Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why your elected reps NEED to be in the kitchen!

Wairere Dr soon to look like
this, say HCC engineers
   The latest demonstration of the need for elected Hamilton City Councilllors to get involved in the details of important projects occurred last week, when engineering staff told us that they not only disagreed with using the new lanes on Wairere Drive/Pukete Rd, during peak times, as bus or 'transit' lanes (where users must have at least 2 people in the vehicle), but that they had NEVER raised this with NZTA, who are subsidising the work.
   Councillors had asked management for over 2 years to ensure they had a timely discussion on this matter – well before the contract was even let for the current work, but are now being told by HCC engineers that the job has nearly finished and the road is about to open, with no work being done of the bus or transit lane proposal.

   The irony is that HCC has a transport strategy - Access Hamilton - that previous Councils consulted heavily over, and that NZTA claims is 'best practice' in NZ - that calls for more bus priority measures on our roads - and generally a better deal for public and active transport.
   HCC management continues to assure us that engineers are not determining Council policies, and that elected members really do have the chance to make decisions on key transport issues – but their response inevitably calls into question who is actually running the show.
   Without the Transport Committee, that most larger Councils have (and HCC used to have) overseeing the implementation of our policies, including high-level designs for this particular project, the engineers and their NZTA funders are indulging in a road-building orgy that works against Council's own transport strategy, and will help doom the city to worse congestion in the future. 
   I have no issue with Council democratically deciding on a course of action that may not be what I personally think should happen – however I have a massive problem with staff not putting a key issue before the elected wing – when it has been asked to do so.

   I also have a massive problem with staff implying, as they have done this time, that matters are already decided and cannot be unwound – being presented with fait accomplis does not lead to good governance.
   Its time to get back into the kitchen!

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