Koanga (spring) might be just around the corner but a stormy winter is hanging on with both hands across the motu this week.

Header image this week from a New Yorker cover by Jean-Jacques Sempé.

The week in Greater Auckland

Monday’s post was about Parliament’s announcement of an inquiry into the future of inter-regional passenger rail.

On Tuesday, we covered Auckland Council’s excellent piece of strategic planning work that is the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway.

On Wednesday, Matt wrote about the new Sustainable Public Transport Framework, which is set to replace the Public Transport Operating Model.

Yesterday, a guest post by Ella Kay explained Germany’s €9 public transport ticket and what it’s like to take a peak summer trip using it.

Council approves the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway

In a full-day meeting devoted entirely to debating the TERP today, Council voted 17-4 in favour of adopting the plan. There was serious enthusiasm in the room, and praise for the council staff who presented the document. Phil Goff’s speech included these words (transcribed):

We have a window of opportunity but it’s closing rapidly. We know we have to act now. And this TERP is the pathway to convert our plan into the action that we need, to meet our commitments, our responsibility, and to show leadership.We are elected to show leadership and we need to do that. It’s not good saying other places cause more emissions […] we know ours are the fifth highest per person in the world […]  we have an obligation to act. To the rest of the world, to our own community, most of all to our kids.

Climate activists are feeling both hopeful and empowered by the TERP. All Aboard’s Zoe Brentnall spoke about the plan on Radio new Zealand earlier in the week.

…the group was among the first to hail the “fast, fair, and affordable” plan to reduce emissions by 65 percent over the coming eight years.

Auckland’s Mayoral candidates had more of a mixed response to the plan, as reported by Todd Niall, who reached out to just about every candidate on the list to find out what they were thinking. Efeso Collins, the only candidate who’s also currently in Council, voted in support of the plan. Wayne Brown appeared not to have read the TERP yet, and Viv Beck described it as ‘virtue signalling’.

The centre-right endorsed candidate Viv Beck on Tuesday morning said she wanted more time to read the document, and by the end of the day described the plan as “virtue signalling”. If elected, she would put in place “a practical, credible plan to bring down emissions”.

Sir Bob Harvey on what Auckland could become

Former Waitakere City mayor Sir Bob Harvey hits all of Tāmaki Makaurau’s most pressing issues in this lovely essay about looking forward, being ambitious, and creating a powerful vision for the future of the city.

With amalgamation sorted, Unitary Plan and all, it’s time to activate a unified vision. This is the electric century, our chance to become a truly multi-modal city. Hard to believe it’s half a century since I worked on concepts for light rail with Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, a mayor of astonishing vision. He knew that we’d led the world in public transport usage, and we could do it again.

It’s exciting to see the City Rail Link nearing completion, delivering on Robbie’s promise. So what’s next? For one thing, this is the age of bikes, and especially electric bikes. When I cycled from town to Piha as a relatively fit teenager, it took me most of the day. Now, with a battery on your bike, anyone can fly from one side of the city to the other, a joy that should be available to everyone.

Greater Wellington Regional Council’s approves Aotearoa-first binding emissions target

GWRC is the first regional council in NZ to set a binding emissions target, after it unanimously voted in favour of its new Regional Policy Statement. The proposed changes to the regional plan are focused on reducing transport emissions, among other changes to protect freshwater systems and ecology. But its biggest impact will be to reduce car-dependent sprawl.

Under the new plan, developers wanting to build a 200-house subdivision on the outskirts of the region would have to demonstrate no increase to emissions – whether through the building of the houses or by creating heavy car dependency among its residents – before being granted consents.

Hamilton’s climate action plan approved

Thursday was a big day for climate action in local councils. Yesterday, Hamilton City Councillors unanimously approved a new climate change action strategy. The strategy, named Our Climate Future: Te Pae Tawhiti o Kirikiriroa, sets out climate emission reduction targets and a vision for the future of Hamilton as a thriving, low-carbon city.

“Let’s make the next three years the years of delivery,” said councillor Sarah Thomson, deputy chair of the environment committee, speaking in support of the strategy. Visibly emotional, she drew attention to a child in the audience, saying : “This is the reason we are doing this.”

Life in the Quarter-hour paradise

Started by Wellington-based urbanists Oliver Bruce and Isabella Cawthorn, Quarter-hour Paradise are a cool new advocacy group talking about the benefits of life in a fifteen-minute city. Or as they call it, a quarter-hour paradise (a name which Greater Aucklander Jolisa is given credit for on the website’s ‘who we are’ page!)

Quarter-hour paradise [idiom; New Zealand:] a vibrant urban community where residents have everything they need within a 15-minute walk, scoot or bike from their warm, affordable home.

Bret McKenzie’s driving less

Some weeks, it feels like we’re seeing modeshift everywhere. This interview with Conchord and ‘Muppet Man’, musician Bret McKenzie, begins with his ambitions to reduce his transport emissions.

Bret McKenzie – Academy Award-winning Muppet man – is an environmentally friendly chap.

He has cycled through torrential rain from his house near Wellington Zoo into the city arriving sopping wet to talk about his new solo album and tour. In the interests of the planet he cycles more, drives less.

The week in flooding bursts its banks

The week in flooding is very much not over yet. It’s been a shockingly wet day, well, everywhere. As Radio NZ reported on Thursday evening:

As an extreme ‘atmospheric river’ continues to dump rain across most of New Zealand, a State of Emergency has been declared in Nelson-Tasman and the West Coast regions. Northland is also affected by flooding. Here’s what you need to know.

The West Coast of Te Wai Pounamu has once again been drenched and is bracing for a second front of heavy rain. Meanwhile, in Nelson-Tasman, residents faced flooding the likes of which they’d never seen before.

Residents on this street in Atawhai which has been completely destroyed have been rescuing eels and fish from the flood waters, hoping to avoid a localised extinction event.

And the Maitai river swelled beyond recognition.

The week in heatwaves gets its own headline

While we’re facing floods here, heatwaves are leading to fires and drought in parts of the northern hemisphere that aren’t used to such sustained heat.

The news from last week’s roundup is still news: Europe’s major rivers have never run so low, slow or warm.

With no significant rainfall recorded for almost two months across western, central and southern Europe and none forecast in the near future, meteorologists say the drought could become the continent’s worst in more than 500 years.

And the unusually dry conditions could continue for the next few months, increasing the risk of drought throughout the continent.

One strange side effect of the heatwaves is what’s been revealed on river and lake beds that are usually deep underwater. The remains of from WWII wrecks, to flooded towns and ancient ruins have emerged.

In Rome, meanwhile, drought sapped the River Tiber and unveiled a bridge that’s thought to have been built during Emperor Nero’s rule. This summer’s extremely hot and dry conditions in Italy forced the government to declare a state of emergency in July.

An ancient bridge is revealed in Rome. Image via Stuff.

In Los Angeles, more lanes are apparently the solution

Transport planning is having an identity crisis, and there’s lots of change to work through yet. A visibly frustrated op-ed at the LA Times asks why the Los Angeles County’s transportation department is adding 363 miles of new highway alongside its plan to build 100 miles of new rail.

Yes, you read that right — we are spending tens of billions of dollars to make climate change and traffic worse. The expansion of highways will do far more harm than the expansion of mass transit will avert.

As a region, our day of reckoning is here, and we need to ask ourselves some key questions. Why do we continue to widen highways when we know that such projects never solve traffic, and in fact induce more people to drive? When will the use of taxpayer dollars match our stated climate goals?

Understanding parking excesses

Are you a parking nerd yet? If not, this article at The Conversation will turn you into one. It’s a deep-dive into the state of public and private parking in Melbourne, drawing on data from around the world to understand patterns of parking use.

It’s harder to come by data on how parking space is used. Comparing 2016 Census data on total car ownership (36,951) in the City of Melbourne to residential parking spaces (49,500) suggests there are 12,549 surplus residential car parking spaces – a 25% vacancy. Another study surveying eight inner Melbourne apartment buildings found car parks were between 30% and 40% empty.

Which reminded us of this gem…

Denver’s plan to shift transport investment to sustainable modes

Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton… and now Denver, Colorado, caught our eye for its new plan focused on reducing transport emissions. Next month, the Denver Regional Council of Governments will vote on a new long-term transport plan that aligns with the state’s emissions reduction goals.

The new plan would ax planned expansions of Interstate 25 and C-470 and cut or minimize similar widenings on smaller roads across the region. It would also move $900 million away from road expansions to fund climate-friendly transportation projects, including projects that would overhaul busy streets to help public buses move faster.

Brussels lands its low traffic centre

This week was a big week for Brussels: on Tuesday, its new mobility plan came into effect. A low-traffic circulation plan changes the way vehicles can move around Brussels, dividing the city centre up into a collection of traffic cells. The plan is the result of a ‘green wave’ of politicians elected in 2018 with a focus on environment and safety issues.

“If you look at the numbers, only 20 to 25 percent of the people who live or come to work here use cars,” [Bart Dhondt, the city’s alderman for mobility] said. “Most of our traffic comes from people driving through to other places so we’re sending them out of the city center.”

“The objective of all of this is to create more space for people to live, for kids to play, for residents to be able to walk and cycle safely,” he added.

Celebrating the invention of the bicycle

In a book review on The Economist of Jody Rosen’s Two Wheels Good, the writer points out that the bicycle is –

…the most popular form of transport ever known to humankind except for its own two feet. For that is what the bicycle is. More are manufactured each year in China alone than automobiles are made worldwide. Globally, almost half of households own a bicycle, far more than have a car. As Mr Rosen argues, “the cities and towns we inhabit, our economies, our laws are designed for cars; we hop between continents on airplanes. Yet we live on a bicycle planet.”

And it’s clips like this one which show us just how easily our streets and cities could become bicycle places once again.

Drum’n’bass on a bike rolls through Dublin

With thousands of fans in tow, DJ Dom Whiting cruised along the River Liffey in Dublin last weekend. Bikes, a crowd, a summer’s day – what’s not to love?

Tribute to a chronicler of bicycles

We’ll leave you with this lovely eulogy to the French cartoonist and illustrator Jean-jacques Sempé, who may be best known outside France for his many New Yorker cover illustrations. One of Sempé’s recurring themes was the bicycle.

Bikes are everywhere in Sempé’s work. Sometimes they are used to narrative effect, like when he shows the evolution of commuting from a single house, from bicycle to car and back again. But often they are just there to be ridden, in hundreds, if not thousands, of sketches of smiling people on bikes having a good time, presumably shirking their boring jobs to go for a ride. The Prime Minister of France shared one such image to commemorate his death; the mayor of Paris recently used another one as her Christmas card.

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Stay warm, dry and afloat this weekend! A tērā wiki.

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  1. “A low-traffic circulation plan changes the way vehicles can move around Brussels, dividing the city centre up into a collection of traffic cells.”

    We should do this in all NZ city CBDs

    1. Auckland already has a plan for this – access for everyone? Wellington too possibly? The implementation is what we need!

    2. Auckland has a policy for this, A4E, and has for years, but AT have, so far, consistently refused to deliver any proposed A4E compliant traffic circulation plans. Even just ones for discussion. Cl;early terrified of change, as usual.

      Perhaps TERP will make them face the front? Though i suspect they just don’t get it, every sign they don’t have the understanding or skills to put traffic reduction at the centre of a circulation plan.

      The current hopelessly timid Queen St ‘essential vehicle zone’ they devised shows their total reflex is to accomodating vehicles and has not grasped this is a change leadership programme.

      But we live in hope.

      1. > ‘essential vehicle zone’

        You mean the “ute zone”? Yet another reason to buy a ute, they’re still allowed to drive down the length of Queen St.

    3. I think it’s a great idea, but it will never happen in Auckland.

      It’s like the pedestrianisation of Queen St or High St. AT/Council is allergic to any barriers which prevent cars from driving in every open space.

      1. “never” isn’t a helpful word, though.

        The shift that is happening on these topics is building momentum in Auckland is no different to the shift that has happened elsewhere. There’s no point in continuing the myth that somehow Auckland is different and won’t respond, eventually, to the clamour for improvements.

        1. Question is, what makes TERP different from all the previous piles of PDFs and PowerPoints that have passed by?

          Council makes an A4E plan. So what?
          Council comes up with a plan to roll out bicycle lanes. So what?
          There is a plan to build light rail line. So what?
          There is a plan to build a different light rail line. So what?
          Council declares climate emergency. So what?
          Council makes TERP or whatever acronym you pick. So what?

          I have no idea how anyone still thinks this will have any impact. Those plans and visions happen in a completely parallel universe.

          I guess what will happen is we will see about the same level of progress in the next 10 years as we saw in the past 10 years. Not great, not terrible.

    4. The city centre street network development is led by Auckland Council and now Eke Panuku, working with residents and businesses, including logistics and supported by AT. Work moves as fast as those projects that are part of CCMP and A4E can be developed and put in place, with the current space taken for CRL still limiting opportunity. Big changes for Victoria Street and Wellesley Street are being prepared to follow CRL. The legislation changes proposed by government would make implementation of these much easier, despite howls of protest from opposition.

  2. With the full slate of Council candidates now being available, will there be a post about which candidates or groups support increasing mode-shift in Auckland and which oppose it?

  3. Global warming is the reason for fires, floods, famine and sea level rise.
    In NZ our land is being lost. It’s either being washed away or going under the sea level.
    In the meantime air travel, ship cruising numbers are booming as people speed around the world. Resistance to walking, biking or using PT is strong.
    Waka Kotahi is worrying about backlash from their new cameras that will save lives.

  4. Auckland Council published plan changes yesterday to respond to the MDRS. One change changes zoning so you can have more housing, one plan change increases driveway widths and requires loading spaces so you can have fewer houses.

    1. Look I’m on board with driveway width changes if they make it law that you have to have retractable palm trees like the Thunderbird 2 runway on Tracy Island.

  5. Meanwhile on Newshub Marie Dyhrberg “has slammed an environmental transport lobby group calling for walkers and cyclists to have a dedicated lane on the Auckland Harbour Bridge”. She pointed to other holes in the bike network, the fact it rains in Auckland, that there are other places for safe cycling, and argued it would be very expensive. She also argued public transport is unhealthy. The interviewers and the other person on the panel agreed with her, and stated that the bridge was too long to ever walk across.

    1. > She pointed to other holes in the bike network

      Well she’s quite right about that. I can’t take my bike out and ride to ANY destination without having to ride on roads which carry ~25,000 vehicles per day. The nearest protected cycleway is several kilometres away.

      Why invest billions in a new bridge when they can’t organise a few hundred thousand to plonk some concrete tim tams in some carparks?

    2. Having run over the bridge several times, in marathon and half-marathon events, I’m pretty certain it is possible to walk over it.

      Without a trial, how could we ever know.

  6. “Why do we continue to widen highways when we know that such projects never solve traffic, and in fact induce more people to drive? ”
    Ah,human beings, the “cleverest” of all mammals, but faced with options always opt for the “obvious” solution,with little regard to long term effects. I am fairly confident,that studies of lesser primates than ourselves,would reveal much more measured decision making,ie.”don’t strip the tree bare,leave some to regenerate”.
    ” Clever”, not so much,methinks.

  7. So Viv Beck hasn’t actually read the report:

    “Its virtue signalling and I would come up with a more practical plan” = I have no idea, I don’t want to come up with an idea for fear it might alienate my voter base, so I’ll kick the can down the road while sounding like I’m fully on board”

    Not helpful, Viv.

      1. Human nature. I hear quite often from people who have never read the Bible, that they are convinced it is irredeemably flawed.

        1. I’ve never read the 1823 poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ but I suspect it is not a scientifically grounded text with regard to holiday package delivery.

      2. …Viv Beck on Tuesday morning said she wanted more time to read the document, and by the end of the day described the plan as “virtue signalling”. – where exactly she admits that? It looks to me that she actually took time to read it. And of course it’s virtue signalling like all of those plans. They just put there their wishlist but nothing about what will they do to achieve it. And also if you read the article as for now there is no estimation of any kind of how much would that plan cost. Council that is at their finishing line suddenly passes some plan with popular keywords that has no real solutions and they also don’t know the cost of it. And they know the next council will hace to (not) worry about this. I mean seriously. If that’s not virtue signalling then I don’t know what is.

  8. Well, not many choices of mayoral candidate who understand, care or can be bothered to support doing anything about climate and emissions. Is time to start reporting health effects of emissions alongside crash casualties, especially set against ‘congestion’ reporting?

  9. Don’t feel too lonely, Toka Puia. Anzac St car park (220 places) will be out of business soon for new build.

    1. I understand the resource consent for Takapuna Central is not granted yet. Does the construction of this cause the closure of all parking at the northern end of 40 Anzac?

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