As we noted the other day, this year (indeed, this month and this week) marks a major anniversary: 70 years since the NZ government promised Auckland a fully walkable and bikeable harbour crossing. Auspiciously, 2016 also marks 40 years since a private advocate suggested the first solution for a retro-fitted pathway, thus kickstarting the process that led us to where we are now.

Longtime SkyPath supporter (and unofficial Cycle Action Auckland archivist) Kirsten Shouler has assembled the following timeline, so we can see how we got here – and who to thank!

1976 North Shore resident David Calvert proposes an underhung pathway for bikes suspended below the main carriageway. Despite major public interest in a bicycle crossing of any kind, the proposal is rejected by the Auckland Harbour Bridge Authority.

1979 Students undertake a protest ride across the AHB (as mentioned by Phil Robinson here).

From Jonathan Kennett's book Ride: the Story of Cycling in New Zealand.
From Jonathan Kennett’s book Ride: the Story of Cycling in New Zealand.

1979 The PATH Campaign (Pathways Across The Harbour) campaigns for access shuttles instead, and a trial run far exceeds expectations. (A modified bus took over the service but broke down so often it was unreliable). Public support for ways to cross the bridge on bikes culminates in a bicycle rally up Queen St, asking the Auckland Regional Authority to provide bike racks on buses.PATH Day copy

AHB Shuttle Bus
Auckland Harbour Bridge bike shuttle bus (image from the NZ Herald history of the AHB)

1980s and 1990s After the shuttle service ceases, lobbying largely goes quiet… but public enthusiasm for an AHB walking and cycling crossing never goes away.

1998 Cycle Action Auckland is formed, and over the next few years there’s a fresh push for a solution.

2003-2004 Graeme Knowles starts a petition to parliament which ultimately gathers around 6,700 signatures (no mean feat, in the days before widespread internet!).

Petition 2004 copy
Cover image of the 2004 petition.

2004 The petition is presented to a Select Committee, which recommends a feasibility study by Transit NZ – to be delivered within a year.

2006 Cycle Action Auckland continues to lobby Transit NZ and Government, without success.

2007 Transit NZ finally delivers the feasibility report, and while the official decision is not to proceed, the agency agrees that bridge strengthening will allow for walking and cycling.

2008 Bevan Woodward launches the Getacross Campaign, gathering 12,000 supporters, motivated by the impending 50th anniversary of the bridge opening. (The hope was also to ‘blaze a pathway across Auckland Harbour Bridge in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup’).

En route to a support rally in the city, there is a spontaneous crossing of the AHB by a group of cyclists from the north (including Judy Barfoot, staunch supporter of the campaign, then in her seventies – read her letter at the bottom of this column!).

2009 Demonstration of Support: more than 5,000 Aucklanders march across the AHB. The success of this march becomes a turning point for the campaign.

Graeme Knowles AHB 2009 copy
Graeme Knowles, getting across the bridge in 2009.

2010 The AHB Pathway Trust is formed by Bevan Woodward and others, to promote a private technical engineering solution and private funding proposal with a user-fee. Thanks to innovative private engineering concepts, the Trust progresses the design that will come to be known as SkyPath (based on Airey Consultants’ concept of a pathway structure hung under the eastern clip-on). NZTA agrees to permit SkyPath as a ‘community facility”, and Mayor Len Brown makes SkyPath one of his priorities for the Auckland SuperCity.

2011 NZTA reviews the design and agrees it is ‘a feasible engineering solution.’ Council sets up a steering group; Local Boards (Waitemata, Kaipatiki, Devonport-Takapuna) give their support in principle.

Initial concept designs are announced publicly in August 2011.

Bevan at Public Launch 2011 copy
Bevan Woodward (left) at the public launch of the Pathway in 2011
LenBrown&Bevan1 small copy
Bevan talks to Mayor Len Brown at the public launch, 2011.

2012 50th anniversary of the opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge; NZTA confirms that SkyPath will be a Preferred Option.

2013 Auckland Council agrees to investigate SkyPath and the privately funded PPP solution offered by the PIP Fund.

2014-15 A revised design for SkyPath, using innovative lightweight composite materials.

SkyPath Resource Consent is lodged, following widespread consultation. More than 10,000 people make submissions – overwhelmingly in support of the proposal (as you can see on the amazing interactive map below, created by Timothy Duhamel; zoom out to see the big picture!).

Although Resource Consent is granted, residents’ groups at both ends of the bridge appeal the decision (as detailed in our previous update post).

2016   Work on the proposal over the past three years comes back before Auckland Council, which will consider recommending a green light for the PPP arrangement. You can read the agenda for that meeting (and plenty of background material) here.

And in August, NZTA’s Board will receive a report regarding a Licence to Occupy for Skypath.

Later this year, the Environment Court will continue hearing the appeal by the Northcote Residents’ Association (some background on their objections in this 2015 article in Metro).

Meanwhile, negotiations between Council and the PIP Fund, as well as with NZTA, will continue alongside further design work.

2017…? Once final agreements are signed next year, construction can begin. We’re optimistic – an opening date in late 2017 is a tangible possibility.

SkyPath campaigners Christine Rose, Bevan Woodward and Kirsten Shouler. Photo by Jamie Bowering; from Greg Bruce's comprehensive Metro article.
Ever-optimistic SkyPath campaigners Christine Rose, Bevan Woodward and Kirsten Shouler. Photo by Jamie Bowering, from Greg Bruce’s comprehensive article in Metro magazine.

There are so many people to thank for getting the project this far. Many people, companies and organisations have given their time, expertise, and funds to get SkyPath to this point – not only the individuals mentioned above, but also groups who supported the cause, and anonymous heroes. The Hikurangi Foundation organized an appeal for public donations to fund basic design work; the Ministry for the Environment assisted with a Community Environment Fund Grant in 2012; and Heart of the City gave great support along the way.

Above all, SkyPath is a story of grass-roots support from Aucklanders, in the form of donations, volunteer contributions, and overwhelming enthusiasm. If you’ve been behind the idea in any form over the years, you have been absolutely fundamental. Thank you!

Harbour Bridge Cycleway
A GetAcross appeal for support, from 2009- 2010. If you contributed to this, pat yourself on the back. You’re a legend!
AHB no stock..
Once SkyPath happens, only the sheep and cows of Auckland will have a beef…
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4 responses to “The long road to SkyPath: a 40 year timeline

  1. Wow, it was great to be in the Town Hall yesterday to hear Councillors’ unanimous decision to proceed with the SkyPath private funding deal. Great presentations from Bike Auckland, Generation Zero, and Waitemata and Kaipatiki Local Boards set the scene. Let’s celebrate the huge grassroots energy from all those Cycle Action Auckland, Bike Auckland advocates and other Aucklanders who worked so hard and gave so generously over the years to make this day come. Thanks to all the Councillors who voted yes to the future -and behind the scenes, to NZTA and Auckland Council staff for their massive work and commitment. But most of all, respect to Bevan Woodward. His passion, perseverance and leadership have got the SkyPath dream this far. Now we’re all counting the days until the final details for the PPP, NZTA’s sign-off, and the Environment Court proceedings are resolved.

  2. At a time of Trump and Brexit, the decision is a victory for the democratic process. I’d guess there were more than a few Councillors who walked into that meeting with the thought that they would be voting against. The speakers and the brilliant analysis work from the Auckland Council team persuaded the doubters that Skypath is a financially prudent project. I have respect for people that change their minds based on evidence. Let’s also acknowledge Auckland Council staff the way some in the Community treat them is disgusting and most AC Staff I’ve met are professional, hardworking and in this case brilliant.

    In an election year candidates need to remember to show respect for Council staff when they start throwing around accusations of Council money wasting and inefficiency. No organisation is perfect and we are fortunate to have talented, dedicated people serving us at AC.

    Kevin Clarke and his small group have to be reconsidering whether to continue their action at the Environment Court, well for their sakes I hope they are. If they are truly on a crusade to protect the public of Auckland from a dangerous, fiscally imprudent and poorly considered project, when are they going to show respect to the large group of professionals who say otherwise.

    If as I suspect Kevin is just in this because he is fearful of people not in cars walking and cycling past his house. Then I hope he finds the courage and patience to see this project delivered and see that it’s not nearly as bad as feared. Then one day maybe Kevin, Janette, Phil and the others might try walking over the Skypath and enjoy it too.

  3. The photo of the old converted bus for the bike shuttle over the bridge brings back memories. As one of the 1970’s group of cyclists who irritated the Auckland Harbour Bridge Authority I could well have been in the photo but it must have been a different trip to my “usual”. I recognise a couple of faces but like me probably look quite different now!! The driver wasn’t the usual though….getting a bike up those narrow steps was not easy and nigh on impossible for many bikes. It certainly wasn’t a kneeling bus like now.

    Congratulations to the Skypath team. Once the AHBA and their empire was disbanded and the bridge went to the MOW some sense started to appear at the bridge. It’s a cheek the Northcote Residents Association complaining about the path when 35 years ago they were one of the biggest supporters of access for peds and cycles over the bridge…….they need to read their old minutes, pathetic!

    Richard Horner

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