I’m still buzzing over the fantastic news that consent for Skypath was approved this morning. What makes it even better is reading the decision of the commissioners. It appears to be a comprehensive result and leaves no doubt that this project is both good and satisfactorily addresses the concerns local residents have raised. The decision can be read here and starts from around page 51.
Here are some of the highlights.
The Commissioners have, in consideration of section 5 of the RMA had to consider whether the proposal would achieve the purpose of the Act. The proposal consists of three distinct elements – the Northern Landing; the main span of the Harbour Bridge and the Southern Landing; we have had to take a holistic approach, with the understanding that RMA is not a no effects Act. In looking at the total proposal we consider that the effects (with the mitigation proposed) at a local level, notably landscape and visual, amenity and traffic/parking at the Northern Landing, are not of such significance that the broader strategic goals associated with the SkyPath project – connecting a regional cycling network; providing a tourism opportunity; giving multimodal choice, and the existing investment at both regional and government levels should be set aside. We believe that the proposal will meet the needs of current and future generations in relation to both health and safety. It is our overall assessment that SkyPath will promote the sustainable management purpose of the Act.
The proposal will provide greater optimisation for the use of the AHB, by offering a broader range of modes available to users of the AHB. The amenity values will be enhanced through greater accessibility to the Waitemata Harbour, offering accessibility and views not currently available (aside from commercial activities such as the bungy and bridge walk enterprises). We acknowledge that the residents immediately adjacent to the AHB on Northcote Point value their current levels of amenity, including the quietness of the area (being the lack of activity). However the increased activity generated by the SkyPath is considered to maintain that amenity through provision of increased screening, directional signage, security and planting and/or fencing along currently open boundary frontages. Overall the Commissioners consider that the proposal will maintain and enhance the quality of the environment through the provision of cycle/walking facilities that provide a crucial link across the Waitemata Harbour that is not dependent on a “timetable” or motor vehicle.
We consider that the proposal meets the relevant provisions of Part 2 of the RMA as it achieves the purpose of the Act being sustainable management of natural and physical resources; in particular it provides for people’s social and economic wellbeing, while avoiding remedying or mitigating the identified adverse effects on the environment.
And some of their main findings on the principal issues in contention.
- The traffic and parking effects associated with parties who chose to drive to SkyPath will be adequately mitigated through provision, implementation, review and monitoring of the Operational Plan. This finding applies to both the Southern Landing and the Northern Landing.
- The adverse amenity effects at the Northern Landing (primarily associated with increased activity, privacy/overlooking, noise, and perceptions relating to safety and security) can be adequately mitigated through design and site management as proposed by the Applicant. We find that the scope of the consent would include the provision of public toilets at the Northern Landing and have included a condition requiring the location to be subject to CPTED review.
- The design of the structure, including white rods and ribs, is appropriate. The Commissioners are satisfied that it is appropriate that the SkyPath structure reads as an addition to the bridge structure through the colour of the rods and ribs. The Commissioners note in making this finding that any suggestion that the SkyPath structure should not detract from the heritage value of the AHB is not something that can be considered. The heritage value of the AHB should more appropriately be protected through a public process to schedule the structure (including an appropriate level of analysis from an expert) through either the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 or the RMA.
- We are satisfied that the further design assessments required by NZTA for the SkyPath structure are not expected to require any substantial change in the SkyPath structure.
- We concur with Mr Farrant, the Council’ Principal Heritage Adviser Central, that SkyPath will have zero impact on the built heritage of Northcote Point.
And the reasons for the decision, some of which duplicates the comments above.
The reasons for this decision are included in the decision report above but can be summarised as follows:
1. In terms of section 104D(1)(a) of the RMA, the adverse effects of the activity on the environment at the Northern Landing have been considered as moderate. Turning to section 104(1)(a), mitigation measures have been incorporated into the design of the proposal, and a range of consent conditions have been imposed to ensure that any adverse effects on the environment for the entire proposal can be satisfactorily avoided, remedied or mitigated.
2. In terms of section 104D(1)(b) and section 104(1)(b) of the RMA, our finding is that the application is for activities that will not be contrary to the objectives and policies of the operative Auckland Council District Plans (North Shore City Section and Auckland City Isthmus Section) and the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.
3. The proposal is consistent with Part 2 of RMA as it achieves the sustainable management of natural and physical resources by providing an alternative transport option that promotes both personal health and social wellbeing, and positive economic impacts.
4. The proposal is in accordance with the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement and the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act by providing public access within the coastal environment and avoiding adverse effects on the natural character and quality of the environment.
5. The proposal is consistent with the Auckland Regional Policy Statement by helping remedy adverse effects on the transport environment.
6. SkyPath is perceived, and acknowledged, as a critical transport link. It is a positive gain for Auckland’s transportation network.
7. The proposal will help promote alternative transportation modes and active lifestyles, and improve recreational options for Aucklanders and visitors to the region.
Once again thank you to all who have fought so hard for this project over the years. In my view now consent has been granted the government should step up and take over the funding of the project – especially considering their new found support for cycling.