Despite over 80% of submissions in support of closing the pointless lane through Freyberg Square, the council have caved to the wishes a few complaining retailers who consistently seem determined to hold the city back – often so they can park outside their shops. They’ve announced that the lane will now be retained while the council spends many more years coming up with a plan for the entire High Street area.

Freyberg Square Proposed Design

The Auckland City Centre Advisory Board (ACCAB) has endorsed a staged approach to improvements for Freyberg Square, with vehicle access through the square retained in the interim to provide more flexibility for future improvements in the wider area.

Upgrades to Freyberg Square and the Ellen Melville Centre in Auckland’s city centre received strong public support when consulted on in September, however some key issues were raised, particularly from local businesses.

The temporary retention of vehicle access – connecting High Street with Chancery Street – is the most significant change from proposals, and follows discussions with Heart of the City and business owners in the area. Other changes include the retention of four large phoenix palms, cycle parking, additional seating and moving some of the trees.

The vehicle access would provide flexibility for potential future improvements in High Street and the wider area, while a precinct plan is developed with the community and businesses. That plan will set out the direction for the area and inform future investment decisions. There are currently no set proposals for what a High Street upgrade could consist of – however $15m has been committed from the City Centre Targeted Rate.

ACCAB Chair Kate Healy said “Having a staged approach to Freyberg Square means we get most of the improvements now, while helping to keep options open for the area’s future development – as well as options for how we might minimise potential disruption. We will also work towards the vision for Freyberg Square, which had strong public support in the consultation.

“Many businesses in this area are excited about what the future will hold, but want to see a holistic approach taken for the district’s development. This underlines the commitment of the ACCAB and Auckland Council to listen to stakeholders and work together with communities to transform our city centre.”

It is expected that access through the square would be generally open but able to be closed for events. This would evolve over three to five years to become generally closed to vehicles, but able to be opened when needed.

The ACCAB advises on city centre projects and spending of the City Centre Targeted Rate. The rate raises about $21m annually – of which 96% comes from city centre businesses and the rest from residents. It will fund the improvements to Freyberg Square and is also set to fund improvements to High Street.

The full feedback report of the consultation on the square and the community centre is available online at here.

I agree that there needs to be a plan for High St but at the same it seems like the decision completely undermines the council’s consultation processes. It raises the question of why even bother going to the effort of submitting and engaging with the council if they then ignore the vast majority of responses which in this case actually supported them.

I guess the only positive is there now seems more impetuous to actually do something about High St and that hopefully means an upgrade of the street from its currently pedestrian unfriendly design. The counter to that is the retailers who have managed to hold up improvements to Freyberg Square are just as likely to keep doing the same thing with any plans for High St as they will be emboldened by this decision meaning the council will likely delay improvements even further.

Freyberg Pl
The lane will remain

Perhaps instead of spending time on a plan that will likely be delayed further the council should instead just pull all money from the area and instead spend it on areas that may support improvement. For example I’m thinking of more shared spaces on other parts of Federal St. In the mean time High St, Aucklands former high street, will no doubt continue its slide into relative obscurity and businesses and customers flock to those streets that haven’t fought against the spirit of the times

Share this


  1. that hopefully means an upgrade of the street from its currently pedestrian unfriendly design

    That seems exceedingly unlikely. It is, after all, the same bunch of cowed designers and engineers and bureaucrats who refused to take out the road in the first place.

  2. Ugh. As I walked along High Street today and came back via O’Connell street, I was amazed by how different the two were. One was vibrant, full of people sitting in the sun and easily navigating their way around the few cars and outdoor furniture that is dotted along the street. The other is made up of narrow footpaths where pedestrians jostle for space, having to step down onto the road in order to give way to each other and where service vehicles are parked. Given the number of empty and closing shops along there, the parking really can’t be making that much difference to whether shops are successful or not.

    1. Yes is a joy to walk down o’connell now.

      It is a disgrace the lane is kept. High street feels like the backend of a third world city. Absolutely ridiculous this shambles persists in this day and age.

  3. Perhaps instead of spending time on a plan that will likely be delayed further the council should instead just pull all money from the area and instead spend it on areas that may support improvement.

    I could not agree more. Places like Onehunga, Manukau, and Henderson all could do with the same investment and upgrade of their streetscapes. They’ll appreciate it.

      1. Unfortunately for Henderson the funding comes from a city centre targeted rate, so it has to be spent in the city centre.

        Sad thing is by fighting improvements in these ideal places, they hurt the whole city centre to some extent. Spending the money in the second or third best street is less effective spend, than a place like high St which is crying out for the improvement. I just don’t understand these businesses, how are they still in business if they expect their business model from twenty years ago will do for the next twenty years too?

        1. Somewhere else central then. Federal, Wolfe, and Swanson streets a begging for some shared space treatment. The proposed Emily place upgrade or even Durham Street are all contenders. Hardinge and Graham Street around the new NZME building and the link down to Fanshawe could be good as well.

  4. Yes the Council should have just said they won’t bother with any redevelopment in Freyberg. Spend it on the area around Fort Street or Federal Street or anywhere else where retailers appreciate progress.

    I will continue to boycott High Street and watch it slide downhill. Hopefully once retailers in High Street have hit rock bottom, people like Murray Crane may realise it isn’t 1980.

    The step I would really like to see in Fort Street is access to Queen and from Shortland stopped. That is what Fort Street really needs to bring it to life.

    1. Do you know if Unity Books supported this? I really like them and would not like to boycott them. But I will if they’re harming the transformation of our cities.

      1. No idea, sorry.

        I agree it is a shame to tar all the retailers with the same brush. But unless there is clarity on who the bad ones are, there is no choice really.

      2. Boycotting is worse than pointless. The total lost margin for Unity from the people that were going to buy something from them anyway, out of the small percentage of the limited number of people that really care out of the small amount of people that even know about this issue will probably amount to less than $100.

        The only effect it will have is to punish the person doing the boycotting, as they will lose out on being able to buy whatever they wanted to buy from Unity, which is probably difficult to get elsewhere.

        So by boycotting you are effectively siding with Murray Crane et al, by punishing those who oppose them, i.e. you.

        It may make you feel better I suppose, but that seems a rather pointless exercise. And boycotting is exhausting, having to keep track of the personal beliefs of the owners of all businesses you frequent to make sure that they align with your own.

        1. It’s not exhausting. I just never buy anything on High Street. Very simple.

          I am sure I can find anything in Unity Books (which I have never been into, because I boycott High Street) on the internet for cheaper.

          1. Agree completely, can’t recall the last time I spent *any* money in High street. Its a shit-hole plain and simple, and the retailers who oppose the improvements for everyone are also plain and simple too. They don;t deserve any customers.
            Unity books might not be a problem here but their neighbours sure are. And as my gran always told me when I were younger – you’re judged by the company you keep.

            The only reason I go near Freyburg place and by implication – High street, for anything is when Bike Auckland meetings are held in the hall there.

        2. I disagree. I support Unity in Wellington despite it being slower, more awkward and more expensive than online shopping, precisely because I think downtown shops like Unity Books are important. But if it’s true that they oppose the improvement of High St for a few carparks, that would be a huge black mark and I’d be very happy to take my business online. Worse- I’d browse there to see what I like and then purchase elsewhere. And I’d alone spend well over $100 a year there.

    2. I think access to Queen is being cut off by stealth (a good thing) as the large volume of pedestrians on Queen St just ignore the cars on Fort St and leave them waiting. This must surely be a disincentive to people driving that way.

    1. yes a couple of temporary planter boxes and survey before and after. If disaster befalls High St then remove the planter boxes, if it doesn’t, proceed with the upgrade.

      Council spent so much bringing JSK over and has done nothing. What a waste of money.

  5. I was the Waitemata Local Board member at the City Centre Advisory Board meeting that accepted this appeasement. It was vigorously opposed by Councillor Lee and I but the staff recommendation was that the lane remain open to traffic and that was accepted by the meeting. Our opposition is noted in the minutes.

    For those interested in the details: the Local Board has decision making authority over the Ellen Melville and Pioneer Women’s Hall but authority for the renovation of the square, funded by the targeted rate, was delegated by the Auckland Development Committee to the Chief Executive, Steven Town.

    When local retailers complained about losing the rarely-used shortcut, staff were directed to find a solution that would mollify them. The Local Board strongly objected to the lane being re-introduced to the design as we are spending close to $4 million renovating the hall to its original glory and building a much-needed community hub on the ground floor.

    The publicly-consulted design of the square (which gained a staggering 84% positive support, including that of building owners in the area) fit with the higher order priorities of having indoor-outdoor flow between the centre and the square, prioritising pedestrians, making the space child-friendly and allowing the ground floor to open onto the square.

    We are disappointed that the public are not getting what they have so clearly asked for and will seek to have the transition to the lane being generally closed (open only by consent) made as soon as practicable.

    1. Well done on standing your ground Vernon. It makes you wonder what the point of consultation is when retailers who are only leasing and may not be there for long, can dictate a project.

      The Council should have withdrawn the project and spent the money elsewhere. These reactionaries have to understand there are consequences to their blocking of progress. Instead they are pandered to.

    2. Thanks for that Vernon. It’s a pity that those higher up the organisation told staff to ignore the democratic process and to ignore widely endorsed good outcomes.

    3. Don’t spend the money. Keep it for other projects where retailers do not oppose projects that are supported by the wider community.

      1. Agree 100 %.. the outcome is totally unsatisfactory and smacks of caving in to minority interests (misguided ones at that) and above all is unfair on other parts of the City Centre that could benefit from the investment.

      2. Yes, I’d rather we come back to High St and Freyberg Square in five years rather than take a staged approach just to appease a handful of retailers. In the meantime look at prioritising other city centre upgrades such as Emily Place and Lorne St.

    4. Vernon, is there a publicly available list of local retailers that did not object to losing the rarely-used shortcut. I’d like to support those retailers, and let them know I’m shopping there because of their stance.

        1. I’m not after the last of those who are against, I’m after the list of those who are not against.

          I currently bypass all of high street, but I’d be happy spending my money with those in favour of change.

    5. Indeed no one wants to see disabled people have access across the square and those shops. It would make too many people feel bad. Next time suggest to put a No Mobility Parking and No Wheelchairs sign. Make it blindingly obvious.

      1. I don’t see why your are moaning so much about this. High St and Freyberg are currently an impossible environment for those in wheelchairs, and very difficult for those with limited mobility. Making it a single planar, obstacle free people space will make things far easier for everyone.

  6. Ridiculous, we get the city we deserve and if this is a precedent then its ugly. Retailers who want car parking for their clients need to relocate to a Mall. Meantime the priority setting in the Public Realm is untenable. What is the pedestrian count up the narrow, crappy footpath partially blocked with signs, parking machines, rubbish anything that has to find a home? Meantime few empty, parked cars occupy twice as much space as if they are VIP seats at a concert. Objects to be worshipped or revered. Deluded people in cars drive around hoping they will find a cheap carpark right outside where they want to go. Complete madness. I agree do not spend one more cent of ratepayers money it can remain a sewer for cars or maybe just a sewer.

  7. The clear majority of the public want to see the lane closed and the approach that the City Centre Advisory Board endorsed last night would see that happen – just not straight away. The wording is: “allows managed vehicle access through the square, moving from mostly open access to mostly closed access over a three to five year timeframe”.

    In those ‘three to five years’, our city centre is going to go through some really exciting changes and the way people come here will be very different. We already have more people commuting in by PT than car – think what it’ll be like then when we also have a greatly improved network of cycleways. Bear in mind that one of the other changes made to the design is more bike parking…

    What this staged approach means is that there is more flexibility for other upgrades in the area, in particular for High St itself. Contrary to what some may think, the retailers have been positive in our disucssions about what an upgrade for High St could be; but they want to see the precinct plan completed first. Again, this flexibility enables that to happen.

    This project is not funded from the general rate by the way, but from the City Centre Targeted Rate – which has also committed $15m to the upgrade of High St itself.

    1. The wording is: “allows managed vehicle access through the square, moving from mostly open access to mostly closed access over a three to five year timeframe”.

      That’s three to five years of not having a fully functioning improved Ellen Melville Hall and redeveloped Freyberg Square. As Vernon Tava just stated above.

      My own personal experience is that a consultation process which is blocked by people saying – we reject this part until we have a complete plan for the entire area – is one in which they are unhappy with elements of the original plan and will seek to use the expanded plan to block and change those elements.

    2. Its a bullshit approach and everyone here knows it.

      If what you say is true, then AT can close Freyburg place right now, but leave the “road” in place, and then and only then – when the High Street improvements are being undertaken, then the road can be opened temporarily to allow relief of traffic so that works to be done on High. And once High Street is sorted, the road through Freyburg is closed again. Yes that road can stay for 3-5 years but it doesn’t have to be open the whole time does it?

      Whats so hard about that? Its simple, effective, makes a statement. “Through. here. no. vehicles. go.”

      You say that a lot of exciting change is gonna happen? Well a lot of “exciting” change has already happened there, including O’Connell St. And we’ve had more people using PT than cars for quite a while now, oh, since about the last census at least as I recall.
      So why the hold up with making pedestrians the priority over cars? And more bike parking for my and others bikes in 3-5 years? Yeah I’m really happy for that.

      As for funding, well I’m sure the rest of the businesses in the city centre targeted rate area are happy – those targeted rates they’re paying will get spent on other projects that will benefit their business while the poor shmucks in High St will be casting their bleary green eyes over to those places – as they see the customer flock to them, and they will wish they to had that sort of customer and facilities.

      Those retailers who lobby for the 3-5 year staged approach “with precinct plan and bells on” – may well find they have no custom(ers) and they’re out of business by then. good riddance to them when it happens.

      I’ll shed Crocodile tears from my new home in another city on the planet by then.

      1. Hi GregN,
        As you say: “Yes that road can stay for 3-5 years but it doesn’t have to be open the whole time does it?”
        Spot on.
        The idea is a design that means it can be closed much more readily than now, perhaps with use of bollards – and then this evolves to a point where it’s closed but can be opened for the flexibility you describe. Without that access being available, we don’t have that flexibility.
        Btw – more bike parking would happen in the first phase with this approach. What this means is that we can crack on with the rest of the project – we expect from about the middle of next year – and only the vehicle access would be delayed. All the other improvements would go ahead.

        1. Take the Janette Sadik-Kahn approach. Temporarily close it for 12 months and see what happens. Defer the upgrade until after that.

          1. Great suggestion Bryce. I sympathise with Oliver et al but I am frankly not interested in waiting 3-5 years for improvements given the reasons given for waiting in this case.. this leaves a very sour taste. 80% in favour FFS. Stick some planters across the lane for a few weeks / months and see if the sky falls down.

        2. So by “flexibility” you mean the ability to continue to drive through the area? It will not be ‘flexible’ for pedestrians and cycllists until High St is redesigned to reflect the needs of those modes.

          Why should the flexibility for motorists count more, and how can you possibly justify ignoring such an overwhelming proportion of submitters? This decision deserves a judicial review.

          1. You’re way off again I’d say. Shared spaces are far better for trade and delivery vehicles, they can literally access any point they need to anywhere. You can’t do that now, as there is no where to stop because the parking is full of cars. The shared spaces only remove private car parking, they make it easier for service vehicles and far far easier for emergency services.

            You ever seen a fire engine trying to get up High St between the parked cars? It’s absurd. It would take an ambulance fifteen minutes to drive from one end to the other at most times.

          2. There is currently no parking in freyberg place. How will closing the road prevent tradesmen getting to their jobs?

            The new design features flat ramp free access from both high street and chancery.

            Did you oppose the Aotea centre because you can’t drive into the theatre?

    3. Can you tell me, Oliver, is it just commercial property owners in the cbd who pay the targetted rate and if they pay it, do they get a reduction in other components of their annual rates?

    4. Thanks for the info, Oliver. So as an inner city property owner I will be be paying this rate and should have some say in the decision. I’m not sure why any retailers who lease their properties have more say when they are not paying the rate, but anyway.

    5. So, lets spend some money now and we’ll spend some more later. Let’s just spend it where businesses want redevelopment then shall we? This decision makes a complete mockery of the consultation process.

  8. Sheesh. Blatant cronyism. SPEND THE MONEY SOMEWHERE ELSE AND LEAVE THE AREA TO DECLINE (unfortunate though it would be).

    1. Spend $15M on Fort Street to achieve what exactly? It’s a shithole with so much traffic and spending money on it with out moderating traffic is like polishing a turd. I have, and will continue, to avoid High Street and the businesses there. O’Connell St however, see you there.

    2. I will be writing to Tania at HOTC ( and advising her that I will be boycotting High Street until such time as they realise it is the 21st century.

      I hope others can find time to do the same.

      1. What other things do you boycott? For reasons surely far more important than this little issue. First world problems and all that…

        1. I suspect he also boycotts reading/responding to your comments because they’re so boring.

          More specifically, please stop with the broken record “you can’t take a stand on this because then you’d have to take a stand on that” defunct line of reasoning. It’s like you have some kind of chip on your shoulder about people doing anything that they think is “right”.

          People do all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons and *newsflash* other people might be motivated by different factors from you

          If it makes someone feel better to shop at a store that acts in a way that they like, then that’s their prerogative. You may be interested to know that people’s decisions about when/where to spend money is, for most, not just about *what* they buy, but also what company lies behind the products that they are purchasing. If Goose feels better buying his homogenous product from Store A rather than Store B, which is only a short walk away, then who the hell are you to judge?

          Such behaviour has been well studied in the economic literature: Consider evolutionary game theory, and in particular the subject of repeated “Prisoners’ dilemma” games. In such situations players can often “cooperate” to achieve outcomes that are better for both than what you would expect based on a one-time game. However, if one player deviates from the expected outcome, then their poor behaviour “triggers” the other player to play a strategy which punishes the other (and as well as themselves) for evermore.

          In this case, it may be that the retailers on High Street have deviated from what Goose considers to be the expected outcome, i.e. they have unreasonably scuppered a proposal that has wide community support. In response, certain members of the community, such as Goose, are triggered to shop elsewhere. First world problem? Perhaps.

          But I’d argue that exactly the same structural behavioural responses show up in other contexts. Indeed, in less-developed contexts reputation (as is built up from repeated games) is often even more important because your options for “trading” are more limited. Don’t shit in one’s own nest and all that …

          So my conclusions are 1) boycotting a business you don’t like is an entirely natural thing to do and 2) arguably it may have a lot going for it insofar as it can motivate good long term behaviour from the business community.

          1. Well, I’m do apologise for boring you!
            But, that was a rather lenghthy diatribe in response to an actual question. It may be that ol’ goosy and others are upstanding conscientious boycotters (is that even a word?) to all sorts things that people do. To which I’d say good on ’em. It’s something many more people should be doing.

            But if this is the only thing they’re concerned about, then it just kinda smells like a bit of yelling at clouds. But then who am I to stop them. Sometimes clouds need a good yelling at.

  9. you must be fucking kidding me. that lane is the clearest demonstration of what is wrong in this city and of how easy it is to fix. I say we close it down. fuck em

  10. Sounds like the standard “consultation” process to me. Everybody gets to have their say for 5 minutes, and then council does what the commercial interests dictate.

  11. Strange how when things don’t go your way you all get personal about the people who oppose your viewpoints. Interesting way to maturely present a subject.

  12. Although not the biggest issue – why are they keeping the Pheonix Palms??? Auckland Council regards them as a pest plant species and there sale and planting is banned in the Auckland region due to effects on biodiversity, urban open space and human health. Council should be proactively removing these from urban spaces as part of ongoing developments – dont they have a handle on their own guidance and information. Further in keeping them, Council will be failing to meet their responsibilities under both the LGA and RMA.

    In regards to keeping the vehicle access, I thought this would have been thoroughly assessed as part of the development proposals. How was it that the issue was only identified through consultation??

    1. Because lots of people said they like them and wanted to keep them, basically.

      The palms are privately owned and on private land, so all the council can do is ask nicely anyway.

  13. Yes I am very dissapointed. I have always thought Auckland had a real shortage of stairs and this brave new plan would have gone a long way towards addressing that shortage!

  14. Utterly stupid. How many people are actually driving and parking on high street? A tiny number compared to pedestrians I would bet. High and chancery area used to be lovely but all of the shops I used to visit there have pretty much moved down to Britomart area which is great as a pedestrian. If you’re so desperate to drive into town, park in a parking building. Short sighted-ness by these business owners throwing their weight about it just shooting themselves in the foot

    1. I wouldn’t mind if it was only their own feet they were shooting. Councils are supposed to make decisions in the interests of all current and future stakeholders, not a few noisy locals. I’d like them to do their bloody job.

  15. Think I’ll make my own low-key protest by assuming that the vehicle accessway is a pedestrian-priority space and walking very slooooowly across (or along it). It’s what I do on O’Connell. And stare at the driver of any non-delivery vehicle as though I can’t understand what they are doing there …

    Time Out in Mt Eden is a good alternative to Unity Books – although in fairness they may be one of the the retailers that support the bizarre bus lane restrictions (IIRC 4-6pm north and south of Mt Eden centre but only 4:30 – 5:30 in the centre).

    1. Was great having lunch on O’Connell on Friday with lots of people doing the same. Amongst others, that chocolate shop is an asset along with Al’s baguettes and bbq. People do their best with the cars funnelling through there but, for the love of Pete, is it not possible to have one proper pedestrian-only street in Auckland, like other city’s do?

  16. It makes complete sense. Consultation is not a contest and access for 20% is as important if not more than the visual preference of another 80% (note they will also have access if not the main area allocated available) . Blocking access to an entire group is generally seen as discriminatory if not restrictive to mixed use. Also stairs are bloody evil minded. A real we hate you in the face and get out of your city space. Why no ramp access? Well it was just not pretty enough apparently.

    1. It’s access to cars that needs to be stopped. Not access to people. Is your concern that there is inadequate wheelchair access? If so then that’s a separate issue that needs to be addressed and it does not equate to allowing unfettered access to place-spoiling motor-traffic. What is your problem?

      1. Consider a shopping mall. Regardless of physical or perceptual abilities, everyone arrives beside or under the mall then continues into the vehicle free area. Why would the Freyberg scheme be any different? One could park in the Victoria St carpark, take the lift to street level, then continue on a single level surface free of kerbs and parked vehicles all the way along high St, Freyberg square, Vulcan lane, oconnell St or the chancery. Or you could park in the chancery carpark and catch the lift up, etc.

        I don’t see what is so effective about the existing road, where even the fully able struggle to dodge parked cars on tiny cluttered footpaths which curbs, poles and junk in the way.

        1. There’s that assumption again. If you could walk surely everyone else can. If you could go to a mall surely everyone else must be able to. If you can walk flights of stairs or walk up the Victoria carpark ramps everyone can right. Really it goes without saying that some cannot. Want to see Caitlin Smith? Shop at the local bookstore? Buy clothes? Have a lunch, dinner out at a restaurant? Than for many that requires car access and if the streets are closed off altogether with bollards as the commentators suggest then you are physically locked out from that area. Save a mech suit. When the day comes for armored mech suits with crowd control for when the next cyclist or pesdestrian attacks a disabled person then sure that is the day when the streets become safe.

        2. That’s a really silly argument, “You already…”. The able-bodied have great amounts of parking. If we want to ensure disabled access – and we do – then we can put disabled spaces immediately outside destinations, and ensure that our build infrastructure is suitable for disabled people. Those things are happening.

Leave a Reply