Auckland Mayor Len Brown is in an awkward position of defending a decision to block a cycleway project supported by right-leaning councillors.
Cycling campaigners applauded when Waterfront Auckland said last week that it had won approval from its council parent to develop a pedalling and walking promenade through Westhaven over the next two years for $10 million.
They said that as well as complementing other cycling routes such as along Tamaki Drive, the 2.5km promenade would add momentum to their push for a shared pathway across the harbour bridge.
The Transport Agency also last week announced a $10 million extension to the popular Northwestern Cycleway, to bring it through Grafton Gully to the waterfront.
But the cyclists' delight over the potential double-feature turned to disappointment when Waterfront Auckland acknowledged being mistaken about the promenade project, as that had not made its way into the council's 10-year financial plan after all.
It had gone down the drain with the rest of an alternative package of budget proposals from by Auckland Communities and Residents (C&R) and independent councillors, which the mayor and his majority voted against in full.
Despite the setback, Mr Brown told the Herald he remained committed "to turning Auckland into a cycling city", and he was working closely with all stakeholders to that end. "I don't believe the adhoc-ery that was voted down ... was a sensible way to achieve that," he said.
A mayoral spokesman indicated the project would have a better chance of approval once work began on a bridge pathway, for which a trust hopes to cover a $29 million cost estimate by charging tolls to use it.
"There's no point in having one without the other," he said. "So the time to talk about the budget for the cycleway and walkway from the bridge is when there is a cycleway and walkway on the bridge linking with the North Shore - the two things are intertwined."
The spokesman confirmed that the bridge project pathway had been included in the council's long-term plan, although without any funding commitment.
C&R leader Christine Fletcher said the promenade project began as part of a vision 12 years ago - when she was mayor - for Auckland to become "the first city of the Pacific".
"I am hugely disappointed - I think it's a magnificent project which aligns beautifully with all the work we will be doing further along Tamaki Drive," she said.
Mrs Fletcher said the promenade received the strongest public support of all projects put up for consultation as part of a waterfront master-plan, and she believed there was greater justification for it than others which won council budget approval.
Waterfront Auckland chief executive John Dalzell said the promenade proposal remained "part of our vision for the area - but we appreciate there were a lot of projects competing for budget".