Plans for the Masterton Eastside Link Cycleway have been scrapped after the Government’s announcement it is withdrawing funding for the project.
NZTA Waka Kotahi previously put hundreds of millions of dollars of funding for projects on hold while waiting for “a clear direction from the incoming government on its transport investment priorities”, and that direction has now been given.
The projects had been designed to reduce New Zealand’s emissions by encouraging road users to walk, cycle, and use public transport.
The cycleway project in Masterton would have been funded from the $305 million set aside for the Transport Choices Programme from the Climate Emergency Response Fund [CERF], which had a balance of $3.6 billion in early 2023.
The Eastside Link Cycleway had been approved to start at the Kuripuni shops and finish at the netball courts on Colombo Rd. It would’ve run past the back entrance of Chanel College, along Mākoura Rd past Mākoura College, then up Johnstone St, and onto Colombo Rd to the netball courts.
Councillor Tim Nelson is disappointed for those who would have used the cycleway, particularly students who may have used it to get to and from school.
“The Eastside Link Cycleway was the result of genuine consultation and engagement with the community and would have been a wonderful asset,” Nelson said.
However, road safety advocate and former professional motorcycle racer Aaron Slight said the roads are already wide enough to be shared by cyclists and motorists and doesn’t believe enough people would have cycled to justify the project.
“I’ve always opposed the cycleway because, for me, it was a cycleway to nowhere,” he said.
Slight is happy $1.1 million now won’t be “wasted” on the cycleway and instead suggests Masterton District Council [MDC] focus on joining the line paths by rivers and through backstreets – creating a connection through the town that would also get people away from traffic and into fresh air.
He said the cycleway likely wouldn’t have prompted more children to cycle to school as parents often opt to drop their children off.
“Most cycling is done for recreation, not for transport,” Slight said.
The cycleway was promoted as an opportunity for Masterton to help reduce emissions by providing an alternative to cars, but Slight questions the emission-producing process of laying more tar seal so people can ride a bike.
Wairarapa Green Party candidate and member of the Carterton District Council Walking and Cycling Advisory Group Celia Wade-Brown said she is worried about the future of walking, cycling, and public transport in Wairarapa.
“This government is more interested in putting transport projects through the shredder than it is in developing a vision for the future of our towns and cities,” Wade-Brown said.
“Cancelling the Masterton cycleway is a shocker. Many Masterton students would like to get to school independently.”
Wade-Brown said cycling and walking are ways for families to keep fit and reduce transport costs during the cost-of-living crisis.
“Masterton District Council had made significant changes in response to consultation, and it’s a great shame there will be no more protected cycleways in this sunny flat town.
“We must do all we can to reduce emissions and keep our climate in a liveable zone.”
On Tuesday, December 12, 2023, Transport Minister Simeon Brown sent a letter to regional councils about changes planned for speed limit regulations that revealed he had ordered NZTA officials to cease work on programmes that would use funding from the CERF.
“I have given notice to NZTA to end its work on these programmes and to not commit any further funding to local authorities [beyond existing contractual obligations] to develop these programmes,” it said.
The design and construction of the cycleway would have been fully funded by the Waka Kotahi Transport Choices initiative under the previous arrangement.