This is a guest post by Regan from Island Bay Healthy Streets. The post is republished with permission.

A group of six Wellington businesses who are taking Wellington City Council to court over plans for a temporary cycleway from Newtown to the CBD have won an injunction to stop the work until the judicial review can be heard in September.

Four of the six businesses are involved in the motor industry and active transport advocates were quick to point out the hypocrisy of car-yards taking the council to court over a perceived lack of consultation on a traffic management issue when they have benefited for years from an “informal agreement” with WCC (i.e. never consulted on) to use Kent & Cambridge Terrace for the loading and unloading of cars from transporters. Car-trucks loading and unloading in the road is a nation-wide issue (check out the #cartruckparty hashtag on social media) but this particular case takes it to a new level.

It requires a special sense of entitlement to take the council to court for lack of consultation on a temporary cycleway when you’ve been (informally) given a free-pass to conduct your business in the middle of the road for years, creating exactly the kind of health and safety risks for the public that a cycleway might help to mitigate.

A car transporter blocks a live traffic lane while unloading cars on Cambridge Terrace in Wellington without appropriate traffic management in place.

Stuff’s report Cycling advocates criticise car trucks in backlash over court case provides a good overview but also raises a lot of additional questions. The whole scenario is an almost perfect exemplar of how car dependency multiplied by status quo bias can lead to some really lazy decisions and crappy city-making. So you want to make a change that benefits cars at the expense of other road users? Sounds legit. No need to consult, just go for it! Want to make a change that benefits other road users at the expense of cars? How dare you? See you in court buddy!

The report quotes WCC as saying the car trucks “do have an exception to the blanket prohibition of double-parking under the Land Transport Act” and the council is not specifically authorised to implement further conditions on that. I assume the reference to the Land Transport Act is actually the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 6.20 which contains exceptions to the rules on Stopping & Parking. However, the relevant exception for goods vehicles does come with conditions.

The loading or unloading must “take place with due consideration for the safety and convenience of other road users” and “alternative access for the purpose of loading or unloading the vehicle was unavailable” or “it was unreasonable to require the alternative access to be used”.

So who decides what is “safe and convenient” and “reasonably available alternative access”? Straight away we can see the potential danger of status quo bias within a heavily car-centric and car-dependent transport network at the expense of the interests of “other road users”.

WCC have tried to partly answer the question above with an “informal agreement” (their words). More questions though:

  • Who is this agreement between?
  • When was it made and for how long?
  • Who signed it off?
  • Who was (and wasn’t) consulted?
  • Is this even legal?

More significantly:

  • How did they decide what “safe and convenient” means in this context?
  • How did they balance the various interests involved?
  • How might that have changed in the interim?
  • What was the test for “readily available alternative access”?
  • Whose needs were prioritised?

In this 2019 LGOIMA response to Twitter user @dylanp WCC makes a number of confusing and contradictory statements including; they don’t authorise the practice, but they don’t think its practical to stop the practice, but they reserve the right to take enforcement action.

Setting aside the issue of whether WCC can make an “informal agreement” without consulting other road users or being transparent about their decision-making process it’s clear they have known for years that the car trucks are not complying with the “rules” they informally agreed to anyway.

The car trucks are often seen operating during peak hours. They often occupy more than one lane and use a lane that is not the kerb-side lane. And they are definitely not using appropriate traffic management or Worksafe best practices such as cones and signage.

A car transporter blocks a live traffic lane while unloading cars on Cambridge Terrace in Wellington without appropriate traffic management in place.

Other road users can’t bend or ignore the rules just because the rules are inconvenient. What the car trucks are doing doesn’t give “due consideration to the safety and convenience of other road users” and there are “reasonably available alternatives” to the way they currently operate. They can obviously operate outside peak hours.

Personally, I think they should only be able to do this activity between midnight and 6am. They can also make sure they only ever use the kerb side lane by using single deck trucks that aren’t affected by the over-hanging branches. They must use appropriate traffic mgmt. I’d like to know whether WCC has ever checked that the car truck companies have sought advice on traffic management as agreed and whether they are following the Traffic Control Devices Manual and Code of Practice for Temporary Traffic Management.

Even more questions:

  • As the delegated Road Controlling Authority has WCC ever received a traffic mgmt plan from a car truck company or been consulted on one?
  • Has WCC ever conducted a temporary traffic mgmt safety audit of a car truck company?
  • Have reasonably available alternatives ever been properly explored?

It’s just not good enough (and reveals status quo bias) for WCC to say “we don’t believe it’s practical to stop the practice because most of the car yards would not be able to accommodate a transporter”.

Here’s a few alternatives that could be explored for this specific location. Why can’t the car trucks use Hania Street to load and unload? Convert it to one-way northbound to get rid of the current southbound rat-run and designate a couple of long loading zones.

Hania St which runs parallel to Kent Terrace in Wellington.

Gazley Mitsubishi is also currently leasing this section of land near the Basin Reserve which would easily allow a car transporter in and out. Why can’t they use that to do the loading and unloading for all their Kent and Cambridge Terrace locations?

A large section of land leased by Gazley Motors at one end of Cambridge Terrace in Wellington.

Not even joking here, with the advent of e-scooters car yard staff could be ferrying cars to and from the yards from just about any location in the city. Just scoot in one direction and chuck the scooter in the boot for the other. Seriously, why can’t they do that?

The answer of course is that they don’t want to incur any additional costs of doing business, no matter how small or reasonable, and would rather that the public subsidise their operations through provision of free parking, disruptions to traffic and increased risk to health and safety.

It’s really up to WCC, the car yards and the car- transportation companies to reconsider what “alternative access” looks like in the current context because things have moved on quite a bit since this cursed “informal agreement” was originally made, including the implementation of a lot of new WCC policy.

Ultimately the best thing for the city overall is that the car-yards aren’t on Kent and Cambridge Tce where they are not only tying up developable land but also also obstructing the transport system improvements that go hand in hand with higher density.

WCC has already received a few LGOIMA requests for information about the “informal agreement” but I reckon they need to go a lot further than just a passive response bounded by the limits of the Act.

I hope they will front-foot this with a more comprehensive response that acknowledges a mistake was made, considers changing circumstances and expectations, and proposes a way forward. I also hope that the three Pukehīnau councillors (Tamatha Paul, Iona Pannett and Nicola Young) and the other hopefuls such as Afnan AL-Rubayee will apply some political pressure to review the “informal agreement” and make changes more aligned with WCC policy, the relevant legislation and good city-making.

Finally, you’ll notice that apart from the first paragraph I haven’t really mentioned the judicial review at all. The review will stand or fall on its own merits. Although the situation with the car transporters and the “informal agreement” highlights a certain amount of hypocrisy around the judicial review it’s still an issue well worth discussing in its own right.

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46 comments

  1. Good writeup of the problem. In the Stuff article I found it interesting how the car yards claimed it’s no business of theirs how the cars are delivered to them. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act they’re an upstream PCBU and a court might find they are at least partially responsible for this. Likewise the car transporter companies claim they’re doing it the safest way they can, when in fact the safest way would involve a lane closure with temporary traffic management (at a cost of hundreds of dollars an hour) the way a construction company would be required to if unloading an excavator off a transporter.

      1. Fun fact: in Dutch the most common word for car is ‘auto’, which was shortened from ‘automobile’, a French word. You will never guess what that means.

    1. The crazy thing us that Gazley Motors, the company financing the anti-cycleway court case, isn’t even on Adelaide Road. He’s got about six different car dealerships for the filthy rich, about a kilometre away on Cambridge Terrace. The injunction should have been thrown out by the court and never allowed in the first place.

        1. So, it’s irrelevant for them to stop the part of the cycle way thru Newtown then isn’t it? Where is the common sense in the legal profession? What a bunch of idiots!

        2. “So, it’s irrelevant for them to stop the part of the cycle way thru Newtown then isn’t it?” – it may be, but the bits through Newtown and along Cambridge Terrace are all part of the same project;
          “Where is the common sense in the legal profession? What a bunch of idiots!” – it is clearly in play and they are certainly not idiots. Injunctions and judicial reviews are nice little earners for them (win or lose), so it would be rather idiotic not to take them on;
          “The injunction should have been thrown out by the court and never allowed in the first place” – clearly the court thinks differently; and there’s nothing to stop anybody (with enough money) seeking an injunction to stop anything.

    2. You’re completely right, and this wouldn’t fly for, say, a construction company. We have to make sure that deliveries are made safely and under the rules of an approved TMP. There is no obvious exception that should be made here and I hope it doesn’t take a fatality or serious injury to see some action.

  2. The car transport problem exists elsewhere. I cycle on Great North Rd, Auckland twice daily. About once a week have to negotiate a car transporter parked blocking the lane. A nationwide solution to this issue can’t come soon enough.

    1. Is the solution, this activity is banned without a full specific transport management plan? Or better yet, you car yards have huge amounts of parking, why don’t you use use that space to park these trucks rather than externalising this cost onto everyone else?

  3. Oh, the outrage over people exercising their democratic rights.

    At least they didn’t break through a police line to illegally ride bicycles across a bridge and put other road users lives at risk.

    1. At least they didn’t break through a police line to illegally ride bicycles across a bridge and put other road users lives at risk to improve the world, they just park trucks in the live lane and put other road users lives to make money, much better.

      /sarc

    2. Ah yes, wealthy people taking vexatious court cases to prevent things they don’t like, pure democracy. It’s not really what this is article is about.

      1. “Wealthy people”.
        How do you know that?
        They’re probably like a lot of other people who are struggling through the current cost of living crisis.

    3. maybe parking a car transporter in one of the harbour bridge lanes is all we need to free it up for cyclists and pedestrians?

    4. Odd how you don’t seem to care about trucks stopping in the middle of active traffic lanes with no traffic management & the informal deal with the council that allows it to happen (done without any democratic consultation)…

  4. If they put in Light Rail they could bring in the cars during the night as Light Freight Rail!

  5. This whole diatibe of finding a small issue which has never been a problem and put it under a microscope is rather pathetic and juvenile behavior mostly from cycle advocates I expect.
    Time to grow up and work it out and drive around it just like any mature city dweller does world wide..you would think most of you are all adolescent teenagers still with pimples. Get a grip your sounding like the anti 1080 gang.

    1. This would hold up slightly better if those businesses weren’t simultaneously suing the council for minor changes on land the businesses don’t own.

      Time for them to grow up and provide their own infrastructure required to run their businesses?

  6. Interesting that supermarkets are generally required to provide their own truck unloading facilities on their own land. Makes you wonder how things would work if all supermarkets behaved like car-dealers and just claimed the public road every time a truck arrived.
    Alternatively, require all car dealers to provide their own off-road truck-unloading facilities and if that proves too much for businesses to afford, this suggests that they are not viable without this ‘hidden subsidy’.

    1. +1, if your business can only operate by unsafely blocking the road, then your business shouldn’t operate.

    2. I have worked on resource consents for 3 car yards. All three had to have space to unload on site. The trick is to use two frontages so the truck can drive through the site or use two vehicle crossings, although that uses more space. You have to avoid turning a large truck on the site or you use up a 26m circle of land.

      1. Miffy, of those 3, how many could actually use their loading dock right now? I get the impression that a lot of car yards put the loading bay on the consent and then immediately park cars for sale on it.

        1. One still works and the loading is used every week or so. That site runs through to a street at the rear so it is just a wide driveway and cant really be used for other things. It just needs space at the entry and exit on the street for tracking. One doesn’t sell new cars any more and I can’t be sure but they have probably parked used cars on the area. The third I haven’t been back to so I have no idea.

          But there is no excuse for new yards to be consented without loading. If they dont comply with their conditions then the choices are enforcement if it causes a problem, or ignore it if they don’t use trucks.

        2. Cheers, I wonder why we see this issue so much? Were the ones on the Terraces and on Great North Road just put in before councils generally insisted on loading bays?

        3. Well consents for major developments have been granted relatively recently in any case (in the case of the GNR ones). And the Tesla one on KRd is recent, a new land use.

  7. Kent and Cambridge Tce, south of Vivian St make up SH1. Doesn’t that mean they’re NZTA jurisdiction and not WCC. Which would make the city councils “informal agreement” completely moot, at least the dealerships location the southern half.

      1. Really? What am I missing? Has it moved from what Google maps and Wikipedia say?

        Looks to me like this is an interesting point.

      2. That’s right. I had a brain fart. Only the stretch of Kent Tce between Vivan St and the Basin is SH1. Which is Toyota and Honda, and 1 or 2 used small used car dealerships.
        By regardless of the road’s status, this is a major arterial route into and out of the CBD. Not just for motorist and cyclists, but pedestrians too. The dealerships really need to take some responsibility here. The public roadway is not their private loading zone

  8. Really. SH1 westbound follows Buckle St and Karo Drive, eastbound Vivian St and Kent Terrace – neither uses Cambridge Tce.

    If Google Maps and Wikipedia are saying something different (are they really?) that needs correcting.

    It is interesting that one side of the southern half of the Cambridge/Kent boulevard is a state highway and the other isn’t – it’s been like that since SH1 was extended to the airport 20-30 years ago (it used to terminate at Willis St).

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