The opening of the Roskill Safe Routes late last year was just Act 1 of an impressive plan for a neighbourhood built around safer streets and ecologically rich parks. Now, the widened paths and new crossings that form the Safe Routes will be complemented by a beautiful greenway alongside a lovingly restored waterway. As the rest of the city gets to grips with the power of greenways to transform neighborhoods, this will be a shining example.
First, a quick flashback to the official opening of the Roskill Safe Routes in November 2016. The completion of this $4.9m project was a huge win for the Puketapapa Local Board, which had patiently shepherded the vision through several years and a few bumps in the road, bringing together funding and planning from Auckland Transport (which runs the roads) and Auckland Council (which administers the parks) and gathering the support of the community.
At the opening ceremony, there was heaps of big love for this local project.
“Big things come in small packages,” said the Transport Minister Simon Bridges, speaking at one of three different opening events he attended in one day. “I see some young kiddies here who’ve already got their stack hats on, so they’re raring to go. Without getting nostalgic or twee, it is about them, actually. These very local pathways and cycleways are going to make a very important difference to this community, and will link in very strongly with everything else we’re doing in Auckland.”
Mayor Phil Goff continued the theme: “My generation used to bike or walk to school. Today, maybe about 3% of kids bike to school. Imagine what we can do in this city of ours if we get more kids back on their bikes or walking to school. We’ve got the vision, we know what we need to to, all we need is the money to do it.”
Julie Fairey, chair of the Puketapapa Local Board paid warm tribute to everyone who made the project happen – from former Local Board chair Richard Barter’s first vision of a “greenways plan, just like in Portland”, through to the workers from Downer who brought the project in on time, despite the weather.
The path runs from Mt Roskill War Memorial Park, through Keith Hay Park to Waikowhai Park on the shores of the Manukau Harbour (where it links to a new boardwalk around the waterfront – call that Act 2). And, once the Waterview Shared Path is complete – we hear late March/ into April – it’ll be possible to bike from the Manukau Harbour to the Waitemata via parks, safe paths, and off-road cycleways.
But wait – there’s more! Act 3 is a real showstopper: putting the ‘green’ into greenways, by restoring the historic waterway that runs through Mt Roskill’s ribbon of parks. Te Auaunga Awa, also known as Oakley Creek, is Auckland’s longest uninterrupted urban stream – most of it hasn’t been tunneled – but it has suffered from being denaturalised into a concrete channel with grassed banks.
Richard Barter explains the Te Auaunga Awa Restoration Project:
What we ride on when it is not a street (or road) answers to many names: bikeway, cycle path, greenway etc. Some off-street paths are very nice to ride, and some less so.
The path that runs alongside Te Auaunga Awa (Oakley Creek) through Walmsley and Underwood Reserves in Puketapapa/Mt Roskill is undergoing a transformation.
Right now, the awa (stream) runs in a concrete channel next to grass banks that need regularly mowing. (I once met the former council parks officer who created this arrangement to reduce the cost of maintenance).
To help reduce the flooding that results from the concreted waterway, Auckland Council, Puketapapa Local Board, mana whenua, community organisations and local schools are working together to improve the current situation and restore ecological value.
When the project is completed towards the end of next year, one will be able to cycle on paths alongside the Awa as it was before the arrival of Europeans. Very nice.
The substantial improvements will include:
- Naturalisation of Te Auaunga Awa (Oakley Creek), increasing its length from 1.3km to 1.5km
- Links to the shared path being constructed as part of the Waterview Project, including an underpass under Richardson Road.
- Construction of two new pedestrian bridges, new cycleways and footpaths (including a bridge linking to Owairaka Park)
- Play areas and a beginners’ BMX track
- An education zone, including outdoor classrooms and a community fale
- Native tree planting and a fruit tree orchard – with native plants/trees supplied by a local community nursery at Wesley Intermediate employing local youth. (The overall project will create additional apprenticeship opportunities for young people).
- Integrated artwork across the length of the site
Richard adds: Please be patient, as at times roads and the paths will be closed. (For more information, contact Barry Taylor firstname.lastname@example.org 0800 947 007 Mobile +64 27 705 6962 )