Micromobility advocacy groups in NSW are lamenting an announcement by the State’s first Active Transport Minister, Rob Stokes, that he will retire from State politics before the next election.
He has served as the Member for Pittwater for the past 15 years and late last year was appointed as the Minister for Active Transport, in addition to the portfolios of cities and infrastructure.
He announced on 30th September he’d “had a great go and now is the time to give others the opportunity to stand as Liberal candidate for Pittwater at the election next year”.
Bicycle NSW CEO Peter McLean said he was really disappointed to hear that news because the Minister had achieved a lot during his relatively short term in the active transport role.
“He also brought great connectively for active transport with other transport planning in NSW, particularly in greater Sydney.”
“He was able to hit the ground running – or riding – because of his genuine interest and enthusiasm in active transport and his great breadth of knowledge from his previous portfolios in planning and the environment,” Peter said.
“That knowledge and background in the planning space meant he was able to see the quick wins and the gaps with active transport, particularly with cycleways. He was able to identify the challenges and roadblocks encountered in the past and could put some effective planning processes in play to get traction.
“We saw that with the identification of critical cycleways and the strategic corridor in Sydney.
“He also brought great connectively for active transport with other transport planning in NSW, particularly in greater Sydney. One plan effectively talks to another and we haven’t always seen that in the past.”
Peter said a doubling in local government funding for active transport was another important legacy.
“He has set an extremely high bar for the next Minister for Active Transport,” he added.
“His retirement announcement doesn’t really some as a surprise. You often have transitions among political ranks leading up to an election.
“However, Minister Stokes has been a real breath of fresh air to deal with, because of the enthusiasm for active transport displayed by the Minister and his whole team.
“I’ve known Rob Stokes since I was with Keep Australia Beautiful and he first joined politics as the Member for Pittswater 15 years ago.
“My career and his roles in politics seemed to follow similar paths since then, so I have interacted with him on a variety of topics.
“There is always the risk that his replacement for active transport won’t have the same level of knowledge and enthusiasm. But he will leave plenty of momentum in the role, and Bicycle NSW, as the leader in bicycle advocacy in this State, will be there to provide the new minister with all the support and background information necessary to ensure the transition is as effective as possible.”
We Ride Australia’s Executive Officer, Peter Bourke, said Rob Stokes had left “an indelible impression on active transport in NSW, leading rapid change that will have a long-term impact on the provision of infrastructure and accessibility of active transport”.
“There’s no double Rob Stokes’s leadership is what pushed active transport to move in such a positive direction,” Peter Bourke said.
“He certainly championed the cause for active transport and worked very strongly with the government departments to achieve as much as possible in a short amount of time.
“There is always the risk that the next person to fill that portfolio might not have his passion, his vision and drive for active transport. But equally, there is the other challenge that after the election, the incumbent or a new government could change direction completely in regards to policy, including the delivery of active transport projects.”
Vital for Truly Liveable Cities
Bicycle Network’s Acting General Manager – Public Affairs, Layla Asadi, said Rob Stokes played an essential role in government as the spokesperson representing the needs of existing and future active transport users.
“Achieving a truly liveable city with sustainable transport options requires strong governance, strategic direction and accountability, which is why a Minister for Active Transport is such a critical portfolio,” Layla said.
“Bicycle Network were happy to see a number of projects advance under the leadership of the Minister for Active Transport, including the Get NSW Active program, the CBD to Parramatta active pathway, and Sydney’s strategic cycling corridor network.
“It was wonderful to see the NSW Government appoint Rob Stokes in this role, and it will hopefully inspire other states to establish similar portfolios.”