I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a better year for Auckland Council too. Last month I remarked on the growing unpopularity of the Super City and its ‘council controlled’ Auckland Transport and predicted the new government sooner or later will have to do something about it. Auckland Transport (AT) especially has become a lightning rod for public discontent. Easily the majority of the complaints I receive as a councillor relate to AT’s failings. As I mentioned last month there is growing frustration across my ward, from Westmere to Parnell, at AT’s interpretation of what ‘public consultation’ means, especially in relation to cycleways and the removal of on-street car parks. What has happened at Grey Lynn is particularly unfortunate. Back in 2016 (against the advice of myself and the Waitematā Local Board), AT log-rolled through the cycleway consultation process during the local body election interregnum. There was little apparent willingness to take into account community views. I know because I actually tried to participate, suggesting to AT officers that they trial a protected cycleway down the median strip in the centre of the road. This approach is used successfully overseas and does not impinge on car parks or traffic lanes. It’s a smart use of a very limited resource. But the AT people were not interested, it seems they had already made up their minds. Now cycleway construction in Grey Lynn and Westmere has raised a firestorm of opposition. Something similar is likely to happen in Parnell too if AT does not change its approach. AT is proposing cycle lanes for both sides of Gladstone Road, which will take out a lot of parking, some of it vital for the small retailers, and important for visitors to the Rose Gardens and the Holy Trinity Cathedral. This is causing major concern for local residents represented by the Parnell Community Committee and the Parnell Business Association. At the same time AT is planning major changes to parking rules, ‘parking improvements’, for the oldest parts of Parnell. Residents with no off-street parking are very worried about losing the right to park outside their homes. I attended the recent public consultation for local residents held in the annex of the Cathedral. AT was represented by a personable, polite man but I soon learned he was under strict orders from a committee of AT bureaucrats who apparently had very firm ideas on what they intended to do. That, I pointed out to him, is not the legal meaning of consultation – which is one has to be prepared to listen and to change one’s mind. I hope he does listen or rather the committee of bureaucrats he answers to does, otherwise Parnell is likely to see a repetition of the strife we are seeing in Grey Lynn. This is all avoidable. Auckland Transport after much trial and error has developed residential parking schemes in St Mary’s Bay and Freemans Bay which work well. It bemuses me why they just don’t apply similar rules to Parnell. This will solve the main concern for residents, losing their parks outside their homes. As I have reminded AT officers on numerous occasions, some parts of Auckland, mainly around the inner city were built in the 19th century before the invention of the motorcar, other more outer suburbs were built because of the motorcar. One size does not fit all.
Another concern is AT’s nine month stop work at Parnell Station where despite the station not being anywhere near complete, and way-finding signage to the Museum non-existent for visitors from the city, patronage is up by a third to 1833 boardings per week as at October. A collective of artists, Te Tuhi Centre for Arts, has recently expressed interest in leasing the historic station building as a studio but needs AT to complete construction of the platform stairs and connect services. The precast concrete staircases having been lying at the site for so long now that they are barely visible in the long grass and weeds that have grown up around them. Meanwhile work on the proposed connecting walkway to Nicholls Lane and Stanley Street essential for those commuting to the university that AT promised would be completed late in December has not even started at the time of writing.
Happily for AT and all the rest of us, the Auckland Transport board has appointed a new chief executive. It is my hope Shane Ellison will be the proverbial new broom who will bring about a much needed culture change at Auckland Transport. Now that would be a great new year present for everyone.
This article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2018 issue of The Hobson.