Some great news yesterday that Skypath has cleared another hurdle with it passing wind tunnel testing.

Skypath Consent - From Westhaven

The $33 million SkyPath cycling and walking attachment to the Auckland Harbour Bridge just got a step closer following wind tunnel testing not finding any significant issues with the proposed structure.

In a progress report to Auckland Council, it’s revealed the testing was completed last month and consultants for the New Zealand Transport Agency are reviewing the results.

The SkyPath project will present the findings at a Governing Body meeting on Wednesday.

Opponents to the project have used the lack of testing as one of the reasons it should not go ahead.

However, Wednesday’s meeting agenda reports the wind tunnel testing did not identify any significant concerns and that NZTA’s consultants are currently reviewing the results and advise “it has not identified any significant issues”.

One of those opposing was of course North Shore Councillor George Wood who on Thursday was trying to scaremonger by invoking the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse.

The update was part of a report to the council’s governing body next week where the council will decide whether they can enter into a public private partnership once all issues such as consent are resolved.

Next week Auckland Council’s Governing Body will decide whether the chief executive can enter into a public-private partnership to progress the SkyPath project, once all matters are resolved.

If the governing body agrees to progress SkyPath under the recommended public-private partnership option, it would be the first partnership of its kind for significant infrastructure in Auckland considered by the council.

The partnership would mean that the construction, operation and maintenance of SkyPath would be funded by the private sector for the contract period.

This approach would mean there is an admission charge for all users of SkyPath.

The council would provide a limited underwrite of the revenue, and assumption of ownership rights and obligations at the end of a contract period.

The private sector would manage the project costs, and the underwrite is a guarantee on a revenue stream that underpins the project.

The council would not be providing a return on capital for the private sector.

The great news is that if everything goes to plan, the project could be open fairly soon

Mr Woodward said if everything goes to plan, the path could be open by next summer.

Can’t wait

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  1. I love the logic in invoking Tacoma Narrows: ‘a bridge once collapsed in the wind so therefore Skypath might cause the Auckland Harbour Bridge to collapse in the wind’.

    1. I’m waiting for the “a boat [or its mast] once struck the bridge deck” so therefore Skypath is at risk of everyone on it falling into the sea if it ever happens again, “so Skypath must be armour plated” argument to be raised.

      Or replace bridge strike line with: your choice(s) of: a large Mag 9 quake, a volcanic eruption, 40+ metre tsunami, the bridge piles suddenly get trenchfoot and collapse, a truck rolls over spilling its cargo of nitric acid which eats the bridge structure to nothing in an instant.

      It is all true, all these could happen. But how likely and do we bother catering for these black swan events now anywhere in our bridge designs?

      I’d suggest that in the same probability for these as we have an Alien invasion with laser weapons happens and they wantonly cut the bridge into two halves in an instant, causing it to collapse and throwing everyone on it in to the sea. Causing many deaths and injuries.

      Yeah. Right.

        1. Yeah? Right!

          That sounds dangerous. We should ban all vehicles on the bridge. Just in case we get another one.

  2. Now all we need is the appeals process itself to soon pass “the seemingly endless wind test” of fatuous NIMBY group objections with their never ending list of strident, self-centred and ever more loudly pitched hurdles Skypath must clear “Demands” before it can be allowed to happen.

  3. Actually the Tacoma Narrows is a very interesting and still relevant example of what can go wrong. My understanding of what happen there was that a hand rail was added to the structure which modified the resonance frequency of bridge. This ultimately resulted in the failure of the structure. I am aware of a pipe bridge which was built in the last 10 years in NZ having to be modified due to resonance issues and I remember sitting in a public lecture at AU Engineering school when a Boeing engineer said in they still find in wind tunnel testing that aircraft structures need to be modify because the tails snap off due to an unexpected resonance effects. (since then I have become a big fan of wind tunnel testing). The Millennium Bridge in London had a resonance issues which needed the bridge to be modified to correct it (nice video on Youtube about the resonance testing of this structure). I do not think that wind tunnel of the Harbor bridge is an unnecessary waste of money but a rather prudent precaution to ensure the safety and integrity of a vital bit of infra-structure.

    (Disclaimer: My comments do not nor should not be construed as endorsing the views of George Wood. Rather the point I am trying to make is that resonance is a very real issue that must be adequately considered when designing or modifying civil structures).

    1. Great points. The weird thing here is that everyone knows and agrees that Wind Tunnel Testing is necessary, everyone. Skypath still has to go through a detailed design phase. It’s curious that the objectors want this to occur as part of the Resource process my guess (because the Environment Court mediation is confidential) is because it may alter the design and therefore the impact on the residents? Tenuous connection but the objectors are now designing and engineering Skypath so maybe George will be liable if there is a problem? Anyway looks like George is now worried about the License to Occupy, from FB.

      Why has the judge at the Environment Court put off the hearing until the Licence to Occupy is sorted?

      It comes back to the Environment Court on 27 May where the applicant and the Auckland council are required to say what has occurred. When will the Licence to Occupy be sorted?

      Should the hearing commissioners have found out more about the Licence to Occupy and were they ill informed in their decision making?

      You’d think that the License is just a negotiated legal arrangement. Obviously George knows about the confidential dealings of the Environment Court Mediation. OK George why has the Judge put the hearing off until the License to Occupy is sorted? Why don’t you tell us or is that in contempt of confidentiality. But its OK to use your knowledge to raise doubt and fear in others without the privileged information. Inappropriate is a mild description.

      1. The LTO is a formal endpoint for the process of NZTA approving Skypath, thats what NZTA told the commissioners at the hearing.

        Without the LTO there is no Skypath.

        However, the LTO is not a end in itself, it more the final waypoint you have to pass through, and to achieve it, all the preceding issues must be addressed to NZTA’s satisfaction.
        Every other service/utility on the bridge went through the same process [and there are a lot of services using that bridge already].

        Indeed only once the LTO is granted, is the consent for Skypath actually needed at all.
        But NZTA wouldn’t go through the LTO process with a consent being in place.
        Which is why NZTA could only give a general assurance of a likely LTO being granted at the hearings, based on the consent application – rather than a 100% guarantee.

        So the judge is wise to hold back the hearing until the point is reached that the LTO could be granted by NZTA as that means that Skypath could happen and so a consent is then needed to carry on.

        And yes changes to the design presented to the hearings/commissioners will likely be made along the way,
        Thats what the final detailed design is all about it uses the information gathered along the way to deliver the best outcome within the boundaries of the consent application and subsequent conditions imposed.

        So Woods posturing about the LTO is merely him arguing about how many NZTA engineer approvals will be needed to grant it.

        Its an irrelevant argument in the wider scheme of things, but sounds important to small-minded people like him and even more impressive to his followers.

        It should be noted, that the bridge’s own consents [or License to Occupy the Coastal management Area/landscape] lapse sometime in the 2040s [1 July 2043 I recall],

        Skypath specifically requested that their consent and the LTO be aligned with the bridges own consent lifetimes – even though they could have requested a longer lifetime, it made no sense to do so].

        And presumably a future committees of the HRA/NPHPS etc can then oppose the renewal of all these consents at that time when these consents are re-heard for any extensions.

        Of course, we’ll all have driverless flying cars and personal aircraft well before them, so the need for any bridge at all will be obviated, and so the bridge will be totally obsolete.

        So the bridge and Skypath can then be removed at that point, just like you’d toss out the old chamber pots and wash basins once you got indoor toilets and plumbing.

    2. Couldn’t agree more – it’s extremely important, but since the bridge engineers know what they’re doing it’s nothing to worry about unless the testing had come up with something to be worried about.

  4. “Galloping Gertie” was actually a failure due to reduced costs during construction and a flawed design, not because it was overloaded with extras. They went with a weaker, shallow bridge deck that proved too flexible in the high winds.

    So, by using Gertie as an example, I think George is saying we should spend more on SkyPath materials to make sure it can withstand our brutal climate 😀

    1. Possibly if so its because George and the NIMBY residents association objectors know that the enemy of Skypath (and the Bridge clip-ons in general) is too much weight, by demanding too much “gold plating” to Skypath they hope NZTA won’t allow Skypath to proceed.

      This is just part of these objectors feeble attempt to encircle Skypath with equally feeble strawman objections.

      But Skypath loading is partly why Skypath numbers have to be limited – not just because of safety, but NZTA say they won’t grant the License to Occupy (LTO) unless the entire structure and occupants on it are within the margin of safe tolerances for the bridge and clipons.

      And of course, these safety mandated lower patronage numbers then bring the old bogey man argument of “Council ratepayers are subsidising it by underwriting the PPP”.
      Which leads to the doublethink that it will be simultaneously a total nightmare with outrageously high numbers of folks driving to Northcote point and paying to walk over it, and take hours and hours to do so, thus tying up each and every parking spot for years at a time, and a total unmitigated financial disaster with the outrageously low numbers using it [‘cos folks know they can’t drive to it, so don’t bother using it] causing council to have to top up the PPP revenue from council rates.

      The frequent alternative option Skypath objectors raised is to put it on the Western clipon.

      NZTA says its a non starter on the Western side, and its only possible on the Eastern side as the Eastern clipon has the lowest loading of the clipons due to traffic patterns [empty trucks heading south, fully loaded ones going north] on the bridge. As a result it can only go on the eastern side, which really sticks in the craw of the NPHPS and NRA. As these folks want it on the western side [away from their views and houses] – thats if they have to have it at all.

      Note: In normal use the entire bridge has plenty of margin for safety even if Skypath was loaded to the gunwales with people, bikes, dogs, Mobility scooters, Uncle Tom Cobley and all, neither it, or the clipons “would fall down”.
      Even in a 160 k/hr hurricane gusting easterly. [and how many folks would bother venturing on the Skypath in such a weather situation? I might do it once or twice, to say I’ve done it, most other normal folks? Never].

      But NZTA has to plan [as they told the Skypath commissioners last year] for the worst case situation of a major accident on *both* the approach to/exits off the bridge, which causes all 8 lanes to grid lock. And then assumes all lanes are chocka with fully loaded nose to tail fully loaded container trucks/Double Decker buses etc – each fully loaded with [full] 40 foot containers on them/or chocka with people.

      All thse vehicles stopped and not moving for hours and hours. Meaning the bridge structure, the clipons and the like are all fully loaded to the maximum statically, and if you then include dynamic wind loads from the weather then the stress levels on the bridge go even higher again, further eroding the normally vast margin of safety.

      Now as you can imagine the additional load of Skypath structure and the people on it are really a small [but not zero] portion of the overall structure load even in that worst case situation, but NZTA engineers want to be safe, their job is to protect the bridge from harm first, and the people on it second and ensure traffic flows third. [and they deliver the second in doing the first and third in doing the second etc]. So they will be conservative.

      And this, weight thing is the perceived “chink in the Skypath armour” that Woods and co are trying to exploit.

      1. The maximum load case occurs if the clipon is full of speeding fully loaded trucks who all decide to brake at the same time.
        The fibre composite skypath structure is light and in the shadow of the existing clipon.
        Aerodynamically it will only slightly alter the leading/trailing edge. Given the mass of the bridge the net aero effect will be close to zilch.
        It still amazes me how long it takes to construct a footpath in Auckland. When I last checked 2 weeks ago, there was still no progress on the waterview shard path which was funded in 2011.

        1. NZTAs engineers would no doubt beg to differ on the maximum load cases on the structure.

          However, while the Skypath structure is lightweight but its mounting brackets and related equipment are not zero weight and once its full of people [self loading freight], then the total additional weight added to the eastern clipon is definitely not zero.

          Its more like 180 tonnes of Skypath decking/structure/supports, and 150 tonnes of “people” – so 320+ tonnes of weight all up. i.e. about 8 large container trucks or 6 HPMV trucks worth.

          Skypath itself won’t add much aero-dynamic loading, but the clip-ons themselves have a large wind cross-section so the wind loading is an important consideration overall, even if the incremental aspect of Skypath is itself minimal.

    2. Thanks for the correction. Maybe I remember the lecture wrong. I understood the bridge was ok for a while and they modified it

  5. I’m looking forward to Skypath being totally self funding and Never calling on ratepayers to fund shortfalls – only this will prove it’s worth. This will be the true test of the numbers in the business case.

    1. And no doubt you’d agree that it should the same for the AWHC road tunnel “business case”?

      Or is that exempt because its tax payer money at stake not ratepayers? Or because its a road and is thus exempt any normal analysis?

    2. You will be disappointed Ricardo. The project is not (IMO) financially viable and the Private Partner (a Trust?) will (IMO) collapse prior to the opening (or shortly thereafter) leaving Auckland ratepayers to pick up the tab, or complete the project if not completed. I suspect those promoting the project are well aware that there is no financial upside in this ‘investment’ and their only real goal is to get the project underway at which point there will be another push to get ratepayers on board with the idea of paying for it in full. I also suspect they are succeeding since more and more Aucklanders are warming to the idea. (Albeit because they think they’re getting it for free)

      DISCLAIMER: I fully accept my statement is opinion only and quite cynical. You don’t need to argue ‘the numbers’ here since I have already seen them in previous Transportblog posts. I would be more reassured if the Private Partner would whip out a bank statement and say “look, here’s our $33million”. Maybe they do have it and maybe the person(s) behind the Trust is rich and just wants to do something altruistic, which is great. Let’s name the SkyPath after them.

      1. Ratepayers are only being asked to underwrite a limited portion of the revenue expected. If the private firm went under the council wouldn’t be responsible for it. However even if it were it would still be a great deal for the city. We’re spending more than Skypath on the Eastern Path, a number of other projects in similar price ranges have fewer benefits (still positive though). The only reason AT/NZTA aren’t doing it themselves now is that this process was already underway. Skypath is the #1 ranked cycle project in the region based on the analysis that’s been done

        1. Matt, that’s ridiculous, if the company goes belly up what do you think will happen? Will they just board it up or will council end up with it in it’s lap. The luvvies would go mad.

          Heres a thought if we are talking about benefits, why doesn’t the council stop subsidizing the minorities and spend half of their waking and cycling budget on a bit of infrastructure to support a couple of large sub-divisions. $30 mill would build a lot and have orders of magnitude more benefits for the Auckland region in studying people into houses.

        2. “the minorities”

          You mean property owners?

          67% of people would cycle for transport if there were safer infrastructure according to council’s research, so cyclists certainly aren’t a minority. 53% of people live in rented property so lets not blow money on those who don’t.

        3. Heh Matt, isn’t Morrison & Co investing or co-investing a Government PPP fund anyway? Whatever happens, I own a car and pay registration, I pay rates, I pay tax and I’ll pay to ride and walk across Skypath. I will happily pay.

      2. Who cares. There are worse cycle ways getting moe funding than sky path. What’s 30 mil compared to some of the reading projects being considered?

    3. This is not the test at all. Of course it should have been built and operated by our transport agencies years ago on the same basis as every other transport project- 100% socialised. It is only their total failure to deliver for the non-motorised modes has led to this unusual situation of a private funder for transport capex.

      The only test of its value is will it be used, which even its opponents agree is inevitable- stampedes!

      1. It brings to mind this exchange between The Lone Ranger, and Tonto:

        Lone Ranger:

        Tonto, The opponents only say out of one side of their mouth. On the other side they still say it will be a total disaster because the cost of using it, and lack of parking will put people off [paying to] use it.


        Kemosabe, I think, that NIMBY speak with forked tongue.

    4. It will be interesting to see if it can achieve it’s numbers, given there was a maximum of only 2,600 cycle commuter trips (or 1,300 cycle commuters) per day across all of the monitored paths in Auckland in the year to March 2016.

      ‘A total of 954,153 cycle trips were recorded for the year of April 2015 to March 2016, this is an increase of 5.7% on the previous year.’

  6. As much as I like the sky path concept and wish it well it is really hard for me to accept that I would have to pay to cycle there regularly when the cars are travelling for free. My opinion counts for nothing since I don ‘t live on the Ns or need to commute but I bet that many will feel the same. We should close the outer lanes to traffic completely instead, 😎

    1. To be fair, when you say free, the cars are paying tax on every litre of petrol they use. But I do still think it should be free.

        1. Supposedly the massive upside is that they’re not using that fuel to begin with. There are a lot of benefits but you can’t have that one both ways.

        2. This is what I get for trying to follow a comment thread on my phone, thanks!

        3. Don’t forget the roads are half paid for from Rates, and cyclists have paid their rates!

  7. Be positive, not negative all the time – the North Shore always seems to be left out, although they want us to agree that we are Aucklander’s.

    1. I can assure you that any bias is perception only and its often because the North Shore folks, cheer led by their mostly low-end pork barrel politicians, only want to considered part of Auckland when it suits them.

      The rest of the time, they’d prefer to leave the rest of Auckland to wallow in its Auckland-ness while they luxuriate in their smug “North Shore-ness”.
      Some who go out of their way to actively discourage the hordes easily crossing the moat which is the Waitemata. Skypath, lack of Onewa NEX station to name a couple of more obvious ones.

      That is until some trinket they deem desirable is on offer like road tunnels under the harbour, LRT, better PT – then suddenly they want it boots and all because they are now [deserving] Aucklanders.

      To me this smacks of little more than the “Star Belly Sneetches” in the Dr Suess story of the same name.

      “A race apart” – but when it became apparent that this very superficial distinction was able to be removed, they then paid money to remove their stars and become bare belly Sneetches, because it was more exclusive.

      And we [should] all know how that story ended.

      As I recall the only “winner” was the guy (Sylvester McMonkey McBean) with the machines that added and removed the stars from the sneetches bellies.

      He made a lot of money. No Sneetch was any better off than before [and many were a lot poorer] – but the Sneetches as a whole were much wiser at the end and realised that they were all “Sneetches” first, and anything else distinctly second.

      A lesson for those Star bellied Sneetches North Shore folks to contemplate as they drive to work in unending congestion?

        1. Until the [former] star bellied sneetches amongst you buy EVs and then clog that up too….

      1. Greg, you normally talk a lot of sense but this cynicism is below you. Out of all of Auckland the North Shore has the worst PT network (except East Auckland which has a smaller population but better roads), and the shore has the worst road network (apart from SH1 and SH18 – which doesn’t really help moving about the shore) the shore has hardly any proper arterial roads. Most of the “arterial” roads on the shore are really just stock standard 1 lane each direction roads with a flush median thrown in. The amount of Bus lanes or T2/3 lanes are pretty pathetic too. NEX sure has helped but it isn’t rail and still shares the motorway for a lot of its length. Even if not a single shore driver used the motorway there would still be fairly heavy traffic with trucks and cars etc from Rodney/Northland etc going back and forth. Until such time as the shore gets rail there will always be these complaints.

        1. It may have the worst network, but it gets more than its fair share of transport expenditure on a per capita basis. Think northern busway, sh18, northern motorway extensions, sh18-sh1 connection …

        2. Sorry, this is rubbish. There are network changes eventually coming and the NEX, even with mwy running, works amazingly well will continued increases in patronage. The rest of the road network, well you can blame the old NSCC for that. Mostly it works pretty well. No worse than West Coast Rd etc.

        3. That depends on where you are. If you’re in the Kaipātiki local board area (Birkenhead, Northcote, etc.) then the New Network can be summarized in two words.

          No change.

          The biggest change for that area already happened a few weeks ago, with Birkenhead Transport buses terminating in a place where you can connect to another bus or train. (it will still take you about 10 minutes though, depending on how bad the traffic light phasing is)

        4. “No change.”

          I must have been imagining all the roadworks on Gelnfield Road and Onewa Road that my bus was held up in, and the Northcote safe routes, and the Mokoia Road upgrade. For somewhere with less than 5% of the regions population Kaipatiki has had a lot of investment.

        5. Bruce, what you appear to be describing there is mostly the handiwork of the old NSCC, AT have only been around for six years and haven’t exactly been making massive changes to the roading network in other parts of the city.

        6. Was NSCC or AC forebears responsible for the rail network or was that the government?…
          And Stu, the NS also pays a lot more in taxes both income&business due to it generally being wealthier, GST and of course fuel taxes since more people drive due to the lack of PT and also burning fuel sitting in congestion.
          Northern Mororway extension? How does that help people in the former NSCC area move witting the shore or to the city? SH18? That gets people from the shore to west Auckland but again doesn’t really help them move about the actual shore itself. That is where the lack of proper arterial roads along with bus lanes and lack of rail is hurting the shore. I do have to say that the arterial road issue is also fairly big in Auckland in general. Stats go on about how many km of motorway we have etc but unlike most other cities we have a lack of proper arterial roads to move people around on. This in turn blocks up the motorways as people use them to avoid the blocked local streets. I wouldn’t even mind if extra car lanes weren’t added but bus lanes took over space that is currently either parking or road verge.

        7. Bruce, sorry I was specifically replying to your comment about the quality of roads, which is largely the handiwork of NSCC and it’s predecessors. You are right that it would be Central Government for railways. However, I’d argue per head of population the spending on the Shore’s rapid transit system is probably similar to what has been spent on rail south of the isthmus in recent years given they have been able to start with an existing network. While rail to the North Shore is ideal and likely necessary in the future, it is a different ballpark as it requires a complete build of a rail line and tunneling under the harbour.

  8. As Patrick says, a bridge pedestrian and cycling facility “should have been built by the transport agencies years ago”. However, the Skypath team are effectively shaming AT and NZTA into adopting their design with little thought for the future. Skypath marketing and public relations have done a fantastic job of promoting the concept with endless support from the Herald but we are sleepwalking to the cliff like lemons. In a few years’ time when ebikes are forcing cars off the bridge, not to mention ever increasing tourism numbers, who is going to want to walk over the crossing in a shared path scenario? And pay for the dubious experience? If Skypath gets built in its present form it will be the only tolled cycleway in the world and that’s nothing to be proud of. There should be two, free access separated pathways with a northern landing at Sulphur Beach Rd, paid for by tolls on the motorways. Central government seem to be waking up to Auckland raising funds so it is a possibility. But for now, because the Skypath team have been and continue to live on council handouts with a hastily granted resource consent they will not listen to redesigning the concept and that is the biggest problem facing the future of pedestrians and cyclists crossing the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

    1. The tolled part of Skypath can be fixed “by lunchtime” by any incoming future government in the next 30 years – they can buy the PPP out, just like Muldoon, did years ago when he abolished the bridge tolls.

      Problem easily solved.

      And longer term, a second Skypath could be added to the western side, if NZTA can manage the traffic on the bridge better thanks to all those tolls. And in that case, you could easily have separate walking and cycling sides of the bridge.

      But not until you get the first Skypath built and operational.

      Of course Skypath is not perfect, but its the current best there is.

  9. Good work George! And let’s not forget that the Tangiwai bridge also collapsed and so we need an early lahar warning system on the northern side of Ruapehu as well as the southern side.

  10. In terms of credibility, it just can´t get much worse than using an example that occured in 1940, 76 years ago, and then say ´worth a look´!
    Next time this fella will tell us the story of what happens when you cross the waters without a bridge, like the Egyptian army did a few thousand years ago, fgs!
    Who picks these people to represent them??

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