Back in January I highlighted a major risk that the Council was ruining the Drury growth area by preferring the position of a few landowners over years of previous technical analysis and common sense. Key to my concern was the location of train stations to serve the southern greenfield growth area – the largest area of sprawl currently being planned, but also an area with a train line running right through the middle of it. In particular, at the time it seemed as though the Council was leaning towards preferring a centre as “location D” in the map below (and putting a train station next to it) rather than the much more logical “location E”.
Last week the next phase of planning for Drury (and other southern growth areas) kicked off, with the publication of a full draft Structure Plan which refines the above map a bit further. Firstly though, as ratepayers e don’t want the council wasting money but surely a graphic designer wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for an important consultation like this.
There are a few important changes from the map above that are particularly relevant to the train station location question.
- The two smaller centres of D and E have become a single centre halfway between those two. I’m pleased that at least this is now a bit further away from the motorway interchange.
- The station sausages, the area within with the actual location will end up being, have shrunk and like with the centres, is between the two previous centre locations
- The future zoning is more defined as opposed to being more theoretical in the map above.
While this plan certainly isn’t as bad as putting the centre and station at “location D” in the earlier map (which would have been entirely in a flood plain!) this still isn’t a great outcome. If you look at the map above you can see that, particularly at the northern end of the station sausage, a huge part of the train station’s ‘walk up catchment’ to its south and east would still that floodplain and beyond that industrial land. This means that much of the precious land around the train station actually won’t be able to be developed at all, and a much greater proportion of this area’s future population will live beyond easy walking distance of the Drury West station. Depending on exactly where the stations are sited, they could also remain fairly close together which isn’t as ideal from an operational perspective.
Further issues are highlighted in a transport map from the Integrated Transport Assessment that supports the structure plan. On the bright side, the map seems to indicate the train station will be located right next to what will be an important north-south road for buses. This transport map from the consultation also indicates these will likely be frequent bus routes. But doing that that will mean the station is further disconnected from the centre.
What’s perhaps most frustrating about the structure plan is that the “right answer” is so obvious, and also not very far from where the structure plan has got to. Clearly the centre should be focused around the main intersection between what’s currently State Highway 22 and the future north-south road (the part of which exists is called Jesmond Road) extending down to the train station. Successful centres are always the places where key routes feed into and it seems so bizarre that everything in Drury West is “almost but not quite aligned”. It wouldn’t take much to actually line it up pretty well – just a small shift of both the centre and the train station as indicated in the blue arrows below:
The other part of the Drury Structure Plan that I don’t think the Council has got right is the sequencing. At the moment the focus seems to be on first urbanising the area furthest from the train line and the centres, and only later on coming back to actually build in the places that won’t end up being car dependent:
Surely a much more sensible way of sequencing development would be to start in the northeast next to existing Papakura and then work your way south and west over time as infrastructure and other services are rolled out? While there is a Special Housing Area already approved in the northeast part of Drury West, this never made any sense from a logical sequencing sense and further prioritising that area just seems like throwing good money after bad. At the very least, the sequencing should be aligned with completion of Pukekohe rail electrification – which could potentially be staged to first be extended to Drury East station before continuing south to Pukekohe.
Overall it seems that the Council just haven’t quite got the structure plan right yet. With so much “draft” and “indicative” text all over the maps and still significant uncertainty in the location of critical components of the structure plan – like the Drury West train station – it looks like the Council has perhaps over-complicated the issue by trying to please too many different stakeholders and landowners. It should instead focus on what delivers the best long-term outcome for Auckland.
The good news though is that the plan is still only a draft and probably only needs a few fairly minor (but important) tweaks to get right. So make sure you have your say on it between now and April 30th.