This is a Guest Post by David Shearer MP.

NB we welcome guest posts from anyone, all are judged on their individual merits and relevance. It is always good to hear what politicians of all flavours would like to see happen in our cities, especially when they are neither campaigning nor just complaining.

Western Springs through new eyes
MP David Shearer

Recent talk of a stadium on Auckland’s waterfront costing hundreds of millions is all very well, but how about seeing an old treasure through new eyes and planning for the future of Western Springs. With the amount of use the area gets, I can’t think of better bang for the ratepayer buck.

At the moment Western Springs is a collection of disparate elements – but it could be a beautifully-designed whole. It’s crying out for it. Think about what’s currently there:

The Auckland Zoo is in the middle of a $120million overhaul, projected to attract a million visitors per year within the decade – and it’s already pulling in 700,000.

MOTAT has new leadership, great ideas, 250,000 visitors a year and an abundance of prime land. It also has a bold architectural plan, conceived by the late Ian Athfield, awaiting funding and action.

There’s the speedway, the Western Springs soccer club, the Ponsonby Rugby Club, and the Auckland Performing Arts Centre (TAPAC) – each one a drawcard in its own right.

Add to that Pasifika, Auckland City Limits and other concerts, not to mention the thousands of families of all ethnicities who stroll around Western Springs Park on weekends, enjoying the special ecological features and Meola Creek.

Taken together, it’s a huge chunk of urban land, possibly the most-used in Auckland. Eden Park gets much more attention and has far fewer people using it.

As Auckland’s population increases, our open spaces will become increasingly more precious. Preparing for that means seeing and treating Western Springs as a destination.

Part of that is understanding the area as an ecological whole. To the west of Meola reef is a volcanic lava flow that extends right out into the harbour. In the other direction it extends across Meola Rd into Western Springs. Its waterways flow through to Chamberlain Park and beyond. Together, it’s a wide greenbelt, an environmental treasure that could do with the kind of design that will help Aucklanders really use and enjoy it from one end to the other.

I’m a fan of living bridges linking our green spaces. A cycle and pedestrian bridge across Meola Road could link these two parts. Another to cross the multiple road lanes of Great North Road and the North-western Motorway into Chamberlain Park would enable an uninterrupted ‘green ride’ through these landscapes.

Western Springs and environs showing potential locations for new cycle and walking links
Western Springs and environs showing potential locations for new cycle and walking links

At the moment, every big event within Western Springs needs a special transport plan. The place buzzes – yet it can be inconvenient and inefficient to get to resulting in congestion and parking chaos.

Surely it qualifies for smart modern infrastructure and transport. In the short term, at the very least, the Great North Rd bus route should be upgraded, with expanded timetables servicing Western Springs, the zoo and MOTAT.

The area is actually handy to trains, though at the moment you wouldn’t know it. Baldwin Ave Station is close and an improved pedestrian/bike route between Western Springs and the golf course would connect people to it and go a long way to addressing the access problems that now exist.

Meanwhile, the Zoo, MOTAT, TAPAC and other parts are currently atomised, focusing on their own individual development, simply because there’s no big-picture plan for them to work within. Could light rail help? What about a pedestrian/cycleway underpass at St Lukes? Could the vintage tram route be expanded to make the trams truly functional and useful?

Our waterways – like Meola Creekhave been taken for granted over decades, parts of them neglected and built-over, but they’re still there, waiting to be rediscovered and cherished by a new generation of Aucklanders.

The waterways are the living link between all these areas: Chamberlain Park, Western Springs and the Harbour. The water runs down from one of our precious maunga, Mt Owairaka to the sea.

I’d like to see urban designers grappling with these issues: pulling the disparate parts together into a modern, user-friendly precinct.

The natural environment is unique and should be preserved and enhanced: cycle ways, pedestrian paths, water flows and thoughtful, effective public transport.

The local communities, and the many using this space are passionate about it and should have a big say in the form of the design. That enthusiasm was able to save the Pohutukawa grove on Great North Road opposite MOTAT last year. It was a lesson in how well-loved the area is, and how invested locals rightly are in it. They are best insurance against lazy design.

With the City Rail Link on its way and a safe network of cycle lanes slowly taking shape, it feels like Auckland is growing up.

But perhaps – in reaching for more big, expensive projects – we’re at risk of overlooking some of the beauty that’s already here.

I think it’s time for Auckland’s planners to look at Western Springs with fresh eyes and deliver us a precinct that will be another jewel in Auckland’s crown.

BALWIN AVE new routes
Possible cycle and walking connections to Baldwin Ave Station. Existing NW cycleway in blue, Potential links across the golf course and bridge across SH16 and Gt Nth Rd, purple, and Linwood Ave and St Lukes Rd in red.

Postscript: The purple routes above are consistent with the masterplan the Albert Eden Local Board published recently, below, among other things these would improve the walk/ride potential for Western Springs College and Pasadena Intermediate enormously. The red route, which needs upgrading, is the obvious way to connect the train network to both the permanent attractions of MOTAT and events at the Park, although then the problem that AT/NZTA designed the new supersized St Lukes bridge with only half a thought for any user not in a vehicle then does come even more glaring than ever:

Chamberlain Golf Course scenario 4

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  1. Thanks David and I agree with your proposal and it’s a real pity the St Luke’s motorway over ridge is mono modal. The new underpasses further west along the NW cycleway really highlight how NZTA missed a trick here. This intersection & Carrington Rd will need to be revisited again one day.

  2. Great stuff – agree with everything except the Meola Rd bridge – that needs traffic calming, not a bridge over a two-lane road that is simply too speedy.

    Very pleased to see the support for a new golf course / Chamberlain Park bridge and associated paths. Those would be such great assets.

    1. Indeed, it simply needs interventions to slow traffic and then multiple zebras. Pedestrian overpasses are an extremely expensive solution to a problem created by the idea that nothing should ever be done that slows car traffic down one iota. There’s no reason this shouldn’t be a slow speed road with easy crossing options for pedestrians, the motorway is the arterial, Auckland needs to stop treating every road as the sole domain of cars.

    2. Thanks for a great post David. I had the same thought as Max – Meola Rd shouldn’t need a bridge, a bit of traffic calming, perhaps a pedestrian crossing or two where there are paths on each side of the road, and some signage should work wonders. But it would be great to have better connections across Great North Road and the motorway, and a bridge would help that.
      It would be great to tie this in with a plan for what Chamberlain Park Golf Course could be in the future. It’s council-owned land, and the current use means that very few people are able to enjoy it. But as we’ve seen with the responses to Peter Nunns’ posts on the subject, changing the use is a bit of a political hot potato. Need to bring the community along on the process…

  3. Great to see our MPs proposals for the area. I can’t see a problem with adding a cycle lane to the St Luke’s Road bridge though, it is big enough. Put in an underpass at S Luke’s Road and you will lose the connectivity that the makes that cycleway so attractive, and it will be very expensive because of the geology of the area. An underpass further west would follow Motions Creek under the motorway (Watitiko is the creek’s Maori name).

    1. Wouldn’t have needed to have been expensive, it could have easily been combined with the complete rebuild of the motorway over bridge that is currently taking place as has happened at Te Atatu, however, as always AT/NZTA’s primary focus is on cars with footpaths and cycle paths an add on when they’re required to.

  4. A lot of good points. The area should have its own precinct plan with better connectivity especially with the plans for chamberlain.

    Nzta again cutting costs with no future vision just like not allowing for the north western buslane/ light rail route.

  5. Good news. The masterplanning work for this area is already underway. It is something the Waitemata Local Board has been pushing to make happen for some time. The work is being led by Regional Facilities Auckland (responsible for MOTAT, Western Springs Sadium and the Zoo) with support from all the key stakeholders and in partnership with the Board.

  6. A vision from a politician instead of just complaining or responding to the noisy few – great stuff.
    I didn’t know about the Baldwin train station – interesting as train access has always been the big failing with western springs. A grade separated cycle lane from the train station to the area would be a must have. Taking your family would then just require a train ride and then a save cycle and you have access to all the attractions mentioned above (zoo, MOTAT etc.)

    1. There are cycle lanes on Asquith Ave and St Lukes Road between BaldwinAve station nd Western Springs. However, they are not separated and as both these roads are busy, they are a bit scary. We walk through there twice a week and see a lot of cyclists using the footpath. There is room for improvement – especially on St Lukes Road past Linwod Ave where the golf course fence could be pushed back about 4m and provide a really nice cycle and pedestrian path through a pleasant area of trees which is not used by golfers. This might also allow the slip lane to the left turn to the motorway to be extended further back on St Lukes road if the footpath moves to the west.

  7. actually some concrete and very good ideas. I’m impressed. Especially the Baldwin Ave train station doesn’t look that far once a safe path is built.

    1. It’s actually really close, I used to live pretty much on top of the Baldwin Ave station and the walk to Western Springs was 15 minutes at a dawdle.

  8. OMG! You can’t allow the unwashed hordes access to the immensely over subsidised Chamberlain Park… Oops I mean Golf Course. How are the self entitled privileged going to enjoy their private golf game. It could lead to another Dunedin Chisholm Links golf course.

    I know how to fix this – more 5 metre high fencing like what segregates this PUBLIC (really mean public subsidised private use by a wealthy few) space from the bourgeois and manorialism.

      1. Yes, but at risk of sounding like I am taking this too far, you could also have a nice cake-eating building, where everyone could, for a small fee, eat a nice cake (but not do ANYTHING ELSE!), in a Council-provided space.

        The real point – without either side being confrontational about it – remains: Is such a space-hungry, low-intensity use like a golf course the best use of an inner city area?

        1. That old socialist hatred of hard working people who play golf again. Don’t you ever get tired of it? The fact is Golf in Auckland is on the rise while cycling is in decline. Perhaps the hundreds of thousands of dollars given by local govt to Bike Auckland (and its 200 or so members) should have been given instead to Golf clubs. All the ‘cycling promotes health benefits’ are also true of Golf, in fact – given the ages involved, Golf probably provides a better CBR than cycling spends.

        2. Thats hilarious. I will personally donate all the money that Local Government has given to Bike Auckland and I don’t think it would be enough to shout a round of drinks at your Club House. Fortunately people can and do cycle without any special investment apart from the bike. If you are referring to the investment that Local and Central Government has put into separate Cycling Infrastructure in Auckland. Shocking news, roads were not originally built for cars. But because Cars have dominated the public realm to such a degree that many people feel unsafe to ride its now necessary to provide separate infrastructure for people on bikes – hardly their fault. An AT survey highlighted that over 60% of people in Auckland would like to ride bikes if it was safer to do so. I’m not sure that many people aspire to take up golf even though an excellent and very reasonably priced facility is provided for that purpose.

        3. Since when did golf provide useful levels of anything, say for example, traffic decongestion benefits, to the rest of the community who don’t golf?
          Unlike cycling or walking which most definitely does. As has been shown here and overseas.

          I’d agree that golf may provide “decongestion” and walking benefits to the individuals doing it, as walking out in the fresh air is always beneficial to your health – until you cop a golf ball in the ear that is.

          The main issue a lot of us have with golfing on public open spaces, is not socialist belief or any other such wank as you imagine.

          It is simply that it is ipso facto, exclusionary to all other users of what is a large and valuable public space while said golfing is taking place.

          Because golfers are not generally well known for being able to control where their balls go once they hit them. So for everyone’s sake it’s generally required [by golfers] that no one else be near them.

          As for money given to Bike Auckland by AT, for a mere “200 members”, I am sure that the annual per golf club member subsidy received from Auckland Council both direct and indirect for the few members of all the publicly owned golf courses in Auckland, would well exceed any figure you can imagine BA members received in the decades or CAA (now BA)’s existence.

          And in any case, those numbers provided ignore the fact that almost none of the money mentioned that BA received is ever retained by BA and/or spent on its members.
          Its actually used to pay BA’s costs to run/be present at events – events and activities which benefit the wider walking and cycling community not BA members.

          BA members are after all already cycling, so they don’t need encouragement (financially) from AT to keep cycling. they do want better facilities to make it safer, as we all do whether it be roads, footpaths or cycle facilities.

          However, the rest of the Auckland community who would cycle if they felt safe, have needs that are different. AT recognise this, and also realise that BA provides one way to reach these folks efficiently and practically.

          If BA didn’t give AT good value for the money, then I’m sure AT would have ceased to involve BA years ago. On that basis its clear that AT thinks it gets value for the money that it sends BA’s way.

          Golf courses on public land as a wider public benefit? Not so much.

    1. You are an idiot. As a student chamberlain park is the only golf course in auckland that is acessabile and affordable. I cannot afford the $40 green fees at other courses and chamberlain park is the only golf course central enough for us to play. Im not wealthy, I live off the government living costs. Get your facts straight about who plays at chamberlain before you start blabbering on

  9. This is why Local MPs matter, someone who lives and understands the area they represent, I don’t think my MP would be caught dead in Papakura if it wasn’t for a photo-op or visiting voters in the more affluent areas of the Electorate.

  10. Sorry Patrick, but you are allowing your prejudices against a leisure activity that is enjoyed by all walks of life to cloud your judgement. (Your arguments could probably also be used against cycling). I would like to see the figures on Chamberlain Park, but I would guess that green fees would probably go very close to covering the outgoings, and that course is not the domain of the wealthy few, they belong to other courses where membership and green fees make sure that it is only the wealthy few can play there.

    1. Ah, the cycling argument – I was waiting for that. Well, lets have a look:

      The golf course is used for, I think, 50,000 golfers a year? That would make it 137 a day?

      The bike path ALONG the edge of the golf course (with the very limited access currently provided), averages something between 300-500 cyclists a day (low-balling it from figures that area a bit old – averages may be higher by now). Make it 300, but add another 100 walkers. For 400 users a day, approx 3 times as many golfers.

      Then compare the size. The bike path takes up a 3m. Make it a generous 6m, once berms and everything is included. The Golf course meanwhile is around 300m wide over the same length. So about 50 times more space needed.

      So in comparison, the intensity of use of the cycle path is about 3 x 50 = used 150 times more.

      Sure, you could argue golfers use the park longer at a time than riders use tha path, but the comment remains – its a low-intensity use. It doesn’t HAVE to go, but rearranging it so it is less of a barrier to walking and cycling through the neighbourhood would be a good improvement.

      1. That’s 50,000 rounds of golf, not 50,000 golfers a year. Nobody knows how many individuals use the golf course in a year. I’d note that the Local Board’s Masterplan provides for a nine-hole golf course–a popular alternative overseas to the traditional 18-hole course, of which we have a surfeit in Auckland–as well as a driving range and learn-to-play facilities. Nobody is talking about taking golf off the park, except perhaps those who would sell it to developers.

        1. The cycle lanes are paid for out of rates and taxes. The improvements to the golf course is paid out of user pays fees.

        2. I thought the last time this all blew up on this blog it was figured that the green fees do pay for the operational upkeep of the park, but the argument was how much more it could make if it were required to pay rates (i.e. Developed into housing etc) or how much of a return on investment it could make if it were generating income some other way.

  11. This area has the makings of a premiere tourist destination with better connectivity.

    Baldwin Ave could be a busy station one day, access to the zoo, you have the secondary schools there, test cricket may move to western springs, a possible tramline to st lukes mall on st lukes rd. Will asquith ave ever get the rail line trenched if its frequencies increase? or will the road just be closed in 10-20 years time?

  12. Not sure those purple routes would do much for the walk/ride potential for Pasadena and Western Springs College. The main catchment for those schools is to the north/west/east of those schools, most of the area to south (Chamberlain) would be in the Mt Albert Grammar zone.

    Baldwin Ave to the stadium would be 2km plus, Morningside would actually be closer wouldn’t it? Up and over the hill and through the underpass on Ivanhoe Rd. Although I guess the Baldwin route would be flatter to cycle/walk.

    We’ve noticed a lot more tourists using the Outer Link to access the area from Meola Rd in the last couple of years. They quite often get off the bus too early and can be found wandering around the Westmere shops. Better signage, pedestrian access from Meola Rd would be good, a map showing where they need to go to get to the Zoo, MOTAT, the Tram and the Lake once they get off the bus is needed.

  13. This plan doesn’t make use of the biggest potential improvement to the area: changing the land use of chamberlain park. Auckland doesn’t need a golf club, or more tennis courts, in its center, it needs accommodation.

    1. So let’s just tear up everything and build cheap housing. What about a smarter look at quality of life and limit excessive population increases.

  14. Touching on Mr. Shearer’s comments regarding a “special transport plan” for events at Western Springs, more consideration needs to be given to the provision of event buses at Western Springs, where to park them and where to pick up and drop off event-goers, for major events at the speedway and concerts. At the conclusion of Auckland City Limits, hardly any buses were in sight and those that came were virtually motionless in all the traffic. I think this is more important that getting people to walk all the way to Baldwin Avenue station.

    I would think closing portion of GNR outside Western Springs prior to the conclusion of a major event to general traffic and even the St Lukes on/off ramps may work to allow the event buses to pick up passengers leaving the event. General traffic along GNR then gets diverted along Motions Road, Old Mill Road and Surrey Crescent.

  15. Further update: The Waitemata Local Board has $20k in the 16/17 budget for development of the Westerns Springs plan (RFA will also be contributing resources to the planning process). It has taken us a while to get RFA to this point as they have been focused on plans for MOTAT, the zoo and the stadium but the masterplan for the area is definitely going to happen.

  16. This is great and as many of the commentators have said, it’s really excellent to see a politician really engaged with Auckland’s urban planning issues and making positive contributions. On another note, and seguing into the debate about a new Auckland stadium, it would be excellent if a politician could really come up with some alternatives to the idea of putting the stadium on the waterfront. My preference would be to see Mt Smart become Auckland’s primary stadium – it is on great transport links and the area could benefit with mass investment. It would also keep a significant part of the waterfront free from a colossal building that does nothing to benefit the cityscape.

    1. A stadium is an entertainment destination, it works best when it’s close to bars and restaurants.

      Nowhere in NZ has better mass transit links than the waterfront, 3 train lines, NEX and ferry system all meet at one place, slap bang in the middle of an entertainment area.

        1. Mt Smart isn’t in Kingsland or near Dom rd.

          A stadium doesn’t stuff up anything. It’d become the major entertainment venue for the city .

        2. No but obviously Eden Park is. Who gives a shite how ‘major’ $1/2-1 billion of Harbour blocking stadium becomes it’d still be a huge waste of public funds, used intermittently.

          The point is we have three existing stadia that are costing a fortune; and you want a fourth. Excellent thinking. Oh and right where there isn’t anywhere to put one.

        3. So sell two or three of them, they clearly aren’t working if they cost a fortune. I’ll take one properly designed, properly sited stadium over three clangers thanks!

        4. Wellington’s stadium comes alive for a few hours a fortnight. The rest of the time it is an empty, space-wasting hulk.
          Uncomfortable reality.

      1. Mt Smart has room for a 40-50k stadium like Lang Park AND the speedway. It could also enable the relocation of Penrose Station away from the shithole it is now to a more suitable location completely change O’Rorke Rd. It just needs imagination.

  17. Just in case David Shearer reads this- Great post and all that. But the big issues facing Auckland are not just in your area. There is a very real need for more housing particularly for low income people. There is a need for long term investment in transport projects, all modes trains, buses, cycling and walking and yes even car based travel as that will be with us for a long time yet.

    10 year Government bonds have dropped to 2.88% meaning it is now cheaper for the state to borrow money than it has been for generations. If you want a point of difference then don’t miss this chance. The current government has an obsession with balancing its budget. But that means we will miss a golden opportunity to build infrastructure needed for the long term at finance rates that are almost too good to believe. Labour needs to put forward a works programme for housing, transport and schools. So long as the money is invested in projects with a good return, that are needed by the next generation as well, we just cant lose. (just dont turn gas into gasoline!) My advice David is zoom out a few clicks on Google maps and rewrite your essay for the larger area. Good luck!

    1. Indeed. And the point about borrowing also holds for Auckland Council. The debt catastrophists running fro council do us all a disservice. The city is growing strongly, it needs new infrastructure to accommodate that growth. It is clearly fairer that these future ratepayers contribute to this cost and not just the current ones. Borrowing is the way to do this. Of course not for any old thing, but for high value long lasting structures like Rapid Transit rights of ways and infra.

    2. Soundbite Steve responds, “That’s socialism, that’s communism! Tax and spend! Tax and spend! And I’ll duck the damn dildo this time!”

  18. This cluster of green spaces can do more than just be for recreating and bicycle transport. This is Auckland’s best opportunity to demonstrate the concepts of ‘green infrastructure’ and ‘working landscape’.

    We must go beyond just another traditional urban park. Way more is possible here, and once achieved, should become the template for how to run green spaces in all of Auckland.

    Last year, during the debate about the Chamberlain Park/Golf Course, I argued the case for a ‘NINE-ROLE GOLF COURSE’. With the following argument:

    The purpose of green open space in (and around) the city in the 21st century must be multiple. In this case, at least NINE ROLES, or activities, or functions, should be considered. Given the exceptionally endowed site, and with a bit of luck with the choice the landscape architect, supported by enlightened ecologists and engineers – no less than NINE functions could be integrated in one excellent design:

    1) Stormwater management
    2) Climate moderation
    3) Habitat protection
    4) Public recreation (esp. golf)
    5) Visual amenity
    6) Food & fiber production
    7) Waste recycling
    8) Energy generation
    9) Environmental education

    The ‘Western Greenbelt’ is Auckland’s best chance to implement the idea of “green infrastructure”, whereby one green open space serves a bundle of functions, so that environmental sustainability of the city is improved, as well as its resilience beefed up in the face of natural and man-made hazards and crises.

  19. Thanks David, I agree that much can be done to enhance this great area. I also think that it should be seen and planned as part of the greater area that includes the neighbouring Oakley Creek greenbelt and the Waterview cycleway project.

  20. A friend had reason to dig deeply into the archives of the area and counter intuitively by todays values or prejudices Chamberlain Park Golf Club was built by essentially free Depression-era labour under a SOCIALIST Government by the people for the people. Correspondence between the club and the RSA highlights that the club had fixed its rates to suit the working man, and wished to also offer free access to disabled veterans. The RSA wrote back and explained that although they were very grateful for the kind offer, chaps who’d lost the use of arms, legs, and in many cases also eyes, probably wouldn’t be up to much in the way of golf.

    But by crikey, you couldn’t slip anything past the eagle-eyed citizens of the day! There was quite the kerfuffle about someone who was shamelessly grazing their cows on the golf course. Also the recurring matter of balls damaging passing cars, despite the 12 foot wire fence.

    And not to mention the NAUGHTY BOYS of the neighbourhood who were thieving golf balls (and presumably selling them back, a time-honoured practice of kids who live near golf courses) and generally being cheeky to ladies just trying to have a quiet game of golf.

    Capitalist socialists, socialist capitalists labels don’t assist nor does the current context or entitlements when pondering a better future.

  21. David Shearer,is the latest in a long list of Mt Albert MPs who have served their electorate well over the years, but is having a hard job having to follow in the footsteps of Helen Clark who was one of those special people who could look after her electorate and run the country.
    Mr Shearer’s problem nowadays is that except for items such as we are discussing here, the media is just not interested in what goes on outside a few headlines for the news bulletins, and he is very much an anonymous face in the background.

  22. Don’t forget one more of the “disparate elements”, the Arch Hill Reserve Mountain Bike Track, along Ivanhoe Rd (On the right of the aerial photo above).

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