Transport Advances Likely Pushed Back By Christchurch Council Results

Results to date from the Christchurch City Council elections suggest the future development of public transport and cycleways could be pushed back with an overall swing to the right apparent locally and nationally and the election of anti-PT/cycling candidates to the mayoralty and some wards (or removal of pro PT/cycling councillors). Phil Mauger is confirmed as the new mayor of the city although David Meates was less than 10% behind and possibly could have won if STV was used to elect the mayor instead of FPP. Mauger is well known for his opposition to cycleways and is believed to be linked to the National Party despite his claims there will be no party politics around the council table. One of the controversies of the election campaign was that Mauger and local National-aligned candidates James Gough and Sam MacDonald had sought to meet with the Council CEO to outline their expectations should they achieve a commanding vote around the council table, one of the clearly enunciated policies being cancellation of the “Wings to Wheels” Harewood Road cycleway project. Another controversy has been Mauger’s proposal to turn part of Hagley park into a hospital carpark despite existing parking developments already being completed nearby and legislative protections against development of the park. Mike Davidson who has supported both cycleway and bus lane developments in the city appears to have lost his seat in Papanui on the back of strong community opposition to “Wings to Wheels” and there could now be enough opposing votes to overturn the previous approval of this project under outgoing mayor Lianne Dalziel.

It is reasonably evident the swing nationwide against Labour-aligned or backed candidates reflects strong opposition to the Three Waters and intensification policies of the national Labour administration and this result could also be indicative of the possible outcome of the general election next year. Of great concern to local transport activists is the expectation that the Mayor along with National aligned councillors and independents will attempt to push back transport developments that are not focused on prioritising cars, and it is even possible some of the existing cycleways could come under threat. The Harewood-Waimairi-Fendalton community board which Gough and MacDonald head represents a substantial bloc of the city’s most wealthy voters and reflects the strident opposition of these electors to sharing their local roads with buses and cycles.

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