The government yesterday announced consultation on a suite of much needed changes to legislation that will remove red tape in order to “make it easier for local authorities (like councils) to make street changes that support public transport, active travel and placemaking“.
Streets will soon be able to be transformed from unsafe and inaccessible corridors to vibrant places for all transport modes thanks to new legislation proposed today, announced Transport Minister Michael Wood.
“We need to make it safe, quicker and more attractive for people to walk, ride and take public transport in our towns and cities across Aotearoa New Zealand,” Michael Wood said.
“People live, shop, and meet with friends and whānau on our streets – but many streets in New Zealand do not allow them to do this safely and easily. Some of the rules for managing streets are fifty years old and outdated. That’s why we’re moving to update them, to reflect people’s needs and give communities new ways to be involved in changes that affect them.”
The Reshaping Streets proposals will make it easier for councils to transform streets and better support public transport, active forms of travel, and improved urban spaces.
The proposed changes include:
- a new ‘Street Layouts’ land transport rule which will enable councils to change street layouts, pilot street changes, restrict vehicle access, and establish Community Streets and School Streets
- amending sections in the Local Government Act 1974 covering pedestrian malls, transport shelters (like bus shelters), and temporary road closures
- changes to other rules and regulations enable councils to trial Traffic Control Devices more effectively, reduce speed limits as part of pilots, and to make these rules and regulations more accessible.
“Streets are public places that need to prioritise people, not just vehicles, so our towns and cities are better places to live, work and play,” Michael Wood said.
“Through our Transport Choices package in Budget 22, we are helping to improve transport options by funding the rapid roll-out of at least 100 km of safe urban cycleways to build more connected networks at pace; create significant safety improvements in around 25 pedestrian areas, and support safer, greener, and healthier travel to 75-100 schools. The package is also funding bus priority improvements in over 40 locations alongside improvements to shelter, access, and customer information at up to 500 stops and stations.
“Reshaping Streets builds on this investment and gets the balance right between ensuring we can move people and goods effectively, while making our streets safe for all users.
“These changes will also help New Zealand meet our emissions reduction targets, reduce deaths and serious injuries from transport, and improve health and wellbeing,” Michael Wood said.
You can see the full consultation document here. There is more detail on Waka Kotahi’s website, and there’s a public webinar on the proposed changes on 25 August. Consultation is open till 19 September.
The consultation covers 18 changes across seven categories. Several of these have clearly come from lessons learnt as a result of Waka Kotahi’s Streets for People programme and, if enacted, will make it easier for programmes like that to thrive. This suite of updates also builds on the Accessible Streets changes that were consulted on two years ago and are currently waiting for cabinet signoff.
We’ll take a closer look in coming weeks, but a quick summary of the proposed rule changes is below. Key terms: RCA = Road Controlling Authority (e.g. local councils and Auckland Transport), TCD = Traffic Control Device (street signs, signals, notices, traffic calming features and markings).
- Proposal 1: A new approach for piloting street changes
- 1A: Provide RCAs with new powers and requirements to install pilots, and set requirements for how to install them
- 1B: Enable pilots to be used as a form of consultation, with feedback collected during the pilot used to consider whether to make street changes permanent
- 1C: Enable pilots to be installed for up to two years
- 1D: Amend the LGA1974 to make it clear that RCAs should not use the provision for ‘experimental diversions’ when piloting street changes
- 1E: Allow RCAs to lower the speed limit to support a pilot, in areas with a posted speed limit under 60km/h, during the pilot
- 1F: Update rules for trialling TCDs, so that RCAs can trial TCDs as part of pilots and choose how they notify people about TCD trials
- Proposal 2: Powers to filter and restrict traffic
- 2A: Enable RCAs to install modal filters if the objects they use are safe
- 2B: Ensure legislation provides clear powers to filter traffic, by removing the requirement in the LGA1974 that facilities built on roads cannot, in the opinion of a council, “unduly impede vehicular traffic entering or using the road”
- 2C: Enable RCAs to restrict or prohibit the use of some or all motor vehicles on specified roadways to support public transport use, active travel, health and safety, emissions reductions, and/or to create public spaces that promote community well-being.
- 2D: Provide RCAs with an explicit power to install TCDs
- School Streets
- 3: Establish powers and requirements for RCAs to create School Streets in partnership with local schools
- Community Streets
- 4: Establish clear powers and requirements for residents to hold Community Streets, provided they have approval from RCAs
- Closing roads for other functions and events
- 5A: Allow RCAs to close roads for reoccurring events, by removing the 31-day limit per year for road closures in the LGA1974
- 5B: Bring together powers and requirements to close roads for events in one piece of legislation and update notification requirements so that RCAs can notify the public in any way that they consider appropriate at least two weeks before an event.
- Pedestrian Malls
- 6A: Remove the requirement for local authorities to use the special consultative procedure when establishing pedestrian malls. Instead, they must apply the consultation principles in the LGA2002.
- 6B: Remove the ability for people to appeal to the Environment Court when a pedestrian mall is being created. People would be able to challenge the installation of a pedestrian mall through judicial review.
- 6C: Shift legislative provisions for pedestrian malls to the proposed Street Layouts rule
- Transport shelters
- 7: Remove special notification requirements for creating transport shelters. Instead, RCAs would be able to publicly consult on transport shelters in the same way they do for other features, like bus stops.
The changes are all pretty innocuous and sensible, and really represent just tidying up existing rules, bringing some of our outdated legislation into the 21st century and making it more consistent with other aspects of our transport system. They also in no way require councils to make changes to streets – nor do they remove the need for public consultation.
And they certainly don’t oblige cities to install bus shelters, run open streets events and market days, or even force neighbours to get together for community street parties. They just make it a bit easier to do so.
But this hasn’t stopped National’s transport spokesperson making hyperbolic statements claiming this is somehow part of a grand conspiracy against drivers.
This proposal is a radical attempt to repurpose roads from being about people getting to and from where they want to go to being a play thing for local transport authorities to decide how they are used without any consultation. https://t.co/nGL8c1MIJj
— Simeon Brown (@SimeonBrownMP) August 9, 2022
This is an anti-car policy cloaked in climate change credentials, but will ultimately lead to significant frustration and angst in our communities.
— Simeon Brown (@SimeonBrownMP) August 9, 2022
It’s hard to reconcile what’s being proposed with Simeon Brown’s language. The changes look good and should be supported.
It’s good though hat he’s spotted that this work ties into the national climate response, as dealing with that burden falls on any party that wants to govern.
The Transport Choices package mentioned in the press release (100km of cycleway, 25 walkable areas and 75-100 schools) is funded via the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF), and is a first go at addressing the Emissions Reduction Plan’s call for a 20% drop in light vehicle travel by 2035.
To meet this target, the ERP includes actions to accelerate widespread street changes to support public transport, active travel, and placemaking. One of these actions is to consider regulatory changes to make it simpler and quicker to make street changes. Regulatory changes are needed because the current system does not support local authorities to make street changes at the pace and scale required to meet national priorities.
As we know, most of the VKT reduction needs to happen in urban areas, and the easiest trips to replace are the short ones like the school run and local shopping trips. So councils and communities will definitely benefit from being able to be more flexible and responsive with street changes to give everyone choices other than driving.
You could even say that extreme weather events are already “reshaping” streets for the worse. So, updating these rules (which date rom the middle of last century) should give towns and cities a fighting chance to proactively deliver the kind of resilient public space that will help reduce climate angst in the short and long term.
One question I do have: I wonder if the pedestrian mall changes mean that AT will lose its excuse as to why it can’t enforce parking on places like St Patrick’s Square and Vulcan Lane. For the former, at least, AT has been arguing it would need to be designated a “shared space” in order to be able to manage it.