Just in from Auckland Council’s planning department….
Trumpet and a drum roll…
…a positive report on the SkyPath Resource Consent Application!
We stress this isn’t the final decision on the application, but we also can’t overestimate its importance – it’s the vital progress we need.
The crucial next step is in early June. 2-8 June is when the hearing happens before the Commissioners appointed to hear from the SkyPath team of legal and other experts, plus the objectors and supporters. After the hearing, the Commissioners will make the decision to refuse or grant consent and state the consent conditions.
This Council report is important because it gives the Commissioners a clear recommendation in support of SkyPath’s application.
(Pause for massive applause! We all helped the SkyPath team get this result! Look at the numbers of you who wrote in support of the proposal!)
It’s clear from the report that Council agrees that SkyPath will be a fantastic asset for Auckland by not only providing walking and cycling access across the AHB, but actually improving the spaces under the existing bridge at both ends – and that most of the issues objectors have raised, including parking and traffic issues, can be dealt with by managing any adverse effects.
As the summary says:
“Overall, the proposal is a positive gain for the transport network of the Auckland regions, promoting alternative transport modes and active lifestyles. It also has the potential to contribute to the identity, character, and culture of Auckland, improving economic and social wellbeing. It is concluded that the proposed design minimises environmental impact and avoids, remedies or mitigates effects on the environment.”
We Especially Like: The Report says the hot button issues of parking and traffic can be managed
We’re very pleased that Report accepts that parking and traffic issues can be managed and mitigated, at both Northcote Point and around Westhaven. As the Council Planner says:
“…parking demand will adversely affect the existing amenity of the residential environment but (I) agree with the expert opinions for both the applicant and Council that these effects can be managed and mitigated to an acceptable level to ensure the proposal does not unduly compromise the traffic network. I also note that that on-street car parking is for general public use and not for the exclusive use of residents, commercial activity or Skypath. Overall, I consider that the traffic effects must be looked at in balance. The worst-case scenario for traffic at the landings (i.e. peak times) should not become the defining level of effects, as for the remainder (and majority) of the time, these effects would not exist.”
The report reviews the management and operational plans outlined by SkyPath, and says consent conditions will enable parking and traffic effects to be managed. We like its real-world reference to encouraging SkyPath users to use public transport, because this increased demand will help improve the ferry for residents as well.
But We Don’t Like: Operating Hours only 6am-10pm
The report recommends that access to SkyPath shall be limited to 6am-10pm, seven days a week.
Cycle Action strongly feels that this condition is too limiting and will especially inconvenience users who won’t be able to use SkyPath to get home in the evening (imagine closing the bridge itself at 10pm – not to mention, in summertime it’s barely dark by then!).
We know many of you submitted in support of longer opening hours – over three thousand of you, in fact, compared to one lonely voice who wanted shorter hours – and we’ll be including this request when we speak to the Hearing. We have confidence that this can be worked out. Let’s get the thing built first.
Cycle Action will be Speaking at the Hearing – and can represent supporters
We’ll be looking at the report in more detail before the Hearing in early June. Cycle Action is able to speak on behalf of like-minded supporters, so if you submitted in support and would like to be represented by the Cycle Action team led by Barbara Cuthbert, who is a professional planner with many years experience, please get in touch.
Barb’s hungry to hear from anyone with a compelling story to use in that presentation, so if you’re not planning to make a presentation yourself, please do contact her and share your story – don’t be shy about letting your voice be heard!
This is such a brilliant project for Auckland, and we’re doing everything we can to seeing it through to completion. As Barb says, it’s like a tug-of-war – “We’ve got hold of the rope. Now, to get this thing over the line, we need everyone to hold on tight and keep their feet on the ground.”
It’s a public hearing, too, so anyone is welcome to attend.
The SkyPath Resource Consent planner’s report is worth reading: it’s heavyweight, with hefty professional reports on everything from heritage issues to lighting, noise impacts, urban design, and much more, covering these planning and technical issues in detail. (No online link yet, but we’ll post it when it’s up). On the whole, we’re very happy to see that it gives the green light for SkyPath to advance to the Hearing in good shape.
After that – well……. there could be an appeal to the Environment Court and there are technical issues from the NZTA to finally sign off on the engineering design and operational planning for a Licence to Occupy. Auckland Council also needs to give full agreement to support the funding arrangements with the private investor.
Assuming all goes well, when do we see diggers/scaffolding etc?
We’d love to think that with full cooperation between all parties, construction could start in 2016. That’s right, as soon as next year, we could be moving from this:
Thanks to Kirsten Shouler, Barb Cuthbert, and Bevan Woodward for contributing to this post. Here are some more delicious images (courtesy of Reset Urban Design, via Bevan), to whet your appetite. Click for larger versions.