed road between from Tryphena to Fitzroy at opposite ends of Gt Barrier would be a better way of boosting the region's visitor economy.

He said the agency's $230 million Manukau Harbour motorway duplication project was also prompting pressure on Auckland City from Onehunga residents to contribute heavily towards rehabilitating their waterfront.

He and his fellow Citizens and Ratepayers councillors won a committee vote by five to three to recognise walking and cycling links across Waitemata Harbour as "laudable" but not "the optimum use of limited funds" in view of the likely demand from Aucklanders and visitors.

City Vision councillor Cathy Casey, a committee observer without voting rights, interjected that "'five people have canned" a project gaining support from many Aucklanders.

But Mr Baguley replied: "It's not canned - it's just put back for appropriate consideration at the appropriate time."

The committee, acting under delegated authority without requirement for a full council vote, also decided that any future plans for walking and cycling across the bridge should be explored with another harbour crossing.

City Vision leader Richard Northey said that could be 40 years away as higher priorities would be accorded to an inner-Auckland railway loop, Waterview motorway tunnels, and a $1.3 billion package of Auckland-Manukau roads and public transport enhancements.

He described the barrier presented by Waitemata Harbour as a major obstacle to the credibility of walking and cycling through the region.

Findings from a $125,000 study by consultants have yet to be considered by four other partners in the exercise, including the Transport Agency, North Shore City and Auckland Regional Council, which will do so at a meeting of its transport committee next week.

The consultants, who put an option requiring 1.2m extensions to the bridge's two clip-ons for $42.7 million at the top of a short-list, estimated that between 750 and 1900 people would use these although many more would turn out for special events.

But representatives of the Getacross campaign of cyclists and walkers are challenging a prediction of only 300 pedestrian trips a day, and urged the council not to vote on findings from the consultants report, given that it had yet to be published.

Cyclist and planning consultant Barbara Cuthbert told the committee it should not make decisions on a project of regional and possible national importance, on the basis of a publicly-funded report which neither councillors nor the campaigners had seen.

Cycle Action Auckland chairman Bevan Woodward said later that he believed the council's decision breached consultation requirements of the Local Government Act, and was therefore open to legal challenge. A meeting would be held next week with lawyers willing to donate time to the campaign, to discuss prospects for a judicial review.

Herald readers are continuing to indicate strong support for cycling and walking across the bridge, by a margin of 180 to 39 in emails between Wednesday and yesterday afternoon.

- NZ Herald

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