Haste urged for cycle trail work

Jim O’Malley
Dunedin city councillor Jim O’Malley. Photo: ODT files
A Dunedin city councillor is urging staff to crack on with work on cycleways despite concern government funding could be cut.

Cr Jim O’Malley said the 15km Dunedin Tunnels Trail project, and the Path to the Peninsula project, could now be in serious doubt after the government’s recent comments about public transport.

"The really big thing for us is going to be the government policy statement on transport.

"I suspect we are going to see massive changes."

The Tunnels Trail project is a 15km cycle and walking path between Dunedin and Mosgiel that will go through the Chain Hills and Caversham tunnels.

The project would cost about $20 million, but NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi would likely fund up to 52% of the project under the direction of the existing government policy statement, Cr O’Malley said.

A change in the government policy statement could result in the council having to pay for all of it, he said.

"We are so close to getting this project over the line that I would encourage staff to get on with it.

"The government may have changed, but the city’s approach to public transport has not.

"Planning takes a long time anyway, and I’m worried that a lot of hard work is going to be undone very soon."

There could be a change in government in three years’ time anyway, Cr O’Malley said.

"We may just have to wait for that but in the meantime we should keep the pressure up."

Earlier this week, Transport Minister Simeon Brown sent a direction to NZTA that several projects under the Climate Emergency Response Fund, which NZTA funded up to 90%, should be cancelled.

The Tunnels Trail project was not going to be funded by this scheme.

Asked about whether projects such as the Tunnels Trail could be affected in the future, Mr Brown said in a statement he was considering advice for future investment in New Zealand’s land transport system, and he expected to have more to say on this soon.

Other representatives of the Dunedin community have also expressed worry about future cycling projects.

Mosgiel-Taieri Community Board chairman Andrew Simms said the new government direction meant the city council needed to "crack on" with several projects under consideration.

"There are several important tourist trails that finish just before they reach Dunedin, and we really need to do something about this.

"I’m really worried about the narrative of the new government, but I’m hoping the Transport Minister is mainly talking about community cycle lanes, because in the past there has been strong support from government for resilient tourism.

"In my view, cycle tourists are exactly the sort of visitors we need to be attracting. They spend a lot of money per day."

Trails such as the Otago Central Rail Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail should be extended to reach Dunedin, Mr Simms said.

"We’ve got an amazing opportunity here."