Te Whau Pathway Consultation

Auckland Transport yesterday opened consultation on the proposed Te Whau Pathway, a 12km walking and cycling link between the Manukau and Waitemata harbours, mostly following the Whau river. Once fully completed in an estimated 5-8 years, the pathway is expected to connect 33 reserves, esplanade strips, sports parks, and roads along it’s route.

AT say some of the benefits of the project are

  • Provide safer, more convenient connections to the city centre and within neighbouring suburbs.
  • Offer better connections to 13 schools, and access to the Northwestern Cycleway and the proposed New Lynn to Avondale Shared Path.
  • Maximise opportunities to experience the Whau River, and improve access to the river for small boats and kayaks.
  • Offer new spaces for recreation (such as fishing and bird watching) and education.
  • Improve the natural environment through a clean-up of the water’s edge, restoration, and weed removal following construction.
  • Attract tourists and visitors from other neighbourhoods.

Here’s a map of what’s ultimately proposed and as you can see, some parts are already completed.

A few thoughts I’ve had about the proposal

  • I wonder if the option to straighten some of the route, especially near the NW motorway and at the New Lynn ends. I don’t think that would diminish the recreational value of the path but it could help make it more appealing for other journeys too. For example in the future we hope to have the NW busway with a station somewhere around Te Atatu and this path, if designed well, could provide an easy connection to that station for many residents in Glendene and Te Atatu South.
  • Likewise at the other end, the proposal seems to make no effort to improve connections to New Lynn which seems like a missed opportunity. Sure it connects to the New Lynn to Avondale path alongside the railway but a more direct connection from the North seems like it would be useful too.
  • As well as the path along the river, it seems a good opportunity to also provide some connections across the river too, to better link in the Rosebank peninsula. Some of the associated documentation suggests a future project of a bridge as an extension of Hepburn Rd.
  • AT say it will be a minimum of 3m wide however browsing through the various scheme plans shows suggests that all the boardwalk sections will be 4m with the narrower sections being those on land and through reserves. Could it not be kept 4m the entire route?
  • As mentioned earlier, the obvious intention of this is for recreational use however the completed section shown to the east of New Lynn is the existing cycle lanes on Portage Rd. These however are only paint and the lanes are often located outside parked cars. Unless there is an intention to improve this, which the documents indicate there isn’t, then this section won’t be used by families or less confident cyclists.

One thing important to note is AT say the boardwalks will be designed to account for sea level rise over the next 50 years

The pathway has been designed to last for 50 years. Because of predicted sea-level rise, the boardwalk has to be built for the predicted sea level in 50 year’s time, in a major storm event. A coastal processes assessment has estimated the sea level in year 2070 during a severe storm to be 3.46m (AVD-46 Datum) or 5.20m (Chart Datum). As a comparison, the current high tide generally spans between 1.2m to 1.8m (AVD-46 Datum).

The bottom of the boardwalk will be built at 3.5m. Any level lower than this will be a case-by-case scenario to be confirmed in detailed design. The height of boardwalk is yet to be confirmed and options to minimise the structure’s thickness are being explored.

Overall I find the path intriguing and has the potential to really improve connections to many of the communities along the route which are disconnected by not only geography but also in many cases, poor street networks. It certainly has the potential to be another of the fantastic recreational paths we’ve been building or have planned and I can imagine it will be something people will jump on the train to New Lynn with their bikes to ride along. With a few tweaks could also be much more functional for other trips too.