Councillors trade jibes on social media over $22m Christchurch cycleway

Councillor Sam MacDonald got a graphic designer to make a post showing how councillors voted on the cycleway. “As a council we don’t communicate well enough, so we’ve taken it into our own hands.”

CHRIS SKELTON/Stuff

Councillor Sam MacDonald got a graphic designer to make a post showing how councillors voted on the cycleway. “As a council we don’t communicate well enough, so we’ve taken it into our own hands.”

Christchurch city leaders are lobbing political zingers at each other on Facebook and Twitter following a decision to push on with a controversial cycleway.

The politicking comes as the city moves towards October’s local body elections, when Christchurch residents will decide who sits on the council for the next three years.

On Thursday, city councillors voted 11 to 6 to push on with the 4.5km Wheels to Wings cycleway on Harewood Rd, which will cost $22.6m.

This cycleway has been one of the most controversial. Public submissions showed 565 submitters were against the cycleway and 411 for it. It will remove 300 car parks and transform Harewood Rd from four traffic lanes to two.

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Council staff say it will reduce carbon emissions.

The six councillors who voted against the cycleway were Aaron Keown, James Gough, Sam MacDonald, mayoral hopeful Phil Mauger, Catherine Chu and Yani Johanson.

Councillor Melanie Coker reposted the image, saying she was pleased to vote for safety, cycling and climate action.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/Stuff

Councillor Melanie Coker reposted the image, saying she was pleased to vote for safety, cycling and climate action.

While councillors traded barbs about the cycleway during their meeting, it has not stopped there.

National-aligned councillor Sam MacDonald got a graphic designer to make an image which said the council had agreed to build the “controversial” cycleway and showed how councillors voted.

He posted it to Facebook, saying the council was “addicted to cycleways”. Councillors James Gough and Aaron Keown, along with Papanui council candidate Victoria Henstock, posted the image on Facebook too.

Councillor Melanie Coker thanked her colleagues for sharing the image before sharing it herself, saying she was pleased to vote for “safety, cycling, and climate action”.

Tongue-in-cheek comments followed.

Councillor Jake McLellan commented: “It’s great the local Nats produce these graphic materials for us to use free of charge.”

Councillor Celeste Donovan said councillors had “mixed up their words” on the image and were meant to say the council “voted in favour of climate action”.

“Easy mistake to make,” she wrote.

Playing on a similar idea, Papanui councillor Mike Davidson reposted MacDonald’s image on Twitter with “Council agrees to climate action” written over the original image text.

Heathcote councillor Sara Templeton and Celeste Donovan both retweeted Davidson’s version. “I couldn’t have said it better,” Templeton said.

These exchanges come just weeks after a similar post by Gough, MacDonald, Keown, and Mauger spurred controversy after they were labelled as misleading.

Templeton said she did not think Thursday’s cycleway post was misleading.

STACY SQUIRES/STUFF

Donna Thomsen, owner of Copenhagen Bakery, is upset about a proposed new cycleway on Harewood Rd, which will mean on-street car parks outside her business are lost. (First published January 2021)

She said she has had a few toxic comments since it went up, but “not many” – adding that they were outweighed by the support she has received.

Templeton said she wanted councillors’ voting records to be more transparent – and wanted an electronic system installed next term, so it could be easily recorded on the council website.

MacDonald said he posted the graphic because it was a topical issue and the public had a right to know the voting record.

“I just think it’s really informative actually that people can see what’s happening. As a council we don’t communicate well enough, so we’ve taken it into our own hands.”

Davidson said he had no issue with the post.

“The voting record, they’re trying to make it as an anti-thing, but a lot of us see that as actually a good thing because we’re trying to support having a sustainable city.”

All of this comes ahead of the city’s hotly-anticipated local elections.

Mauger is contesting the mayoralty and appears to have the support of several like-minded independent council candidates. They will be pitched against the left-leaning People’s Choice/Labour machine and candidates with green values.

Former Canterbury District Health Board boss David Meates is also running for the mayoralty, as is Mark Chirnside, Carl Bromley and The Wizard.

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