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.
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
- 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.
- 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.