Rocks Rd could be the site of a new walkway/cycleway but it’s not clear when. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Rocks Rd revamp again delayed

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A cycling walkway on Rocks Rd is on hold once more. Charles Anderson looks at the issues surrounding a controversial piece of roading.

Rocks Rd has long been thought of as Nelson’s neglected jewel in its transport network. It runs along a prime piece of real estate, linking the city to the sea and ultimately to a world-class inner-city beach.

But while it has everything going for it, Rocks Rd is also a state highway. If you try and run, walk or even cycle that route, the word ‘world-class’ is not what you reach for. So, it was with much jubilation, no matter whether you think the highway should be moved, when the NZTA said it was looking to investigate the possibility of a walkway/cycleway.

This, however, was inextricably linked to its work looking at whether a new highway should be created, known as the “Southern Link”. When that investigation was separated out again, it seemed like NZTA were looking seriously at doing this jewel justice.

But last week, came another apparent roadblock. NZTA said it needed more time because of the risks of sea level rise and climate change along Rocks Rd.

“We need to ensure that what is proposed and constructed on Rocks Road to benefit pedestrians and cyclists will work in an integrated way with the rest of the transport system,” said NZTA’s Jim Harland.

He said any solution needed to be long-lasting and robust, particularly given the damage we saw in early 2018 with the ex-cyclone storm surges.

So, the Rocks Road walking and cycling investigation will now be aligned with the wider transport network study between Stoke and central Nelson.

Mayor Rachel Reese told the Nelson Weekly that she was disappointed that NZTA didn’t do a more detailed investigation of the seawall earlier.

Despite the setback, Rachel says that Rocks Rd remains a key project for council to enhance the waterfront.

“Council has been committed to improving city to seas walkways and we remain committed.”

She says as the state highway is an NZTA-owned asset, they need to ensure they understand the costs and challenges associated.

“One thing I have been aware of is the challenge of building structures in coastal marine area and planning law around it.”

Rachel says in order to be greenlit by a waterfront, all alternative options must have considered.

“My frustration is that NZTA hasn’t really dealt with this reality, this was a conversation started three years ago.”

However, Regional Transport Committee Chair Councillor Mike Rutledge says while the delay is disappointing to both council and the community, it is important the process is done well.

“Nelson City Council has a long-held vision for improving connections from the city to the sea. What happens on Rocks Road is utterly crucial to that.”

Nelson City Councillor Matt Lawrey says, at first, he was disappointed that the project would be delayed.

Now, Matt says he is actually optimistic that NZTA will come back with a plan to give the waterfront, highway, homes and businesses down there some armour to protect them from the impact of climate change.

“The design will incorporate the walkway/cycleway that Nelson so deserves.”

But residents won’t have any idea of what that might look like until the middle of next year, when NZTA comes back to council with their options.