'Outrageous' stalling on sustainable transport projects
(source, RNZ News, 5 November 2023)
Cycling and walking advocates are dismayed the transport agency has stopped funding projects to encourage walking, cycling and using public transport.
Waka Kotahi said it was pressing pause on projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars, until it gets clear direction from the incoming government.
Around the country, 46 councils have applied for $305 million of funding from the Transport Choices Programme.
Cycling Action Network spokesperson Patrick Morgan said it was "unacceptable and outrageous" the agency was pre-empting the new government by blocking urgently needed cycling, walking and transport projects.
Dozens of councils had been left in limbo by Waka Kotahi, after putting months of work into proposals, he said.
Some already had contractors in place, so scrapping the initiatives could lead to job cuts and wasted money, Morgan said.
Living Streets Aotearoa president Tim Jones said Waka Kotahi's actions were "very disappointing".
"I question what message that sends to the incoming government. Waka Kotahi is an agency with a degree of statutory independence - I don't think it's showing much of that independence here."
Jones said he hoped the new government would go ahead with "more and even better" projects for people on foot.
Living Streets Aotearoa, which promotes walking, would like to see the government create a separate budget for walking improvements and projects, as is the case overseas.
Morgan said many of councils that applied for funding from the Transport Choices Programme were in National strongholds, so he would be surprised if a National-led government pulled the plug.
"Increasingly New Zealanders understand our roads need to be safer for everyone, and that moving to low carbon transport is the way of the future.
"We have commitments under the Climate Agreement to do that, and more bike lanes, more bus lanes, and pedestrian upgrades are urgently needed.
"The government should be increasing the pace on this, not hitting the pause button."
Morgan said it was "odd" that Waka Kotahi had singled out these particular initiatives.
"It raises questions about their agenda.
"They're stopping certain projects, but letting other ones go ahead, untouched.
"There's no mention in their release about some of these mega highway projects that are being planned, which would make our climate problems even worse."