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Len Brown’s focus for the city’s economy

It seems Len Brown is trying to rebuild his image in part by being a man of action and getting things done. Now that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if focused in the right direction and while Len is pushing some things well, like the City Rail Link, in other areas I think he seems almost desperate to do something that he could end up doing more harm than good. His “Transforming Auckland’s Economy: State of Auckland” speech this morning had a number of interesting points, some I thought were good, others not so. Bob Dey has the full speech here.

Thirdly, we need to build a reputation as a modern, wired city. In this regard, there have been too many excuses & delays in rolling out ultra-fast broadband and providing decent wi-fi.

Auckland Council will be developing a Digital Auckland – kick start programme so we are playing an active role in picking up the pace in this area. My intention is that this will include working with business partners to roll out free wi-fi in public places & public transport and finding commercial partners to help expedite the rollout of ultrafast broadband.

I see connectivity is increasingly important and rolling out wi-fi to more areas, especially in public areas and on PT is a good idea. Already increased communication is being seen as a critical element in some of the changes we are seeing with transport as young people who want to spend more time online can do that on a bus/train much easier than they can behind the wheel and was cleverly picked up for this AT ad.

Moving on

Fourthly, we need to begin to make public-private partnerships part of how we deliver largescale projects. At the end of last year the council & I agreed a way forward for the SkyPath project – a walk & cycleway across Auckland’s harbour bridge.

The SkyPath will be Auckland’s first PPP, and will eventually enable a great vision – a cycle & walking path stretching from St Heliers to Devonport. This will act as a real game changer for building pedestrian & cycleways around our city. This is a chance to cut our teeth on PPPs and show that we can deliver real value for money and better outcomes for ratepayers.

PPPs are not a free ticket to be clipped by the private sector. We need to use our considerable scale & position to nail down the best possible deals for Aucklanders, learning the lessons from international experience and retaining public ownership.

Beyond the SkyPath, there will be major opportunities for transport projects, including the city rail link, better waste management & other major transport projects.

This is where I have the biggest concern with Lens push. Many of the projects he’s talking about like Skypath and the City Rail Link are critical but the reality is most of the funding shortfall is going to require additional funding sources is being created other large roading projects. Just because you could build them as a PPP doesn’t suddenly make them a better project. That’s one of the reasons behind why we are so focused on the Congestion Free Network. Before we consider how we fund projects it’s important that we go through a process and actually work out what we need to build i.e. what will work. After we have done that we can start looking at how to fund stuff and PPPs might be part of that. In fact of all of the projects on the list perhaps the one most likely to succeed as a PPP would be the CRL as it does allow private business to work in with the construction through activities like additional retail.

In all of this it is pleasing to see Len becoming increasingly positive about Skypath, something he had been a bit quite on for a while.

23 comments to Len Brown’s focus for the city’s economy

  • Jacques

    Yeah, it seems like there wouldn’t be much of a funding shortfall if there was a proper reallocation of funds from the few silly projects among the roads of national significance.

    A pie-in-the-sky idea: I’d love it if the skypath was built above, not below, the harbour bridge. separated by a soundproof glass bottom, so all commuting cyclists could enjoy a bit of sun and that little bit of schadenfreude going much faster than the cars at peak hours :-). But I can imagine it’d make the design and construction quite a bit trickier at both ends.

    • Steve D

      Then you’d have to get up an even higher climb to get over the bridge in the first place! Lower is good. Lower means less energetic pedalling.

  • Waspman

    My big concern about PPP’s is that the model always seems to ensure the private part of the “partnership” profits and profits nicely come hell or high-water whilst the long suffering ratepayer or taxpayer gets mugged and picks up the tab. Although something like the Skypath is great in principal it will under this system be another long term financial millstone to pay off for ever with profits added in. So why does the council not just do the job themselves/oversee it/control it along with the Harbour Bridges owner (NZTA?) and skip the ticket clipping middlemen?? More up front maybe but way less cost at the end.

    As for the CRL, which is extremely reliant on a change of government if it is ever going to happen, a PPP might just work if they contribute in a way that will not cost rate payers, full stop, such as building or paying for stations on the route that mutually benefit that organisation and Auckland.

  • Fred

    City’s. Please my eyes are bleeding.

  • Grant

    Nice feeling yesterday to see the SkyPath very prominent on the NZ Herald website, on the same day that more intensification was announced in my area of town (the 12-story Milford apartments). Starting to feel like Auckland is really starting to come together, and on sunny days like last weekend, cycle from Milford through to St Heliers, or even just cycle to Britomart and catch the train south.

    Add to that, all the back slapping going on about how good the weekend was with the Nines, Rapture, Splore, Lantern festival etc. All of these events created crowds and congestion in Auckland city.. and people liked it :-).

    Some things to work on; my daughter took the bus into town for the lantern festival, but could not bus home on the NEX.Trying to watch the nines in a local bar, would have been very nice to sit outside and soak up some sun, but heavy traffic (including buses spewing smoke and lots of noise) made sitting on the footpath outside the bar not exactly idyllic.

  • Nicholas O'Kane

    A small question I hope someone can answer about skypath. Has anyone considered building an extra southbound bus only clip on lane with skypath? And if so how much extra will this cost? It seems to me like a potential good opportunity to extend the Northern Busway further south

  • Phil>

    after the tunnel has opened there will be plenty of room on the bridge for a dedicated bus lane.

    • There is already plenty of room for a dedicated bus lane on the bridge. With five peak lanes and 40% of people on the bus at peak times there is no reason not to have one.

      They would be a lot cheaper than five billion dollars too.

  • Matt L -I would love to see a count of trucks with containers that use the Harbour Bridge. I travel the route frequently and this seems to be an urban myth.

    • The comment on truck weight was made by the NZTA, will see if I can dig it up.

      • Greg N

        I recall you had data showing tonnage figures (weight) by lane and it did show that northbound trucks were heavier – whether its all those North Shore-its carting their gold bars homefrom Sky City Casino or container trucks heading north who knows.

  • Simon

    Yeah because it’s not like there’s a container port north of Auckland or anything. Bridge bus lane!

  • The city’s major developers say they have one priority when they look at project sites these days – access to transit. “It used to be about location, location, location,” says the city’s most influential real estate marketer, Bob Rennie. “Now it’s transit, transit, transit.”

    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2014/02/vancouvers-canada-line-model-transit-oriented-development/8437/

  • Phil,,

    Somehow I doubt the property in Papatoetoe next to the train is ever going to be as desirable as the property in Takapuna that is a 30 min walk to public transport.
    It is ALWAYS about location.

    • I agree, coastal locations are always more valuable. But we are talking about exactly the reverse here: affordable dwellings. Dwellings are now and will remain cheaper in Papatoetoe than Takapuna, as coastal property is rationed by price and centrally located coastal property is even more desirable and of limited supply so is even more intensely rationed by price.

      The opportunity that the improved rail system plus the construction of appealing higher density dwellings near existing stations offer is efficient accessibility to the high employment and education centres at a fraction of the cost of coastal property, and a significant discount to traditional rental property areas like the old inner suburbs that have been priced out of reach for most young and low and even middle income groups.

      It is indeed always about location. Setting (eg coastal) is only part of the location metric however, proximity is a key driver. Proximity can be ‘faked’ with transport technology. We have tried to do this for six decades with motorways, parking garages and the private car. This has hit its limit (congestion and cost). Time to upgrade the sleeping resource of the Transit and Active modes.

      Luckily this is starting to get underway, but we are still wasting too much valuable resource on trying to double down on the current established mode whereas it is clear that the best opportunity lies elsewhere; in its complementary systems.

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