One of the most exciting potential projects at the moment has to be the Skypath. The project that hopefully will finally provide access across the harbour for the two key missing modes, walking and cycling.
Since they hit the news again earlier this year, the trust behind the project have been conducting consultation with the local residents associations and local board on either side of the harbour as well as the West Haven Marina users to work through any potential issues. Almost straight away we saw both the St Marys Bay Residents Association (SMBA) and the Northcote Residents Association (NRA) started complaining so I thought I would look at how things have been progressing since then.
Before I get into the progress though, I want to highlight the comments that the chair of the SMBA – Tony Skelton (TS)- made in October last year in the Ponsonby News. You can see it here, page 20.
I’m pretty sure that most of our readers would severely disagree that cycling is not a form of commuter transport. I also know that even a few of my fellow bloggers commute mostly by bike. Moving back to the Skypath, the trust have been publishing detailed minutes of their meetings with the various groups which provides a lot of information. The first set of minutes I’m going to look at is from 7 March where a meeting was held with both of the resident associations. What is interesting is that both organisations appear to started out challenging the projected patronage numbers.
Carol requested details and timeframes of consultation being undertaken by SkyPath group. NRA has significant and serious concerns, particularly around patronage and residents’ concerns regarding the feasibility of the connections at the northern end and the community impact
Tony expressed concerns that the project is being publicly presented as a fait accompli without consultation. Tony has major concerns about the figures in the Horizon Survey and would like to challenge them, believing these make the whole business case flawed. He wanted to hear NZTA’s position.
Moving through the document I won’t cover every point but this next one did grab my attention. We know from earlier comments that one of the key concerns from the NRA was to do with parking. The trust asked about the trial parking scheme. (RR is Richard Reid who is working with the Trust)
RR: Wendy has noted entrances and exits and carparking. How is residents’ car parking scheme in St Mary’s Bay working?
TS: Resident’s Permitted Car parking scheme in St Marys Bay is brilliant, is working extremely well and will be extended. Link bus also has role to play. Residents noticed the change straight away. Business is also pleased. Good
enforcement of two hour limit for visitors. Westhaven parking is also increasingly restricted.
Next we get to one of the more interesting comments where it appears that Tony brings up similar comments as he did in the October 2012 article above. BW is Bevan Woodward who is the project director, KC is a member of the NRA.
I guess one small positive is that Tony the barges have been upgraded to ferries. This also shows that both of the residents associations really don’t want this. As the document goes on it lays out the key concerns. The issue of the Westhaven Marina Users are raised, Tony has this to say.
TS: Westhaven Marina is busy and simply cannot take more traffic. Development is planned. Westhaven Drive is a private road. Public Transport is shut out. I am making an application to have cyclists taken out of St Marys Bay Reserve. It won’t be possible to control cyclists on a 1 in 5 gradient and I can see horrific accidents happening.
Westhaven Dr appears to be an interesting situation, it is a private road however one of the later documents shows that it was purchased by the council in 2004. Does anyone know why it has not been vested to AT like the rest of the road network? But the part that shocked me the most was that he is trying to get cycling banned from a public reserve. It really makes you wonder why he hates cyclists so much. The trust also notes that the 1 in 5 gradient is wrong as it is actually 1 in 20.
A week later, the trust met with the Westhaven Users Association (WMU) as well Waterfront Auckland and the Council. The main concerns appear to how the pathway would connect with the waterfront as well as the impact on parking and traffic. The minutes seem less emotional which is not unexpected however there was this interesting note from the chair of the WMU
St Marys Bay Association may want to use the Westhaven Marina Trust document to stop SkyPath. It may be that WMU members will also ask whether the Trust document prohibits Skypath construction.
WMU’s concerns are that WMU is already accommodating a great deal of public use. More public use will put pressure on Westhaven Drive. On the other hand, development will make the area more attractive. It is currently an old fashioned marina. It could become “the place to be”
To me this really shows that the SMBA don’t really care about consultation, they simply don’t want the project full stop and are going to do everything in their power to stop it.
At a later meeting with the Waitemata local board, many of the same points raised by the SMBA were raised again however I found this answer to question by a member of the public interesting. The person asked why the NZTA won’t fund the project. Stephen Town who is the NZTA’s Regional Director for Northland and Auckland said this:
Under current policy, NZTA can’t fund SkyPath. NZTA doesn’t fund walking and cycling on motorways, and can only build new walking and cycling when there is concurrently new work to the State Highway. Examples are Victoria Park Tunnel and Waterview. In the case of the AHB, there is no new work. We have given undertaking that the $86 million strengthening project in 2010 made provision for walking and cycling. The SkyPath is a short length and would suck too much out of the NZTA walking and cycling budget.
Sounds to me like we need to get the policy changed so that the NZTA can build cycle facilities separate from other state highway works.
And the last of the meetings that I will look at is another one between the trust and the Westhaven Users Association around a month and a half ago. There are a few interesting comments:
Trevor noted that Transpower paid a substantial fee for an easement on Westhaven Drive to allow cable installation ($7million) and suggested that WMUA may say to SkyPath: we can invite you to be part of Westhaven but it will involve payment of a fee
And this, which along with a couple others suggest that within the Westhaven users group, there are plenty of differing views.
TD: Some WMUA members are opposed to SkyPath and advocate legal measures to challenge SkyPath, but others feel this would be expensive. WMUA’s view is that SkyPath will mainly benefit the more affluent suburbs at either end of the AHB
However it is the first of the comments that was particularly concerning and since then more details have emerged through an update sent out by the trust.
St Mary’s Bay Residents Association are opposed to SkyPath because the Westhaven Marina Users Association are opposed. The Westhaven Marina Users Association has suggested an annual fee of $800,000 to allow SkyPath users to pass through Westhaven Drive. Unfortunately SkyPath would not be financially viable with such a fee and we are unwilling to increase the toll paid by SkyPath users as we want to keep the amount paid by Aucklanders highly affordable. We’d appreciate your ideas on how we can resolve this one.
In the meantime we continue our consultation with St Mary’s Bay Residents Association and Northcote Residents Association, along with the residents at Stokes Point. We are making good progress with Council as we negotiate the underwrite required to fund and deliver SkyPath.
It seems to me that unfortunately we are still a long way off getting agreement from the locals on this issue but I know that the people behind Skypath are incredibly dedicated to getting this project built so hopefully they keep pushing on.