The largest of the three new greenfield growth areas on the edge of Auckland is to the south and most of that will occur around Drury – both to the east and the west of the Southern Motorway. This has long been signalled in key planning documents, right back to the 2012 Auckland Plan.
We have long argued that planning documents have recently placed too much emphasis on greenfield growth, especially given data in more recent times that clearly shows the public want to live in areas close to employment and rapid transit. However, at least with growth in the south there’s a railway line running right through the heart of the area that, unlike the Western Line, is a direct link to the north and the rest of the Auckland urban area. With electrification to Pukekohe, new stations south of Papakura and extra tracks on the Southern Line to support express trains, it’s easy to see how the broader Drury area is a great opportunity for Auckland to finally deliver a best-practice transit-oriented development.
This is recognised in the subsequent planning that has occurred in the Drury area. The 2016 “Supporting Growth” transport network in the south highlights the opportunity for two well-placed train stations to serve the urban areas to the east and west of the Southern Motorway:
With strong supporting bus services, these two stations can form the heart of how this area grows – and hopefully mean it avoids the car dependency that generally occurs in parts of Auckland a long way from the city centre. Given how congested the Southern Motorway already is, getting as much future travel growth as possible onto the rail system will be essential.
The next step in the planning process for Drury took place late last year, through consultation on a proposed structure plan for the area. The Plan generally seems to make sense, although (and you’ll start to see some of the implications of this soon), it seems to “hedge its bets” on what happens in the Drury west area – both in terms of the rail station location and also in terms of locating the main centre for this area.
You’ll notice there are two potential new centres identified (D and E) and a correspondingly a range along the rail corridor in which the train station could be located.
Looking through some of the feedback on the structure plan, you can start to see why the document might have hedged its bets on these two key issues. In particular, there’s a series of lengthy and near identical submissions from a group of landowners who want the station pushed much further east – so that it’s close to the motorway interchange and also to their land.
Here’s a relevant excerpt from these submissions:
With a further new station proposed to be located at Paerata (further towards Pukekohe) and another on the eastern side of the Southern Motorway (to serve the largest centre for the area), ultimately a choice needs to be made around whether the Drury West train station will be located in the middle of the wider future urban area (location E) or on the eastern edge of this area (location D).
At both a high-level and detailed level, the answer seems to be a no-brainer. Locating the station at point E means that it sits at the heart of the wider Drury West area – and is likely to generate much more ridership over time and do a far better job at serving the travel needs of this part of Auckland. Furthermore, when you zoom right into this area, it becomes increasingly obviously that location D will struggle to deliver the best practice transit-oriented development long-planned for this part of Auckland for a couple of reasons:
- Notice all of the green lines and surrounding blue to the south of the rail line, that’s a number of waterways and floodplains that can’t be developed and will likely become part of the public space network. This significantly eats into the walkable catchment of location D
- Option D is also on the other side of SH22 and the long term plan is to 4-lane the road. Having your train station disconnected from your centre by a busy state highway that feeds directly into a motorway interchange is a surefire way to help reduce the walkability and therefore use of the station.
- With the Drury East station location likely to be just east of the motorway, a station serving option D would be very close and not ideal for providing a rapid transit service. Auckland already has far too many closely spaced stations which help to slow services down
- More recent “Supporting Growth” consultation clearly identified location E as preferred with the debate focused around whether to provide one or two major North/South corridors to support it.
Strangely though, we have heard that Auckland Council has started leaning towards preferring “location D” for the Drury West train station. Council staff seem to have been persuaded by the various landowners in this area that I feel is a poor outcome. They seem to believe it is more important to achieve a quick result to serve the first stages of the development than what is best for the long term growth of the area.
If this is true, then it is pretty worrying. Not only from an outcomes perspective – as clearly locating the station in the middle of the urban area away from a major flood plain is such a no brainer – but also in terms of process. Years and year of work, through all the Supporting Growth transport planning, has been based on locating a train station in the heart of the broader Drury West area. As per business case requirements, this has been challenged and tested a number of times. To dramatically change the approach at the last minute – to something clearly worse – is very worrying.