The wheels are spinning for urban cycling

Todd McClay MP for Rotorua,  PM John Key , Richard Leggart (member of the panel)
Todd McClay MP for Rotorua, PM John Key , Richard Leggart (member of the panel)

Urban Cycleways Programme 

When I first became involved in cycle advocacy through Cycle Action in 2008 it was a struggle convincing politicians about the benefits of cycling. It was very common to hear arguments along the lines of “what is the point of spending money on cycling when people don’t and won’t cycle because it is too hilly and rains too much.”

The debate started to slowly move from “why” to “when and how” by the time the super city was established in 2010 and Len Brown was elected on a commitment to cycling.

The “how” got a major boost in August 2014 with the unexpected  announcement of a $100m Urban Cycling Investment Fund by the Prime Minister.  Councils across the country were given a massive incentive to dust off their cycling plans to take advantage of the funding to accelerate urban cycling projects.

Minister Simon Bridges and PM John Key
Minister Simon Bridges and PM John Key

All credit to the Prime Minister for leading this initiative. It is a smart move that he knows, from his experience of investing in NZ cycle trails, has the potential to yield impressive results.

It was great to be at the launch (as a member of the panel that recommended the programme to the Minister) on 25 June 2015 when the Prime Minister and Minister of Transport jointly announced the full 2015-18 Urban Cycleways Programme  at an event in Rotorua.

It is going to be exciting to see projects progress, cycling networks take shape and more people encouraged to take up cycling in a safe environment.

Media Release

Minister of Transport

25 June 2015

Government delivers $333 million urban cycleways

Transport Minister Simon Bridges has today announced a $333 million cycleways investment that he says will change the face of cycling in New Zealand.

The Minister has announced that, on top of the 13 cycleways projects announced in January, a further 41 will receive funding under the Urban Cycleways Programme.

“This is the single biggest investment in cycling in New Zealand’s history,” he says.

The programme is designed to pull together a range of funding sources to build the best possible cycling network that benefits all New Zealanders.

“The Government’s $100 million Urban Cycleways Fund has helped generate an overall investment of $333 million in cycling, getting world-class projects underway much sooner than may otherwise have been the case.”

More than $87 million will be spent in provincial centres, including Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga/Western Bay, Rotorua, Gisborne, Hastings/Napier, New Plymouth, Whanganui, Palmerston North, Blenheim, Nelson and Dunedin.

Together with those announced in January, these projects will make cycling a safer, more attractive transport choice for thousands of people around the country.

“The projects announced today will draw on the $90 million remaining in the Urban Cycleways Fund, as well as $107 million from the National Land Transport Fund, and $99 million from local government,” Mr Bridges says.

The Urban Cycleways Investment Panel assessed and recommended the projects to receive the funding.

Projects to be accelerated

Grafton Gully Cycleway opening

Auckland’s biggest ever cycle infrastructure project was opened yesterday (Saturday 6 September 2014) by Barb Cuthbert, Chair of Cycle Action Auckland, the PM and the Mayor Len Brown.  The Grafton Gully cycleway links the NW cycleway via Upper Queen Street Bridge to Quay Street via new separated cycle lanes on Beach Road.  Transport blog recorded the opening speeches. There were many people to thank and acknowledge for the successful completion of the project after many years work (much of it behind the scenes to keep the project alive)

I’ve never been so excited about a cycleway opening before. Grafton Gully sets a new standard for design, safety and connectivity. It is beautiful to ride and gives a glimpse of what should be possible across Auckland to make cycling pleasant and easy. I especially love how the route has opened up all the  long forgotten bush in the gully and provides a stunning view down to the Harbour (the Waitematā Local Board has plans for walking connections into Symonds St Cemetery which will open up even more of the native bush).

What was a bit lost in the applause for NZTA’s work on Grafton Gully was that Upper Queen Street Bridge (the removal of general traffic lanes and slip lanes to provide a new shared path)  and Auckland Transport’s Beach Road cycleway was also opened at the same time. The project teams have worked extraordinarily hard to coordinate the opening of all three sections and deserved far greater acknowledgement.

In March I reported that Auckland Transport was 6 months behind NZTA and that Upper Queen Street Bridge was not even at the design stage.  The Waitematā Local Board’s advocacy was instrumental in both projects being brought forward. We also funded the installation of a drinking station on the corner of Upper Queen Street and Ian McKinnon Drive ( a location suggested by Cycle Action Auckland).

I think we can now look forward to a fabulous summer of cycling in Auckland especially once Waterfront Auckland’s Westhaven Promenade opens later in the year.


Transport Blog – the completed Grafton Gully Cycleway (lots of photos and videos)

Cycle Action Auckland  – Go have ride – Grafton Gully and Beach Rd open

NZTA media release – Big boost for Auckland cyclists with opening of central city link

Vernon Tava – opening of the Grafton Gully cycleway

Election Art

Free Art John KeyMy creative mum, Barbara Grace, found inspiration for her latest art project in the pages of John Roughan’s biography of John Key – Portrait of a Prime Minister. She de-constructed the book and on each page drew different slogans  of her own design such as:

“John Key is an overweening populist”

“Q. What is the opposite of a polymath? A. John Key”
“JK is exemplary of neoliberal triumphalism”
“If you don’t want to think too much JK is the man for you
“Q. What are JK’s values? A. He doesn’t know, he hasn’t run a poll on that yet”
“JK is impoverishing future generations.”
“Your children may not forgive you if you vote for JK”
Over a couple of lunchtimes my mum then took her tray of FREE ART around the cafes of Jervois Road, Ponsonby Road and K’rd offering the pages to patrons . Her friend Lynn recorded the art project in action.

LGNZ conference report back

With some of the Local Board delegates at the LGNZ Conference in Nelson (L-R David Collings- Howick Local Board, Efeso Collins – Otara- Papatoetoe, Ruby Manukia-Schaumkel – Whau,   Lotu Fili, Otara-Papatoetoe  Simon Matafai- Whau, Ami Chand - Whau)
With some of the Local Board delegates at the LGNZ Conference in Nelson (L-R David Collings- Howick Local Board, Efeso Collins – Otara- Papatoetoe, Ruby Manukia-Schaumkel – Whau, Lotu Fili, Otara-Papatoetoe Simon Matafai- Whau, Ami Chand – Whau)

I attended the LGNZ Conference 2014 in Nelson as the Waitematā Local Board’s delegate.

The theme of the conference this year was: Powering local economies| Building vibrant communities.

The conference provided an excellent networking opportunity and a forum to develop thinking and expertise to best fulfil the role of local government. Recent research by LGNZ on New Zealanders’ views of local government showed that New Zealanders value local decisions by local people. On the other hand, local government needs to better explain what it does, the value it adds to local communities, and to account more for its performance. As Lawrence Yule said at the opening of the conference not enough New Zealanders understand the size and importance of local government in economic development and growth.

I found sessions that spoke to the challenges facing local government to be of most value but overall the programme lacked content relevant to the role of local boards. This has been a consistent theme over the 3 LGNZ conferences I have attended since the super city was established and I would very much like to see LGNZ address this for the conference in 2015 to be held in Rotorua.

Here are highlights from the conference programme*  (In preparing my report I have drawn on my own notes and the LGNZ conference media releases available at here)

Transforming towns and cities to build strong local economies and vibrant communities

Paul Piscale, Mayor of Ipswich

Mayor Piscale provided one of the most entertaining presentations of the conference.  He unwaveringly  maintains a positive attitude to create a happy community. Some of his initiatives include welcoming everyone for example hosting baby ceremonies.  I liked his refusal to play the blame game but to take responsibility for mistakes (this reminded me of Mayor Len Brown taking responsibility for the RWC opening night fiasco) .

Although Piscale claims to be strong on community engagement I found his boast that his 3 -term group of councillors ensure they bash everything out behind closed doors before having just a 15 minute public meetings a dubious approach. I wondered if the people of Ipswich think a positive, happy mayor compensates for the lack of democracy and transparency.

[Since the conference I have read that Piscale is being investigated for corruption]

The changing face of our regions opportunities and risks Shamubeel Eaqub, Principal Economist NZIER

Mr Eaqub is a straight talking economist. He spelt it out to the regions that the rest of the country shouldn’t envy Auckland as Auckland must succeed as a conduit to rest of the country. He also made the observation that there is a weird belief that if you shackle growth in Auckland it will show up in regions when in fact it will show up in Sydney.

He spoke to a number of challenges that local government has to confront. For example you cannot stop urbanisation. Young people are seeking opportunities, seeking density. He says this is a good thing.

He talked about the unstoppable forces (widening gap of technology, globalisation, urbanisation, aging) and called for place- based policies as a burning platform for change.

Globalisation – growth in future going to be close to us (China) but going to be challenging as all our institutions face west

Aging – means older people will have a different role in the economy. They will stop working and will be asset rich but income poor. Has an impact on rates affordability. How to get vitality of economy if don’t have workers – unstoppable force but question of how to take advantage.

Immigration can create loss of social trust. Need to use in a constructive way. A conversation of shared progress not of racism and envy. Technology is a good thing but has come at a cost. We’ve created an underclass of people who can’t access technology.

In talking about place based policies he quoted Enrico Moretti (The new geography of jobs) “Build on existing capabilities by leveraging local strengths and expertise”

He asked what is success? (GDP doesn’t cut it) and looked for a way ahead that needs a shared vision of a better NZ. Mr Shamubeel’s suggestion is for an inclusive NZ where everyone gets a fair go – if not then going in the wrong direction.

Factors that make Wellington based Xero a global success and why businesses locate where they do Rod Drury CEO, Xero

In the LGNZ media release it states that Mr Drury spoke about the opportunities for regional New Zealand and ways that local government can work with business to lead economic transformation.

“New Zealand is the country furthest away from its trading partners.  Technology is changing the game, allowing even service based businesses to play globally.  We’re moving away from manufacturing and export production to having strong knowledge based businesses, like Xero.  As location becomes irrelevant New Zealand regions are well-positioned as the ideal balance between lifestyle, creativity and working globally,” Mr Drury says

However Drury did not have a prepared speech and instead invited the audience to ask questions. He managed to pull it off because he comes across as a really nice guy operating an amazingly successful company.

My favourite response

Q: Should New Zealand build more malls?

A: No, we should build more cycleways and paths

Lifting governance and financial performance

Caroline Saunders, Professor of trade and environmental economics at Lincoln University and Dr Ganesh Nana, Chief Economist, BERL

Dr Nana and Prof Saunders spoke about the need to understand the uncertainties governing our future development, and the local implications of these trends, is essential for councils as they begin planning for the 2015 – 25 long term plans and infrastructure strategies. They discussed the nature of the social and economic factors driving change and reflected on the likely impact these pressures will have on New Zealand’s future development path.

Prof Saunders outlined that we need to think about value-added activities and what regions are good at, what they’re passionate about, and how to assess how that fits with the global environment and economy.

If want to grow regions must focus on high value not low cost and play to specialities (She considers Auckland to have identified strategic sectors with professional services accounting for 68%).  Emerging markets will pay a premium for NZ food with “credence attributes” such as ethical and fair trade food.

Dr Nana started his presentation by apologising for what economists have messed up over the last few years!

He said that the world is changing fast and New Zealand needs to think about its shared vision for the next 20, 30 and 40 years ahead. If interested in future have to make groups better off than today. Decisions today will make losers tomorrow

He suggested this needs to be a conversation between central and local government.

Taking advantage of Nelson's cycleways to bike to the conference venue from the hotel in Stoke
Taking advantage of Nelson’s cycleways to bike to the conference venue from the hotel in Stoke

Workshop: Economic impact of cycleways       

In opening up the workshop the Mayor of Dunedin Dave Cull shared what the Chancellor has told him. The number One question of those looking to re-locate to Dunedin to work at the University is “Can you cycle to work?”

This workshop reinforced the huge economic benefits to be derived from investing in cycling backed up by impressive data.   As case studies we heard about the success of the  Motu cycle trail and the newly opened Tasman Trail.

–       45 extra jobs created

–       $5.1m contribution to local economy

–       25k cycling tourists

–       Mostly local residents but predicted to rise to 50% overseas visitors in next 5 years

From Hasting we heard from the Deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers about the success of the NZTA model communities’ investment:

–       Target of 20% short trips by 2020

–       Injury crashes trending down

–       Safety trending up – cycle crash rates have halved

–       Increase in females exercising daily

Her tips:

–       Need to be bold and do it properly

–       Be resilient

–       Successful because of strong leadership

–       Powerful communities advocates

–       Clear vision of what you need

–       Don’t underestimate the community ability to change

–       Businesses have been turned around because of cycling

Rt Hon John Key, Prime Minister

At the start of day 2 of the conference the PM addressed the conference.   I found his trumpeting of the investment by National in roading to be predictably short-sighted and out of tune with future transport trends.  The PM stated that investment in roading is a big part of future growth with the GPS recognising the importance of regional and local roads.

The RONS investment is $3bn of which $2bn state highway, $1bn local roads $913 co-funded.

He claimed his government is getting the balance right between environmental responsibilities and economic growth.

The PM also announced that Local Government Minister Paula Bennett will establish a Central Government and Local Government review group known as the Rules Reduction Taskforce.  “This Taskforce will listen to local concerns and find opportunities to reduce and improve local regulation.  It’s part of our response to the Productivity Commission’s report on Better Local Regulation, which Paula and Bill English released this morning.” He said

Hon David Cunliffe, Leader of the opposition

Cunliffe started his address with reflection on the  Waitakere City Council funded urban renewal of New Lynn. He saw this as an example of a successful local government and central government partnership working with the local business community.  Required a vision of local government based on the four well beings.

He believes we should be the fairest and most decent society in world that puts people first.

The Hon Cunliffe announced Labour’s new policy that seeks to identify the opportunities and barriers to growth, and will introduce practical measures to create change.  Labour’s $200 million regional development fund, he says, will be released over four years for projects that will have community-wide benefits and generate jobs in regions across New Zealand.

National events from metro to grass roots – needs, opportunities and key success factors for a town hosting a major event Therese Walsh Head of New Zealand ICC cricket World Cup 2015

Ms Walsh spoke about the international trends of hosting events:

  • Increased commercialism
  • Increased expectation of sponsors and investors
  • Public sector investment
  • Significant competition

NZ disadvantage of distance but the advantage of excellent relationships

Ms Walsh told the conference that global or major events – especially those that are truly national and span the country – give New Zealand and its communities a chance to shine in the competitive landscape of major events and that events rely on cities, towns and local communities to bring them to life.

“What does success look like for host city?  There is a hygiene factor – that they are delivered well, that teams and fans are welcomed, that ratepayers and local communities participate and enjoy major events, and that they activate business and tourism.  It is critical to the delivery of an effective event that resourcing including airports, police, transport all works together with councils,” Ms Walsh says (LGNZ media release).

Making localism work through innovation

Kobus Mentz, Director, Urbanismplus,  David Hammond CEO, Thames Coromandel District Council and Suzie Johnston, Managing Director, Oosh

Paul Walden (Waiheke) and Danielle Grant (Kaipatiki) sit at one of Nelson’s outside dining areas using former carparking space
Paul Walden (Waiheke) and Danielle Grant (Kaipatiki) sit at one of Nelson’s outside dining areas using former carparking space

I was particularly interested in Kobus’ presentation as he has worked with the Waitematā Local Board on the Ponsonby, K’rd and Newton plans.

Mr Mentz says that how partnerships are formed is important to making things happen in a community.  He discussed a number of planning projects where various entities had been involved in attracting capital, for an outcome that would benefit a community, such as the retail environment University Hill in Melbourne that was enabled by zoning and came to fruition through local government working with business, and a creative quarter in Melbourne that saved heritage buildings and became a place in the community for creative industry jobs to locate.

“Having the right conversations with right people in right way is pertinent to an outcome.  Councils have a critical role to play in setting the pre-conditions for employment growth and community well-being, which underpins sustainable communities.” (LGNZ media release)

He spoke about arts investment has a return of 11:1 compared with road projects rarely reaching higher than 4:1. He challenged politicians to calculate the evidence bias

I was also very impressed to hear about the community empowerment that has taken place in the Coromandel district.   The CEO explained about the steps taken to decentralise service delivery, budget and decision making delegations, revenue setting, and planning and development. They are looking to establish integrated local leadership with one vision (The TCDC community empowerment video shown at the conference is worth a watch)

The final speaker at the conference, Suzie Johnson ended with a super positive presentation about her success with investing in small towns. She strongly recommends developing good relationships with Council, networking and asking for things in a positive way.

Attendance costs

My conference registration, accommodation (x 2 nights), Nelson transfers and my airfare to and from Nelson were paid for from a Local Board Services professional development budget.

I hitched a lift to and from Auckland Airport


LGNZ Queenstown conference report back

LGNZ Conference, Queenstown 15-17 July 2012


I attended the LGNZ annual conference on behalf of the Waitemata Local Board with funding from the Board’s professional development budget.

The conference was billed as “Taking inspiration from those mountains that characterise a spectacular landscape, this conference will celebrate all that’s remarkable in the local government sector”

This report back has been prepared to provide the Board with the points I found relevant from the main speakers and the key themes that emerged from the conference. I have also included observations on the LGNZ programme and what I think could be improved for next year’s conference.

Hon David Carter, Minister for Local Government

In opening the conference Carter spoke about the Better Local Government reforms in the context of current economic challenges and the fiscal constraints imposed by central government. He attempted to down play the impact of the proposed reforms by claiming that he is looking  to the wisdom and advice in the room to get the reforms right. He also claimed it is not an “us and them” but a partnership.

David Carter came across as less ideologically driven that his predecessor Nick Smith and willing to engage with local government which made me hopeful that he will see sense through the select committee process.

Vanessa van Uden, Mayor of Queenstown

I had the opportunity to meet Vanessa at the social drinks on the evening before the conference opened (sponsored by Simpson Grierson). I was impressed by her down to earth attitude and straight talking.

Vanessa spoke as the host mayor at the official opening.

Lawrence Yule, President LGNZ

I was impressed that Lawrence spoke directly to David Carter and the prime minster in questioning the refocus of the purpose provision and signalled that a unanimous motion was passed (at the LGNZ AGM) which confirms the sectors view that there should be no change to the purpose clause of the Local Government Act.

He described the four well beings as useful statutory signposts to councils to focus on community wellbeing outcomes that have not been responsible for raising rates.

He emphasised that local government must be able to have partnership with central government and not just act as a functionary.

Prime Minister John Key

The prime minister’s speech to the conference was focused on justifying the Better Local Government reforms. He wants local government to be operating efficiently and in a way that builds on the government’s priorities for building a competitive and productive economy. He acknowledged that services matter to the community but it is a matter of getting the balance right.

The prime minster told the conference that there needs to be a refocus on local government’s role to allow it to perform more efficiently and play a role in reducing NZ’s debt.

Graham Henry

Building a remarkable team

This was an entertaining presentation particularly for the boys of local government that would have been better suited to an after dinner speech.

As Graham Henry said when attempting to make a correlation between the All Blacks’ success and politics “I’m finding it hard to make a correlation and I’m not sure why I am here.”

To be fair to Henry I did manage to pick out some take away points from his comments that can be applied to effective local boards such as empowering team members and enjoying yourself.

Fran O’Sullivan, NZ Herald Business editor

The Central Local Government Nexus – Local government’s role in the growth agenda

I think this presentation was one of the most thought provoking and relevant of the conference as O’Sullivan spoke directly to the Auckland reforms which were ignored by nearly everyone else. She was also hugely encouraging of local government and its role in knitting communities together and tackled why the role of local government should not be limited by government.

She highlighted that the destiny of NZ is in the hands of local government because we are big hitters generating 4% of GDP and controlling $100 billion of assets.

In her view the prime minister has not come up with a vision for partnership, only that the reforms are designed to keep rates down. She outlined the areas of government underperformance including leveraging the benefits of FTAs, housing & employment and public transport.

I agree with her view that the Auckland reforms were a relative success but there is irony that the Mayor is not getting over the line with his transport projects when the government is asking for money to fund their projects. She asked Auckland to consider the critical question of what do you want to be famous for?  Her suggestion is to focus on back end financing and hosting of HQ’s.

In looking at top growth trends O’Sullivan called on cities to leverage what they do best and the assets they have.  She ended by calling on local government to “Grab power. Make destiny!”

Martin Sneddon, CEO Travel Industry Association

The visitor economy

From a tourism perspective Sneddon outlined why the visitor economy is a powerful and profitable partnership with local government.

He recognised the importance of local government for tourism that can’t be replaced by central government that doesn’t know local communities. It was encouraging that he agreed (when asked by a delegate) to make a submission opposing the removal of the four well beings.

Hon John Brumby, former premier of Victoria

The world in transition – opportunities for the future

This presentation highlighted the importance of local leadership and action in responding to global challenges (which he defines as geopolitical, technological, epidemiological and environmental). Brumby gave examples of how local government working in partnership can be a major driver for change and economic growth. In his view the best solutions are local.

Brumby’s comments were very apposite at a time that Better Local government reforms are attempting to restrict the role of local government. In his view we should be focusing on arts & culture, tourism and lifestyle of our residents (which I note could all fall outside the new purpose provision).  For example the quality of life in a city is a major issue in decisions about where high earning new migrants and returning expats decide to live.

Annette King and Russel Norman were invited to speak briefly to the conference. They both emphasised that the proposed reforms of local government are not well thought through and not supported by any evidence to justify the change.

I think it was really essential to have a range of political views at the conference and that these presentations would have encouraged many delegates to consider the importance of making submission on the proposed reforms.

Phil O’Reilly

NZ business low down

This presentation was a good reminder of what business love and care about. O’Reilly gave the examples of quality infrastructure, transparency, green growth (he claimed that NZ’s brand is NOT clean and green but NZ is the actual brand).

However I found his comments on the scope of local government to be completely out of synch with the views from the conference and what we had learnt from other speakers.

He claimed that the scope of local government has gone too far, is competing with local businesses and that LG is duplicating targets that has resulted in a disconnect with government (such as waste to landfill). However he was unable to back up this claim with any examples.

His test of whether local government should be involved in the provision of services depended on whether it was a public good or private good. The test he applied is   “If you can charge for it, it’s at the private end of the continuum”.

I don’t think this test has been well thought through. For example if this were applied literally it would mean that local government should not provide swimming pools even with an entry charge.

The LGNZ programme

The conference was organised by Local Government New Zealand, the national voice of local government. The president Lawrence Yule did an excellent job representing local government throughout the conference and is to be congratulated for confronting the government’s reforms head on.

However I felt that the LGNZ programme failed to make the most of the Auckland reorganisation and ignored local boards completely.  Thanks to Penny Hulse and Penny Webster a hastily organised extra session was provided for delegates to hear more about the good and bad of Auckland Council but it was clear that there was huge interest from delegates in learning more about the Auckland experience that went unsatisfied.

Transport was another area that was not covered well by the programme which was a missed opportunity as transport has arguably been the biggest winner of the Auckland re-organisation.

I hope that next year LGNZ will present a more balanced programme, catering to all members and that directly addresses local boards within the conference.


The conference was held at a critical time in local government as the government mounts a serious challenge to local democracy by seeking to change the purpose provisions. I think the conference was a wakeup call to many delegates that the four well beings need to be strenuously defended.  Almost all the speakers recognised the essential role of local government in economic development and building community wellbeing.

The conference wasn’t quite “remarkable” because it failed to make the most of the Auckland reorganisation and the new role of local boards within the programme. However I think the programme offered a broad range of useful learnings from the speakers and workshops that had relevance to our role and provided opportunities for professional development.

Overall I think it was beneficial to attend the conference to ensure that the local boards are adequately represented within LGNZ, to gain a deeper understanding of local government and to network with the wider sector.

Conference expenses

LGNZ Conference and AGM Resolution number WTM/2012/138

MOVED by Member Chambers, seconded Member Thomas:

a) That the report be received.

b) That Deputy chair Pippa Coom attend the Local Government New Zealand Conference to be held in Queenstown from 15-17 July 2012.

c) That the conference registration, travel and accommodation expenses for Deputy chair Pippa Coom to attend the Local Government New Zealand conference be allocated from the Waitemata Local Board’s professional development budget to a maximum of $2,500 consisting of:

i) $1,385 registration fee (early bird fee)

ii) $440 accommodation (approx – depending on availability)

iii) $400 airfares (approx – depending on availability)

iv) $275 meals and transfers (approx).

Final Costs (TBC)

Registration $1385.00 (early bird rate including lunches, morning and afternoon teas, conference dinner and social function) 
Airfares $  456.00 
Accommodation $  420.00 (2 nights at the Millennium Hotel –   Conference venue) 
Meals $     72.00 (Sunday dinner and one breakfast) 
Transfers Nil (dropped off   and picked up from airport by family members. Carpooled in Queenstown)
 Total    $2333.00


My partner Paul Shortland accompanied me to Queenstown at his own cost