It was a fantastic day for transport in Auckland yesterday with the council’s Finance and Performance committee voting to support the project Skypath and doing so unanimously. Yes even long time opponent George Wood eventually agreed to support the project. It was decision that took over five hours to reach after listening to supporters and opponents of the project including our friends at Bike Auckland and Generation Zero.

Skypath Consent - Observation Deck

The council agreed to the recommendations from the agenda (below) with two amendments from Cathy Casey, that the council support children under 5 using Skypath for free and that dogs on leashes be allowed subject to negotiations with NZTA and health and safety regulations.

That the Finance and Performance Committee recommend to the Governing Body that it:

a) agree to proceed with the SkyPath project and that the hybrid Public Private Partnership proposal is the preferred procurement option to deliver SkyPath.

b) authorise the Chief Executive to enter into all necessary agreements in relation to the SkyPath proposal, subject to minimal financial impacts, and to take any other actions in the Chief Executive’s delegation to facilitate the progress of the project.

c) agree to make appropriate provision for the project in the 2017/18 Annual Plan and the 2018/28 Long-term Plan.

I wasn’t able to be there, but thankfully this is one of the meetings that the council live stream and publish on YouTube. If you’re interested you can watch the various parts of the meeting here.

Barb Cuthbert from Bike Auckland spoke passionately about the project, from about 5 minutes in the first video

One of the funnier interactions of the day involved our friend Niko from Generation Zero. I thought his presentation was strong and effective, on top of which he handled the questions from councillors masterfully, and in particular George Wood and Cameron Brewer. A couple of highlights included:

  • George Wood saying to Niko that he’d love to actually meet the people who supported Skypath in Northcote, to which Chris Darby quipped that they’ve been emailing him.
  • Shortly after Wood asked Niko if he’d read the NRA submission to which Niko replied only briefly. Wood then followed that asking if he agreed they had some grounds for concerns leading to one of the replies of the day of No I don’t, that’s why I stopped reading”

There were plenty of other funny or noteworthy moments – such as the guy who referenced a truck falling off a cook straight ferry as a health and safety issue for Skypath.

Then there were the comments from councillors themselves. There were a lot of good comments from so many of them which was pleasing to see but also hard to include everything. So I’ll leave it with a few points from George Wood’s speech that I did agree with

  1. That Skypath should connect directly to Seapath. Where I probably differ from him is that I think it should do that as well as connect to Northcote Point.
  2. That the NZTA should be funding the full thing. In my view it’s crazy that such a vital piece of transport infrastructure needs to be proposed and funded by a private company because our transport organisations in the past simply ignored cycling. In perhaps a bit of irony, had the private company not been funding this, there is a good chance it would have been included in the Urban Cycleway Funding projects.

Here’s what the council had to say in their press release following the decision.

Auckland’s SkyPath project has been given the go-ahead to be delivered through a public private partnership, after a unanimous decision at today’s Finance and Performance Committee.
Auckland Council’s Governing Body will formalise the decision at their next meeting on Thursday 28 July.

Mayor Len Brown says SkyPath is a uniting project that brings Auckland together.

“In a short space of time we have made Auckland a cycle city – and this is the vital link for walkers and cyclists.”

The partnership with H.R.L Morrison and Co’s Public Infrastructure Partnership Fund (the PIP Fund) is set to be the first of its kind for significant infrastructure in Auckland by the council.
The public private partnership means construction, operation and maintenance of SkyPath would be financed and delivered by the PIP Fund for the contract period and there would be an admission charge for users of SkyPath.

The council would then provide a limited underwrite of the revenue. This means if minimum revenue streams from fares and sponsorship etc are not met, council will need to top-up funds to meet a pre-agreed amount. In turn, if profits reach a certain level, council and the Auckland Harbour Bridge Pathway Trust will receive a share in these.
Auckland Council would also receive ownership rights and obligations at the end of the contract period.

Lastly, with this meeting, one thing that stands out to me is just how long it took. As mentioned it took over five hours of sometimes intense debate for councillors to agree on a critical project for the region being built by a private developer and for which the council have a very limited exposure to. Yet this same council will hand wave through a $2 billion roading project like the East West Link with barely a question or concern.

Still, lets celebrate a fantastic result and thank you to all who have helped make it happen. Now we just need to wait for the envrionment court appeal to be sorted and lets get this thing built.

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66 comments

  1. This is great news! It will be worth a trip to Auckland just to see. The two highlights for me yesterday were Cameron Brewer’s speech and the long paws of the All-Powerful Dog Lobby.
    Spare a thought for Wellington too though, where political inaction and reactionary point-scoring is holding the city back while Auckland pushes ahead.

    1. “. . .Spare a thought for Wellington too though, where political inaction and reactionary point-scoring is holding the city back. . .”

      Depends what you consider as “political inaction” and “holding the city back”.

      If you mean ‘failure to endorse NZTA’s motorway plans for Wellington’, then I see this as political positive action. Opposing what many people see as an unacceptable threat to the fabric of the city and a failure to implement appropriate transport-policies, is far from being “political inaction”.

      Too often the council is accused of being “dysfunctional”, when realistically it is simply and legitimately reflecting the diverse views of the community. Not everyone is convinced by the government’s road-dominated prescription for the region. If we can oppose and stave it off long enough for the threat to dry up and go away, I believe future generations will thank us for having dodged a bullet.

      Current generations are rightly very critical of the garden-path up which former generations have led Auckland, for instance.

      “Inaction” on wrong solutions now, means that the way still remains open for things to be done properly once heads clear and sense prevails.. A correct solution delayed is better than a wrong solution fast-tracked irrevocably just to give an appearance of “action”.

      1. I’d agree with you to a point (I’d be strongly against Basin flyover/double landing to airport/sacrifice of the greenbelt for wider roads etc), but your implication is that doing nothing is the least worst option is only true if the status quo isn’t already changing. In an environment where the rest of the country is moving ahead with active transport provision and out competing Wellington for the finite central government money, as well as worsening congestion and climate change worries, doing nothing is a huge failure.

        WCC knows what people want- time and again when they’re asked it’s better cycleways, improved and cheaper PT, safer walking facilities etc. They know what an improved urban environment is. But instead of working toward what people actually want, you have councillors actively stoking the anti-cycling flames. We might accuse the council of being dysfunctional a little too easily- in this case it’s quite true though.

        1. The main problem is that government funding is only available for roading “solutions”.

          So it you know in your heart that the best answer for Wellington is to extend and make more use of its excellent rail system (not possible under current govt policies), and that building more motorways in the city would be a massive mistake (even if govt funding is available), surely the best thing is to block the govt’s misguided plans until their policy changes – either by them “seeing the light” or else by getting kicked out.

          Irrevocable harm is already being done as they ill-advisedly ram through the Kapiti Expressway and Transmission Gully. Thank goodness they got stopped at the Basin Reserve.

          But if funding to extend heavy rail along the city to airport corridor were available, I would be all for grabbing it now and ‘Get Welly Moving’!

  2. Watched the whole thing via the web livestream. Like watching sausages being made really.
    The NRA tried to stymy the whole thing by saying that because it was a significant project council needed to consult but couldn’t do so unless it as in the LTP first.
    That got shot down when it was pointed out that this is a tiny part of the annual footpaths and cycleways budgets so isn’t that significant.

    NRA 0-Skypath 1.

    Niko really socked the committee when he pulled up the slide of how will people say they will get to Skypath – showing 80% will cycle or walk if safe separated paths to/from Skypath are provided.

    NRA 0-Skypath 2

    As it was Councils first PPP so its relevant that it got a lot of discussion to ensure it was the best that could be expected. Even Cr Brewer mumbled into his glass of water that this was an excellent piece of work by council staff in closing off all the loopholes that could cost council down the track and he said it was a marvellous first PPP for council.

    Lastly,. Cr Caseys ammendments first a recommendation that the Skypath Trust look to allowing kids under 5 when accompanied by a paying adult to go free.
    Its not binding but makes sense as that does encourage family usage, hopefully enough to overcome the small loss of revenue.

    The last amendment about allowing dogs is a piece of shit literally – how will anyone be able stop bad or careless dog owners from simply leaving their dogs leavings – creating a huge health and safety issue. let alone the extended leash issue causing by dogs running around on 2+m long leashes to become a danger to themselves and everyone else.

    Don’t expect that to pass scrutiny.

    Her rationale was that their are a 100,000 dog owners who would like to walk their dog over the bridge, so banning dogs means 100,000 less patrons who will use it.

    One interesting piece of information I heard was that NZTA expect that the weekend patronage limits [due to weight limits on the clip-ons] will be lifted due to lower traffic on the bridge clip-ons in weekends.
    Meaning that those predictions made by NRA that not enough people can use it to make it pay due to NZTA conservative limits for patrons on Skypath are yet more incorrect predictions by them.

    NRA: 0-Skypath 3

    And Cr Wood going on about Seapath and Skypath needing to become linked [which is sensible], and if needed buying properties under the PWA to get air-rights to make it so.
    First I’d heard of that idea. Bit late really, but shows these NRA guys are desperate to preserve their patch against all comers.

    All up surprised it passed unanimously, as I really expected Wood and Brewer to vote against. But there you go.
    Other than that, and despite all the huffing and puffing from the rest of the councillors it was so obvious hey they wanted it as much as everyone else but NRA does..

    1. How can GW make that stupid ‘heritage roads’ and cat video and then vote in favour! Why is did he take a position at all rather than just reflecting the views of his constituents… who were overwhelmingly in favour. Out to pasture with him.

    2. The unanimous decision of Auckland Councilors to support the Skypath PPP design was breathtaking and astonishing, however it is symbolic and just one small step in the agonising epoch of cross harbour ambivalence by governing bodies. As both Auckland Council and NZTA have sat on their hands for decades on this issue, the decision by Councilors to vote in favour of the PPP model was entirely political rather than commercial and more likely a face saving exercise for both parties.

      Auckland Councilors can go to the hustings now knowing they have the gushing and overflowing support of Bike Auckland, the cockier boys of Generation Zero, their rote followers as well as a wide electorate all seemingly desperate to get across, at any cost. NZTA will we hope, release information on structural engineering costs and data on permissible loadings, however NZTA do not have to save face because they don’t have to prove the viability of the Skypath PPP business case. When the business case is concluded with the facts that are required to make commercial decisions, that is when the really interesting bit starts.

      The odds on Skypath getting built have narrowed slightly but there are an incredible number of hurdles the concept still has to jump over. It is only and I repeat only when current CEO Stephen Town or his successor signs the contractual public private partnership agreement that Auckland will finally be locked into 25 years of paying tolls to walk or bike across the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

      1. In a less car-dominated universe, Auckland would have already extended its heavy rail system across the harbour and to all major destinations on the North Shore. This system would by now be thriving, and traffic on the AHB declining.

        It would then be a simple matter to re-allocate space on the clip-ons to allow a footpath and a cycleway and slightly less width for traffic. Just like many similar bridge around the world allow.

        There is no real need for an expensive, separate pedestrian tube slung underneath the bridge. This is an unnecessary expedient, needed purely to circumvent the motoring lobby’s insistence that every bit of bridge-space must be theirs.

  3. It’s important to be clear about the idiocy of what Wood was arguing for; he wants to seal off any entry/exit for users on Northcote Pt. So that would mean that the people of the Point would host SkyPath without being able to use it, or at least not without heading away from it down to somewhere on the shore first, then back up to where they just came from…!?

    Has he thought this though? Why is the Councillor so sensitive to the minority in Northcote who are incoherently fearful of this amenity, but deaf to the majority who are looking forward to using it?

    Out of touch, is the least of what this suggests.

    1. These same folks and their back ward thinking also refused the NEX station at Onewa for pretty much the same reasoning basis.

      Seems an awful lot of “nose cutting off, to spite faces” going on by Wood and the NRA – question is really why are they so determined to keep their little backwater with an 8 lane motorway through it, exactly as it was when they finished building the clip ons back in ’69?

      You have to suspect that a few folks like non-resident Phil whats his name, the resident troll under the bridge, is one of the key drivers over this.
      The fact that him and his ilk will eventually bankrupt the NRA in the courts seems to be irrelevant as long as he gets his way.

    2. Indeed, Patrick. SeaPath isn’t the only access to SkyPath. The Northcote Safe Cycle route down Queen St is the obvious access point for Northcote Point residents and those from Glenfield/Birkenhead. And let’s not forget the tourist potential for the Northcote Tavern, Bridgeway etc. Many patrons will also want to do a direct SkyPath/ferry connection for a round trip.

      So George’s idea of running SkyPath down the eastern side to the old Toll Plaza is ludicrous – it denies the local connections and would make SeaPath/SkyPath substantially more expensive as well.

      1. Doesn’t George realise that most people from the city side of the bridge are just waiting for Skypath to open so they can come and see Northcote Point’s main tourist attraction: Its magnificent historic concrete street! Why would you want to divert people away from that beauty?!

    3. “no connection … heading away from it then back up to where they just came from” I suspect George got this inspiration from the residents of Pt Chev and Waterview who, if they want to get on or off the SH20 motorway extension will have to go away from it to St Lukes or Rosebank in order to come back again.

  4. A great presentation by Niko and I just loved the way he made Councillor Wood look so out of date, with the momentum of change for Auckland which is now under way and gathering strength all the time.

    I believe it has been a great demonstration of people power, of social media power and interestingly for national politics, maybe even evidence that old fashioned polling is not necessarily providing believable indicators, if the critical issues capture public imagination.
    Timing is of course everything, but I suspect the present government need to review their transport policies for Auckland with much bigger emphasis on public transport. If not, they may get an unexpected surprise at the next national elections

  5. I think the success of this application points us in the direction of where we should be heading with regards to the funding model.

    With Auckland Council up to it’s eyeball’s in debt it is going to be almost essential for future projects to have similar funding arrangements.

    1. Maybe, but he point Matt has made about this being the number one cycling priority that probably would have been part of the Urban cycleways funding if it hadn’t been privately funded is more relevant.

      Maybe instead of more PPP, especially for projects with dubious BCR (Penlink) we should prioritise spending to things that actually have a decent BCR (Transit things like Busways and more trains).

      1. Penlink “Dubious BCR” really Nik? The official national BCR for it is 2.5 while the government one for it is 3.1.
        I can’t think of any other roading or rail projects in the entire country that have a BCR that high! Even if they have somehow miscalculated it and it is only half that it would still be 1.25-1.55 which puts it well ahead of most other projects.

    2. Yes all roading projects should be PPPs. Especially the East-West Link. In fact, the trucking lobby should just pay for it outright as it is solely for their benefit.

      1. The east west link has a bigger benefit for rail freight than for road freight as there will be more trucks using Neilson st (where the entrance to the rail head is) than the east west link but taking the east west traffic off Neilson st make freight transfers to and from rail easier and is more likely to happen.

        1. Yep, and skypath is actually for ferry users as it will take passengers away from the service giving them more space.

        2. This is bollocks. If it was a rail investment it would be actually spent on our rediculously tight rail system.

          I am looking out my hotel in Brisbane at a central station with 10 platforms. And yes that’s just the passenger network. Elsewhere is plenty of freight track.

          We have one pair for everything. Money raining down on truck-ways cannot be tarted up as ‘investment in rail’ when we have such a desperate need for more track for efficient rail opps. Ludicrous.

          1. Where did I say it was an investment in rail? Having a “benefit for rail freight” is what I said. So many muppets call it a ‘Truck-way” or ‘ Truck motorway’ when most of the trucks will be using the roads they currently use, the only benefit for them is that all the east west traffic they currently fight their way around to access the rail facility will be on the new east west road.

        3. Bigted –

          Do you know for a fact that rail freight from Southdown+Metroport is deterred due road congestion in the area (citations please), or are you just repeatedly trotting this out as a red-herring because you personally support the E-W link?

          There would be a much bigger benefit to rail freight if KiwiRail was given a small fraction of the money required for the east-west link and given the freedom to spend it as it sees fit on directly improving its own operation (e.g. 3rd main).

          1. There is no point having a third main (something that is in the process of getting funding as we type) if the freight can not get to and from the rail head.
            Speak to any freight forwarder and they will tell you that in the time the truck takes to get in and out of the Southdown+Metroport facility their truck could already be south of Hamilton.

          2. Bigted: quite what this has got to do with Skypath is a complete mystery to me, but your “any freight forwarder” clearly does not include the major ones with their own rail access, such as Mainfreight.

          3. Mike you will need to ask goosoid as they were the one that started this discussion within the skypath thread. Mainfreight are only one of the major freight forwarders.

          4. Yes off topic but it is all relevant because we want an integrated multi mode network that works for everyone and there is a limited pot of dosh. 2 billion worth of horrible road engineering with questionable traffic engineering and shonky financial case that would barely stand up to scrutiny can buy a lot of Skypaths.

  6. This isn’t a path surrounded by grass. Dogs will enevitably wee and make a mess. Who is going to sanitize? What is the toll for a dog? How long before the first collision in what will be a confined space.

    1. Makes sense to allow dogs from the start with some strict controls – on leash, fines for letting them soil the path, not during weekday commuter peaks etc. No additional toll though. It should just be made clear that it is provisional and will be monitored, if any problems arise they can always look at a ban later. We should always be looking to encourage active transport as much as we can.

    2. No different from other urban streets where we dont ban dogs. In Europe it is common to see dogs wandering around shops and department stores. Just needs dog owners to take responsibility.

    3. I disagree with use of the term confined space here. Confined space is a technical term used in safety engineering to describe and manage a specific type of hazardous areas such as tunnels pipes shafts silos and vats. The space maybe limited to width and yes it is going to be a “shared path” yippee. I think the natural ventilation would prevent it from technically being a confined space. And yes some people may walk their dogs or take their kids or show their visitors from out of town. I would think we can all share it responsibility without getting too carried away? Thank you to those responsible for getting it to this point and I wish the project every sucess.

  7. Congratulations and thanks to all involved in this project. I enjoyed hearing this on live stream. I also hope it isn’t still slowed by court proceedings. Also great to hear the council is financially supporting the St James restoration.

    I guess it’s not hard to support when there’s little spent from the public dime. Shame this wasn’t built from public funding. I hope the private developer makes some good cash from this.

  8. “Lastly, with this meeting, one thing that stands out to me is just how long it took. As mentioned it took over five hours of sometimes intense debate for councillors to agree on a critical project for the region being built by a private developer and for which the council have a very limited exposure to. Yet this same council will hand wave through a $2 billion roading project like the East West Link with barely a question or concern.”
    This typical Board of Directors behavior; Give the OK for a major company project in five minutes then argue for a hour hour what model car the GM should have.

    1. I think this was one of the examples in the book that was the original of Parkinson’s Law. The board will spend five minutes approving the nuclear power station, then an hour arguing over what colour to paint the new bicycle shed.

  9. It took nearly 60 years to add a logical common sense component on that should have always been there, unbelievable. We are slow learners and yes I agree, this should come out of the national roading budget.

  10. I am a bike rider and have been a dog owner. Why ban dog walkers because some dog walkers are irresponsible. This is the same fallacious argument used to say let’s ban bikes (or cars) because some riders/ drivers are irresponsible.

    1. The dog ban is practical. Do bike and car owners leave steaming stinking piles of shit behind that inevitably has to be cleaned up by the poor sucker who stands in it or who works for the council? And it is so common. And how many hours until every up right surface had been pissed on multiple times which that rich aroma? The other issue is dog owners feel the need to take up the entire pathway so Poopsie and Bubbles can explore their environment, neat, made even worse when two like dog owners meet to talk about their jobby filled mutts, which is cute for the fur babies mummy or daddy but bloody annoying for everyone else!

      1. And did you also torture furry animals when you were still living with mummy? Cars are spewing something much worse out their rear end… carbon monoxide and fine air borne particulate matter that harms us and the environment. Do you see anybody taking responsibility for that or running around cleaning that up? Gee whizz some of the lycra crew can be such snobs. Try and get out a bit more

    2. All bluster aside this is an issue worth discussing. As a city we do ban dogs from certain places and allow them in others. Clearly there are reasons to restrict dogs from particular public places for particular reasons, and clearly there are lots of dog owners out there that should be able to exercise their pets without arduous regulation.

      1. As a Northcote residing dog owner I can’t imagine wanting to take my dog on Skypath. So many better places to take her!

    3. Allowing dogs in there will make it a de facto no-go zone for kids. You know the drill — “He’s just playing.”

      And yeah we could make the same argument for cars. Taxis on Grafton bridge → done.

      1. I would say that the operator of skypath will allow dog walkers (additinal income). I certainly dont have a problem with allowing dogs (i dont own a dog and i bike everyday to work). Why the hate, guys? This path should be for all.

        1. Well Skypaths consent application did not request/want them on the Skypath, so unless the final consent issued says otherwise, no dogs it will be.

          As for why not? Main reason is health and safety for everyone else using the facility.
          Because dogs on long leashes or who are allowed to crap everywhere – invariably by whose owners don’t clean up their dogs messes, will cause real slip and other hazards.

          Yes its denying some revenue, but its for the greater good – after all dogs are banned from all sorts of parks and other places in the city now, so its not like its the *only* place dogs will be banned from.
          And the revenue forgone will more than be offset by everyone else enjoying a dog free crossing and making more trips as a result.

          1. Walkways have to get resource consents for dog walkers now? How is the council going consenting all its paths?

          2. No, they don’t but council can and does pass dog restriction by laws on certain walkways and places, often with input from local boards.
            The Orakei Boardwalk has one for example where dogs must be on a leash to use it.

            But Skypath is a private applicant, requesting consent, in their application they listed a number of restrictions they proposed in their original consent application. No dogs was one of those.
            Hours of operation from 6am to 10pm was another. As was no motorised vehicles mopeds/motorbikes [but e-bikes were allowed].

            To my knowledge this no dogs “request” was not “overruled” by the hearing panel, so unless the granted consent from the 2015 hearings is further ammended during the appeals process then no dogs rule will stay.

            Now, Skypath Trust could seek to have their own no dogs rule from the granted consent amended/removed down the track, but that would have to be a council decision at that time whether to grant it or not and whether further community input was warranted.

    1. Anywhere you like – within the confines of the road code of coarse – as all these streets are public domain. We’ll just be cycling from our house in Beach Haven, so the more cars parked should mean slower vehicular traffic and thus safer for us! Your welcomed and indeed entitled to store your private property on the public domain outside our house if you wish!

    1. Nah, its not just the cycle Nazi’s, but the no dogs on our beach Nazi’s, on our park Nazi’s, on our Island Nazi’s, our restaurant, supermarket, any store selling food products, any library or other government building including schools, hospitals, even airport NAZI’s! Jeehsus Pil you really don’t like tax and rate payers using non motorised methods of transportation do you?

  11. Let me get this straight (or correct me if I’m wrong):

    Skypath will be an enclosed tube, protected from the elements. Its atmosphere will be largely captive. Its floor will not experience the natural washing of rain or sterilisation of sunlight.

    Therefore any dog urine or excrement will foul the atmosphere in those confines far more, and linger far longer, than on your average open street.

    Also the length of the confined passage (12-15 min walk?) is such that there is a goodly chance the average dog will want to ‘go’, at some stage during the crossing.

    If I have understood the scenario correctly, dog waste (or any other animals’ waste including human) would be completely unacceptable.

    How is this going to work if dogs are allowed?
    (No hate here. I’m a dog-lover myself)

    1. Ah. In that case my concerns above about the effects of dog-excrement will be considerably reduced.
      I confess I have not paid sufficient attention to the detail proposed for Skypath (just made incorrect assumptions from the photos).
      Thanks.

    2. Skypath may not be protected from the elements, but I hope if dogs are to be allowed that its metal parts will have been protected from dog urine corrosion, to which (anecdotally) metal street lighting poles have been known to fall victim.

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