Calls for Wellington City Council to pause cycleways, fix water network instead

There are calls for Wellington City Council to pause some of its cycleway and roading projects and use the money to fix the region's water issues.

The council will meet on Wednesday to discuss which projects to put on the backburner.

The region has been plagued by leaky pipes for decades, and former three-term mayor Dame Kerry Prendergast knows the struggle well.

"We did see an increase in leaks back in the 2000s and so we increased the budget to fix them," she told Newshub.

But in recent years the problem has worsened. Now the capital is losing 45 percent of its water supply to leaks.

That's why the Local Government Minister Simeon Brown met with Mayor Tory Whanau on Monday.

Afterwards, Whanau admitted some projects may have to be paused so the council can give Wellington Water the money it's seeking to fix the leaks. 

"I agree with the current mayor that there are some projects that need to go on the backburner," Dame Kerry told Newshub.

But she's worried that'll mean shelving the beleaguered Wellington Town Hall project.

Earthquake strengthening work was due to be completed last year, but due to several setbacks, that's been pushed out to 2027.

By then it's estimated to have a price tag of $329 million.

"The difference between doing that and finishing it is $20 million so my view is the Town Hall, which is a category 1 listed building, should be completed," Dame Kerry said.

Wellington locals Newshub spoke with had a clear message for the council.

"So many pipes are just bursting," one said.

"People are getting sick and tired of underinvestment in that area and investment in other areas," said another.

"If it was me, I would pause projects that haven't yet started where there has been huge community concern like the Karori and Island Bay cycleways," said Dame Kerry.

But advocates for those projects believe they should still go ahead.

"Island Bay has had its fair share of problems. This is not a problem," said Island Bay resident Ben Everist.

"Now more than ever Wellington needs more bike lanes, for better choice, and for climate action," said Patrick Morgan from the Cycling Action Network.

The council will meet on Wednesday to discuss what projects will be paused.