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Pallet-boarding on the tram tracks

If New Zealand hadn’t ripped up its tram tracks in the 1950s, I’m almost certain that some risk-taking Kiwi would have invented this first:

Czech artist Tomáš Moravec… cut down the dimensions of a standard, European wood pallet, or “Eur Pallet,” and fastened what appear to be small cart wheels to the bottom, creating a giant—and specialized—skateboard. The Pallet Skate fits snugly into the tram tracks running through Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, and with a few pushes, Moravec glides smoothly around the city.

Moravec’s invention is unconventional, extremely risky, able to be cobbled together in the average garage workshop, and almost certainly illegal. In other words, it’d probably go over well in NZ, the country that came up with bungee jumping, longboarding on motorways, and drift trikes.

Bus Network Consultation for Warkworth

Auckland Transport have announced a consultation for bus services to Warkworth.

What does the future of public transport look like for Warkworth?

Auckland Transport is asking people in Warkworth for their input on the future of public transport for the area.

An engagement survey which will help design and guide future public transport options opens Monday 21 July and locals will have four weeks to give their feedback.

The Auckland Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP) allows for the introduction of a bus service between Warkworth and Silverdale which would run 7 days a week. The RPTP suggests a two hour frequency during the day and hourly at peak times. Buses would terminate at a new Hibiscus Coast Station to be built in Silverdale, where passengers could connect to services to Auckland city (via the Northern Express), or local services to other areas of the Hibiscus Coast.

Anthony Cross, Public Transport Network Manager says the survey is the first step in engaging with the community.

“While we are asking for specific feedback on the proposed Silverdale link, the survey is also an opportunity for people to indicate what other local and long distance services they want.

Any new services would be trialled for at least a year.

“Based on the outcome of the survey we will then develop some proposed routes and timetables and return back to the community for further discussion.

“We understand that this two-step engagement will take some time and a balance between community desire and financial and practical constraints will have to be made. We are confident however that with the community’s input we can put together a proposal to take forward,” says Mr Cross.

Mayor Len Brown says that getting Auckland moving through a highly functioning public transport system is front and centre of the Auckland Plan.

“A public transport system that gives all Aucklanders, including those up to Warkworth, an attractive and realistic alternative to using their cars is an absolute priority. The proposed bus service between Warkworth and Silverdale is an important step towards that goal,” he says.

In addition feedback on the current Kowhai Connection is also being sought.

Any new services are likely to become operational in 2016, subject to the outcome of public consultation and tender process. Changes to the Kowhai Connection as a result of this engagement could be made earlier.

For more information go online to www.AT.govt.nz/NewNetwork or come along to a public information event.

· Monday 28 July, anytime between 4pm and 7pm at the Masonic Hall, 3 Baxter Street, Warkworth.

· Saturday 9 August, anytime between 10.30am and 2pm, on the New Network Info Bus, Queen Street, Warkworth.

In not sure how well buses will by used in Warkworth but I do think it’s important for the town to have some PT connections to the rest of the region so this is a good development.

Governments view on the Unitary Plan

This week the council put online all 9,400 submissions to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP).

I’m going to look at a handful of interesting ones over the coming days/weeks and one has already been picked up on by the media and it comes from the government, submitted by the Amy Adams, the Minister for the Environment.

In the submission the Minister says that “it’s important the PAUP has integrity and robustness, not least because it will be the single largest resource management plan in New Zealand, responsible for enabling or constraining up to 60 per cent of New Zealand’s future growth-based capital investment.” I think that’s an important point to remember in the Unitary Plan discussions. Huge growth is expected to occur in Auckland and it needs to be addressed. Just hoping it won’t happen or trying to implement policies like limiting immigration when the main cause of the growth is simply lots of people being born is head in the sand type stuff.

The submission says that after analysis from her officials she concludes:

Govt submission on UP - Summary of Issues

And her focus is on five specific concerns.

  • Housing Supply
  • Plan Efficiency
  • Plan Integrity
  • Plan Suitability
  • Infrastructure

I’m just going to pick out some key points from each of those.

Housing Supply

While she does talk about the issue of greenfield land she also talks about the restrictions on intensification that have been imposed and in some cases that means the PAUP represents a downzoning on current plans. I also like how she’s noted that there is a huge risk that the underzoning of many areas could lock in sub optimal land use for decades. To me this is particularly the case across the Isthmus area.

Govt submission on UP - Housing Supply

Plan Efficiency

Adams notes that particularly for medium and high density developments the rules are overly complex and inflexible, much more so than they were in the March draft of the plan. She says the March draft had a more widespread presumption towards non-notification and a liberal use of restricted discretionary activity status for higher density development. She also says helps in the plan making the hard decisions about intensification rather than leaving it to the resource consent process. However she says with the PAUP, notification will be much more prevalent. She then basically says the council gave in to NIMBYs by reducing flexibility and increasing development controls despite the draft UP having the tools to ensure better quality urban design. The outcome of all of this will be less medium – high density development.

She even calls out some of the stupid requirements like parking requirements, minimum dwelling sizes and set back requirements. In addition she questions the widespread heritage and significance to Manua Whenua overlays.

Govt submission on UP - Plan Efficiency

Plan Integrity

Perhaps most crucially in this section the Minister says the amount of greenfield land available for development will likely need to increase, particularly if the development restrictions mentioned earlier are not adjusted. However she also notes that increasing greenfield land won’t solve problems simply not everyone wants to live on the edge of the urban area. She also notes that increased greenfield land will place more pressure on the efficient provision of infrastructure.

Govt submission on UP - Plan Integrity

Plan Suitability

Adams calls out three areas where she thinks the plan “oversteps the bounds of what is necessary or desirable in a resource management plan”. These are:

  • Including affordable housing requirements in developments with 15 or more dwellings
  • Sustainable building design provisions
  • GMO regulation

Infrastructure

Adams says the plan does not sufficiently provide for Auckland’s infrastructure needs. She says the planning and policy framework may not enable the consenting of major strategic infrastructure anticipated by the government and council. On transport infrastructure she says:

Govt submission on UP - Infrastructure

All up the submission seems fairly accurate and balanced and it’s pleasing to see the government calling out the silly and restrictive provisions that will limit density. My question though is why the government didn’t say anything about this sooner. Further why were government MP’s scaremongering about intensification during the UP debates and pushing people to oppose the plan. MP’s like Maggie Barry were rallying against the plan which assisted in the public opposition from places like the North Shore that led to the down zoning of the plan.