A bunch of us got talking about recent stories about getting to the beach, or having difficulties doing so, and Jolisa and Marita put together this post as a result.

With the weather – and the water – warming up, Aucklanders are flocking to the beaches (including some newly swimmable ones, hooray!). And we do mean flocking. As travel options have been limited for over three months now, that’s putting more pressure than ever on our precious outdoor spaces, especially on weekends.

And looking ahead, even with restrictions set to relax somewhat, many of us may choose to stick around the city this summer for good reasons.

Of course, one of the secret delights of staying in Tāmaki Makaurau over the holidays – whether by choice or necessity – is how quiet it can be. For a few weeks, there’s a bit more breathing room in cafes, at parks, on the beaches… and out on the streets. A small window of opportunity to walk, skate, scoot, and cruise around on bikes having 80s flashbacks.

But we can’t necessarily count on having that extra urban breathing room this summer. So it’s going to be interesting, and challenging. Covid and climate are tag-teaming to reveal some pretty stark constraints in how we organise our lives, our public spaces, our journeys. We can see the world is changing, and we know we need to as well.

So the question is – how can we get there?


Bus to the beach? If you can…

Over recent weeks, AT has been making last minute announcements that the 66 bus – which crosses the isthmus from Sylvia Park to Coyle Park – will stop a kilometre short of its destination at Pt Chevalier beach. Why? Because of “congestion”.

Just some of the online alerts, which also pop up on the AT Mobile app.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is the third summer in a row that it’s been happening! We covered the story back in the summer of 2019/2020, and it happened again last summer. And here we go again. Why is this still happening?

Berm parking on Boscawen Street, Pt Chevalier, one block from Coyle Park
Random parking in the old tram turning circle, making it hard for buses to make the turn  (although in this case one seems to have managed).

The short version: people drive to the beach and park on the yellow lines in the tram turning circle at Coyle Park, making it hard for buses to turn around. People are also parking in bus stops, and double-parking, and parking on berms, and circulating looking for places to park.

Aerial shot of the area in question – before the recent installation of hatched lines on the triangle at lower right, and a 2 minute drop-off space at top centre.

The answer, of course, is for AT to enforce the parking rules. This proves difficult when parking wardens (and bus drivers) face abuse from the public. But reducing or abandoning enforcement won’t solve the problem.

Reportedly, there’s already been some ticketing this year. There have also been a couple of small infrastructure changes since that first summer. The triangle in the above image now has hatched white lines, which hasn’t stopped people parking on it.  And with Local Board input, AT built a 2-minute drop off zone in the turning circle, so people could unload passengers and picnic gear and then find parking elsewhere.

But clearly, none of this is enough to restore reliability to the bus service.

https://twitter.com/nzdodo/status/1464772797679366159?s=20

As the tweets above spell out, this situation illustrates some self-imposed barriers to AT’s own overriding mandates – which include a safer transport system for everyone, and rapid mode-shift for climate action. Not to mention, AT’s “customers” (i.e., people) deserve the “easy journeys” that are AT’s key promise.

Not everyone’s plugged into travel apps constantly, or even has a phone. So, when timetables change like this, people find themselves waiting for ghost buses that never appear, or are unexpectedly dropped off a kilometre away from where they’re trying to get to, or suddenly discover they need to walk over a kilometre to or from the bus they’re counting on.

Of course, a brisk fifteen-minute walk can be a healthy and enjoyable option for some. But it can also be an absolute barrier to access, safety and wellbeing. Imagine you’re disabled, or elderly, or encumbered by kids and gear, walking that distance on a hot day, crossing multiple side streets amid circling traffic. Or say you’re a free-range teen, who discovers at dusk that your planned safe trip home has evaporated while you were at the beach.

Beach-going aside, this is surely an unfair imposition on anyone who relies on the bus for everyday travel.

So what’s next? Will the buses make it to the beach this coming weekend? Watch this space, and/or the AT travel alerts…

One bit of good news: this time last year, an impressive series of bollards was installed at Harbour View Reserve, another handy parking spot nearby. So far, they’re doing a solid job of fending off most parking on the grass…

… although not all of it. As one of our commenters noted yesterday, the attitude of so many Auckland drivers when it comes to parking is, “If I fits, I sits.”

Beyond the bollards, anything goes: berm parking at Harbour View Reserve, Point Chevalier, November 2021.

Drive (on)to the beach?

You could say that the thrill-seeking activity of launching one’s car (or rented campervan) onto a vast, open stretch of sand is a Kiwi rite-of-passage (or maybe “right” of passage?). There’s the classic hoon up Northland’s Ninety-Mile Beach, endangering beach walkers, fishermen and others on foot. Utes towing boat trailers bouncing over low-tide rocks is a common summer sight at New Zealand’s holiday destinations, smothering precious seagrass colonies beneath their tyres as they go (did you know that seagrass captures carbon 35 times faster than tropical rainforest? If it hasn’t been smushed by a ute, that is.)

So why not just drive to the beach? Heck, just keep going: why bother with that tiresome walk from the carpark when you can just park on the beach itself? That’s what visitors to Castor Bay on the North Shore have started to do. So convenient!

However, as some of the residents have identified, there are downsides to this approach:

“Vehicles do not belong on beaches”

“I have [called] on many occasions and council passed the buck and advised to call AT. A child nearly got run over when I called 2 weeks back.”

“So unsafe for our kids”
I think its bad to have that many vehicles parked on the beach. Don’t be lazy people, park your car elsewhere & walk to the beach like everyone else has to

The freedom of the beach is integral to the experience of a New Zealand summer. But a beach that’s a free-for-all for cars cannot be a place of freedom for a child.

And everyone knows that our coastal edge environments are fragile and in need of protecting. Last summer, local bodies around the motu started enforcing no-drive rules on beaches and sand dunes, from the Horowhenua, to Muriwai, to the Kaipara. Drivers on dunes are not only endangering people – they’re endangering wildlife too.

Amelia Geary, the regional conservation manager at Forest and Bird, said when people drove through sand dunes and on beaches it had severe ecological impacts.

“Sand dunes are incredibly sensitive and fragile habitats. These dunes are home to many different species that you can’t even see from your car such as lizards and spiders.

“By destroying that you are also destroying the homes of all these critters that you didn’t even know were there.”

Furthermore, driving is not actually allowed on any beaches in the Auckland region other than Muriwai and Karioitahi (and even then, a permit is needed to drive on those specific beaches.) Auckland Council consulted the public about driving on Muriwai Beach in June this year. Two-thirds of submitters reported seeing concerning driver behaviour on the beach.

So if your only option is to drive to the beach? Keep your vehicle a safe distance from those more vulnerable – people and the environment. That five or ten minute walk from the carpark is a great way to warm up before your swim.

Summer swimming on a hot subtropical day: surely one of the best things about living in Auckland! But is it accessible to all?

Bike to the beach?

So, what’s the end-game here? How are we going to get to the beach without ruining it for everybody else – not least future generations?

Not everyone lives near enough to a beach to walk or cycle there. But many do – which means AT needs to be taking every single opportunity for road reallocation, to make it a lot easier for those who’d love to get there on foot or little wheels. And of course, once you can safely bike to a beach, you can almost certainly bike to school, shops, sports, and other local destinations.

People taking full advantage of legal parking spots at Point Chevalier beach on the same day buses were diverted because cars were illegally parked…
…darn double-cab utes, taking up multiple parking spaces!

Meanwhile, how about not removing buses from beach routes, but adding them? Here’s a suggestion we can get behind:

It’s going to take fresh ideas, and a whole lot of fast, clever, committed action by our city. Because, one way or another, this is going to be an issue all summer long. Just as we most need a break, and when tempers are already fraying on our streets. And unless something changes,  it’ll happen again next summer, and the summer after that, and so on and so on, getting hotter and hotter, and worse for us, every time.

Maybe the beloved summertime beach visit is where we can most clearly start to see that something’s gotta change. Otherwise, where will we end up?

When parking discourse and beach discourse collide. New Yorker cartoon, October 2021.
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55 comments

  1. How can AT constantly get away with clearly doing absolutely no parking enforcement across the entire city? It must be a board-level policy decision, surely? Some kind of misguided attempt to not make the citizenry hate them even more? It has to be deliberate, no?

    1. The only explanation I can think of is that there are rogue senior managers in the parking enforcement department who are not being held to account. Given the masses of complaints every day on social media with zero change, this is an indictment of the AT board.

      1. No, it’s not a rogue Manager. It’s Health & Safety. At Managers are quite responsibly avoiding putting their people in harms way by not enforcing the rules. The should instead do what is being done with fisheries officers an provide body cams.

        1. The problem has been created through lax enforcement across the city.

          If they need technology to overcome this now, then they should use technology. But first they need to change their intention and attitude.

        2. In that case, AT should contract out to a private tow firm. They seem perfectly capable of safely enforcing parking laws given their track record in Wellington.

    2. So much of the illegal parking could be enforced without a warden there in person.

      Upskilled drone pilot wardens could easily cover large areas without putting themselves in harms way.

      It’s pretty easy to automate processes to give first and final warnings before walloping someone with a fine.

      What is the excuse?

      1. Can’t they just tool up a car with cameras, drive it around and then fines in the post? Doesn’t Wellington do this? Ok, beach parking probably has to be in public but 99% of problematic parking can be enforced remotely

        1. Maybe they are, but that doesn’t help the problem on the day.
          I guess in combination with signs saying strict 24×7 automatic enforcement could help.

        2. These technology solutions should be applied in lots of places to create a compliance culture.

          At Coyle Park, AT have allowed it to become so bad, the solution now is to install bus gates and only allow the buses in. Rather than parking on the rest of the asphalt, we could have tables and chairs, or a place for kids to learn to ride bikes and skateboard, etc.

        3. They can and they do. In Auckland this is done in some city-fringe suburbs for parking enforcement, and an AT staff member I spoke with last week told me that there would be more of them in the near future.

        4. Great. So when bus users, locals and elected members were trying to get action last summer, and the summer before, and all AT would do is talk about truncating the bus route as being a “last resort” because woe is them, and that they’d maybe put up a display board (which would only “help” the passengers affected at Coyle Park – not those who’ve walked to another bus stop from the other part of the beach – by advising them they’ve got to walk 1.4 km with all their gear to get a bus)

          … are we to assume that they just refrained from mentioning that they can put in bus gates? Because they don’t want to?

        5. I live in Grey Lynn and AT regularly drive around the area in these cars to enforce the residental parking, so I would hope a nice trip to the beach a few times a day for these guys, in the safety of the car from the threats of the car owners, would help reduce the problem?

          https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/auckland-transports-new-camera-car-issues-nearly-8000-tickets/QA3MP3DCDCOEIORUFMA4O7X7U4/

          PS. I did see a drone yesterday taking photos around Grey Lynn, (might have been taking photos for the planned Oakham building on GNR) but it seemed to be having a few issues from dive bombing seagulls, so the beach might not be a good place for drone technology!

        6. How many people are really inconvenienced by having the Pt Chev bus truncated on a weekend? Would it even reach double figures? They always used to be damn near empty down there, the rich end, has anything changed?

        7. Plenty. Even on Friday afternoon at 4-ish, there were 8 teenage girls heading off along Pt Chev Rd, (in 4 pairs, not a group) so I stopped and asked them if they’d come from the bus and they had. I wonder how many teens had come earlier in the day when the bus went the whole way and then were sitting up at Coyle Park not aware of why the bus wasn’t turning up. Four buses an hour, each direction. With plenty more on weekend days.

          You don’t get modeshift to using the bus if you muck around with the network like this. Modeshift is in the GPS and Council instructions to AT and this is the sort of operational thing they do to undermine it constantly.

          If people need to drive, they could get used to parking along the bus route – on a side street, and catching it up to Coyle Park.

    3. How about outsourcing parking enforcement to the gig economy. Add a feature to the AT Park app and AT Mobile app that allows you to record a video of an illegally parked video, a parking warden can then review the video from the safety of a desk, and then a tow truck is sent out immediately.

      Pay people a share of the fine. Make sure the ticket is for a fine plus a separate towing fee, so that council and tow truck both make money.

    1. + 10000
      Those stub-ends of Wallace St / Sentinel Rd / Hamilton Rd etc could all have a couple of rows of bike racks planted straight into the asphalt.

      1. At the moment the council is running out of stone cold cash, unfortunately its not going to happen but I can see your point on why the need for more buses.

  2. I can’t believe they let people away with this. Yet another reason to privatise AT: a private firm would be writing as many lucrative tickets and tows as they could.

  3. The 4WD mob are almost certainly to blame for the fire in Woodhill forest this last week because as well as wrecking the dunes and risking the lives of other beach users with their high speed antics on Muriwai beach they also like to sit around a poorly controlled bonfire and share stories of how clever they are behind the wheel.
    Tossers

  4. The problem at Coyle Park should have been tackled by governance, as it is chocker block full of the systemic problems at Auckland Transport that need addressing.
    They have a misconception about their role in enforcement. The safety review lays out how effective enforcement deters poor behaviour by creating an expectation that compliance is required. Auckland Transport are required to use an evidence base in decision-making including an economic analysis. Council and Government have given clear instructions to Auckland Transport that they must enable modeshift to public transport, walking and cycling, in order to achieve outcomes in public health, congestion, emissions reduction, and equity of opportunities.

    Despite all this, AT have chosen to follow a minimal-enforcement approach which is economically inferior, that they cannot back up with any evidence, and which directly impacts the safety of people, the mode decisions they’ll make and, in these sorts of examples, the ability of the bus network to operate.

    On every level and in every way, Auckland Transport’s decision is regressive, substandard and inequitable. The real question here is why Moving Responsibility Upwards isn’t happening. It’s a Vision Zero concept that is too rarely applied at AT.

    If the Group Manager Parking Services & Compliance is unwilling or unable for some reason to create a culture of compliance through effective enforcement, the ELT should step in and make changes.

    If the Group Manager Metro Services is unwilling or unable for some reason to ensure the bus network can operate properly to serve the people of Auckland, the ELT should step in and make changes.

    If the ELT is unwilling or unable to do so, the CEO should step in and make changes.
    If the CEO is unwilling or unable to do so, the AT Board should step in and make changes.
    If the AT Board is unwilling or unable to do so, Council should step in and make changes.

    And they then turn around and wonder why we complain.

  5. Auckland Council are currently calling for submissions on the freedom camping bylaw,as with all rules,it will require some type of enforcement. If ,the same oversight is applied to “normal” vehicle parking,freedom camping will be exactly that.
    The current level of enforcement and oversight,means we have freedom parking,”park where you like,for as long as you like”.
    If AT/Auckland Council, (convenient scapegoat,each says it’s the others responsibility), can’t afford enforcement, they should adopt New York approach. To reduce the amount of vehicles sitting kerbside idling,people could provide evidence,via camera footage,and receive a portion of the fine,proved lucrative enough to have the desired affect.
    Of course, if you really wanted to keep bus turnaround area, clear for buses, private enterprise would happily, keep it clear,for you,stopping buses short is a major cop-out.

    1. With freedom camping the easiest answer is simply to say no, and that provides a guarantee that you don’t have to rely on Council’s poor enforcement of it.

      1. Actually – going to be interesting in Porirua this year, with the wonderful stretch of golden sandy beach at Titahi Bay now proposed to be blocked off to cars, first time ever. The locals certainly believe it is their God-given right to drive onto the beach and park on the beach, all year long, but especially in Summer. There will be an uproar, I’m sure, or more likely as mass flouting of those rules…

        1. A few locals only, by all accounts, believe it is their God-given right to take their cars on to Titahi Bay beach. The usual bunch of inconsiderates who habitually spoil things for others. They are a small but pesky minority, and most people are not like this.

    1. This – i genuinely don’t understand what would be going through their heads. It’s literally a giant “**** you” to the rest of the community.

  6. What now, who cares if the plebs on those buses isn’t able to get to the beach?

    (it is necessary to point out that was sarcasm)

    This has also happened before at Long Bay due to congestion. It is not that you’d be slower on foot than those cars. It is noteworthy that the North Shore still doesn’t have any frequent bus lines crossing the motorway. For a lot of people, if you want to go to the beach you will drive a car, whether you like it or not.

  7. Jolisa and Marita, a very timely and good piece.
    Takapuna has exactly the same problem. Last weekend saw cars parked over yellow lines (this must be so hard for AT to enforce because the line is almost completely obscured by the car and so barely visible); cars parked in gardens (again so difficult for AT, because how do you tell the difference between a verge and a garden as they both have plants, or at least they both started off with plants); and of course all over verges. Near the boat ramp the footpath becomes inaccessible due to boat trailers protruding over it, and so pedestrians have to walk on the road.
    Lucky that the Group Manager Parking Services & Compliance lives nearby and is probably working on it as I write.

      1. Taka-ite, thank you – it’s a worry to hear it’s just as bad elsewhere. Maybe we need a “send us your pics” follow-up post to show the scale of the issue?

        And Caitlin, really?? Yikes. What a backfiring Christmas gift for the children of Auckland, the city centre dwellers, and anyone else who was hoping to get clear footpaths or reliable PT or just an undamaged green berm :-/

        1. I like the send us your pics idea,a cycling website I follow (British) has a close pass section,it has gained traction, and footage taken, has been used for education/enforcement. ,maybe the Coastguard,could have education days at the boat ramps,with Council/AT assistance

        2. Yes Jolisa, and let’s head the page, “Self Entitled Numpties,” as some would find pricks offensive.

      2. Just as he appears to do for every other religious and other festival that you can think of, and some that you can’t, judging by the almost complete lack of enforcement.

  8. Why does the AT insist that all the buses in the South are gigantic. If they had smaller buses as in Rotorua. They could repurpose the buses that shuttle around Papakura from the station that are underutilised at the busiest of times. I n summer peak times they could shuttle to Mareaitai and Omana. During the quiet Auckland shut down they could do shuttle runs to beaches every 30 mins from the nearest parking areas. Instead of a Devenport trial they could do a Maeraitiai trial and run it for free.

  9. Unbelievable that this is happening for the third year in a row
    Also, if there was walking/cycling access across the Harbour Bridge this would help to make the beaches on the North Shore much more accessible to people on bikes…

    1. From the city you’d probably ride to one of the beaches on Tāmaki Drive.

      For the lower North Shore, the bike/pedestrian bridges across the motorway at Northcote Road have been completed, but Taharoto Road still forms a barrier to cycling to the beach.

      1. Heaps of swimming spots and walking tracks to explore just off the north-west corner of the bridge too, at Chelsea Bay, Kauri Point, Sailors bay etc…

  10. I realise it’s not the dominant purpose, but how much money is AT leaving on the table by virtue of the lack of enforcement? And what’s the opportunity cost in terms of how that money could be spent?

    1. They’re saving nothing. Enforcement is self-supporting if an efficient, proactive approach is used, in which they go to a large area and ticket every car at once. The need for enforcement also reduces the more consistently it is applied.

      AT have made the decision to use a reactive approach in general – only coming to a car or two at a time, in response to a call out, but rather than reap the revenue from all the other illegally parked cars in the area at the same time, they leave them unticketed. So they spend *much* more time and money per ticket than they should, and give us very poor return for our rates.

      I asked for the analysis to support this decision a while ago. There is none. It’s based on sweet f**k all, as usual.

      In addition, the 2015 Parking Strategy calls for time limits and pricing to manage parking, scaled up as required to ensure there’s always 15% parking available at any one time. In a masterful disregard for the money we spent to allow them to consult on that strategy, they’ve boldly ignored it.

  11. These cars come from somewhere else. Perhaps these people should think about how they would feel if hundreds of cars drove to their neighborhoods, took all the parks, blocked the streets and caused chaos for their trips and that of PT. They’d be demanding action.

    But that’s a little too much intelligence and decency for that lot. I agree with Sailor Boy – outsource to private tow companies and instead of AT tweeting that buses will be stopped, tweet that tow vehicles will be circling beaches randomly.

    1. “These cars come from somewhere else”
      I live at a very busy beach. We generally refer to them as ‘blow-ins’. I usually avoid the beach on summer afternoons for that reason.

  12. How about adding some bike rack/ security rings to the Harbourview bollards? More bike lockups definitely needed. Bikes locked to the safety rails on the steep paths down to the beach really are a h&s issue.

    1. Yes. The bike racks that are there aren’t in a logical place, either. Some at the bottom for people carrying stuff on their bikes would be good too.

  13. Kraut, why shouldn’t it be a dominant purpose? You pay $6 or $7 if you swim at a Council pool. Surely there is an argument that if you drive to the beach and park to take a swim you should pay a similar amount for the parking?
    Parking assets have an enormously low return on assets, about 0.7%. Wouldn’t it be fair that the more affluent who can afford to drive cars pay for the cost of that asset? And a return on the top so that the cost of capital is covered?

  14. Could the answer be to split AT in two? One half continues to promote driving and looks after the interests of motorists. The other half looks after all non-car transport – PT, active modes, all non-car infrastructure etc. Both are allocated separate budgets and each is able to challenge the other (with teeth), if its interests are being encroached upon. I am not a fan of privatising public entities such as AT, but restructuring them so that they better-represent their target clientele would offer a possible solution.

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