Another present under our Christmas Tree: the Te Atatu underpass!

What a fabulous finish to our year! The southern Te Atatu underpass is officially open, with direct access to McCormick Green open for holiday riding!

On Monday I rode out to Te Atatu from the city to help celebrate the opening of the Te Atatu Underpass. Sorry to confess I was distracted by pressure to finish Bike Auckland jobs and the challenge of moving my chickens and gear to Waiheke where we’ve hosting twenty people on Christmas day.

My mindset improved as soon as I got onto the new Nelson St route and saw loads of people riding it with me. My heart was singing by the time I reached the Upper Queen St bridge as people and bikes poured up from Ian McKinnon Drive to swing into Canada St and glide around the sumptuous curves of the Canada St bridge to the Pink Path. The waves and smiles told me we were all sharing the delight of our best-ever Christmas pressie.

It’s been a month since I’ve been on the NW Cycleway, and I was amazed by the progress. All that classy smooth seal, another bright yellow bridge, and expanses of wide pathway. Haven’t those contractors done us proud. Thanks ladies and gents doing the hard yards!

A small crowd was gathered below Te Atatu Rd by the time I reached the new underpass. I I was delighted to see Max had made it, because if one person is responsible for getting us the underpass, it’s Max. He prepared the bullets for me to fire when I presented for Bike Auckland at the Waterview Connection Board of Inquiry for the whole motorway and cycleway upgrade, and also represented us during the transport expert sessions. Here’s how we requested it – and how the Board of Inquiry gave it to us all.

It was terrific that MPs Alfred Ngaro and Phil Twyford attended the event, as well as Fulton Hogan’s super- collaborative project manager Brian Robertson and others from his team. Our Westie champ Phil Robinson was held up at work but Robin to his Batman Wayne Parlevliet was there. Our mates from the Waitemata Local Board, Pippa Coom and Christopher Dempsey, visited to help celebrate. And we welcomed Brenda Brady from the Henderson- Massey Board and wonderful allies for Bike Auckland, Brett Gliddon (NZTA Highways Manager for Auckland- Northland) and Elizabeth Collins, the Agency’s Auckland- Northland Communications Manager.

Alfred Ngaro MP and NZTA’s Mieszko Iwaskow cutting the ribbon, with help from local kids. (Photo: NZTA)

The NZTA and Beca / Aurecon have really excelled with this build. The quality of the riding and ornamental concrete surfaces is exceptional. The width of the underpass is a very generous 5m, with lovely wide approaches decorated with red-coloured concrete timber-fairfaced finishes.

Once inside the underpass, it’s like another world. The walls are decorated with a series of superb huge vibrant coloured murals recording the birds, plants and marine life from the harbour, inlets and foreshore around the Whau River, and telling the story of the weaving artistry of Te Kawerau a Maki iwi’s famous ancestor. The design and artwork are absolutely stunning – the work of Te Kawerau a Maki designer Reuben Kirkwood and renowned Graf artists, Daniel Tippett and Darryl Thompson.


Just one of the many painted panels in the underpass – it’s an art gallery! (Pic: Carol Green)

NZTA’s Project Delivery Manager, Mieszko Iwaskow (Mish to everyone), did a great job as MC – we need to see more of him in the role next year. I got to say a few words as well, but the show was stolen by the storytelling expertise of Rewi Spraggon from Te Kawerau a Maki. He enriched the sense of place and occasion by telling us about iwi involvement in the design of the murals, and the history of food-gathering in the Whau Estuary. (I now know that Te Atatu means ‘dawn’ and Patiki Rd records the flounder which were so numerous and a vital food source.)

Best of all was learning that the underpass locality is known as Rangi Matariki, linking to the views over to the east where the Pleiades cluster of stars rise in mid-winter, which for more of us is starting to be recognised as the beginning of the New Year. Think of this next time you ride it in winter, coming over the crest from the underpass to enter the Causeway.

te atatu underpass group photo
Brenda Brady from the Henderson-Massey Board; Carol Green of Bike Te Atatu; Barb Cuthbert of Bike Auckland; Alfred Ngaro MP; Christopher Dempsey and Pippa Coom of the Waitemata Local Board. And young locals, keen to ride! (Photo: Pippa Coom)

I opened my speech by asking Brett and Mish to provide an interpretation panel on the eastern approach to the underpass to share the treasure of Rewi’s stories. Phil, our Westie Champ, reminds me that when it is fully upgraded the NW Cycleway will be the longest and best quality urban cycleway in New Zealand; an urban ‘Great Ride’ to rival the rail trails. I talked later to Brett, who agreed that the whole of the NW Cycleway warrants well-designed storyboards, to celebrate its importance and to articulate the distinctive history of the various areas it traverses.

Back to the underpass: Max has reminded me I need to end by mentioning what a tremendous boost the underpass is. It not only saves time at the signals, but also ‘flattens out’ the cycleway by not having to go up and over Te Atatu Rd. Max would have loved to pull off a similar miracle at St Lukes Rd and Lincoln Rd, but those were approved hot on the heels of Waterview in processes that were less open to community involvement.

Another joy of the opening is to see the end of the temporary diversion around Royal Road, and direct access to link to McCormick Green. Roll on 2016, and the next big push to get us cycling the new stage of the Cycleway along the motorway to the new Henderson Bridge and Lincoln Rd!

Once again, thank you all for your support and patience along the way. So that as you go into the holidays, you can look back at a great year for cycling, before New Year we’ll do a nice big round-up of all the things that made 2015 such a tipping point. Check back here before we officially go on holiday for two weeks in January – we have a few more inspiring travel stories to pop under your tree as well!

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