Some members will be aware that Living Streets Wellington support of the proposal to put buses through Manners Mall has been the subject of some discussion from objectors.
The Living Streets submission acknowledged that the loss of Manners Street pedestrian space was not desirable in itself, but recognised that it was vital to have an effective public transport spine, and that Manners Mall was the best route for that. The submission made clear that the interests of pedestrians who use Manners Mall should be provided for through the provision of new dedicated pedestrian spaces in adjacent areas, notably Lower Cuba Street. A number of those members involved in the discussions would have gone further, and argued that completing Cuba Mall would provide a far better outcome for pedestrians than the current Manners Mall, not merely adequate compensation.
Some objectors to the proposal appear to be of the view that Living Streets was acting contrary to its mandate by agreeing to any loss of pedestrian space. It was the view of those who prepared the submission that we need to take a broader, more strategic approach to pedestrian interests, and promote an overall urban form and function that will have the best net benefits for pedestrians while also providing for a well-functioning city. That means we would not always seek to retain every existing pedestrian facility, or create new pedestrian facilities in all locations, but rather seek a good network of such facilities across the city that allow pedestrians to move freely and comfortably without undue interference by motor vehicles. That approach will mean that we must make similar, difficult decisions in future. It is important that the committee and members continue to maintain a strong dialogue so that our submissions can fairly reflect members' views on these complex issues.
There is also debate on the internet about the role of Celia Wade-Brown as both a councillor who voted for the proposal and president of Living Streets Aotearoa. Celia took no part in the preparation of the Wellington branch submission because she was a councillor - that is normal practice for councillors who are involved in community organisations that are making submissions on matters that the council is the decision-maker for.
The comments that I have seen suggest that Celia having an opinion was somehow inappropriate. It is important that we all understand and expect reasonable behaviour from our councillors - that they enter into consideration of council decisions without having pre-judged what the outcome of the decision should be, listen to the submissions, and make a decision based on the legally relevant matters. I don't think any of us would expect our councillors to not have personal views on what the city should be like - we elect them precisely because they have views we respect. But we expect them, when sitting around the table, to look fairly at the issues before them and consider all the interests of the city while applying their knowledge and philosophical beliefs to the issue before them.
The Manners Mall issue is, of course, not settled. The council needs to go through a formal process to remove the mall designation, and has yet to provide clear proposals for the surrounding streets. If you have views on the stance Living Streets Wellington should be taking during the next stage, please contact a member of the branch committee (see the contacts page for details).