Happy New Year and welcome to 2016 – a year in which I think we will continue to see Auckland transform towards a better city. While not an exhaustive list, here are some of the things I think will be big discussion points during year.
The alignment project between the council and government is likely to be a massive story of the year as it will effectively set the transport agenda for at least a decade. There are a couple of milestones throughout the year where information will be released publicly on progress and the final outcome will be known around August – just in the lead up to the local body elections.
Local Body Elections
Discussion in the middle of the year is likely to be dominated by the local body elections taking place – voting closes 8 October. We already know that current Mayor Len Brown isn’t standing and so far the main candidates that are Mark Thomas, Phil Goff and Victoria Crone. Todd Niall from Radio NZ has recently conducted some good interviews with each of them. Along with the mayoral race it will also be interesting to see what happens at the councillor level as when it comes to council decisions the mayor is only one vote. Having a council that is actively supportive towards better urban policies will be crucial if Auckland is to continue to improve.
It’s going to be another busy year with public transport.
New Network – In October the new network in South Auckland will be implemented (barring any further delays) and along with the upgraded Otahuhu Train station and associated bus interchange. AT will confirm the new routes for the North Shore, Central Auckland and East Auckland and tendering on those plus West Auckland will likely start in 2016 – although not implemented till 2017 or later.
Integrated Fares – In the middle of the year we should see integrated fares finally roll out making it much easier and for most cheaper to use PT in Auckland.
Rail Service improvements – I expect we’ll see a number of rail service improvements throughout the year. This should finally mean 10 minute frequencies on the western line, something that was originally promised to occur in 2010 when double tracking was finished. In the south we should see off peak frequencies improve in line with the New Network.
Parnell Station – If all goes to plan we should also see the Parnell Station open later in the year.
City Rail Link – It’s going to be a busy year for the CRL. Works on shifting services are already under way and during the year we’ll see the tunnel itself be started – likely around May. The rumour is that later this month the government will give their blessing for the project to start sooner than the 2020 date they originally indicated although I believe it’s likely they will only provide their share of the funding from 2020 onwards. The rumour ties in with what we’ve been hearing for months that an announcement was close and effectively down to finding the most politically convenient time to announce. I think they may tie in some other infrastructure announcements, acting on the calls by the RBNZ for the government to spend more on infrastructure in Auckland.
AMETI Busway – AT should lodge consent to build the section of busway from Panmure to Pakuranga this year and we’ll undoubtedly hear more around the issue of Reeves Rd Flyover which AT seem to be back to saying is needed before the busway from Pakuranga on to Botany is built.
Light Rail – We will undoubtedly hear more about light rail this year and given the pace at which AT seem to be moving on it, it wouldn’t surprise me if we got a decision on it later in the year – probably after ATAP. One of the advantages the project has over many others is that it should need very little in the way of consenting as it mostly uses the existing road corridor.
Rail to the Airport – Rail to the airport will likely be a bit talking point over the next few months as the airport say they need a decision on what the connection will be so they can finalise their future plans. If you’ve been reading the Herald over the last few days, you will have seen discussion of light rail the airport – something we covered back in August. I’ll have more on this next week including some details not previously seen.
Walking and Cycling
The government’s $100 million Urban Cycleway Fund is a use it or lose it deal so if AT/NZTA want to spend all of it that has been allocated to Auckland they’ll really need to get those pedals turning and get stuff done. I suspect this will mean a focus on getting the consultations for projects out of the way early on so the rest of the year and next year can be focused on getting stuff built.
Skypath – We’ll get the outcome of the environment court appeal to Skypath this year. I’d be very surprised to see them overturn the decision. Similarly, I suspect we’ll hear more from the NZTA about Seapath which is connection alongside the motorway from the bridge to Takapuna.
Waterview/WRR – In March we’ll see the Te Atatu Interchange works completed. That will also include an extension of the NW Cycleway from Te Atatu to Henderson Creek to link in with the existing section there. I also think the NZTA and their contractors will try to get the Waterview tunnels open this year. Construction will start on the section between Lincoln Rd and Westgate.
Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC) – I think we’ll hear a lot more about AWHC this year. The NZTA say they are working to protect the route – although from what we hear they only plan on building a road crossing. Late in the year AT said they had started a piece of work looking at the future of rapid transit on the North Shore which will tie in with the AWHC route protection. We believe that the focus of the entire project should shift and a PT only crossing be built first before re-assessing whether another road crossing is needed.
East West Link – The NZTA and AT have already said they’ll be looking to applying for consent for the project this year.
Reeves Rd Flyover – As mentioned earlier I think we’ll hear more about the Reeves Rd flyover this year – something the local councillors and MPs have been lobbying furiously to be prioritised, including trying to have the road declared a state highway. One of the main issues with the project is that the flyover itself doesn’t achieve much and AT have said it would just stuff up Carbine Rd and Waipuna Rd intersections unless they were also grade separated at considerable cost
The building boom that we’ve been starting to see in Auckland will continue strongly in 2017. One of the hot spots for this will be Albert St where we could potentially see 5 separate towers being built, many of the current buildings being renovated and of course the CRL tunnels being built.
Housing will remain a big discussion point as will the Unitary Plan which the independent panel will provide their recommendations on. Both of these topics will likely become key hot topics in the local body elections, spurred on by the herald who recently declared two storey town houses “high-rise”.
All up 2016 is going to be a busy year.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a new years resolution, why not make it one to help support us by joining Greater Auckland.