Division over a controversial second Mt Victoria tunnel for Wellington has hit the new city council's table amid pleas to not politicise the capital's $6.4b transport project any more than it already has been.
Both Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council are meeting this week to consider funding and partnering for the next phase of Let's Get Wellington Moving.
At a Strategy and Policy Committee meeting today councillor Fleur Fitzsimons urged her colleagues not to unduly politicise the project, or it would go backwards.
"There are going to be some times when it would be easy to make a cheap political shot and I think we all have to come to the party and realise that this is a historical investment."
Let's Get Wellington Moving was born out of the failed Basin Reserve Flyover.
It has been bogged down in delays, weathered the Julie Anne Genter secret letter storm, and now faces a campaign launched just yesterday by the National Party to bring forward construction of a second tunnel.
"We have a protracted history in this city of controversial dissent and division and therefore transport infrastructure which has failed Wellingtonians," Fitzsimons said.
"Today marks another step in addressing the failure to invest over the last 40 years."
The next phase of LGWM includes business case investigations which will assess the sequencing of projects, the subject of most of the political controversy to date.
The indicative package puts mass rapid transit front and centre and a second tunnel on the back burner.
Division over second Mt Victoria tunnel
Eastern Ward councillor Sean Rush landed the tunnel issue firmly on the council table today with a failed amendment to "encourage council staff to communicate early opportunities to accelerate construction on the proposed duplicate Mt Victoria tunnel".
Many councillors didn't see this as necessary, considering an existing agreement that LGWM would regularly be reporting back to WCC throughout the business case process.
Rush said it wasn't about making a decision today on when to build the tunnel, but rather flagging the issue.
He said there was a cry from the East saying "please, we are trapped, we're on an island".
Decongesting the area was the best thing they could do to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Rush said.
Councillor Diane Calvert supported the move saying it sent a message the East had not been forgotten.
"They're facing real problems now… we talk about getting on and doing things, but what is helping the East?"
Mayor Andy Foster questioned the clarity of the wording but ultimately supported the amendment.
He said those in the Eastern Suburbs wanted the roading system to work and felt trapped.
Supporting the amendment was supporting that "cry for help", Foster said.
The left push back
Deputy mayor Sarah Free didn't vote with Foster to support the move, although she acknowledged the tunnel was popular in her ward.
"But I think in some ways that stands for a symbol of everything that's currently wrong with our transport in the Eastern Suburbs. I'm not sure that in reality bringing a tunnel forward will really be the answer."
Committee chair councillor Jill Day said the tunnel could be seen as politically popular but it was a short-term solution.
Councillor Iona Pannett unsurprisingly wasn't having a bar of any idea to move the tunnel forward.
Motorway infrastructure was what supported the increase of emissions, she said.
"This is unacceptable and we need to stop doing this.
"This tunnel has been argued about for over 40 years … and I think it goes wider and more deeply than politics. It's about philosophy, it's about the kind of city that you want to live in."
Where to from here?
Councillors voted to move ahead with the next phase of LGWM today.
That included bringing forward funding for the LGWM programme in 2019/2020 and 2020/2021, on top of that already allocated. That's an additional $15.8m for WCC, bringing its total funding contribution over two years to $18.2m.
In July, the NZTA Board approved $66.2 million from the National Land Transport Fund for the next phase.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford has previously said a strong partnership between central and local government is critical to ease congestion and help the capital city grow.
"Getting council agreement on funding the next stage will enable business cases to be completed, which will in turn unlock central government funding for construction. I've made it clear to the team that I also want the early delivery programme rolled out as quickly as possible."
GWRC will meet tomorrow to consider the next phase of LGWM.
How the new council voted on councillor Sean Rush's amendment