I have just returned from an extremely dispiriting experience. A room full of people including representatives from Local Boards, David Shearer the local MP, and many extremely frustrated members of the public were attempting to discuss the fate of the St Lukes Pohutukawa Six with a bunch of engineers from AT, NZTA, and the private sector. To no avail.

The meeting [which apparently wasn’t a meeting; but I’ll come to that later] was run by AT’s Howard Marshall, who despite an unfortunately arrogant air for such a role at least had the courtesy and courage to introduce himself, unlike the rest of the state and city apparatchiks and their subcontractors [who, for example, was the white haired man sitting with the public who summoned Marshall mid meeting into a whispered private conference from which he emerged even more defensive and inflexible?].

Marshall was determined that no discussion would take place, the commissioners had spoken, and as far as he was concerned that was all that mattered. A degree of self-serving pedantry that we have seen before on this matter. So here was a room full of the public faced with a public servant who somehow decided that the best way to get this beastly business over with was to define it out of existence; ‘this is not a public meeting’ he droned, over and over. The word ‘Kafka’ was soon being muttered in the row behind me as he answered very specific questions about the placement of lanes with his view on the metaphysics of this non-meeting.

But faced with the relatively straight-forward question about process he reached for new technique: ‘Could’, he was asked, ‘AT change its mind about destroying the trees if it found another way to deliver sufficient transport outcomes?’

Frozen silence.

Perhaps he was malfunctioning? Or was it just an absurd question to put to a Traffic Engineer? Could their work ever be improved? How could that be; look around this city – is it not an image of heavenly perfection? Or rather was he caught between admitting that they don’t have to do this, which is clearly true, AT change their minds frequently enough, and knowing that he was supposed to the hold the line against even the slightest hint that AT could stop this action by any means short of an order from the Environment Court? Yes.

St Lukes Masterplan

This all would be funny if weren’t for the miserably disingenuous document we were all given at the start of the non-meeting [presumably not-written and not-printed].

AT regrets’, it solemnly intones, ‘that the trees will be lost’ [lost; how careless!] ‘but a major benefit is that they will make way for cycle lanes to the motorway overbridge and for an extended buslanes and bus priority measures in Great North Rd’.

Ahhh so that’s it. It’s all those cycleways and buslanes… I see now, multi-laned bus priority and proper separated cycle lanes in every direction then? Marshall doubled down on this saying that the project is all about the great cycling, walking, and Public Transport outcomes.

Now really this has to stop. This is actually just lying. Shocking. Brazen. Barefaced lying; do they think we can’t see? Well in fact it is a bit hard to see. There was some considerable disagreement in the room about just how many traffic lanes we are getting across here. I make it 19 through the guts of it, including off ramps, and true, one of these is, briefly, a bright stripe of green for buses. One. The Traffic Engineer next to me thought he got to 17. But either way to characterise this project as anything other than a giant clusterfuck of autodependency is clearly wildly inaccurate. This is beyond double-down, this is gazillion-down. As is clear from the plan above, and despite the careful rendering of the gardening in rich tones to leap off the page and distract from the orgy of tarmac, the overwhelming majority of this part of the planet is now to be expensively dedicated to nothing but motoring. The World’s Most Drivable City. Place-Breaking.

There is, it’s true, proposed to be a new ‘shared path’, which of course is a footpath for both cyclists and pedestrians, where the six Pohutukawas are currently. A wide footpath is exactly what there is now, but under the limbs of those glorious trees. So how is a new one with only new smaller trees nearby an improvement? And why do they have to move it to where the trees are now? It couldn’t be because of the new double slip lane that AT insist on putting where the existing path is, could it? [never once mentioned by Marshall]. To claim that trees have to go for the ‘cycle lane’ [which isn’t even a cycle lane], but not because of the extra traffic lane is beyond disingenuous and is. really. just. lying.

All AT Experts Agree.

And as is clear from the following Tweet sent by the trees themselves, if it was really a matter of just finding space for a shared path then of course it could go behind the trees either through the car park as a shared space, or where there is currently mown grass under the trees. Not difficult to spot and design for an engineer of any competence, surely.

Behind the trees Behind the trees II

They must have considered this because our text informs us ‘AT would not proceed with the application to remove the trees… if there had been any other viable option, but all AT experts agreed that there was not’ Oh dear. Was this option considered he was asked? Of course, waving his hand dismissively saying it was presented to MOTAT and other local stakeholders that carparking would have to be removed to achieve this and apparently they all agreed that that couldn’t be allowed to happen. Delivered with the pained expression of a man explaining obvious things to a group of dimwitted children.

Fox in charge of the chicken coop. It is clear that this process is, frankly, rubbish.

Consider now how the pedestrian amenity in this ‘upgrade’ is to become more glorious by the removal of a direct route across Great North Rd. Once complete, any motorist lured to the lagoon of parking between the new Supersized SH16 and the new Supersized Great North Rd [or other actual pedestrians] will have to make three separate applications to the beg-buttons for permission to migrate from island to island to get to MOTAT or Western Springs. Should take about a week; or perhaps people will feel the hopelessness of this fate and either chance a gap in the traffic or just hurl themselves under a passing SUV….

So I call bullshit, AT, on any claim that this plan does anything except facilitate and promote further motorised vehicle use, and I don’t include buses in this. That they are intermittent buslanes on GNR hardly makes it a PT oriented project. That is the very least that the duplication of this road with SH16 should have long ago provided. Where is the North Western Busway: The Rapid transit line for this route for all those new citizens in the north west? The amenity that we know is the best way to keep the demand on the motorway from tripping into overload [from both the success of the Northern Busway, and theory]. Of the billions being spent on this massive project a couple metres of Kermit on GNR doesn’t give AT/NZTA any kind of figleaf to hide their Kardashian-scaled tarmac-fest behind.

But I digress, it is of course beyond AT’s engineers’ reach to fix the whole scope of the SH16 works, but still do they have to display their professional myopia quite so thoroughly on the small section of this massive but conceptually retrograde project in their care? And lie to us, and god knows to themselves, that they are really building a great new world for cyclists, pedestrians, and PT users?

‘Making travel by cycle and bus more efficient and convenient is consistent with AT’s drive to encourage Public Transport use. This will bring long-term benefits as more people choose alternative modes of transport to the car.’

Butter wouldn’t melt.

The withholding of one short traffic lane on GRN is all that is needed.

The double slip lane onto the bridge is not worth losing these trees for, but even if it were, why are there three east bound lanes opposite?  Two lanes turn from the bridge city bound onto GNR, and two lanes continue straight trough the intersection from west on GNR, one a disappearing buslane. That each of these traffic light cycles needs to leap from two lanes to three looks like mad super redundancy to this observer. Or at least having only two lanes for the length of the double slip lane opposite looks like a reasonable compromise as it would mean we could keep those trees. It’s just the reduction of this massive scheme by one lane for a short distance that resolves the issue. Can they really not manage that? Can they not see how this would also help conceal the full extent of the over-build here; would improve their project on every level?

But of course here we get to the real issue. I accuse those responsible for this outcome of professional incompetence. For they certainly are exhibiting it. What I mean, I suppose, is that they are being incompetent humans, more than incompetent traffic engineers. For in the extremely reduced definition of what they consider to be their job; maximising vehicle traffic flow through the monotonic provision of ever more lane supply and minimisation of ‘friction’ [anything, like pedestrian crossings, trees, whatever, to slow vehicles], they are efficient enough. But really should this job so defined ever exist? In isolation, that is, of course we want and need dedicated engineers, but can we as a city, as a species, afford to allow them this crazy disassociation of their task from the rest of life? Everyone gets benefit from those trees, not least of all those thousands of vehicle users that pass by them, or park under them. And they are now the only bit of civility and glory in an otherwise overkill of pavement. They are irreplaceable. And valuable beyond the dubious virtue of providing traffic flow predicted to be there, in 2026 no less, based on traffic models that are constantly shown to be wrong. Do these men see their job so autistically that they only value that tsunami of tarmac at any cost?

By rights these trees should still be there when both Mr Marshall and I are compost, our constituent atoms returned to make other life forms, in the great mystery of it all. They are a link to those people of The Great Depression who planted them, and even further back to when these trees and their cousins dominated this land. They are an invaluable link with the past through the present and into the future. How can it be that we grant people the right to blithely cut that link for one more lane in a world of nothing but traffic lanes?

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  1. ‘Do these men see their job so autistically that they only value that tsunami of tarmac at any cost?’ Sadly, the answer seems yes. This sort of Claytons ‘community liaison’ suggests that AT has become so beholden to the myth of the traffic engineer, so enthralled by the mysteries of tarmac that it has, in its ‘professional’ arrogance, become quite blind to the reality that its ‘solutions’ are the problem, that the age of motoring is over and that the 1960s standards it aspires to impose on us are no longer fit for purpose. Robert Moses might be dead but his spirit certainly seems to animate the traffic engineers controlling AT.

    1. Christopher T,

      Who said engineers were interested in making things “fit for purpose”? This from page 30 of NZ Contractor Perspectives (Jan 2015!): http://issuu.com/contrafed/docs/nz_contractor_perspectives_1501

      “Examples of onerous [contract] conditions include: …. Clauses requiring the completed works to be “fit for purpose”. (Apart from being impossible for the engineer/designer to effect, such a contract would again not require evidence of negligence for the consultant to be held liable.”
      — Kieren Shaw, Chief Executive, Association of Consulting Engineers New Zealand.

  2. This is pretty sad indeed. The council should put them back in their place, at the service of the people. A cause for their ‘blindness’ may be that they are too fixated on meeting deadlines. The outcome will stay for decades, it’s worth showing some flexibility on deadlines to improve our city for the next decades.

  3. Wow that diagram of all the roads looks like a nightmare; what are they trying to do, duplicate the motorway through western springs? All that is needed is a single lane for cars and a single lane for buses and some sort of lane for cyclists; preferably separated, drop the the absolutely over-abundant slip lanes…

    1. Totally agree both Patrick and Peter. The elephant in the room is car, don’t build around it, paint a bus lane on it. Sure leave one lane each way for a car. Give car a diet it will run better. I’m embarrassed to be an Engineer.Engineers are supposed to be problem solvers. Car mode share is the problem with both bus and cycle a full network down. The corridor balance needs to be fixed in it’s entirety. Traffic modeling based on the past is wrong, mark out a new future and things will correct fast.

      1. Because we know that once a motorway is built, the ordinariness of ordinary roads seems intolerable to the traffic engineer, whose idea of paradise is cars that seamlessly slip to their destination. Local roads must then become onramps, and part of the motorway system. Otherwise, the ideal has failed.

        Everything other than the free movement of single occupancy motor-vehicles is given secondary or tertiary consideration. Certainly, lived environment, climate and local air-quality impacts are well behind other considerations.

    2. Why are we supersizing car mode? its like we are on the biggest loser but adding 50kg each weigh in. Not putting in the full two missing networks first. Two viable options down. Reset the network fully add those two networks to grid. Then see rather than blindly adding car lanes and wasting money, creating hostile environments. Supply and demand but at the moment it is a false economy. Mark bus lanes on one car lane and remove parking and flush medians for protected cycle space. What is the goal motorways visible from space or a better place to live? The arterials are the filter, AT you can change this tap overnight.100% focus open up both networks or feed the nightmare?

    3. So no two way protected cycle then? And not a continuous bus lane? How wide is that 100m. Oh my God. Has anyone looked at that and thought maybe not the ultimate mode balance? This is Engineering 101. So is the intention adding a full busway on top of this in twenty years or keep widening for cars and take the monkeys out at the zoo. I think it is these guys that need to go in the monkey enclosure.

  4. my arteries are clogged with cholesterol so instead of getting on a diet or doing some cycling my cardiovascular engineer suggested me to remove a lung and just add some more arteries. Then when those are clogged just remove the other lung.

  5. This is symptomatic of the culture problem at Auckland Transport. They put cars ahead of people and communities again and again. They are not prioritising accessibility and mobility of all road users; just of motorists. They should not be in charge of deciding how we use our public spaces to achieve accessibility and mobility until this culture problem is sorted out. Start at the top. With the board.

  6. So what’s the next step then? If AT refuse to listen is it time for direct action? Physically stop the contractors from removing the trees? Does anyone know when that’s scheduled?

      1. Count me in. I’ll cycle there. This one really makes me mad: suggesting that the trees have to go to make room for cycling! Liars! And even then it’s a shared path not a cycle lane. Duh!

    1. Given the enormous public interest ( and it is enormous, many, many of us value these trees), and the arrogant official behaviour, the likelihood is that the chopping will not be announced but will be scheduled for first light.

      1. Well, AT have clarified that they will not do it untl the legal process has run it’s course – i.e. until either no appeals have been received, or the appeals process has run it’s course. Whatever else, I don’t believe they’d break that legal rule / promise they made. So there’s some time yet.

  7. But they wont be lost, they will be ground up into little pieces to make the sides of the motorway look like….well, the sides of every other bloody motorway, you know the way roading engineers think looks environmental and all pretty! I mean where do you plant the flax bushes otherwise, thank God AT is thinking ahead..

    You could try and vote these arrogant yesterdays men out but theres not point, AC is not set up for democratic input and it never was!.

  8. Its only six trees. No big deal imo. However, its probably cheaper (and more popular) just to ask NZTA to have the ramp signal on a faster cycle so that traffic doesn’t get held up on GNR. What is true however, is that only a small minority of Aucklander’s actually care about the trees…and the minority are very vocal about it.

    1. Another solution would be to move the footpath and cycle lane behind the trees and to have the extra lane where the current footpath is. Makes it way nicer for peds and cyclists imo. However, it’ll probably need some land acquisition.

      1. Richard the post suggests putting the footpath behind the trees but it appears they didn’t look at that or at best wrote it off quickly because it might mean discussing changes to parking

        1. In my opinion, putting the shared path behind the trees will probably need land acquisition. As cutting down the trees are cheaper, it is obvious which option AT/NZTA prefers. We could have two slip lanes on GNR, have a shared path, retained all parking, as well as retained the trees (the nearest one to the bridge may have to be removed), but oh well…..

          Patrick said that peds have to cross three crossing to get from the trees to MOTAT, however, if the lights were timed correctly, then it shouldn’t be too much of an issue

          1. Lights will be timed for car capacity, dummy. Quite seriously – in such intersection designs, there is no ability to prioritise pedestrians, unless that is one of the main project goals. Which it here, clearly isn’t, seeing that they are even removing a crossing. Plus, you cannot coordinate pedestrian signals together for all possible direction chains a pedestrian may want to use – you can only prioritise one direction, or example, in a chained sequence (unless you want to keep all three running green for peds at the same time long enough for someone to wander the whole length in one go from EITHER direction – in that case you could just as well provide a direct crossing – which they removed).

          2. In my opinion, given this is a $70M project, a shared path is sub standard and does not meet best practice. Likewise the crossings. End of story.

    2. Richard, it’s the principle of the unnecessary destruction of 80 year old trees that rankles most. While AT say the trees will be replaced, there is no way that replacing an 80 year old tree with a 5(?) year old one is “like for like” in terms of benefits to the surrounding environment. The same “no big deal” approach also applies to the Puhoi Warkworth toll road, where 376 mature kauri are in for the chop.

      1. Trees are simply placeholders for future roads. Treasured heritage trees in a public park were cut down in Whangarei for a ridiculous slip lane.


        As an aside, there is a scraggly pine of some sort sitting in the middle of the road on Wilkins st., Freemans bay. When the Victoria Park tunnel was being built, the trucks could get into the project site but could not get out again. D’oh! So the first target was the tree which “unfortunately” had to be cut down. But, surprisingly, someone on the council told them where to go, so the tree lives to fight another day. NZTA found another way, as they do.

    3. It’s only everything.

      Auckland Transport consistently ignores the wellbeing of communities*. A year ago they were trying to put a motorway through Mangere, Otahuhu, and Wymondley, demolishing the homes of thousands and cutting apart entire communities. Because they hadn’t considered fixing two intersections in Onehunga. The people organised, and the people won.

      Auckland Transport will continue this way until we change them. And this is part of the process.

      *Auckland, in other words. Being as we all live in these communities.

      1. I think they used Option 4 just to make the other alternatives look good imo. I don’t think that they even wanted to go through with Option 4 in the first place.

        1. The supercity legislation is very specific about Auckland Transport (much more so than for the others, except maybe Watercare). So no, Council can do little to change this (though they could wield the sticks they have more strongly!). The real change needs legislation change at govt level. I.e. make Key (or a future prime minister) undo what he and Rodney Hide pushed on us.

  9. This is one of the prettiest parts of Auckland. There is a whole heap of traffic lanes carrying a huge amount of traffic but the trees soften the whole thing. AT is staffed by the kind of idiots who see 9 wrong things and one right thing so they smash the right one. An even bigger shame is that for most people at the non-meeting they will be the only engineers they ever meet so they will think all engineers are arseholes. The same thing happened at the Laxon Terrace meeting.

    1. That’s a good point. Engineers see themselves (so I am led to believe) as ‘problem solvers’, but the ones we saw at the non-meeting just seemed like arseholes.

    1. The honest mistake that people make is assuming AT cares about being reasonable or choosing the best option. The staff who front these meetings are just the blunt axe sent in to try and overwhelm opposition to projects the management have already decided on. In the good old days before amalgamation local politicians would put the managers back in their box. Look at the Morton Bay Fig on Taharoto Rd opposite Fred Thomas Drive or Esmonde Road at that author dudes house. But now AT can and will do whatever the hell they choose and that will be the project they have already told their boss they are doing. If you come up with a better option they will attack you personally.

    1. > Where is Lester Levy and his “Statement of Imagination” in all this?

      I imagine it’s out for lunch, at some leafy garden restaurant.

      1. Lester Levy is too busy trying to defend his other Board (Auckland DHB) paying the Auckland Hospital CEO a 45% pay rise (or not depending on whether the protestations of a “0%” pay rise are true…)

  10. I’m glad that members of the public had the courage and endurance to present their views at the meeting. I have to admit I considered joining them but I was convinced it would be nothing but sham consultation and a waste of an evening. Looks like I guessed right, sadly.

  11. Presumably some members of the community up in arms about this were parties to the NOR process? Can these people not appeal to the environment court?

      1. Thanks for that. I was totally unaware and a very interesting decision from Council which on face value would be a breach of natural justice. It may be worth seeking a judicial review on council’s decision to invalidate those submissions to force council to re-hear the matter.

        Not sure if there are any time limits on a judicial review but if you get one in it generally means a consent/ NOR cant be implemented until the review is undertaken.

        1. Hi SDW – as one of the disallowed submitters, I would love to hear more about how to go about requesting a judicial review. There seems to be a principle of natural justice that’s been denied.

          1. I’m preempting SDW here, who clearly knows much more than I do about this, but a quick look at the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990 section 27 suggests this could be of great benefit for us: among the principals of natural justice in NZ are “opportunity to be heard – all parties to a dispute should have the opportunity to put their case, whether in writing or in the form of an oral representation”
            “The second broad principle of natural justice requires impartiality in decision making – that is, the decision-maker should be disinterested and unbiased.” We still don’t know who these “independent commissioners” are, except that they live in Auckland (if Howard Marshall, at the recent non-meeting is to be believed). Marshall said he would produce their identities, so hopefully then we’ll be able to see whether or not they are actually independent.
            “The period within which an individual may apply for review should be reasonable otherwise the constraints may have the effect of limiting the purpose of the right.” That clears that up then.

    1. There’s about 11 submitters who have the right to appeal (actually, I think 1 was in favour, so 10 who could appeal). I understand some are looking to do so. Needs deep pockets and/or pro-bono lawyers though.

  12. Actually, based on that first plan, it is 19 lanes. Plus sealed shoulders (and whatever shared paths / footpaths and car parks are there as well). A whopping load of tarmac.

  13. From Brendan Waters Auckland resident 65 years . Democracy is dead in Auckland city . AT Like Len Brown think that the people of Auckland are not entitled to have their say and be listened to . Another example is Takapuna Beach Holiday park . The residents wish to keep the park the Local Board wont listen .Democracy in Auckland is dead . Higher rates and no debates is what Chris Darby Councilor said he continued , get used to it .

  14. Isn’t there a Mayor in Auckland? A mayor with big enough balls to stand up to the idiot traffic engineers? Can you get him to climb up in the trees with you as well?

    I’m also for a letter writing campaign – swamp the buggers with letters of support not to cut the trees down. Who do we write to?

    1. Insert joke about mayor’s balls here…

      There’s a bunch of conspicuously silent councillors, mayors, and design champs on this issue. Seems like they’re afraid of rocking the boat in order to not upset other projects.

      1. I think you’ll find the design champs are far too busy organising talks and presentations about how Auckland will become a design led city to actually influence designs being built.

  15. Can someone tell me what exactly I’m looking at here? http://i.imgur.com/i0RNOW2.png Is that… a lane?

    The mindset of people in cars and people designing for cars are that the areas that they are driving through should be improved for their convenience, ignoring the fact that people and businesses actually live and operate there. Big(er) roads do not improve these areas, only make them worse. The best parts of town are the ones closer to the core, but people who have no stake in nor care for the communities in them keep demanding changes that make their lives easier while making the lives of those in the effected communities worse. You can take that concept too far and make no progress at all, but there has been a massive misbalance in the last XX years.

    If you’ve chosen a lifestyle that requires long distance commuting by the most inefficient means possible then you have as much right to demand changes to this street as I do on your local street.

    It’s all so lacking in perspective and anti-people, anti-place, anti-community and anti-environment. The double kick is that you can move more people in less space in other means, preserving all those anti’s above, but Auckland\NZ is too fucking stupid and selfish. Everyone just wants to drive in their little boxes as quickly as possible from point A to B, fuck the consequences, fuck everyone else and then shut their doors, watch the News, masturbate to The Block.

    I bet most people would knock down the Civic if it meant getting an Ikea.

    1. Totally agree David. Why are we promoting the most inefficient and unsustainable mode known to man to the expense of high capacity , constant width options and active modes? We need to correct the imbalance via installing bus with own lane and protected cycle. Then to speed things along maybe property rates on carparks so things get under control and congestion actually being controlled not being fuelled.

    2. What you highlighted is the northern-side shared path on the bridge. It’s wriggly on the MOTAT side to avoid cutting down another tree.

      1. Right, thanks. I assumed but wasn’t sure as it looks like it’s the width of a full traffic lane and connects into where (I thought) the parking lot is now (but I see it’s much further west).

  16. We are ALL under Dictatorship!!!!! These so called professionals always seem they know best!!!! Yeah right.NONE of them can think outside The Box.Common sense is lost to them!!!! Of course if it works on paper it’s meant to work regardless of what the public say.Have NO faith in any of them

  17. The ideal communist city – University of Moscow in the late fifties.
    To quoted out of context from page 116-117
    “In this book we have avoided fantasies about distant future”
    “We are absolutely not engaged in looking for new kinds of building materials or techniques”
    “One must realize that our standards are the ones actually expected to prevail in the near future”

  18. I think the people at Transportblog have put a huge amount of incredibly hard work into this blog, and deserve to be heartily congratulated on normally keeping such a cool head when faced with a wall of transport-related idiocy. On this occasion however, all attempts at reasonable process seem to have been stymied by AT, and i think that AT quite rightfully deserve the very biggest kick up the bum that can be made. AT’s Howard Marshall, in particular, sounds like he needs to learn to listen to people when they are getting Very Annoyed!
    In case HM is listening, here are some words of advice:
    Don’t Cut the Trees Down.
    Find Another Way.
    Cars DO NOT RULE the Earth.
    Back Down, buddy!

    1. Frankly I think Patrick and the blog are doing a fantastic job. I’d rather have these guys in charge of the network. The Transport Industry is moving too slow to an unbiased look at smart capacity options. Bus and cycle 2 networks down that don’t have priority or for cycle a safe environment. Why are we building anything when these 2 taps are closed it is just stupidity. To say destroying these trees is due to bus and cycle is clearly deranged. 19 lanes, not a continuous bus lane or protected two way cycle? Whilst ethically I can’t criticise fellow engineers I think I can say it appears we are not addressing the full scale network problem of a high capacity network down, and a healthy one that has 36% mode share elsewhere.

    2. Like you I wasn’t at the meeting but Patrick’s description is so similar to another non-meeting AT organised for another issue that I did attend that I dont think he has in any way overstated the obtuseness of these people. It is only insulting to them if it is inaccurate and sadly I dont think it is inaccurate.

    3. So the person with a nom de plume castigates the writer, who states his full name, as hiding. If you can’t see the issue there, there is a problem.

      1. Having been at the meeting, I can confirm that Patrick was there, spoke, and did not hide at all, neither from the AT people, nor the media. Nor does he hide here.

        1. Thanks Lti and Max, that is very generous of you both considering how rude I am in the post about profession. A profession, I hasten to add, that has had many truely great members over the centuries, people who raised practical problem solving to a fine art, and who have improved the lives of millions of people and often constructed things of great beauty as well as utility.

          It would be good to see more ambition by more of our local engineers to meet the possibilities the profession offers….

    4. This is one of the best posts from Patrick. He makes some excellent points.

      As an engineer myself, how incompetent or autistically narrow minded are the engineers at AT if they have no other options than to cut these trees down. And how socially incompetent / cowardly are they that they cant front up to the community effectively.

      If engineering takes place in a vacuum devoid of looking at the big picture, it is just incompetence.

      1. Lti:
        As an engineer you should also question those who task these “engineers” with providing technical solutions to transport problems. Garbage in-garbage out. If said ‘engineers’ have failed to meet the requirements of their design brief by all means criticise them but if the design brief fails to address the issue then we should be asking why not.

        If preservation of the trees is a requirement it can be clearly stated as mandatory (and should have been). In order to determine who is framing the inputs to their design process you could start by determining who is paying them. Seems to me that the problems stem from policymakers. In the meantime I suggest civil disobedience – citizens chained to trees, for example, would seem to be an appropriate way to make the point.

        1. Probably not…

          Most major (and many minor) consultancies rely heavily upon AC, AT and WC for a large proportion of their profitable income.

          They are, after all, some of the biggest employers of consultants during these meagre times when major developments are few and far between.
          Even if individuals risked attending on their own behalf they may be seen to be bringing their employers into disrepute (and risking their relationship with their major client) and would potentially be dismissed for gross misconduct if identified.

          Perhaps some freelancers may attend, but even they too would be risking cutting their throats – even if they felt so inclined.

  19. This transport industry is a fake bubble. It is destroying our city. Frankly we need more balls from Len , David and Lester. Fully installing the bus network on arterials is a sprayed on bus symbol every 50m. The cycle network needs a full arterial remark in 3 to 6 months. Get the full 1000 buses going free first while we relook at the arterials kerb to kerb maximising the missing modes. This isn’t even Capex just white paint and blasting off the obsolete lines after a 3 month trial. Get the signal team to optimize after this. Common sense plays a big part in Engineering. Don’t rely on traffic modeling on a choked up one mode network that is just rubbish in and 10 times rubbish out. Maybe it takes Civil Engineers out of the industry to see it, I can.

  20. I’ve seen it mentioned in a couple of places now that the Waitemata Local Board as the owner of the land where the trees stand could put a stop to this by simply saying no.
    Can someone advise whether that is actually true? And if it is true, why are the Waitemata Local Board Members dancing around this option?

    Also, irrespective of the road width issue, isn’t there a height issue here as well. Those trees, particularly the largest 2, overhang GNR considerably and the doesn’t the road need to be raised to make the left hand turn?

    1. Regarding the Waitemata Local Board, that’s not the case. Have a look through Pippa Coom’s twitter feed where she discusses this a lot.

      1. Thanks, could you point out where she actually says that? I’m not seeing it. All I can see is a comment from Shale Chambers at the meeting last night saying that that Local board as land owner can deny access to the trees (tweet from Jolisa Gracewood).

        Also this from Radio NZ a couple of hours ago?

        “Chair of the Waitemata Local Board Shale Chambers said there were not many options left to stop the Pohutukawa trees being chopped down.
        Mr Chambers said the main submission period was over, so submitters would need to appeal the decision.
        He said the Auckland Council would remain neutral on the decision, but the local board did have the final say.
        “The local board is the ultimate decision-maker on land-owner consent and once a decision on notice requirement is made, the board will have to consider its options on whether land-only consent is available,” he said.”
        The Waitemata Local Board looks like they’re having a bob each way to me?

        1. Auckland Council own the land. The Waitemata Local Board are the delegated decision makers. We have strongly opposed the removal of the trees right from the beginning (and objected to the poor overall design). Here is Board Chair Shale Chamber’s statement to the Hearing http://cityvision.org.nz/news/waitemata-local-board/hearing-to-save-6-pohutukawa-trees/

          Once the appeal process has been exhausted and if at that point AT has permission to remove the trees they still have to obtain land owner consent to enter the land. If the Board refuses to give consent AT will then have to use the Public Works Act. This is potentially a long way down the track. Shale said at the public meeting last night that he would take the decision to a Board meeting so that there would be another opportunity for public input.

          In the meantime we continue to put pressure on AT to voluntarily come up with an alternative option that retains the trees well before we get to that point.

          1. Thanks, it still appears like dancing on a pinhead to me though.

            What about the height vs width issue? Various possible solutions for width being bandied around but not the height/overhang problem.

          2. For cycling you need about 2.7m height. Looks to me like a trim at worst but nothing beats a tape measure is the shared path 3m wide?

          3. Actually the NZ Cycle Trail Design guide is 2.4m height or it says down to 2m height for tree branches if users notified. On page ,25 vertical clearances if you want a read.

        2. It’s a procedural thing. If the Local Board or the Council come out strongly either way at this stage, the decision they make becomes easier to appeal against.

      2. And from TV3

        Even the council’s own local board is threatening to revolt should it proceed.
        “The community own that park, car park and six pohutukawa trees, and ultimately, the local board has delegated responsibility for granting land owner consent for Auckland Transport to enter upon the land to remove the trees,” says Waitemata Local Board Chairman Shale Chambers.

      3. I think she’s pretty clear about it in several tweets, however I can see that she’s maybe expressing her own opinion, rather than that of the local board.

  21. What’s happening here is what happened in the UK 40 years ago. Once you build roads, you get a road lobby, and road builders don’t want to just pack up and go home when the roads you needed are done, they want to keep making more money by building more roads. Soon you have more roads than you needed, and eventually have more roads that ANYBODY could possibly need. This is why the UK is now practically a car park. Take that as a cautionary tale, and don’t let these people destroy what is unique and precious about New Zealand.

  22. Make sure any protest with people protecting trees is a 24/7 one – councils these days are fond of the predawn strike against popular opinion…

  23. Hang on a bit.This is like waiting until a multi story building is 3/4 finished then getting upset about a tree getting cut down. Why wait till NOW to get upset and raise objections to a plan that’s been in place and being actioned for several years? Do I feel the trees shold go? No but then equally I did nothing about ensuring their safety in the years even months leading up to construction beginning as have all the people getting upset.

    1. Not sure where you have been but there has been opposition to the idea of taking the trees down since 2013. However it was only earlier this year that AT backtracked on an earlier plan and told the Council they would be taking the trees down, which triggered a consultation process a few months ago in which 55 submissions got “accidentally” ignored, hence the level of public stink over this.

      People have been paying attention for quite some time – if it seems like a big rush of protest right now, that’s down to AT springing this on the public to make it happen in a hurry (and Council failing to ensure that people’s voices are heard).

    2. The original design that was applied for did NOT cut the trees down. The trees are being cut down because AT decided it needed to change the design later on.

      As for the motorway overall – do you not think many of us argued against it, and submitted against it? But thanks to our planning legislation, the Court didn’t even consider that aspect (of whether it is needed or even sufficiently beneficial). Only whether it was mitigated acceptably according to the RMA.

      Whether our planning law is the right thing on this is a separate discussion, but please don’t accuse loads of people who have spent years working on these matters of being late to the party. We have been there for a long time, and it wasn’t a party most of the time anyway.

  24. Why do men always chose to cut down the trees????? These are beautiful features of this city and vital living entities, Design around them you bastards.

  25. Isn’t the government telling us that we should all study engineering?
    Is it because we would then become mindless actuators of the governments ideals?
    Fortunately we still have real people out there

    1. You don’t need to study engineering. Reading the facts on this blog, and contributing and trying to stay up to date is actually better. The facts are since 1953 we have collectively stifled PT and cycling to everyones disbenefit. How do we fix that, we need to change the arterials fast. When I say roadmarking is fast, it really is and cheap. We need support from Len,David and Lester to make an overall change, with full network effect for bus and protected cycle allowance. They need to give notice publically and advise that all parking and flush medians will go in 6 months. There is no reason why two lane on all 4 lane arterials can’t be marked for bus right now and resource evenly the bus fleet. Trial 40% rapid core prorata by daily traffic volume 40% AT frequent bus, and 20% outer network. I would recommend a full frontal attack at congestion than what we are doing currently. A $10 day rate , Family concessions would help make mainstream and sell a rapid transformation to the public.

      1. I think I will start measuring arterials kerb to kerb . I will start with 2030 congestion free network or planned Class A on road or the core skeleton.. I will start with a possible configuration for discussion. No plans just a width say mid block and at each intersection and note solid medians. Obviously the goal is looking at a bus lane and physical seperated cycle, and a car/truck lane. 4m cycle incl separation, 7m bus, 6.5 car equals 17.5m. as a general do minimum. Also thinking if 14m possible bus lane one way circuit for now. Anyway all roads will be different. But parking off, flush medians off, solid median note for future improvement works. AT will love this, hard to argue with facts. I warmly invite other cities to do the same.

  26. May they hang their heads in shame, with cutting these beautiful trees down and disabling children’s playgrounds on the whim of a couple of residents. These council misfits are nothing but a pack of dunderheads, practicing the art of sophistry to make sure they get their own way. Shocking.

    1. Haven’t you been keeping up with the rules and regulations of our Labour-induced nanny state?
      Our little darlings aren’t allowed to climb/play in tress anymore in case these little angles fall and hurt themselves…. We have to wrap them up in cotton wool and keep them safely at home tucked up next to their nice, safe Playstations.

      Parents who allow their children to climb or play in trees are bad parents and liable to public flogging for their sins and child abuse.

      Moot and irrelevant point – incidentally also used to waste $10million of our rates on Victoria Wharf in Devonport.

  27. Unbloodybelievable !! I think it’s all been said by now except to ask, is that what our Varsities are teaching about town planning & traffic engineering.
    They may want to chop all the Pohutukawas down along the Tamaki drive especially for jogging lane. Hell, did I put that idea in their pea brained skulls.

  28. Apart from the general ignorance and arrogance that (barely) civil engineers tend to show, my experience with roading engineers as an arborist, is that they hate trees in principle, they cost money, they need maintenance, they get in the way of rubbish trucks, street lights, traffic lights and signs, their roots affect paving and roads. They can’t be drawn (except as circle and they never stay a circle!), they can’t be subjected to a specification of load bearing, torsional integrity, wind shear loading and all those other yummy terms that engineers love to bandy about.
    And don’t get me started on non elected apparatchiks forcing their particular world view on the rate/tax payers to whom they should be answering..

  29. I find it offensive that a couple of you have insulted autistic people gratuitously. Why would you do that? Many autistic people want to look after our environment just as much as neurotypical people do. Not nice!

    1. Quite right, to be compared to a traffic engineer is a terrible insult, well in this town certainly.

      My apology for any offence given, it was not my intention. I will change it if that will help?

        1. I have run out of cards so for my new one I have been thinking of the tagline “Paving Paradise, Putting up Parking Lots” – it aliterates well with my surname.

  30. Quite aside from the sheer insanity of that many lanes of traffic. It is interesting that Motat are supportive of cutting the trees and are also opposed to the workable solution of putting the footpath/bikelane behind the trees because it might impact carparking.
    Reminds me of the post the other day about businesses having a very innacurate view of the mode share of their customers.
    Motat’s position should be based on what their customers want. If somebody spent an afternoon with a clipboard quizzing people going in to motat I suspect they would learn that a large than expected share of visitors are arriving via public transport (their customer base are transport enthusiasts after all) and that if you ask people whether they support cutting the trees to preserve car parking they would be strongly opposed.
    Motat just seems like a soft target here, if they put their support behind a compromise solution then AT wouldn’t have a leg to stand on…

  31. Let’s suppose that running the bike path behind the trees needs to take about 15 parking spaces (thought I don’t see why it can’t just use the pictured green verge, as others have suggested). That would leave MOTAT with about 250 spaces on Stadium Rd/ Great North Rd (including the parking west of St Lukes Rd) and about 250 spaces on Motions Rd/ Meola Rd.**

    MOTAT has about 250,000 visitors per year. If each of the 15 parking spaces at issue was occupied twice a day every day by a MOTAT visitor, at most that would make about 10,000 uses per year, or about 4 per cent of MOTAT visitors.

    How trivial. ‘We don’t want to lose parking’ sounds like the worst sort of kneejerk reaction without regard to wider issues. If a major institution thinks that its prosperity depends on 15 parking spaces, it must have little confidence in the quality of its exhibits.

    ** estimates based on google maps.

  32. How many times will we do this dance with Road transport. How many Millions will this cost the tax payer and be utterly to no advantage of the auckland people. This money should be spent on putting in a better rail system so we can get around auckland and out to the berbs on a monorail system that can be erected above ground without cutting down trees or removing houses. When are these people going to get some brains and start looking outside the box for the future of our city. I am so so sick of the usual bla bla bla transport bull we hear everyday but no one wants to take the first big step to the change the old guard view of transport..

  33. This is my regular cycle route, and what confuses me is that it already has what is essentially a cycle lane – the bus lane along the left hand side of the road. It’s actually one of the safer parts of my commute to Springs from the city. What is making it trickier for me at the moment is on the return where they have already widened the road, meaning I have to cross far more lanes to make a right turn onto St Luke’s road. Do any of these engineers actually cycle? The overbridge heading towards St Luke’s is poor at the moment, but this could be easily solved by realigning the crossing and marking up the very wide pavement.

  34. Am I reading that plan correctly that the second turning lane is only long enough for another 7 cars or so? That seems like a pretty weak benefit to justify cutting down half a millenium of cumulative tree-growth.

    1. Sasha you are completely correct. What on earth can be the cost/benefit then? A handful of vehicles getting slightly closer to the next set of lights slightly sooner, and for that the majesty and history of the trees have to go. This is a sign of people and institutions that have lost their way up some echo chamber of group-think, totally divorced from life.

  35. Has anyone considered NZTA’s role in this? What are the real drivers of this project? Or the fact that the local transport network has always come secondary to the state highway which segregates Auckland suburbs with limited access over the motorway a major obstacle to getting about the city. The introduction of ramp metering to regulate flows on the motorway, the passing of traffic lights on key arterial to ensure there is no back up on the motorway to the detriment of local roads.

    I agree with the principal of engineering solution to avoid the any detriment to the pohutakawas which are an important historical and cultural feature for western springs, although I found the language and criticism invidious which discredits the valid point raised in the blog….

    1. If NZTA are subsidising this project you have to ask yourself what criteria does this project have to meet to attract the NZTA subsidy, more lanes for cars and trucks perhaps?

  36. It saddens me that the noble profession of engineering (in which I hold a degree but am not practising) is being brought into disrepute by these AT representatives, but I have to ask, are they actually professional engineers?

    If they are, with MIPENZ after their name on a business card, then they’re bound by IPENZ’s code of ethics, three of the most salient points below:

    Professionalism, Integrity and Competence:
    Members shall undertake their engineering activities with professionalism and integrity and shall work within their levels of competence.

    Commitment to Community Well-being:
    Members shall recognise the responsibility of the profession to actively contribute to the well-being of society and, when involved in any engineering activity shall endeavour to identify, inform and consult affected parties.

    Sustainable Management and Care for the Environment:
    Members shall recognise and respect the need for sustainable management of the planet’s resources and endeavour to minimise adverse environmental impacts of their engineering activities for both present and future generations.

    Given Patrick’s description of their behaviour, it seems as though there could be scope for IPENZ’s Ethics Committee to take a look..

    I was told by a sage lecturer that the words engineer and ingenuity trace their origins back to the Latin word ingenium. Not sure if it’s true or not, but to me ingenuity has always been one of the key attributes of a successful engineer. I’d encourage AT’s engineers to apply a bit of ingenuity to save these beautiful pohutukawa as well as providing decent walking, cycling and PT outcomes. I’m sure it can be done while still delivering adequate general traffic capacity.

    1. …and as an equally wise former Engineering mentor told me –
      Those who do, can….
      Those who can’t… sit on the side-lines pontificating and blaming others and shouting about how they would change the world if they were engineers…

      Well, you are, so why not join the good fight?

      Perhaps then yours would be one of the very few adequately qualified commentators here who could testify to the physical realties, practical constraints and financial limitations engineers are constantly truncated by in order to provide world class solutions with 3rd world funding levels, weak leadership and the ingratitude of the narrow minded public they serve.
      Innovation, quality and cost – pick 2.

  37. How ridiculous this all is. It’s 6 trees. Grow up. Go plant 6 new trees in a more suitable area and move on.

    This might surprise you but trees actually do grow on trees. We have many trees and we can always plant more.

    We need the roads in that location.

  38. Sigh… even if the organisation has changed from previous incarnations the rotten, spoilt and self-righteous attitude of us Aucklanders hasn’t.

    Yet again I am embarrassed by our petty & blatantly ignorant citizens who refuse to believe the world is round and full of vehicles – not flat and car-free.
    All fail to recognise or acknowledge the fact that as a major regional intersection this location has been failing for decades; and failing all involved alike. If nothing more is obvious, then surely improved accessibility around MOTAT, the m’way & locality at least offers some hearty reassurance that those at AT have been listening to our constant bleating and created a solution.

    Your precious little haven and its tarmac spaghetti is bulging at the seams with its automotive obesity but when presented with the ant-acid to relieve this indigestion you simply elect to continue to suffer – and are the first to whimper, ’It hurts, mommy’.

    I rather applaud Mr Marshalls professional conducting of the meeting; certainly not of the wishy-washy, limp-wristed, bluffing and stuttering kind of presentation we’ve been subjected to for years by previous legacy organisations. By Mr Marshalls rather regional accent and experienced handling of what was in essence a ‘project update’ meeting, I would warrant his background includes providing solutions to traffic woes the UK have long since fixed and forgotten … and that we haven’t even began to dream of yet in little old backwards 1940’s NZ.
    Mr Reynolds however mentions nothing of his own Engineering qualification or experience, besides an uninformed opinion.

    What a fumbling, pontificating laughing stock we must appear to those charged with providing us with solutions to our traffic woes. Shame on us!

    1. ” I am embarrassed by… ignorant citizens who refuse to believe the world is… full of vehicles”

      I find your logic difficult to follow. Perhaps there is none; we do believe that the world is full of vehicles, and that’s a problem for so many reasons, one of which is the loss of precious urban natural environment for road-building and widening.

      “as a major regional intersection this location has been failing for decades”

      Do you have evidence for this? I live nearby and have not been aware of any major problems with it in the past, other than at exceptional times (Pacifika, major concerts at the Stadium, when it’s closed off). If the government wasn’t spending billions of dollars on motorways, we would have lots of money for improved public transport, which would reduce the number of motor vehicles, making Auckland a much more livable city.

      “improved accessibility around MOTAT, the m’way & locality at least offers some hearty reassurance that those at AT have been listening”
      Accessibility is not being improved. In AT’s favoured option there will be one less pedestrian crossing than now and a shared ped/cycle path that Cycle Action Auckland says is almost useless and in the wrong place.

      “I would warrant (Mr Marshall’s) background includes providing solutions to traffic woes the UK have long since fixed and forgotten …”

      Is this little fantasy part of some reasoned argument? The UK has long been wrestling with horrendous congestion, and London has been tackling it in recent years with traffic pricing, the aim of which is to deter people from driving private cars into the city so that some of them instead use public transport. That means less pollution, less space lost to tarmac, more trees and shade for city dwellers. Auckland might do the same, a pricing solution rather than an destructive engineering one.

      “Mr Reynolds however mentions nothing of his own Engineering qualification or experience, besides an uninformed opinion.”

      So do you think only road engineers are entitled to opinions about urban design? Presumably you know that road engineers are paid to engineer roads, so they have a vested interest in schemes that have lots of roads? Since on this occasion engineers (or their bosses) are creating a problem, it is reasonable for non-engineers, who are a bit more impartial, to suggest other options, in which everyone’s views are addressed. Then the engineers can come up with a design within parameters determined by all the stakeholders, not just road engineers.

      “What a fumbling, pontificating laughing stock we must appear…”

      Speak for yourself.

    2. And RM what are YOUR qualifications to speak on this matter, for which you seek to deny the right to hold an opinion on, to anyone but a sainted member of the road building brigade?

      Are you not in fact one of the very same cadre of engineers who you say will fix this problem by adding a slip lane to hold at best 7 cars?

      I smell in your outburst the self-righteous perfume covered stench of non other than “Riggles” or whatever name you call yourself – an erstwhile road building minion or other in AT who simply, like a show dog, trots out doing whatever his masters tell him to do without thought or merit. And who gets upset when the world doesn’t love him and his mediocre designs back.

      A turd is still a turd no matter what stripe they wear.

      And yet you also ignore the inconvenient truth that these engineers are also the same crowd that made the mess in the first place of this intersection which you say has been failing for years, and which by implication, means you and your road engineering ilk, have likewise been failing for years.

      But your ill judged comments also ignore the massive engineered elephant in the room – that is while NZTA insist on ramp metering at motorway on ramps like St Lukes, no intersections near this motorway on-ramp will ever function as designed. Because the backed up vehicles will overwhelm whatever schemes you put in place.

      So why even try with such a half-arsed attempt at “a 2nd slip lane” that can hold a best 7 cars, so will allow all of 7 more SOVs onto the motorway on ramp a little quicker?

      Hows that going to work in reality, as other than using an antacid pill to treat stomach cancer?

      Time to put your head back in your armpit and take several deep breaths and kock yourself out. then perhaps when you wake up you’ll find,everyone else will have moved on to delivering solutions, that actually work.

      This one simply won’t work, it will require yet more fixes to make it work, and will take more and more lanes of roadway to do so.
      This is nothing more than a Trojan horse and NZTA is little better than the Greeks – seemingly not involved, yet donkey deep in the whole mess when you actually take a good look from a distance.

      1. Now, now Greg, touched a raw nerve there I think… you doth protest just a little too much when faced with logic and a balanced argument.

        I, unlike some here, would not have dreamt of offering an uninformed or uneducated engineering opinion simply as a negative retort.
        Nor would I have sought to insult Mr Marshall nor debase his position or his qualification on a personal level.
        I certainly don’t deny anyone the opportunity to offer an opinion, I merely prefer to see logical educated and qualified opinions rather than knee-jerk negative reaction – often irrelevant in nature.
        I wouldn’t tell a surgeon how to best do his job – regardless of how well informed I thought I was – you would I would wager. Everyone’s an expert until they have to put their money where their mouth is.

        Lets not also forget the Public Works Act, which if used as it can be, will negate all our waffle.
        And to put you out of your misery, adequately qualified to comment thank you – CivEng/RICE, and no, private sector actually…
        (Sorry, I have no answer for the ‘Riggles’ question – have no idea what that is.)

    1. On the contrary,
      AC, AT and WC all have to jump through many more hoops than Joe public. Then there’s Joe Public to consult…
      When was the last time you had to consult the public or take out a news paper advising you intended to weed-spray your garden or trim your trees.

  39. If a protest is planned, please share details in plenty of time. Maybe we need several to get their attention and invite the media.

  40. Chop up the AT People into small parts. Feed them directly into shredder. Mix the blood and bone with lime and apply to base of trees. No human is worthy of cutting these trees. Shame on corporate AT. SHAMEFUL.

  41. Patrick’s idea of moving the path behind the trees is fine, I have even just marked it out. 25m at the St Luke’s end adjacent start of carpark I narrowed down from 3m to 2.5m width. 1 branch needs to be signposted as less than 2.4m height but more than the required 2m height. 5 or 6 branches to trim back between 60mm and 160mm dia. No carparks lost all of path more than 1m away from kerb except 3 carparks 0.5m off but outside current barrier anyway. 1 Chartered Civil says no sweat, and trees awesome too by the way. What now happy to stand in front of any hearing and state that or get arrested on chainsaw day as believe trees highly worth it. Only other car in carpark guy with mountain bike back from a cycle by the way enjoying a drink in the shade.

    1. So a shared path fully compliant and relatively straight forward. So the extra slip lane, is that based on a higher car mode share than now, as frankly can’t believe it if bus network fully installed with a bus lane and a full network of protected cycle lanes that has proven.ability to be No1 mode share. I don’t see why these trees should suffer, or as important the rest of us just because we haven’t got our act together yet.

    2. Sorry out there for 2 hrs and forgot to measure Gt North Rd while out there but sure wider than ,17.5m
      4 m protected cycle (,motat, zoo side), 2 x bus lanes 7,m. ,2 car lanes ,6.5m. That would be a true multi-modal outcome that really we should be.marking everywhere right now if that width is there kerb to kerb. The only way to get a rapid change is global otherwise all disjointed, that is cars unfair advantage right now.

    3. Actually completely throw the car model in the toilet, go to full manual override, take out both slip lanes and have a single crossing all 4 legs, bus on priority signal and cycle well Bryce recommends cut and paste from Copenhagen. There we go a new design with the protected cycle, 2 bus and 2 car lanes. Bet that would go down better and a short to long term solution for all generations. Ticks all the boxes. Right next job.

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