Phil Goff’s first rates proposal

Yesterday Mayor Phil Goff released his proposal for rates in Auckland for the 2017/18 financial year, which starts on 1 July 2017. The proposal includes several things related to some of the issues we talk about that I thought I’d cover off. Firstly, though the high-level stuff.

The Mayor is proposing a 2.5% general rates increase to honour his campaign promise on rates. But given how much investment Auckland needs, especially in infrastructure that is simply not enough and so he’s also proposing a couple of new ways to raise revenue, this includes:

  • Raising up to $30 million from a new visitor levy to replace ratepayer funding currently spent on attracting visitors and supporting major events.
  • Introducing a targeted rate for new large-scale developments to pay for major new infrastructure, increase Auckland’s housing supply and discourage land-banking
  • Government support to implement a regional fuel tax to help close the $400m gap in transport infrastructure funding identified by central government and Auckland Council under the Auckland Transport Alignment Project
  • Bidding for a significant share of the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund

The infrastructure fund mentioned at the end is the $1 billion contestable fund that can only be used to build infrastructure for greenfield developments and is only open to applications from Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton, Queenstown and, Tauranga. It was already assumed that Auckland would get the vast bulk of that $1 billion available. While it’s only for greenfield infrastructure, I guess it means it could just free up other council resources that can be used for non-greenfield infrastructure.

The proposed visitor levy is unsurprisingly already being opposed by the tourism industry. The paper says the council can’t levy a specific bed tax but can do something to the same effect by charging a targeted levy on accommodation providers and say indicative analysis suggests it would add $6-10 to the cost of a nights stay in a 4-5 star hotel.

While mentioned above, the discussion of fuel taxes, as an eventual replacement for the Interim Transport Levy, is only that the mayor wants to have the discussion so definitely nothing will be changing on this in the next year or two, especially given the government has been hostile to the idea. It seems a bit silly to me to then go and replace the Interim Transport Levy. While it was only ever meant to be temporary it feels like it has been effective and was also a good way for the council to ensure the funding went to areas they really wanted focused on, like public transport and cycling infrastructure. Does this also suggest that Goff won’t push for actual road pricing and stick with an easier and likely less effective fuel tax option?

The one area I did find particularly relevant to some of the discussions we’ve had is around the targeted rate for large-scale developments. Essentially for the same reason the government’s infrastructure fund exists, Auckland is expected to add about 110,000 homes to its urban edges in the coming decades and it’s going to cost a huge amount to pay for the council’s share, potentially up to $10 billion just for transport. And all of this while a lot of new or upgraded infrastructure is needed in the existing urban area too. The infrastructure needed has been the subject of the Transport for Future Urban Growth (TFUG) work. For example, here is the preferred transport network for the South showing just the major infrastructure planned.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - South

 

The proposal would see a targeted rate applied to an area that is expected to developed that would help fund the infrastructure needed to service that area. The council say this has a number of advantages, including:

  • increasing land holding costs, thereby weakening the incentives for landbanking
  • reducing the reliance on existing ratepayers across Auckland to subsidise new housing developments
  • creating a closer link between the rates paid by landowners in a specific area and the uplift in the value of their land as a result of it being available for development
  • establishing a more predictable and secure revenue stream for council

It seems like a fairly elegant part of the solution to the issue of how fund that expensive and large scale greenfield infrastructure but does so by effectively increasing the price of housing in these areas which is bound to be opposed by land owners and developers. It could however also be argued that it particularly benefits those who have pushed to restrict housing development options closer to the city as their actions have helped in pushing more development to the edges and now they might not have to share many of the costs.

In addition to the proposals for what will be charged, there was one other issue of relevance to the blog in the paper under the title of other budget changes. These are potential changes that the council say don’t meet the significant and materiality thresholds but are likely to have high public interest. The item is titled Mass Transit Network.

An expanded and well-connected mass transit network is at the heart of Auckland Transport’s plans for supporting growth in existing urban and future urban areas. Auckland Transport has indicated the intention to accelerate planning and design works on routes and the most optimal mode, whether it be bus or light rail. It has also indicated the opportunity for early acquisition of strategically important properties. The debt impact is projected to be approximately $40 million in 2017/18.

Speeding up the process for these big PT projects would certainly be welcome.

What do you think of the Mayors proposals?

Why we do this

Here is a great 15 minute look back at the work of Streetsblog and Streetsfilms from New York, that articulates the motivation behind what we do here at Transportblog. However modestly compared to their output. This is a worldwide movement; the profound improvement of lives, one street at a time. It is also, I believe, unstoppable, simply because it is so effective, so overdue, and therefore so powerful.

And it is, ultimately, about ending the dominance of our streets by traffic, about returning balance to this easily overlooked but vital slice of public space. Everything is interconnected in this increasingly urban age, and the street is really were it all comes together in the city. Get the streets right and so much else will follow; from human wellbeing to wealth creation and equity, from public health to personal freedom and opportunity, from environmental sustainability to social resilience and security.

A great thing in the film is also something we are seeing here; the mainstreaming of these ideas into our institutions. This does sometimes lead to confusion for some people, as when the Council, Auckland Transport, or NZTA do something we agree with we do of course praise them, yet some people think we should only ever be critical and never supportive. This is naive and would be counter-productive. Rather we would love to be made unnecessary; we believe our views are rational and supported by evidence and deserve to be the official ones. Here’s to the next decade and more of constant improvement and reasoned and evidenced activism. And thanks for reading.

Odd Compromise for AT Board?

A couple of weeks back new mayor Phil Goff announced that he was considering not appointing councillors to the board of Auckland Transport. Under the legislation that established Auckland Council (and Auckland Transport), up to two councillors can be appointed to the Board, although there is no requirement for this appointment to be made. In a post on the issue I noted that this might not be a bad move, as councillors/directors face some challenging conflicts of interest in performing both roles, and not having councillors on the Board may ‘free up’ the council to use its other accountability mechanisms more.

Goff’s decision to re-evaluate the decision in a year’s time seems like a good solution. If it turns out AT start making even stupider decisions then some Councillors could always be added back again. What’s not clear is if the council will then appoint some directors on a one year term to make up the board numbers.

Six years in it feels like now is an appropriate time to shake things up to change how the organisation is run at both a board and management level to ensure we get better outcomes.

Unsurprisingly there has been a mixed reaction to Goff’s announcement, including a number of councillors rightly pointing it out that this is actually a decision for the council as a whole, rather than just the Mayor. A few slightly harsh early lessons about the difference between Central and Local government perhaps?

In any case, a report is going to tomorrow’s Governing Body meeting on the topic, with the Mayor proposing a somewhat interesting compromise of inviting councillors to apply for the vacant board positions and have their applications assessed against all other applicants:

board-councillors

A bit more context is provided in the report, including comments from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG):

board-councillors-2

The whole approach seems a bit strange, if I’m honest. The whole purpose of having councillors on the AT Board is so that they can ensure AT acts in the interests of the council, its shareholder. The legislation that enables councillors on the AT Board is different to other CCOs, where they are banned, because transport is such a large area of investment for the council and has such massive impacts on all sorts of key outcomes. Obviously it’s also where council elections are won and lost, so clearly elected members have a massive interest in transport – and rightly so. While councillors may have many of the skills required to be good “board directors” the public expectation is that any councillors on the AT Board are there to act in their role as elected councillors and ensure Auckland Transport is acting in a way that’s consistent with the council’s agreed direction.

Goff’s suggested approach seems to continue this ‘muddying of the waters’ where any councillors who end up on the AT Board will continue to have a very unclear idea of whether they should be acting like independent board directors or whether they should be acting in the interests of the council as AT’s shareholder.

It will certainly be an interesting discussion to follow on the council’s livestream.

New Auckland Councillor Maiden Speeches

Yesterday the new Auckland Councillors gave their maiden speeches. The ones delivered by Efeso Collins from the Manukau Ward and Richard Hills from the North Shore ward were particularly good. Watch them here

Here’s Daniel Newman from the Manurewa-Papakura ward and Greg Sayers from the Rodney ward

And finally Desley Simpson from the Orakei Ward.

North Shore Councillors Decided

The final tally is in, and the Mayor along with all the Councillors for the 3rd Supercity Council are now known, most were confirmed on Saturday, however the race for the second ward position for the North Shore went down to special votes, as Richard Hills was only 70 votes ahead at the time.

The final result for the two Councillor positions for the North Shore was

1.     Chris Darby  19396 Votes

2.     Richard Hills 12651 Votes

Grant Gillion who was 70 odd votes behind at the Preliminary count finished on 12523 votes, Richard Hills increased his margin after special voting was counted to 128 votes.

Richard Hills should be a good addition to the Council from a Transport perspective, he campaigned on in his words “Better public transport, cheaper fares, more walking and cycling initiatives including Skypath and secure Rail to the Shore,”

He scored an A+ on Generation Zero’s Scorecard & has served two terms on Kaipatiki Local Board. Along with Darby it looks like the North Shore have voted 2 very PT focused candidates with both advocating for Cycling, as well as Rail for the Shore.

As far as I am aware he ran a positive campaign, and like Chloe used Social Media to very good effect.

The Final Council make is now as follows with the final votes, Bill Cashmore is N/A as he was elected unopposed.

(Note ignore text below title, these are the final not provisional results)

Confirmed Results

The final turnout was 38.5% after special votes had been counted, and 18000 votes were made on the Saturday.

The Victoria St Linear Park: Why it is vital, but not really a park.

This is one of a series of posts I intend to do about about the city streetscape we ought to be able to expect as a result of the CRL rebuild.

This one will describe the Council’s plans for inner western Victoria St, around the CRL portals, because it seems they are not well understood, especially by some at Auckland Transport, based on the recent release of a proposed design from the CRL team that appears to completely ignore the agreed streets level outcomes. In further posts I will:

  • Consider this problem; transport professionals dismissing place quality outcomes as frivolous or unnecessary, or as a threat to their authority, as a professional culture issue.
  • Have a close look at some of the bus routes through the City Centre, as these are often highly contested by multiple parties, and have a huge bearing on road space requirements

linear-park

linear-park-renderlinear-park

Last week Councillor Darby sent me a whole stack of work done by the Council on the Linear Park, I will reproduce some of this here, but I urge everyone interested to follow the links below; there’s a huge amount of multilayered work showing how the proposal was arrived at and just how important it is:

  1. The Green Link
  2. Aotea Station Public Realm

The first point I would like to make is that I am talking here about the finished outcomes not the interim ones that need to accommodate work-rounds of the street disruption caused by the construction of the CRL. This is about the early 2020s; what is best for when the CRL is open and running, when the new buildings going up, and about to go up, in the city are occupied, and the pedestrian demands are many times greater than currently. It may seem a long way off, but contracts are being agreed now, and if we aren’t careful we will find ourselves locked into poor outcomes that will prove expense to fix. And, remember, this is dividend time; when the city starts to reap the reward of all the expense and disruption of building the CRL itself. This is an important part of why we are doing it: to substantially upgrade and improve every aspect and performance of the whole city as possible, including its heart. Transport infrastructure is a means to an end; not an end in it self.

Second is to suggest that it has been perhaps a little unhelpful that Council called this reclamation of city street a ‘Park’. I can see why they have, this is a repurposing of space from vehicle use to people use, and it does offer the opportunity for new high quality design elements, which is similar to what happens in a park. But I think this undersells the full complexity of what is happening here. There is a great deal of functionality and hard rationality in this scheme, as well as the promise of beauty and the city uplifted.

The place to start is the CEWT study [City East West Transport Study]. This set a very rational and ordered taxonomy of the Centre City east west streets, concluding that Victoria St’s priority will need to shift to a strong pedestrian bias, be the only crosstown cycle route between K Rd and Quay St, and enable a reduced but still efficient general traffic load:

CEWT Preferred Option

Note that east west bus movements are kept to Wellesley and Customs Sts. This greatly helps Victoria St’s space location as shown below. It is becoming clear that AT now want to return buses here. I believe this is a very poor idea, and will unpack why in a following post. So many poor place and pedestrian outcomes follow directly from trying to get both buses and general traffic trough inner Victoria St, and it is still a very hard street to try to shove buses through in terms of their own functionality, and that of the other general traffic. As well as leading to the total deletion of the only Centre City east/west cycle route. Here is how it was shown in CEWT:

CEWT Victoria St

Now turning to the newer iteration from the docs linked to above. The key issue is that the sections of the ‘Park’ around the station entrances on Victoria are focussed on pedestrian capacity rather than place amenity:

lower-vic-st-final

Not a park as in a verdant garden, but largely hard paving for efficient and high capacity pedestrian movement under an elevated tree canopy. Very much an urban condition tailored to met the massively increased pedestrian numbers that we know will be here. Particularly from the CRL itself, but also from the rapid growth and intensification of the whole city centre as it builds up around them, and of course the considerable bus volumes on Albert and Bus or LRT on Queen St. At the core this is simply classical ‘predict and provide’ that surely even most unreconstructed and obdurate of engineers can understand. Meeting projected pedestrian demand; not just an aesthetic upgrade, though why we wouldn’t do that while we’re at it, I can’t imagine.

pedestrian-circ

Because this station sits directly below the greatest concentration of employment in the whole country, as well the biggest educational centre, retail precinct, hotel location, and the nation’s fastest growing residential population, we can expect these entrances to immediately be very busy. The plan on opening is for there to be 18 trains an hour each way through this station all with up 750 people [or even 1000 when really packed] alighting and another load boarding, all milling a round; waiting or rushing. And mixing on the streets with all the other people not even using the system. This will make for a very busy place. Their will be thousands of people walking around here at the peaks. Many more than those  that use the entire Hobson/Nelson couplet in their cars over the same period. This will need space. Furthermore urban rail systems are very long term investments, what may be adequate for the first few years of the CRL is unlikely to sufficient for the years ahead, let alone decades. There is a clear need for the space for this human traffic to be generous to begin with, to err on the side of spare capacity. This really is no moment to design for the short term, once built that tunnel isn’t moving.

albert-to-queen-plan

aotea-portal-axio

hobson-to-albert-plan

albert-to-federal-axio

So has any work been done to picture this demand? Yes. Though to my inexpert eyes this looks a little light:

ped-volume-study

 

In particular the pedestrian traffic heading north, ie crossing Victoria St looks underrepresented. There will be no entrance to the station on the north side of Victoria street. Everyone heading that way has to come out of one of the east/west exists and crossover at street level. The document above does at least point out the pinch points between the exits and buildings on Victoria. And it is these that AT must be planning on squeezing further to get four traffic lanes back into Victoria St. One lane comes from deleting the cyclists, and the other must be from squeezing pedestrians passing the stations entrances. Just don’t AT; therein lies madness, very expensive to move a station entrance once built. And frankly a 5m width here between hard building edges is already tight and mean. Somewhere in AT the old habits of not really expecting people to turn up and low use of the very thing the agency is building seem to have crept back up to dominate thinking, and all for what? Vehicle traffic priority. The most spatially inefficient use of valuable street space in the very heart of our transforming city.

The extra wide pedestrian space that the Linear Park provides doesn’t just have value immediately around the station portals. Stretching up to Albert Park and the University beyond to the east and up on the flat plateau of western Victoria St offering a good pedestrian route to the new offices and dwellings on Victoria St West and Wynyard Quarter beyond. But as the distance increases from the big sources of pedestrians then the condition of the amenity can become more place focussed and more planting and ‘lingering’ amenity can be added, yet it will still need to primarily serve these Active Mode movement functions well:

linear-park-connections

And it is important to acknowledge this is a ‘substantial change’ from present condition. The Council recognise, and it is impossible to disagree, that there is nothing to be gained by trying sustain the status quo here. The CRL is brings huge change to the city and  how it is used and this needs to be reflected in very nature of our streets as well as in our travel habits:

network-change

 

cycle-strategy

The Centre City Cycle Network is hopelessly incomplete without some way to access both the Queen St valley and Victoria Park from the Nelson St Cycleway. And if not on Victoria then where? Not with all the buses and bus stops on Wellesley St.

And lastly, other than the never fully successful Aotea Square there has been no new public realm in the City Centre since the Victorians set out Albert, Victoria, and Myers parks. There are now many more people living, working, and playing in the city than ever before, and other than repurposing, or burying, motorways, or demolishing buildings, the streets are the only chance to provide quality space for everyone. This is so much more valuable than slavishly following last century’s subjugation to motor vehicle domination. We know better than this now. Vehicles will fit into whatever space we provide and people will flood the rest. And the later is the more valuable street-use for a thriving, more inclusive, and competitive, and sustainable urban centre to lead the nation this century.

linear-park-vision

 

 

2016 Council Election Results

Today Auckland gets a new Mayor and at least three new Councillors. As of the time this post goes up there’s only half an hour left to cast a vote. If you haven’t yet voted and still want to you better get moving fast.  Results start coming through from 2pm and if it’s anything like last time, most outcomes should be mostly known within a couple of hours.

Voting returns as of yesterday are tracking at the abysmal level of just 35.2%, only slightly above the 2013 results for the same time. Voting is also tracking behind other major cities in NZ with results for Wellington City Council tracking at 40% and Christchurch City Council slightly ahead at 36%.

votes-received-compared-to-previous-years-to-oct-07

And here are this year’s results by council ward. Orakei currently has the highest percentage of votes returned at 44.2%. Voting in South Auckland is particularly low and currently below 30%

votes-received-by-ward-to-oct-07

Once the results start coming through we’ll update this post to keep track of how things are going.

There will of course be some things we’re keeping a close eye on. A few include:

  • Most expect Phil Goff to win and if that happens, just how big will the margin be?
  • How will Chloe Swarbrick do, could she end up third?
  • Will Mark Thomas, who has put in a huge effort in getting around the region, get fewer votes than Penny Bright as polls have indicated?
  • Who will be the minimum of three new Councillors and will any sitting Councillors be voted out?

And a few predictions to be judged in a few hour’s time. There is nothing to base this on other than gut feel but some are much harder than others

Mayor: Phil Goff

Councillors

  • Rodney: Penny Webster
  • Albany: This might be the hardest to pick of all races. I’m going to pick John Watson and Graeme Lowe
  • North Shore: I think Chris Darby should win but the second seat is a tough one. Perhaps Grant Gillon will edge out the other contenders.
  • Waitakere: I suspect Penny Hulse and Linda Cooper will be re-elected once again.
  • Whau: Ross Clow to retain the seat
  • Waitemata: I think Mike Lee will hold his seat but not by anywhere near the margin he’s had before.
  • Albert-Eden-Roskill: The two incumbents of Cathy Casey and Christine Fletcher to retain their seats
  • Orakei: Desley Simpson will likely easily win this
  • Maungakiekie-Tamaki: Denise Krum to remain
  • Howick: There have been some good new faces in the campaign but I suspect the existing Councillors of Dick Quax and Sharon Stewart will hold on.
  • Manukau: Alf Filipaina and Efeso Collins to win the seat
  • Manurewa-Papakura: The two sitting Councillors of Calum Penrose and Sir John Walker to retain their seats
  • Franklin: Bill Cashmore has already been re-elected unopposed

Put your picks in the comments (before the results)

I’ll probably also keep an eye on some results from other locations – such as Wellington which is also getting a new Mayor and has had a lot of potential candidates standing, many of whom have stood on platforms of backing big roading investments.

Update

Results are here.

Phil Goff wins by a large margin

2016-auckland-mayoral-result

Looks like we’ll have quite a few changes for the council with a few sitting Councillors being beaten. Peliminary results for wards are

  • Rodney: Greg Sayers has tipped out Penny Webster by a large margin
  • Albany: John Watson and Wayne Walker have both retained their seats
  • North Shore: Chris Darby wins easily and Richard Hills is just ahead of Grant Gillon. It’s going to come down to special votes.
  • Waitakere: Penny Hulse and Linda Cooper are both re-elected.
  • Whau: Ross Clow wins again
  • Waitemata: Mike Lee wins but sees his margin reduced.
  • Albert-Eden-Roskill: Cathy Casey and Christine Fletcher both easily win seats
  • Orakei: Desley Simpson was always likely to win
  • Maungakiekie-Tamaki: Denise Krum wins easily, this was a close election in 2013
  • Howick: Dick Quax and Sharon Stewart are way ahead in votes to their rivals
  • Manukau: Alf Filipaina and Efeso Collins win the two seat
  • Manurewa-Papakura: Daniel Newman and Sir John Walker win, tipping out Calum Penrose
  • Franklin: Bill Cashmore who was elected unopposed

 

The plans for Albert St after the CRL

The City Rail Link is now under construction and will see most of Albert St dug up in the process of building the cut and cover tunnels. That presents Auckland Transport with a great opportunity on what is effectively a blank slate to reinstate it to a much higher standard than exists now. The Auckland City Centre Advisory Board (ACCAB) have endorsed spending $20 million from the City Centre Targeted Rate towards doing just that. A presentation to the ACCAB last week showed their latest design. But there are some major concerns about the design from the council and their comments suggest the CRL team have been operating too much in a silo.

Albert St has a bit of space to work with and as is 27.4m wide from Quay St through to Wellesley St, although that is narrowed by the lanes on the two blocks south of Wyndham St. At the same time there’s a lot to fit in there, especially as once the CRL is finished it will likely see a lot more people walking along it. It has also historically been the main route for buses from the western side of the city and while the CRL will reduce the need for some buses, the slots freed up will be needed for more services, especially from the Northwest as that area continues to develop.

So the first big issue that is raised in the presentation is the need to accommodate buses. There are two basic options discussed, inline bus stops where the bus stop is within the lane and offline bus stops where the stop is beside the lane so that it doesn’t block it, allowing for more buses to use the route. AT say the capacity of an inline bus stop is about 53 buses an hour while offline bus stops are limited by the number of stops that can be added. The trade-off is of course space.

city-centre-advisory-board-presentation-bus-capacities

AT say the predictions for bus numbers mean offline bus stops are needed along the corridor. That of course will impact on how wide footpaths will be. I’m not sure what the LRT scenario refers to.

city-centre-advisory-board-presentation-bus-predictions

The upgrade of Albert St will happen in two phases. The section north of Wyndham St (C2) will be build following the completion of the current works – which extend that far – while the section south of Wyndham St (C3) will happen after the main works, that include the Aotea Station, are complete.

The design for the C2 works are shown below and are more advanced than the C3 works later in the post.

city-centre-advisory-board-presentation-albert-st-wyndham-to-quay

 

The Lower Albert St section (north of Customs St) will be bus only.

city-centre-advisory-board-presentation-albert-st-lower-albert-st

There aren’t any detailed images for the section between Customs and Wolfe St but it appears the classic traffic engineers have got hold of the plans with dedicated right turn lanes and either bus stops or car parking narrowing down the footpaths.

Between Wolfe and Swanson St things get wider again and includes the addition of a number of trees.

city-centre-advisory-board-presentation-albert-st-swanson-to-wolfe

Here’s a visualisation of the street here. The presentation talks about a number of the environmental and design features included.

city-centre-advisory-board-presentation-albert-st-swanson-to-wolfe-visualisation

Between Swanson and Wyndham the footpaths narrow again to accommodate the offline bus stops in each direction.

Next up is the section south of Wyndham, the C3 section which contains the challenges such as the split level lanes on the eastern side.

city-centre-advisory-board-presentation-albert-st-wellesley-to-wyndham

There are some good things happening here with one of the biggest being the lane that accesses Durham St West. I believe the historic Bluestone wall is actually being moved as part of the CRL project as is needed to create space for the tunnels. That has the benefit of allowing for a wider footpath up at the road level which AT’s plans suggest will be between 2.71m and 2.94m in width, currently it’s only about 1.7m wide. AT’s plans also seem to make it safer to cross to that footpath with raised tables. In addition, the two carpark bridges will be removed so they won’t be spewing cars out onto that footpath. An image of the narrowed lane suggests it could be a shared space too.

city-centre-advisory-board-presentation-albert-st-durham-st-wall

The drawing showing just north of Victoria St shows one potential issue though with ventilation for the tracks being built into the footpath, which itself is not all that wide. These could potentially be quite large and unpleasant for pedestrians and is a bigger issue given the constrained nature of this section of road.

city-centre-advisory-board-presentation-albert-st-durham-st-exit

On the other side of the Victoria St intersection there is the issue with the planned NDG porte cochere that I raised recently.

city-centre-advisory-board-presentation-albert-st-aa-building

In the image above you can also see the space in the middle of the street, this is planned to be for skylights into the station. There will be seven in total referencing Matariki.

The section to Wellesley shows the eastern side next to the Crowne Plaza will be made much better for pedestrians although will still be narrow at the southern end thanks to the service lane exit and the dedicated right hand turn pocket. It’s not clear why this turning pocket is even there given how busy this area is bound to be with people.

city-centre-advisory-board-presentation-albert-st-crowne-plaza

Mayoral Dr outside of the main station entrance remains virtually unchanged.

The last part of this presentation to cover is Victoria St and it’s here where things get really concerning. The drawings show fairly narrow footpaths on the southern side for what will be one of the busiest people part of the city and it seems that has happened in the madness to try and accommodate four lanes of traffic. This is very much a case of cars being put before people.

city-centre-advisory-board-presentation-victoria-st

Even worse is it appears AT are completely ignoring the formally adopted City Centre Master Plan which calls for Victoria St to become a linear park linking Albert Park and Victoria Park, the Governments Urban Cycleway Programme which shows Victoria St as a key east-west route and even their own internal studies on space allocation – which is shown below.

CEWT Victoria St

Hell even AT’s formal visualisations of the station entrance show this, as do these plans.

Aotea Station - Victoria Entrance

Given the plans presented to the ACCAB are meant to be the most recent it is very concerning.

Below are the proposed widths of the roads mentioned above.

city-centre-advisory-board-presentation-albert-st-widths

The presentation notes feedback from the council and an internal AT review was expected to be due back before the ACCAB meeting. As such the Council’s Design Review Panel report is also included in the meeting agenda and it is extremely critical of the designs the CRL team have come up with. The report covers in a fair amount of detail the council’s views on the design and includes some fairly concerning comments, including that the CRL team have been working in a silo over the design.

Albert Street- between Wyndham and Quay Streets- has been through a rigorous design process, informed by a consulted Reference Design (ADO, 2014-15) and Detailed Design (Boffa Miskell, 2015). However, the current design developed since October 2015 has been developed without consultation external to CRL and AT Metro. The current design is a remnant of the former Detailed Design- but lacks design cohesion with long indented bus bays, turn lanes and an imbalanced single block of street trees.

and

However, of much greater concern for the Panel is the pending approval of the C3 Reference Design in the next month. C3 for Albert Street includes the section between Wyndham and Mayoral which was not investigated in Reference Design and Detailed Design process, nor sufficiently consulted. The structure of the C3 contract is a $1.6bn design-build, limiting Council’s ability to inform the streetscape design.

This is significant as this scope includes the two eastern side slip-lanes, the median skylight features, footpath train station vent structures, Crowne Plaza access and direct interface with two major developers, NDG and Sky City. However, of greatest concern is the interface design with Aotea Station and its resulting effects on the pedestrian space on Victoria Street and Wellesley Street. The plans depicted at the panel review are the first Auckland Council has seen the implications of AT’s preference for Victoria Street as a four-lane street. This is not a view supported in the 2012 City Centre Masterplan which is the council family and politically endorsed plan for the city that should be referenced by CRL. For instance the implications of shifting the Aotea Station closer to NDG requires further study. The 4 southeast “pinch point” at the Wellesley Street intersection is currently the city centre’s most dangerous. The Panel is not comfortable with the resolution depicted in the current design.

As mentioned, there is a lot more detail in the report. Overall they summarise their feedback as:

Despite an initially bold and collaborative design process, the current Albert Street design reviewed by CPDRP is underwhelming and requires effort to get back on track to avoid returning to the austere and utilitarian condition where the street started. Furthermore the design falls short on achieving many of the project objectives as presented in the briefing report.

Ouch.

The minutes of the meeting note:

  • the CRL Project Director noted there will be plenty of opportunity next year (2017), once the Auckland City Centre Advisory Board has reconvened, to address any concerns in the public realm design, under both the C2 and C3 contracts
  • the CRL Project Director invited the board to have 2 representatives to attend the monthly CRL urban realm steering meetings

That doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence that AT will actually make any improvements.

Unitary Plan hits a snag

In August we celebrated as the Unitary Plan was finally approved by the council and then formally notified after a four-year roller coaster of a process. Even better was the end result was actually pretty good, far better than we could have hoped for back in February after the agreed to most of the changes the Independent Hearings Panel made. Things were looking up, that we might actually be able to start to addressing the housing crisis that has pushed people out of the city or even worse, to have to live in a car.

Unfortunately, yesterday the council announced the plan had suffered the same fate as car below after running into an Auckland 2040/Character Coalition shaped bollard (we could also do with some of those bollards in our bus lanes)

car-crash-bollard

Following notification of the Unitary Plan on August 19, there was a 20 working day window for people to appeal the plan. Appeals were possible to the High Court on points of law but there were limited rights of appeal to the environment court “where the council either rejects a recommendation made by the Panel, or accepts a Panel recommendation that is identified as being beyond the scope of submissions on the PAUP” (Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan). In total there were 106 appeals, 65 to the Environment Court, 41 to the High Court, and eight applications for a judicial review.

Most of those only related to specific sites, such as a land owner complaining about the zoning of their property. But the council have deemed that a joint appeal by Auckland 2040 and the Character Coalition on the residential zoning has meant that the zones and the zoning and maps can’t become operative. Here’s what the council says about it.

However a joint appeal lodged by Auckland 2040 and the Character Coalition, which is broad in scope, has the potential to impact residential development across Auckland.

Because that appeal challenges certain zoning decisions, the zoning maps cannot become operative until that appeal is resolved. This may mean that applications for resource consent to develop a property will also need to be assessed against the relevant operative legacy planning zones and rules.

“Until all appeals are resolved, Auckland Council is required to assess all resource consent applications against parts of both the old and new plans,” says Ms Pirrit.

“Decisions will need to be made on a case by case basis as to how much weight can be given to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan versus the operative legacy district and regional plans.”

“In practical terms, this will add greater complexity and a degree of uncertainty for applicants while the appeal process is ongoing.”

So to get consent, developments will need separately pass the old and the new criteria. That sounds onerous and something bound to add a lot of cost to the process or could perhaps even stall much needed developments for up to a year until the appeal is resolved. This almost sounds like a nightmare and one of the worst case scenarios that could have happened.

It appears that even the Character Coalition were unaware of just how much impact their appeal would have, perhaps they got some bad advice.

At the same time, it wouldn’t surprise me if council are being overly cautious about this and are playing it conservatively to prevent further issue if it was perceived they weren’t taking the process seriously. Either way I certainly hope this is able to be resolved quickly because Auckland can’t afford any delays in trying to address the housing crisis that already exists.

For the parts of the plan that aren’t affected by this appeal, the council are holding their final governing body meeting of the term and staff have recommended they make those parts operative. This will also be the final meeting for Mayor Len Brown and Councillors Arthur Anae, George Wood and Cameron Brewer who are not standing for re-election.

Breathing new life into Aotea

Some good news last week with the announcement that the Council’s former Civic Administration Building – which was given Category A heritage status under the Unitary Plan – will be restored. To make things better, it will be joined by a number of new buildings filling in what is currently a dead zone surrounding it.

civic-administration-building-redevelopment

The iconic Civic Administration Building in Aotea Square will be restored and the surrounding area developed under a private sector proposal that will breathe life into a key part of our city centre.

The city’s urban development agency Panuku Development Auckland has selected Tawera Group to restore the Category A heritage building after an international tender process.

Tawera’s Civic Quarter proposal features residential apartments in the upper floors with food and beverage facilities on the ground floor of the existing building. There will also be a new apartment building on the Mayoral Drive corner, a new boutique hotel on Mayoral Drive and a building featuring a Whare Tapere performance space fronting Aotea Square.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown says Civic Quarter shows what is possible if we make the most of the opportunities we have with heritage buildings.

“With the population in the central city expected to double in the next 30 years, it’s essential we develop new accommodation options to make this a liveable city. This scheme is a fantastic way to achieve this. It’s all about making the most of the land and opportunities we have in a growing city.”

The mayor says Civic Quarter will bring a new edge to Aotea Square, with the hotel as well as the food and beverage offerings in the development adding vitality to this corner of Auckland’s arts precinct.

“And for Aucklanders the best news is that this partnership with a well-respected private sector developer will come at no cost to ratepayers.”

Panuku Project Director Clive Fuhr says after an extensive tender process it’s pleasing to announce the plans for a building that has remained largely empty since being vacated by the council.

“It was important to provide a viable commercial opportunity that would enable the restoration of a heritage building, the provision of more housing and the revitalisation of this precinct.”

Fuhr says Tawera was the lead tenderer from an Expressions of Interest and Request for Proposals process that attracted global interest and some impressive detailed submissions.

The Tawera proposal was selected with guidance from a panel of urban design experts and heritage advisors. Mana whenua were also part of the selection process, ensuring the Te Aranga Maori Design principles were incorporated.

“It was important we found the right partner to ensure both the heritage features of the building are protected and that it tells a strong Maori story. We were very impressed with Tawera who recently won the Property Council award for their Hopetoun Residences,” says Fuhr.

“Their scheme certainly gives effect to the objectives in the recently adopted Aotea Quarter Framework Plan.”

Tawera principal John Love says his team is excited to be part of this important development for Auckland.

“Civic Quarter is the kind of regeneration project that has won Tawera Group awards in the past.  It will blend an iconic Auckland landmark with cutting edge design ensuring that the Aotea Quarter becomes a must visit destination for all.”

Auckland Council Heritage Manager Noel Reardon, whose team was involved in the selection process, says the Civic was the city’s tallest building when it was completed in 1966 and it went on to become an icon of local government.

“It’s great news to see such an iconic building being restored. The council’s heritage team will work closely with the developers to ensure the heritage features are retained and restored.”

The next steps in the development will be for Tawera to work through the resource and building consents, particularly in terms of the refurbishment works.  Building is expected to start in mid-2017 and take three years.

This shows the expected layout of the buildings that are planned

civic-administration-building-redevelopment-plan

As a comparison, most of this space is currently carparks and largely unused dead space

civic-administration-building-redevelopment-plan-current

Here’s a video of what’s proposed, some of what’s proposed looks a little awkward but hopefully that can improve as the design evolves. I also hope a lot of care is taken with the design of those shared lanes. I do like that this part of Mayoral Dr will finally have some activation but that will also mean we need to ensure Mayoral Dr isn’t just left as a racetrack.

One thing that also struck me was how in some ways the Whare Tapere is a modern take on Tibor Donner’s original design for the area which included annexes on either side of the Civic Admin Building, as can be seen here. You can also see that image doesn’t include Mayoral Dr which was bulldozed through the area.