In March the Council’s Planning Committee approved Panuku’s “High Level Project Plan” for Onehunga. This plan will guide the long-term strategy, vision and goals for Panuku’s work in transforming Onehunga into a major growth centre for Auckland.
Onehunga is one of the areas Council directed Panuku to have a particularly strong focus on, alongside continuing the development of Wynyard Quarter and also transforming Manukau. Onehunga falls into the “transform” category where the goal is for Panuku to lead major urban regeneration:
Onehunga is a no-brainer when it comes to urban regeneration and significant growth. Strategically located in the southern part of the isthmus and with pretty good connections to other areas, the Unitary Plan also enables significant growth in the wider area (the area covered by Panuku’s work is outlined in red):
Key areas with growth potential appear to be:
- The town centre itself where development up to 27 metres (6-8 levels) is possible
- The “mixed use” zone southwest and directly east of parts of the town centre, where development up to 21 metres (5-6 levels) is possible
- Areas zoned “terraced housing and apartments” to the northeast of the town centre, where development up to 16 metres (4 levels) is possible
Further to this, there is significant industrial land – especially to the east – which I am guessing may transition over time to other uses as growth occurs and the area’s accessibility increases.
Of course the elephant in the room when it comes to Onehunga is the East West Link project. Panuku’s frustration with this project is well known and the High Level Project Plan discusses the project fairly diplomatically:
The East West Link forms part of the East West Connections programme, a joint initiative between the NZTA and AT. In January 2016, then Prime Minister John Key called it one of the government’s top priorities and a project of national significance.
The proposal’s business case says the link is targeted at delivering improvements in:
• Travel times and travel time reliability between businesses in the Onehunga-Penrose industrial area and state highways 1 and 20 (SH1 and SH20)
• Safety and accessibility for cycling and walking between Māngere Bridge, Onehunga and Sylvia Park
• Journey time reliability for buses between SH20 and Onehunga Town Centre.
The East West Link is a strategic transport corridor that will connect the Western Ring Route (SH20) at Onehunga and the Southern Motorway (SH1), improving access to the rail freight hub at MetroPort and major employment areas, such as East Tāmaki. This link will address high traffic and freight movements on congested local roads; and move freight more efficiently between SH20 and SH1, and between industrial areas and the port and airport.
The link project intersects Transform Onehunga in two key areas:
• The Neilson Street interchange, including the street’s widening to four lanes and widening of the road between Gloucester Park and Onehunga Wharf from two to four lanes. The widening will intersect directly with the wharf and take about 8000sqm of land from the site. Temporary designations will cut off access to the wharf until about 2024
• The alignment across the Manukau Harbour foreshore (a four lane road) with connections back to Galway Street, Captain Springs Road, MetroPort and Hugo Johnston Drive.
The East West Link is expected to create east-west improvements for public transport, and provide for walking and cycling. However, it is more about regional connections and less about local connectivity. The full benefits of the network improvements, particularly on local roads, will not be realised until after completion in 2028. Between $1.6 and $1.8 billion has been allocated for the project, which is in the advanced planning stage. On 16 December 2016 NZTA lodged the necessary documents and consent applications for the East West Link project. Their application will be considered by an independent Board of Inquiry. This process includes hearings expected to run from April to September 2017. If the proposed design is consented, construction will start in 2018.
In essence the impact of this project on plans for Onehunga are pretty massive, especially around the Port area – a major redevelopment opportunity. Also construction impacts mean that the timeframes for Panuku’s work in Onehunga will be significantly delayed. Just another mess created by this stupid project.
The crux of the Plan is in section 6 (note to Panuku – please do an executive summary for 100+ page reports!), which goes through five key strategic moves:
Build on existing strengths
This seems to be mainly focused around reinforcing the strong main-street character of Onehunga through public space improvements and supporting some key redevelopment opportunities. If anything this strategic move seems a bit timid but it would be great to see those carparks just off the main street be redeveloped into much needed housing.
Encourage Smart Growth & Quality, Connected Communities
This strategic move seems to be focused on how Panuku can work with others, like Housing NZ and private developers, to get a bit increase in housing supply in Onehunga – but also about providing strong linkages and connections between these areas and the core town centre. Like above, if anything this move seems a bit timid given the scale of development opportunities in Onehunga, but it will be good for Panuku to play a co-ordination role in helping realise Onehunga’s growth potential:
Celebrate Industrial Character & Foster Local Productivity
This strategic move, while initially seeming to fall into the common trap of proposing to retain every last little bit of current industrial use (even with massive opportunity cost), seems more about recognising the potential in Onehunga’s semi-industrial character to both give the area an identity but also the opportunity of transitioning away from industrial to both housing and creative start-up companies that may get priced out of other areas. Undergrounding the overhead power lines through Onehunga would be an absolute game-changer for the area.
Create a Healthy, Activated, Foreshore Environment
This move is really around restoring the harbour-edge to a far less degraded state, particularly in environmental terms. It’s quite sad in many ways to see how this part of Auckland’s coast line has been neglected or actively ruined again and again over time by major infrastructure – something East West Link continues.
Reintegrate Onehunga with the Manukau Harbour
This strategic move is related to the previous one but really seeks to open up the linkages between Onehunga and what should be its best asset – the harbourside location. Once again, East West Link will make this task much more challenging no matter how much NZTA try to put lip-stick on that pig.
The Plan goes on to discuss particular opportunity sites in more detail – and there really are a huge number of large sites in Council ownership that are ripe for redevelopment. One of the issues though might be Auckland Transport’s reluctance to give up Park & Ride sites, if this one is anything to go by:
How hard is it for Auckland Transport to see how stupid Park & Rides are on this isthmus? A terraced house or apartment development basically across the road from a train station is going to generate far more trips in the long-run than a carpark.
Overall though it seems like the Onehunga plan is pretty good, although once again it highlights the massive impact East West Link will have on Onehunga and realising the potential of this part of Auckland.