Chair’s monthly report February 2018

This is my first report of 2018 covering the period 13 December 2017 until 12 February 2018.

It was great to end the year with the launch of the Waitematā Local Board 2017 plan at the Ellen Melville Centre (photo below).   The evening also included a presentation by Deputy Chair Shale Chambers on the Board’s Achievement report 16/17. (Presentation Attachment 2)

After a summer break I got back to work on 15 January focused on catching up on correspondence, preparing for the year ahead and attending a range of meetings with community representatives.  Some of the issues I have been dealing with are outlined below.

The first board weekly workshop of the year was held on 30 January.

Maintenance

The board continues to receive complaints regarding the level of maintenance by Council’s contractor Ventia.  Many of these complaints stem from long standing poor levels of upkeep prior to Ventia taking over the maintenance contracts on 1 July 2017.

Working with the parks portfolio I am particularly focused on tackling the upkeep of our city centre squares and shared spaces and the weed issues in Rose Rd Gully in Grey Lynn Park and St Marys Bay reserve and footpath (photo right).

We are also seeing a decline in the level of maintenance of berms and kerbs by AT’s contractor Downer (AT has responded by withholding performance payments).  This contract will move to Ventia on 1 July.

Footpath and berm parking

Auckland Transport has stopped enforcement of parking on some berms and footpaths in the city centre following legal advice that signage is needed to enforce the relevant bylaw. This has led to an increase in complaints regarding a few hot spots such as on Union Street (Photo left).

This is a disappointingly cautious interpretation of AT’s responsibilities, but steps are under way to install appropriate signage so that enforcement can start.

Another parking issue I’m actively following up with AT is the long standing practice of car transporters using Great North Road no parking zones to unload vehicles putting all road users at unnecessary risk.

Waitematā Safe Routes update

Following the issues with the Waitemata Safer Routes project on Richmond Road and Garnet Road that were the focus of intense debate at the end of last year (reported on in my December Chair’s report) we are in the process of agreeing with Auckland Transport the way forward to address issues and develop an appropriate cycleway design that has buy-in from the wider community.

Auckland Transport has started a technical review of the routes including a safety audit and review of bus stop locations. AT will work with a Community Liaison Group for both routes.  The technical review is likely to take 4 – 6 months and will involve public consultation on any new design aspects.

Improved walking tracks

With the settled weather at the end of last year City Parks, on behalf of Regional Facilities Auckland, were able to make good progress finishing the track work from the Outer Fields up to Old Mill Rd (photo right).

It is great to see the work progress after many years of neglect of this bush area just off the Bullock Track.

Quay Street cycleway extension

In early January Auckland Transport started work on the Quay Street cycleway extension requiring the relocation of 14 trees from the central medium to maintain the existing number of vehicle and parking lanes (photo right – relocated tree at Teal Park).  The board would have preferred for the trees to remain, but supported Auckland Transport going through a notified resource consent process to determine whether the trees could be moved and under what conditions.

I took up Greg Edmonds’, Chief Infrastructure Officer, Auckland Transport, offer to discuss enhanced greening options for the corridor on 21 January.  The proposed design was then brought by AT to a board workshop and is progressing to ensure there is as much new planting as possible.

Auckland Transport has also brought the proposed design of the Tamaki Drive cycleway route (The Strand to Ngapipi Drive) back to the Board following concerns we raised about the safety of a section of shared path and the slip lanes at the intersection with Solent Street.

I have also raised concerns about the design with NZTA (who are responsible for the Strand intersection) as we need to ensure fit for purpose infrastructure is installed to cater for the projected increase in cycle numbers.

The network effect of connected, safe separated cycleway is having results by attracted new riders with a 7.9 % annual increase in 2017 (as reported in AT’s monthly report).   For the first time, on Waitangi Day, the Quay Street cycleway counter hit over 2000 trips.  (Photo right: Quay St on anniversary weekend)

Draft Regional Land Transport Plan budget

On 25 January Auckland Transport released the draft Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) budget with a massive reduction to the cycle budget, low prioritization of light right and cuts to rail operating funds. AT officials claimed it was just a draft for consultation. Chair of AT, Lester Levy quickly apologized for the draft saying it had been inadvertently released.

I attended Auckland Transport board meeting with Cr Chris Darby on 2 February to show my support for the AT Board directing management to redraft the RLTP budget to more accurately reflect priorities that Council and Government now give to walking and cycling, public transport and reducing carbon emissions.

The draft will go out for consultation at the same time as the Council’s 10 year budget on 28 February. [Since confirmed by AT that consultation will now start in April ]

Emergency preparedness information session

The Waitematā Local Board hosted an information session on 31 January for representatives from community facilities to discuss how we can best support emergency preparedness. Auckland Emergency Management identified the 13 facilities as potentially safe locations for people to gather in respond to any major humanitarian need.

We sought feedback about joining a network of locations that can support annual initiatives to educate and prepare our communities in case of a major disaster and help contribute towards building the resilience of our community. A follow up meeting will be held on 21 February.

Parnell Plan

The Board has started a long-awaited process to draft a Parnell Plan building on the work of the Parnell Community Committee’s Parnell Tomorrow document to develop a strategic vision for Parnell to influence the development of Auckland’s first suburb.

An introductory workshop was held on 12 February with a community working group.

I am the Board’s rep on the working group together with board member Vernon Tava (Richard Northey as alternate).

Events and functions:  13 December until 12 February

  • Ports of Auckland Community Reference Group meeting on 13 December
  • Basement Summer Pride Launch Lunch on 14 December
  • Local Board Plan Launch & Achievements Report presentation at Ellen Melville Centre on 14 December (Presentation Attachment 2)
  • Hanukkah Celebrations in Albert Park on 17 December
  • Auckland Transport CEO David Warburton leaving function on 18 December
  • Bugs Lab opening at Auckland Zoo on 19 December (photo right with Albert Eden Local Board member Jessica Rose and Cr Richard Hills)
  • Splice end of year celebration at Ellen Melville Centre on 19 December
  • Final workshop of the year followed by Christmas lunch for board members and staff
  • St Columba playground opening on 24 December (photo right)
  • Launch of Josephine Bartley’s election campaign for the Maungakiekie- Tāmaki ward on 20 January
  • Pouwhiri for the Tāmaki Herenga Waka Festival at the Viaduct Events Centre on 27 January (Photo below: On Aotearoa waka sailing with board member Adriana Christie at the invitation of Te Wananga o Aotearoa)
  • Launch of Vector Lights on Auckland Harbour Bridge at Little Shoal Bay on 27 January
  • Bike breakfast organised by Bike Auckland at Best Ugly Bagel on 1 February
  • Launch of Volume South by Auckland Museum on 1 February at Manukau Institute of Technology
  • Pride Festival Gala on 2 February at Q Theatre at the invitation of the Pride Festival Trust (photo right with former board member Christopher Dempsey, Barbara Holloway and Charmaine Ngarimu)
  • Attended Waitangi Day celebrations at Waitangi
  • Launch of the Anne Frank Let me be myself exhibition at Auckland Museum on 8 February (below)
  • Under the Mountain at Waterfront Theatre on 9 February at the invitation of ATC
  • Governor Hobson commemoration event organised by Friends of Symonds St Cemetery on 11 February

A people friendly premier park for Auckland

Draft plan display at the Auckland Lantern Festival
Draft plan display at the Auckland Lantern Festival

The grand Auckland War Memorial Museum sits in the city’s premier park, the Auckland Domain. You would expect the Domain and Museum to be easily accessible, a pleasure to visit on foot or bike with strong transport connections for tourists and locals. I therefore find it almost shocking the extent to which vehicles are prioritised to the detriment of everything else. Footpaths are missing on all the main roads, there is no legible walking access to the entrance of the museum and the Domain is severed from the city centre by a hostile motorway. Tourists are left bewildered and lost when they try to walk from the city centre to the Museum.

I’ve heard the Domain described as Auckland’s second biggest car park. This might make it a great place to drive to and through but also works to diminish the experience for everyone who just wants to visit. It also encourages a huge amount of non-Domain visitor parking (up to 75% of parking is taken up by commuters )

Grandstand Road (currently closed to traffic and parking)
Grandstand Road (currently closed to traffic and parking)

Many of the issues are highlighted in this Transport Blog post –Why can’t you walk to the Domain (illuminated further in all the comments)

I think part of the reason why the Domain is so lacking in safe walking and cycling connections is due to the fact Auckland City was historically governed by people who predominantly lived in the Eastern suburbs and enjoyed the Domain as a thoroughfare by car to the city centre or a place to drive to for sporting activities.  They would not have seen any political mileage in championing a more people- friendly Domain.

Things started to improve after the formation of the Super City in 2010. With the support of the Waitematā Local Board, Auckland Transport installed speed tables, a down hill cycle lane and improved crossing points on Domain Drive as part of package of safety initiatives. The Board adopted the following advocacy position in 2012:

Auckland Transport to improve walking and cycling access to and around the Domain, while discouraging commuter parking use of the Domain through:
i) Implementation of a parking scheme for the Domain that works to discourage commuter parking (e.g. through pricing)
ii) Improving walking and cycling options
iii) Contribute to the development of a Masterplan for the Domain (to be led by Auckland Council).

The idea for a Domain masterplan progressed slowly due to the unique governance arrangements for the park that splits the decision making between the Governing body and Waitematā Local Board. Once a joint Auckland Domain committee was established in February 2015  (Chair, Shale Chambers, members Vernon Tava and Rob Thomas represent the Board on the Committee) a draft plan was able to be finalised for public feedback.

The draft masterplan released in early February 2016,  is a twenty-year aspiration for how the park can develop and consolidate its position as Auckland’s premier park. It responds to issues and pressure points as well as coordinating projects and work streams impacting the Auckland Domain.

I haven’t been directly involved with the development of the draft but I’m pleased to see a variety of proposals that will greatly improve the connections for all visitors to the Domain.  The proposals will also improve access to those needing to drive and open up more parking for Domain users.  Headlines on the draft have focused on the walking and cycling proposals but there are also a range of other initiatives in the draft that will contribute to making the Domain worthy of its premier park status.

A series of Council videos about the Domain are worth a watch.

Consulation is open until 24 March 2016. Feedback form online

Related reading

Parks are for people – a fresh masterplan for the Domain, Bike Auckland post

Draft Domain Masterplan – Transport blog post

Auckland Domain to be more pedestrian friendly, Stuff

Auckland Domain development – roads to be closed, NZ Herald