Last Friday’s Face of the Day, Mark Dunajtschik, got me thinking. This is the man building and donating Wellington’s new children’s hospital. Dunajtschik, a property developer of considerable experience, and a philanthropist as well, expressed his surprise that NZTA (Waka Kotahi, which literally translates to ‘One Canoe’, which is a very strange way to describe a transport authority) was budgeting $190 million for the Petone to Ngauranga cycleway when he could build three hospitals for that amount.

In an age where we know that permits and council costs now add 20% to the cost of each and every new structure, $190 million still seems like a huge amount of money for a cycleway, particularly, as Dunajtschik points out, the basic construction skills for such projects were developed by the Romans 2,000 years ago. There had to be more to this.

There certainly is. Have a look at the video below.

I know this stretch of road. There is an existing cycleway there, of sorts, between the motorway and the rail. People who cycle into Wellington for work use it all the time, but it isn’t a brilliant cycleway, and stops at the Ngauranga intersection, meaning anyone cycling into town for work has to negotiate the very wide and busy intersection, which is not in any way safe for cyclists. In fact, it is extremely dangerous to try to cross the Ngauranga intersection on a bike. I wondered if the excessive cost somehow dealt with that problem.

Well, no. It is no more use to cyclists that work in Wellington than the existing path, because it still ends at Ngauranga, meaning that this $190 million is to be spent on… 4.5 kilometres of cycleway. Yes. The cost is approximately $42 million per kilometre.

And they say the streets of London are paved with gold.

As the Hutt Valley to Wellington rail corridor runs along this path, I stupidly assumed that the existing path, between the road and the rail, was to be upgraded, but no. This new cycleway is going to be put on the other side of the rail track, meaning that is it going to be built on reclaimed land. That immediately sends the cost through the roof.

In addition, several little beaches that are to be created along the way make it a pretty and pleasant little walkway and cycleway with viewing platforms, not to mention a very expensive and purely decorative rail overbridge, for people to enjoy at the weekends. Te Ara Tupua, as it has been named, is nothing more than a new park, complete with seating, bike racks and Maori decorations. It has no practical purpose whatsoever.

Please, somebody, tell me that they are joking. At a time when over 20,000 people are on the social housing waiting list, where houses are in extremely short supply, when the health service is crying out for more personnel, more funding for drugs and better facilities, we are going to spend $190 million on a park?

The proposed Melling Bridge upgrade, which is just up the road from this project, is estimated to cost only $258 million – still a lot of money, but it would do a lot to improve traffic flows within Hutt City. This in turn, for those who think it important, would reduce emissions in the area by freeing people trying to get to work every day from sitting in stationary cars. And I mean every day, because the Melling Bridge is now so congested that it is as bad at weekends as it is during the working week. But Melling now appears to be on the backburner, just like a lot of other projects that this government has promised and can’t deliver.

I’m sure this will be a lovely park, and that families will enjoy a nice cycle ride along the seafront… when it is not raining or blowing a gale in Wellington. I was just thinking it would be the ideal place to stop and watch the fireworks displays, but as Guy Fawkes fireworks have now been cancelled, and Matariki, being a celebration of the winter solstice, will be in the middle of winter, there probably won’t be a lot of cyclists along that way at the right time. You can’t drive on it, of course. It is designed entirely for the foolhardy, or those wearing oilskins and sou’westers.

The project’s name – Te Ara Tupua – literally means ‘that strange thing over there’. It seems like an appropriate name for a nice-to-have, at a time when we cannot even provide people with homes or decent health services. Please tell me this project is not going ahead when so many, much more important and beneficial projects are being shelved. The world really has gone mad.

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Cycleways or Hospitals?

Ex-pat from the north of England, living in NZ since the 1980s, I consider myself a Kiwi through and through, but sometimes, particularly at the moment with Brexit, I hear the call from home. I believe...