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.

Skypath aerial

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.

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  1. Trolls and disappointed parties aside I think this is the power of democracy to champion a common cause to improve the city.

    Some of the opportunities it creates are pretty exciting and could transform parts of the city and how they interact with each other.

  2. If the original AHB and the additional clip-ons had been put through the same sort of process as Skypath has, then we’d no doubt have much better designs and outcomes including a walkable and cycleable bridge (and one possibly with proper PT on it) decades ago without some of the unnecessary destruction and ruination that took place in the interim period.

    While the RMA gets a lot of flack at times, it does at least put a shackle on “out of control” developments like the original AHB and the Basin Reserve Flyover.
    Shame that NZTA doesn’t have to defend its plans more often – it might curb the excess we are seeing like Kirkbride road and the Weasel oops, I meant “East-West” motorway at Onehunga.

    1. They WILL have to defend East-West Link. It is proposing substantial coastal reclamation, and big roads where none are now, and no designations for roads at least over part of the route. Lots of scope for public opposition in hearings and courts, and even of the project falling as flat on its face as Basin Reserve.

      At Kirkbride, it’s a different beast, as already state highway, mostly going below ground level, and all or most of the land already owned by AT/NZTA.

  3. Thanks, Matt, for a neat summary and saving us all hours of searching the document for the salient points. And of course thanks again to the Skypath Trust. Can’t wait!

  4. Yes well done for people who have pushed this ahead.
    It would not surprise me if in 15 years time people would not believe it was not part of the oringial bridge (As who could have thought of having a bridge WITHOUT pedestrian and cycle access.)

  5. “…while avoiding remedying or mitigating the identified adverse effects on the environment.”

    Is there a comma missing after “avoiding”?!

  6. Does the small print still say that ratepayers will have to pay any shortfall if paying users are below predicted numbers?

    1. A maximum of a mere $2 million, as has been pointed out before, thats a rounding error in AC’s IT budget.

      And thats only if the thing is a spectacular failure – and how likely is that?

      Not at all likely.

      And once the current Government “Nationalises” the Skypath and makes it toll free who will care?

        1. To manage risk. My cellphone contract has a clause against acts of nuclear or biological war. Not likely, but part of their risk profile.

        2. And if I recall the Java runtime has a restriction on it not being used to control nuclear power plants or other life critical functions, but I bet someone does exactly that though.
          [Springfield Nuclear Power Plant springs to mind here].

          Its arse covering of the worst sort.

        3. Long answer:
          Its there because its a simple risk sharing arrangement – the sort that occurs with any PPP arrangement. and its the sort of PPP that the Government says “Are a Good Thing”TM [you know, like the Private Prison at Wiri].

          The bulk of the risk is borne by a private funder and I suspect that while they could have carried all the risk, they wanted council to underwrite part of the losses, to prevent one arm of council imposing too onerous a set of conditions on SkyPath.
          [like for instance, only being able to open 9am to 3pm weekdays or something similar to avoid “parking issues”].
          So that by having council with skin in the game, it does help keep the council in line with the PPP funder as Skypath, to be useful to everyone who uses it needs to be open as long as possible each day for as many days a year as possible – just like we expect any transport infrastructure to be.

          Short answer: There’s nothing to see here, move along.

        4. The same reason that almost all PPPs have them now, especially tolled PPP highway projects with their consistent failures in recent years to meet traffic projections.

    2. Financial matters are a separate agreement between Council and the applicant which has not been agreed to at this stage.

      You can be sure this will get a lot of discussion in the future as the attempts of the opponents will shift from “It will be too popular” to “Nobody will use it”. Not that some haven’t tried to make both cases at the same time.

  7. The great thing about the Skypath is that it actually improves the architecture/ visual appeal of the Harbour Bridge WHILE ALSO improving transport choices. Two birds, one stone!

  8. I wish to thank all of the people that have worked hard on this – it does look good, and I hope that they get on to it, and stop procrastinising

  9. The proof is in the pudding. Why must the Council underwrite this venture if the figures (user volumes) as presented to get this over the line are correct? Or are they bloated and all those involved are simply planning to give ratepayers a bath? The Council should approve the venture but stand well back from picking up any financial shortfall, or this is going to be a rort. Sensible responses please.

    1. It is extraordinary that anyone can work themselves up to complain about the underwriting. SkyPath self-evidently should have A. been built decades ago. And B. be fully funded by normal public processes. To whinge about the non-existent cost of underwriting in this context is baffling.

      Anyway this is so one of those projects that will very shortly be loved by all, and has, around zero chance of not working financially.

    2. Because nobody in Auckland has a functioning crystal ball, lest of off transport modellers, and business people are in the business of managing risk.

      But who cares, the council is underwriting a grand total of, whooooo… two million.

    3. Your position makes sense if you believe the council has no role in funding or facilitating transport infrastructure. Please explain your internally consistent world view and let us know all the other spending you are railing against.

    4. Is there a single road built in the last 100 years in NZ where the council/government don’t pay for the whole thing or underwrite? Roads like Puhoi-Wellsford are 100s or 1000s times more of the public’s money at risk without any guarantee of success.

    1. Jo – lets not worry about that – just be pleased it is going ahead, and do some more fitness training – good for you!!

      1. Grade is 5%, or in other words, 1 up for 20 along. Compliant even for wheelchairs, if a bit longer than your tyical ramp (but with rest stops on the way every ~12m and larger observation platforms at several locations).

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