This is a guest post from reader Jeff

What do you think of when you think of the Mangere inlet?

For most of us, it’s probably the journey across the Manukau Harbour Bridge to the Airport, and those little darting concrete catwalks linking suburbs we only know by name.

AT and the NZTA revealed plans to build a nearly motorway grade link between the bridge, and the Southern motorway, right along the Manukau Inlet foreshore.

East-West Preferred Option

This is our last chance to see this piece of waterfront land properly activated. What if we could rehabilitate it? What if it could host apartments, sail-boats, restaurants and a promenade? With the old Mangere bridge soon to be removed, there’s room to do something truly special with this area.

“Oh better freight movement!” We reassure ourselves. After all, trucks are the lifeblood of the economy, they keep telling us the economy will grind to a halt without them.

Yes, trucks do link nearly everything, does that warrant such a huge investment of public money to make private KPI’s more efficient, in what is, admittedly, an industrial area that arguably won’t be industrial in only a generation’s time?

But what about Church Street? doesn’t that connect the North Western motorway with the Southern motorway, and eastern suburbs?

What is unworkable about NZTA’s proposed option B?

EW Option - Option B

Currently Church Street functions, albeit poorly, it’s cluttered, congested, and very, very stop starty. A bit of a nightmare Monday to Friday for anyone trying to deliver a consignment, B2B.

With Intersection improvements to Nelson and Church Streets including, removal of on-street parking and traffic Light sequencing, we can mitigate this need without the destruction of a previously destroyed coastline .

Foreshore Before and after

If you’ve been to Brisbane, you’ll no doubt have marvelled at their motorway, slinking around the river to inject people & cars into their CBD. But if you look a little closer, you’ll see prime,  beautiful, expensive river-front land, crushed and bound by nice, white motorway onramps. Imagine what you could do with those riverbanks… An absolute waste of prime waterfront property.

4 - Brisbane

Let’s take a trip, from end to end of this proposed new link. Will we lose anything?

Starting in Onehunga Bay, we have the Aotea Sea Scouts Hall, New Zealand’s oldest yacht club building. Famously nearly relocated during the Manukau harbour Crossing Duplication

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 5

Looking out onto the new foreshore reclamations funded by NZTA as reparations for foreshore destructions five decades earlier. (Note the Sewerage Surge outfall bottom right)

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 6

Heading under the bridges. Complete with a 1970’s style skypath. Imagine if this was planted with huge flax bushes, and the bridge properly lit up at night!

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 7

Lots of unactivated land under here. Reminds me heavily of Silo Park just a few years ago.

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 8

And onto the Path

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 9

Under this route runs a huge gas line. The Auckland Council GIS viewer doesn’t show gas lines but if memory serves this gasline powers the soon to be dismantled Southdown Powerplant. There’s a steam output line off that which heads back up a portion of the path providing steam to neighbours.

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 10

Now up to Waikaraka Park, war memorial cemetery. A very peaceful spot.

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 11

Looking back on Waikaraka Park

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 12

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 13

There’s a Heliport down here!

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 14

Recreational cyclists were abound, I counted just over 50. Including four families, and zero MAMILs. Despite what ones passing impressions may be of this area, it is heavily activated, and quietly beautiful.

Passing through I saw a few happy seals in amongst the mangroves, but with only my wide angle lens on, sorry no usable shots

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 15

I love this scene. A peoples space conjoined with heavy industrial, what would surprise you is just how amazingly peaceful it is, industry everywhere, and nothing but the gentle lapping of waves and birds to be heard

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 16

We’re now behind the Port of Tauranga Inland Port

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 17

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 18

Wow, this area had clearly had some special attention some time ago. Gently planted, with man made rock walls and Macrocapra fences run for perhaps a hundred metres.

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 19

Westfield junction. Port of Tauranga Inland port behind me. Note the passenger EMU crossing in the background

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 20

Heading towards the Soon to be retired Southdown Powerstation

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 21

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 22

Stage one? Imagine if the whole harbour was linked? Imagine being able to cycle from Mangere Bridge, to Otahuhu, train station, or Otahuhu behind Favona Rd back to Mangere Bridge or
Onehunga? This is one of Auckland’s last hidden Urban oasis.

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 23

The point of this photo essay was to give people a little look into a place they might never think about. Would a pseudo motorway on reclaimed land beside it be of any use, when church street simply needs minor intersection, and on street parking removal? What about AT’s Option B? I simply can’t fathom reclaiming more of the already destroyed Mangere inlet to build a road that is only supporting an industrial hub that won’t be there in a generation. Simply put, Penrose-Onehunga, will be gentrified within Gen X’s lifetime.

Coming back home. This is a disused front gate to a home on the Royal Oak hill. This would have once opened onto a foreshore, before the Onehunga Motorway came though in the 60’s

Jeff Smith - Onehunga Foreshore 24

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  1. As someone from the North Shore, my wife and I took bus and train to Onehunga a few months ago and walked the length of the foreshore to Hugo Johnston Road and then up O’Rorke Road. We caught the train back from Penrose Station. It was full tide at the time and we really enjoyed the experience.
    It would be a pity to destroy this existing facility if there are better options.

  2. Great post. Even though the area doesn’t look particularly flash on google maps it is as you say surprisingly peaceful and and has a very nice outlook over the inlet. It’s only downfall is how hard it is to get to especially the eastern end with a single access that doesn’t make it a direct line to anywhere! Reverting the EW link to Option C or D from the previous list and extending this path to link through to Otahuhu and Sylvia Park would have such a great effect.

    1. Option B is very destructive of Hamlins Hill on the Motorway side.

      Options C or D were the better options for that end of the link, they link near Mt Wellington but do need 1 lane each way added between the south facing ramps and Princes St, so are also destructive.

      But Hamlins Hill is potentially another One Tree Hill – if treated right.
      Won’t be if we shove the EW motorway there.

  3. Great article and photos. I run or cycle along there most weeks, and it is indeed amazing how quiet it is. Being able to circle the inlet on foot/bike would be wonderful. I’ve also thought that the northern shore could become a fabulous public space – maybe something like South Bank in Brisbane – walking, swimming, casual sports (volleyball, touch, petanque?), picnics/bbqs, …

    I’m not sure I agree with your thoughts about Church Street though – it’s not just the intersections, but the whole street seems too narrow to support any more vehicles than at the moment, especially at the more residential Onehunga end. Nor am I so certain the industry will all be gone in 25 years. However, has anyone has ever considered double-stacking Neilson St, where the visual impact would be fairly small? It’s 100% industrial along the whole length, and a Chicago-style elevated expressway (with a single-lane local road underneath) could service the truck movement required between the motorways. If it continued straight-ahead where Neilson St veers left, it would join up at Sylvia Park Rd. Any thoughts?

    1. If you get rid of the parked vehicles off the main roads in Onehunga, you have plenty of lanes for trucks.
      By allowing cars to park onstreet half the road space is inaccessible for most of the day (and night).

      As for double stacking, why not underground it via cut and cover – both nearly as expensive each other and a lot less visually intrusive.
      Industry will be there in 25 years, but not in the same form it is now, don’t foreclose that future by implementing a solution only good for todays problems.

      1. You need to determine who owns the parked cars you wish to remove.Are they workers cars? Need a bit more thought on this.

    2. Greg, sorry, but I can’t support anything that’s preceded by ‘Chicago Style’. It would be a basin reserve style eyesore.
      Plenty of room for improvements if on street parking & flip lanes are removed. Might require something more substantial at the Onehunga end, but it would be significantly less destructive than the proposed road

    1. Yep told NZTA and AT to do exactly that, this time a year ago. Need to also have north facing onramp as well for traffic heading from Onehunga to Waterview, again a cut and cover should do it.

  4. Excellent post.

    NZTA’s own report, after 66 pages, says if nothing is done about public transport, that is, getting people out of their cars, then this 5km 1.5 billion plus dream highway will grind to a halt.

    The public were dealt a load of nonsense about the old Pykes Point tip leaking and polluting the harbour, Onehunga being Auckland’s industrial heart when in fact it is dying with 177 business in the area for sale, GDP figures for Onehunga/Penrose were wildly inaccurate, people travelling to the area to work, wrong again. It is a litany of misinformation. The only whiff of honesty in this whole thing was the Auckland Business Forum implying it would make the drive to the airport quicker for people in the eastern suburbs.

    There is an aerial photograph with this monster overlaid that was not shown at the public presentations. It needs to be seen. And let us not forget the trucks in the bus lanes planned for Mangere. A stunt like this only gets tried on in South Auckland.

    After seeing the GM of Mainfreight on Q&A we can only hope he convinces the road transport industry lobbyists that this money is better spent getting me out of my car and on to a train and leaving the roads to the trucks.

  5. That’s a neat area. I used to work at the southern end of Captan Springs Road and often used to pop down there at lunchtime for a wander or up to the cemetery to munch on my sandwiches, if the tide was in. The main problem area with Neilson Street is the intersection with The Mall at the western end, and that can be unlocked without destroying the foreshore. One way would be to link Galway Street with Onehunga Harbour Road, make that the main thoroughfare, and chop The Mall where it used to end. A free left hand turn into Galway Street from Neilson Street, would free up a lot of the traffic heading west along Neilson Street, and an overpass for the eastbound traffic would knock that congestion on the head.

  6. This area is often described as a heavily modified foreshore, which it is, and unseen one might assume it is horrible, which it is not.
    During the week when industry and traffic is happening not far away there is just a distant subdued noise which does not intrude. This foreshore has an utterly delightful peaceful calm in an otherwise busy city. The photos don’t particularly show the water’s edge which at low tide is out in the channels exposing the mud and some rocks and mangroves.
    One does not just have to look to the example of Brisbane to see a motorway separating the water’s edge from the people who live there. Here we have the motorway going north from the Auckland Harbour Bridge taking away all recreational access to the harbour edge. South of the bridge St Mary’s Bay is no longer and so too with Tauranga’s harbour foreshore. Finally after so many years we have the rehabilitation of Onehunga Bay but the motorway will always be there.
    Take the opportunity to explore this area while it is still there. A walkway/cycle way squeezed between a four lane road and the water will not be the same. However roll on a direct walking/cycling connection to Great South road or further around the inlet.

    1. Aucklands cdb waterfront is heavily modified already so of no value. The best option is to fill in the rest of the harbour over to devenport and use it to expand the port with is an important economic and jobs centre.

  7. Since we have already made such a big dent on the inlet, perhaps we could consider reclaiming the entirety of it for housing and industrial development. It is shallow and conveniently positioned to transport infrastructure. Auckland’s problem has always been the isthmus constricts the effectiveness of a compact city design.

    As this post does attest reclaimed coast lines can be very worthwhile.

    1. Yes you can, both under the main bridge and over the old bridge. It’s a nice walk from Hillsborough to Mangere bridge. (well it will be when the foreshore redevelopment is finished and they put up some motorway barriers)

  8. Thank you for highlighting some of Auckland’s “other” harbour.

    As someone who grew up on that inlet, it’s strange to see how it is disdained. A bit of muddy silt and the hangover from a reputation as an industrial and waste-treatment area have had a negative impact.

    We wouldn’t let massive disconnction happen to the Waitemata any more, and we shouldn’t let it happen to the Manukau. We’re about to make a huge mistake.

  9. Great post, I was walking there on Saturday and starting taking photos to use in debates on the east-west link (some colleagues are adamant there is nothing along that piece of foreshore). it seems to me like a short sighted project. The area is of cause by the water, has amazing transport links (rail and the motorway), why isn’t the area developed for residential and commercial office space? Combine that with a re-development of the Onehunga wharf and you would have an incredible urban space to rival the other waterfront. I don’t see the need to have the area around Onehunga/Penrose to be industrial in the future, its prime for residential/office development, move those industries further out and the need for the motorway connection would go.

  10. The Brisbane example is what San Francisco tore down some years ago (with some help from Mother Nature) and replaced with a boulevard that opened up a fantastic waterfront. I thought the word got out long ago that limited access highways on waterfronts were so 20th century. Those that are left should be torn down, those in the planning stages should be laughed out of the room. It also makes no sense to build a highway on a waterfront since it then serves only half its potential traffic shed. Unless it includes a canal.

  11. Yes amazingly quiet down there. First time I rode this path I saw about 20 royal spoonbills feeding 30 yards offshore. Don’t know if that’s common but it’s hard to imagine they’d find it an appealing spot for lunch with a mini motorway a few wing beats away.

  12. While I personally would find that road very useful and I would use it a lot, it does seem very backwards to build a motorway along a waterfront – so last century.

  13. They should do the road connections at each end, i.e.from Neilson St/Galway St intersection to just under Mangere Bridge, and the Hugo Johnston -Sylvia Pk Rd/Mt Wellington interchange, and that would lessen congestion at the chokepoints. It’s not necessary to build a road right along the foreshore at all!

  14. I would like the foreshore to remain as it is with the cycleway crossing over the railway to connect to Great South Road at least. As was mentioned a connection to Otahuhu station or even to Slyvia park station using railway land would be even better. When the old Southdown station was still open there was a footbridge over the track which gave access from Hugo Johnstone drive to Great South Road.
    The tree lined Hugo Johnstone drive is a good example of how an industrial area should look.

  15. And what about the Port. It wont be long before the last Holcim ship discharges cement there. The new facility on Quay street is coming along nicely. Then it will only be used for fishing boats. And I think the old bridge is going to be replaced with a new cycling pedestrian one. There is also the railway right of way from Onehunga station down to the port. So how about building the new bridge to take light rail across the harbour and on to Mangere and the airport. I understand the light rail is meant to be going to Onehunga anyway so just carry on using the rail right of way and a new low level bridge.

  16. Circling the inlet should be put on the agenda as it would lead to a revival of the area and would not only be a great recreational facility but also provide for excellent links within the whole cycling network.

  17. … An absolute waste of prime waterfront property.

    Why use Brisbane as an example, when there is already transport infrastructure blocking the entire eastern end of Mangere inlet?

  18. The southern side of the inlet in Favona around Norana Ave is quiet and pleasant also. There’s just no public access. Just needs to cycleway right along the shore from Mangere Bridge to Otahuhu. If they can do it in the Orakei basin they can do it there, for way less cost as not many boardwalks are needed.

  19. I commute along there 2-3 times a week and see a bunch of other regular commuters, runners and people walking their dogs. As other have mentioned it is surprisingly quiet (considering the surrounding area) and links to the restored Onehunga water front.

    I’m not sure why option B is unworkable (apart from how Slyvia Park rd is strangely missing), it seems to be a matter of changing the intersections at church-neilson st and church-gt south rd to allow a better flow of traffic with something like a flyover.

  20. I have been using the walkway on an occasional basis for 30 years. There used to be an active microlight airfield there. Now the water quality has improved and the Mangroves have doubled in size. This used to be a blood drenched stinkhole full of effluent from the freezing works but is now an attractive harbour side walk with potential for further recreational development. Neilson Street needs to be the basis of an EW link something the planners seem blind to. In the 1990’s there was a proposal to build a flyover at the Royal Oak roundabout. you can guess how that was received.

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