In the last three years a number of local boards across Auckland have been leaders in working with their communities to plan and fund walking and cycling projects. They’ve done this with the knowledge that these projects have top billing in local residents’ wish lists.
Waiheke was a major exception. The Local Board seemed to go out of its way to create divisions in the community and failed to advocate for the island, preferring instead to work behind closed doors with bureaucrats from town. It used Board funds to convert The Esplanade from a simple rural idyllic lane for walking, cycling and horse traffic into a sign-ridden absurdity, to ensure motor traffic could use the route. Instead of getting behind plans created 3 years ago by Cycle Action Auckland and Waiheke to include the island in the National Cycle Trail, (subsequently adopted by Auckland Transport), the Board deliberately stymied the project by failing to promote connected cycling infrastructure.
These dark days for Waiheke are over. The former Board members led by Chair Faye Storer were resoundingly defeated in the recent election, and a new enlightened, united team has been elected under Paul Walbron. One of his first moves has been to flag that the Board wants to work with local cyclists and Cycle Action Auckland to review the status of The Esplanade and to remove the road blocks placed in the way of the National Cycle Trail project. He and his new Board members are also fully aware of and determined to capture the benefits of investing in connected walking and cycling routes so local kids can travel to school safely and independently.
Paul Steely White visited Waiheke during his recent trip, and rode around the island with a crew from town, led by our Committee member, Jane Admore. We thank Fullers for providing tickets to make this possible. Paul reported it was one of the highlights of his time in Auckland, and he will be spreading this message to New Yorkers.
We congratulate the new Waiheke Local Board for winning such a huge mandate from local residents. We predict the island will take its rightful place as a leader for walking and cycling in Auckland during the coming term of the Board.