Auckland City Centre buzzing to the sound of people

The Auckland Council Planning Committee considered a report today to approve the proposed process for updating and digitising the 2012 Auckland City Centre Masterplan (CCMP) and Waterfront Plan and to approve development of new Masterplan content for 2019:

i)     Māori Outcomes

ii)    Grafton Gully Boulevard

iii)    Access for Everyone

Here is my presentation under Local Board input in support of the report.

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Committee and to speak in support of the CCMP 2040 recommendations.  The Waitematā Local Board has provided consistent political support for the masterplan through the consultation in 2012, the target refresh in 2016 and through alignment with our latest local board plan priorities.  The masterplan was in many ways a ground breaking document for its clear vision, strong direction on major initiatives and innovative thinking.  It is fundamentally sound but the refresh of the proposed focus areas is timely.  I would like to particularly speak to Access for Everyone and provide a local board perspective.

Board member Richard Northey, who is very familiar to most of you was on Auckland City Council in 1979 when a trial pedestrianization took place on Queen Street.   The NZ Herald at the time mounted an editorial attack against the trial because, in their view, a modern city “buzzes with the sound of traffic”  [ Richard has further confirmed that the trial was also not continued because of concern it would make Auckland look like a backwater. Councillors thought it farcical and dangerous to have buses going through it moving at less than 30 kph and beeping to alert pdestrians. In Richard’s opinion it otherwise it worked well – retail sales were marginally up].

It is not surprising that the trial was unsuccessful.  It was an era of suburbanization based on car dependent development.  It wasn’t even legal to build homes in the city centre.

The city centre is now buzzing with the sound of people and we know that city centre productivity  is dependent on foot traffic not vehicle traffic. You will be familiar with  Auckland Council’s research unit ‘s (RIMU) work on the economic benefits of walking.  It found improved pedestrian connectivity equals an improved city centre economy.  The number of people walking on Queen St has doubled in the last 6 years.  People now out number cars on High St 13 to 1 .

As your report indicates growth and change in the heart of Tamaki Makaurau has been phenomenal.  When the Super city was created in 2010 approx 20,000 people lived in the city centre.  That number has grown to at least 57,000.  There are 118,000 jobs up from 78,000 in 2000. If vehicle numbers coming into city centre had kept  pace we would have needed 9 new parking buildings.  The majority of residents do now own a car .

The report outlines at para 44  the many benefits of taking an Access to Everyone approach. We know that our city centre residents are particularly concerned about air pollution, road safety and the well being of children living in the city.  The refresh as proposed will help deliver on the board’s accessibility plan, child friendly city commitment, low carbon plan and as well as the wider Auckland Council strategies and targets including the recent commitment to be an age friendly city.

I would also highlight as a benefit that re-allocating space and prioritising vehicles that need access will benefit drivers.

As part of the refresh we would urge you to support trials and temporary installations to demonstrate the city we would like to become.  For example a bollard on High St that goes up once deliveries are completed would transform the pedestrian experience over night.  As we say in our local board plan:  We support pilot projects and quick, low cost interventions to promote long term improvements to our streets.

We supported a Grafton Gully Boulevard concept proposal back in 2014 and more recently it has come through as priority in the Parnell plan (the report mentions this plan but just to note it is still in the process of being finalized through a community-led empowerment process). So we are very keen for the area of Stanley Street/The Strand to be included in the refresh.

I am sure when you get into your debate on the report you are going to hear a lot about needing to have courage to support Access for Everyone.   In fact it was the politicians who led the way in their cities in 1970’s and were at the forefront of prioritizing people over vehicle traffic who were the brave ones.  One Mayor in the Netherlands famously even received a death threat.

What you have before you is solid data to show it is necessary and the experience from other cities to show it works.  What you are being asked to support is the logical outcome of the way the city is growing and the demand for mobility choice as we’ve seen with the arrival of e-scooters being embraced for short transport trips. It is estimated that once the CRL opens and light rail is operational up Queen St and beyond there will be 370% more capacity for public transport trips into the city.

I acknowledge the founders who were instrumental in putting in place the conditions for Access for Everyone to now be possible.  We probably wouldn’t even be having this conversation if Cr Fletcher’s council hadn’t saved Britomart and if Cr Lee hadn’t secured rail electrification and new stations.  Even the motorway builders are part of the picture for putting in place the detours around the city that are fundamental to the effective operation of Access for Everyone.

As politicians we are all mindful of the headlines and letters in the Herald – even with all the competing sources of news.  Last Friday’s headline “City of Soles” headline captured the transformation that has occurred since the 1970’s. It recognizes that Access for Everyone puts people at its heart; that a modern, smart, great, extraordinary city centre buzzes with the sound of people.

 

The committee unanimously voted to support three new concepts in the City Centre Masterplan including Access for Everyone for further development and public consultation by the Planning Committee, with a view to seek committee approval by July 2019

Related reading

Council votes to trial turning central Auckland into a car-free zone

 

 

 

City Building: Auckland Transport’s “expectations” should not dictate our planning

An attachment to my March 2017 Board report

On 10 March I attended a joint Planning Committee and Waitematā Local Board workshop hosted by Panuku to discuss the extensive Waterfront and City Centre Work Programme.  Over the next year we are going to see the refresh of the Auckland Plan, the City Centre Masterplan and the Central Wharves Strategy and further work on the Wynyard Quarter Framework Plan.  The invite described the workshop as follows

Significant progress has been made towards achieving Auckland’s vision of our CBD waterfront as a world-class destination and economic driver for the region. The Council family is currently working together to build on this progress and refresh our thinking with respect to the changing context of the waterfront, so as to ensure that we continue to deliver on the potential for this crucial part of the city – from Harbour Bridge to Teal Park.

 You are invited to a workshop to inform the next stage of waterfront planning. The workshop will help you to fully understand the current state, interrogate the impending decisions, and provide guidance for the strategic refresh.

 This complex and ambitious development programme is being planned and delivered by an integrated taskforce from across Council, Panuku Development Auckland, ATEED and Auckland Transport.

After the workshop I wrote the following in a facebook post in reaction to one of the slides from the presentation:

Interesting to attend the Planning Committee workshop this morning on the waterfront and city centre work programme. What it really highlighted to me is how much of our planning is still being dictated by Auckland Transport engineers and their “expectations” and modelling of traffic volumes. The design of the city is a political decision. As we know from smart people like Ethan Kent (one of many international speakers we’ve been fortunate to host in Auckland) if we design for “cars and traffic we will get more traffic. If we design for people and places, we will get people” This is so clearly demonstrated on O’Connell Street. If we’d listened to the engineers the upgrade would have included car parking. Instead the politicians led by Shale Chambers set the vision for a shared space. It is working so well, especially while it is now temporarily closed for the developments nearby, the retailers would like it permanently closed to cars. As we move ahead into the next version of the Waterfront plan and City Centre master plan, Auckland Transport needs to ask what the vision is (e.g. a carfree city centre, a pedestrian first city centre, a child friendly city, low carbon city etc), the politicians should then confirm, after public consultation, the outcomes we want and we must then demand the city is built to achieve that vision.

O’Connell Street before and after (Photo Credit: Transport Blog)

Related reading

Council saves Linear Park from Auckland Transport’s clutches, Transport Blog

Auckland’s transport crisis: How it was made and why it will only get worse The Spinoff