Transport Minister Michael Wood’s changes are geared towards more people cycling and fewer people driving. Photo / Michael Craig
Transport Minister Michael Wood has rejected official advice to delay public consultation to give councils the power to ban cars on some roads until after October’s local body elections.
Under Wood’s “Reshaping Streets” reforms, councils will have the power to “prohibit or restrict the use of motor vehicles, or one or more classes of motor vehicles, on the roadway”.
They will also be allowed to pilot street changes for up to two years without consulting with impacted people, businesses and communities beforehand.
Councils will have to give the public a reasonable opportunity to provide feedback during the trial and can modify the pilot. Before the pilot ends, councils need to decide whether to make any or all of the piloted changes permanent.
Another proposal allows councils to “filter” traffic on roads by installing bollards or planter boxes. This will stop cars and/or other vehicles using roads in favour of pedestrians, cyclists and people on scooters and skateboards.
Wood also wants councils to restrict traffic outside schools for parents and children to feel that walking and cycling to school is a safer and good exercise option.
But the minister said parents have nothing to worry about because they will still be able to drive their kids to school and drop them off nearby.
The “Reshaping Streets” proposals have been devised to help councils and Auckland Transport quickly make widespread changes to streets to support public transport, cycling, walking and people-friendly spaces.
Wood went ahead with public consultation on the proposals last month after the Department of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Transport advised him to wait until after the local body elections.
The Department of Internal Affairs said “it would be inappropriate to consult closely before an election” and the Ministry of Transport agreed, saying it would “overlap heavily with the pre-election period” with consultation finishing three weeks before the election.
The two government departments supported consulting after the elections in November and December to give the new councils time to consider the proposals, according to documents released to National Transport spokesman Simeon Brown under the Official Information Act.
He said the advice was ignored by the minister, who has rammed through the proposals without proper consultation while councils are distracted with local elections.
“These changes will have significant impacts on how streets are used, whether parents can drop their kids off at school, yet the Government is just wanting to push ahead with their ideological view of what roads should be used for,” Brown said.
Wood defended the decision to consult early, saying the Government had engaged with councils throughout the development of the proposals and received a positive response.
“The consultation period began at the start of August and will conclude at least two and a half weeks before the end of the elections.”
He said the Reshaping Streets programme plays an important role in supporting councils to reach their decarbonisation targets.
“It proposes enabling legislation to help councils provide real transport choices to their residences. New Zealand is feeling the impacts of climate change now, and urgent action is required,” said Wood.