With the City Rail Link tunnelling now complete the major civil works at the Te Waihorotiu station will soon be completed and some of the focus can shift to the above-ground works.

Earlier this week Auckland Council and Auckland Transport confirmed that early next year, work will start on the planned improvements to Victoria and Wellesley Streets, which are “a pivotal part of the city centre’s midtown regeneration programme“.

Both Wellesley and Victoria Streets were once dense traffic routes carrying four lanes of cars, trucks and buses, with cyclists daring to weave a path along the fringes and pedestrians competing with e-scooters for a sliver of pavement on either side.

That is all changing – for the better.

In 2021 Auckland Transport buses were moved from Victoria Street across to Wellesley Street. That helped Aucklanders picture the future of Wellesley Street as midtown’s dedicated east-west bus corridor between Albert and Queen Streets. It also enabled a pedestrian-prioritised Victoria Street – Te Hā Noa – to proceed.

The aim is to achieve a system, a form of urban symbiosis, for these two historic east-west streets, as both will have portals into and out of Te Waihorotiu Station (Aotea).

Victoria Street is set to become a tree-lined, pedestrian-prioritised street with the delivery of Te Hā Noa. The design of the street will provide one lane of vehicles in each direction, connected laneways, wide footpaths with places to sit and spend time, street furniture, public art and a protected cycleway.

Construction will start on the midtown part of Te Hā Noa in Victoria Street in early 2023. Stage One of the Wellesley Street Bus Improvements project, turning the section between Albert and Queen Street into a bus corridor first, will begin in late 2023.

When Te Waihorotiu Station (Aotea), Wellesley Street bus corridor and Te Hā Noa are operational, another page will turn on the Auckland Council group’s delivery of the City Centre Masterplan vision – to create a more welcoming, greener and vibrant city centre, with people-friendly streets and a well-connected world-class public transport system.

Te Hā Noa is what was previously known as the Victoria St Linear Park and something we had to fight hard to retain.

The opportunity to build the Linear Park was almost lost a few years ago after Auckland Transport ignored the CCMP as well as their strategic plans and business cases by proposing to use Victoria St to funnel buses through the city, an option that had a negative benefit cost ratio. Thankfully following public feedback they eventually gave up on the idea.

And now the fist section, between Albert St and Queen St, will start construction early and be followed by the Queen St to Kitchener St section. The design was consulted on late last year and will see public space along the corridor expanded, with 20 native trees and a cycleway added.

I’m really looking forward to getting off a train at Te Waihorotiu, strolling out of the station and straight onto Te Hā Noa

It would be even better if we could get the Albert Park tunnels reopened along with an entrance on Victoria St like the City Centre Masterplan suggested.

On Wellesley St the plan is to make the section between Albert and Queen St bus only, this will enable footpaths to be widened, bus tops improved and a better pedestrian crossing between Bledisloe Lane and Elliott St.

One aspect of this I’m quite looking forward to is that it should help improve the experience for those wanting to transfer between trains and buses to/from the North Shore.

While we’re on the City Centre, the council say that later this month we’ll see the final result of the improvements to Queen St, starting with the section between Aotea Square and The Civic. Some of the final touches will be a “wayfinding system with safety cues layered into the experience”

Safety cues include wayfinding patterns, placement of planting, textural changes and signage. The elements will work together to guide slow riders safely along the path while providing a buffer of protection for shoppers and others who walk along the footpath and cross the street.

The first of the wayfinding patterns will be applied to the path this week in zone 5, developed with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei mana whenua design studio, Kaunuku.

Jenny Larking, Head of City Centre Programmes at Auckland Council, explains the role of the wayfinding patterns that Aucklanders will see outside The Civic.

“The approach is twofold: the system of ground markings along our new Waihorotiu path carries cultural expression of the Waihorotiu valley narrative, developed by the project’s mana whenua partners, and also safety measures for effective operation of the path.

“Supporting the other wayfinding measures we have built into the design, the markings help define the area of the multi-use path and provide visual delineation, guiding user behaviour at key locations such as pedestrian crossings and bus boarding areas,” she says.

The multi-use path has been named ‘Waihorotiu path’ to reflect the important waterways that once carved natural pathways across the whenua (land) where the present-day city centre now stands. The name will daylight knowledge about the awa (river) that continues to flow underneath Queen Street.

It does feel like these markings are part of a sign that the project made some wrong turns along the way. In particular the focus on creating a shared path for use by slow riders and fast walkers. As we’ve talked about before, we believe the path should be a dedicated cycleway.

The footpath extensions already completed look a bit bare but they won’t be for long as the planters for the widened footpath have been arrived

Hopefully now that the Auckland Transport are ticketing drivers who travel along (part of) Queen St we’ll see a big reduction in the number doing it.

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  1. Love seeing all of this progressive development with the beautiful Victoria St carpark and $2/hour large parking sign in the background. Are there any plans to reduce carparking? Because everywhere you walk in the CBD the streets are full of carparking buildings.

      1. So many parts of the city centre are dominated by cars only because the car parking buildings are inviting them in. Reducing carparking supply has to be used as a tool for mode shift.

        1. +1, we need to be removing car parking buildings where they are incompatible with the desired form and function of the surrounding streets. In the specific case of the Victoria Street Car Park, the minimum viable treatment should be to remove the exit to High Street and have all access via Kitchener Street.

        2. I’m ambivalent about car parking buildings. It is probably more productive in terms of improvement to streets to get rid of on-street parking.

          Both of these should be priced properly. We should not make losses on parking buildings, and on-street space is extremely valuable and should also be priced accordingly.

        3. Heidi, it wasn’t that long ago that practically no-one lived in the city centre, but many people worked there and went there to shows/ movies/ restaurants or shopping. At that time, public transport wasn’t very good. Large amounts of on- and off-street parking were the only way to make it work.

          That has changed. A growing population and the advent of electric bikes and scooters means our road space needs to be for movement rather than parking, which should be accommodated off-street.

          The next stage should be the Council selling off its parking buildings, as that is an activity that can be done by the private sector and it removes a conflict of interest. In that way, provision of parking will become directly responsive to demand for it. And private providers will only provide if it is profitable to do so.

        4. $2/hour is ridiculously cheap. Start by putting the price up to $20 for the first hour $10/hour after that is much more reasonable for a city center. That is about how much it was in Chicago when I first moved their in the early 90’s.

        5. Ehlana, have a re-read of the various histories of how car dependence arose. Carparks were a cause of the demise of the public transport and of the rise of the car dependence. Not a way to mitigate the problems of the lack of public transport.

        6. Leaving on-street paid parking is having the Council remain in the parking game. So its a bit hypocritical to say get out of one type of parking, but not another.

          Regardless, the proposal for reallocation of about 3% of arterial parking spaces to bus and cycle lanes was perfectly reasonable and wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow anywhere else. But you know – Auckland, different….

    1. I have no issues with the carpark buildings. I do believe though that the council should get out of business of providing subsidised car parking. Either charge market rate, or find a 3rd party independeing operator.

      I want street parking gone though. Why else are we building car park buildings?

      Let the market dictate rates/demand.

      1. Sailor Boy, with you all the way that these parking buildings need to be sold. AT cannot be trusted to even raise parking prices in line with inflation (costs) and so the rate payer is left with woefully performing assets. Let’s have them replaced by apartment buildings that will bring vibrancy to the area.

    1. You and me both. The contortions our agencies go through to give a bob each way – making sure everyone is unhappy, and the claimed goals end up being undermined.

      1. Adam I am both a fast walker and a fast cyclist, I’m going to need a 4 lane carless highway to split walkers and cyclists properly……

      1. You just know there is someone in WK/AT who thought this up and is wondering why they aren’t getting the Nobel Peace Prize for coming up with it first….

    2. Agreed. I walk fairly fast and have never had a problem sharing a footpath with slower walkers yet.

      Footpath, cycle & scooter lane, motor vehicles lane and, if there’s room left over, a lane of trees would be nice. No need to complicate it further.

  2. Where does that bike path on Victoria St East finish? Tell me it doesn’t just end and you’d have to navigate your way up Bowen St as it currently is?

    1. Yep project doesn’t extend up Bowen Street, in reality it should also be made bus only and by removing car parking along it you’d be able to also have a cycleway. Or they could simply remove the parking now and installed cycleways, there are no shopkeepers to complain and it’s an extremely poor use of roadspace…

    2. To be fair, if they did Bowen Avenue as well, you would still have the same problem with Waterloo Quadrant.

      Bowen Avenue and Waterloo Quadrant absolutely need to be refreshed, but we can’t expect every project to solve every problem. This project isn’t meant to solve the problem of ‘people can’t safely ride across the city centre’. The purpose of this project is to completely transform a city centre street from a traffic sewer to a fit for purpose street. Part of the purpose this street needs to be fit for is enabling safe cycling across the city centre, which it achieves.

    3. The Project stage ends abruptly, but everyone knows that the interface and continuity of the route is going to be developed under the City Centre Programme. Don’t mistake the limit of construction as being the limit of thought and planning.

    4. The intent is to continue through Lorne and up Wellesley East up to the University and Symonds Street and Grafton Gully Cycleway. However, that part, despite having been concept designed and mooted several times, has no real funding I am aware of.

  3. Yet more native trees being planted inner city. They are totally unsuitable for inner city situations being evergreen thus creating dense, dark, cold spaces in the winter months (half of the year essentially) and dropping leaves all year round instead of just in the autumn.

    1. We have over 1000 native trees in NZ that are found nowhere else in the world.
      We don’t need more oaks, pin oaks, Holm oaks, tulip trees, plane trees, poplars, macrocarpa, magnolias, etc.
      We must care for our beautiful fuschias, Kowhai, rata, rewarewa, Kahikatea, lemonwood, totara, rimu….

        1. At the moment exotic trees dominate our parks and streets.
          Take a look around the botanical gardens, western springs, domain, Barry Curtis, Victoria park, Mt Richmond, Albert Park to find very few natives,
          Our native trees are very threatened.
          There are high numbers of pest plants such as privet, woolly nightshade, moth plant and 100 others causing havoc.

        2. I think the idea that natives are unsuitable kind of got baked in prematurely. In twenty years’ time these trees will be needed for shade over a much longer part of the year than shade was needed thirty or forty or more years ago when people were discussing natives vs exotics. And they will be needed to support a region-wide fragile native ecology much more, too.

          We need native trees and supporting shrubs to provide the habitat for native fauna. Restoring the ecology native to Auckland requires doing so in a geographically comprehensive way. Our streets are too big an area of the public open space to ignore them as a habitat for native ecology.

          We just have to do more work in figuring out the best species and varieties, but that will take actually experimenting.

        3. It is also worth pointing out that in 20 years time Auckland’s winters will be too warm for most of the deciduous street trees. We would spend 20 years waiting for them to grow in only to remove them because they die from heat stress.
          We can and should look at natives which provide a canopy that is less dense and be pruning them to ensure that they do not provide total shade.

        4. I don’t understand the natives are unsuitable thing.
          If throwing too much shade and dropping too many leaves are your thing use a Kowhai. A Puriri isn’t particularly dense.
          Not that there’s anything wrong with an exotic just don’t get why one is better than the other.

        5. So we just plant kowhai everywhere? If you look at aotea square you will see the Totara where no one ever sits in winter because it is densely shaded, dark, uninviting and cold. The more intelligent thing to do would be to plant deciduous trees which let the winter sun in, thus providing summer shade and letting the winter sun/warmth in. Many “exotics” have beautiful flowers and colourful autumn foliage and also are attractive to native birds. You will often find Tui and other native birds feeding on flowering cherry trees and other exotics. I don’t think we are in danger of losing any of our native trees when you look at the thousands of hectares of bush across the country. I’m not saying we shouldn’t plant any native plants/trees in cities but many of them are not a good choice for city environments and it seems that Council position now is to plant natives everywhere without even considering alternatives.

    2. I think a reasonable mix is good. There are already a lot of deciduous trees already so it makes sense to catch up with some natives.

      While the deciduous trees let the light in in the winter, they look incredibly dull and dead and stop blocking the wind. All in all it makes for a very dreary scene if that’s the only thing around.

    1. They HAVE started already (enabling works). For a walk / cycle project in Auckland, that’s like the royal treatment in terms of speed.

  4. At the moment exotic trees dominate our parks and streets.
    Take a look around the botanical gardens, western springs, domain, Barry Curtis, Victoria park, Mt Richmond, Albert Park to find very few natives,
    Our native trees are very threatened.
    There are high numbers of pest plants such as privet, woolly nightshade, moth plant and 100 others causing havoc.

    1. From what I’ve heard that is set to change with the council adopting a policy of natives everywhere. I wasn’t advocating to plant pest species, none of which you mention are trees btw. I doubt any native trees are in danger of extinction since there must be many thousands of hectares of bush across the country. Do you really think anyone would flock to parks and gardens to look at nothing but boring rimu, kauri, kowhai and the like? What native tree has ornamental flowers besides the kowhai and pohuhokawa? I can’t think of any. People travel from all over the world to see the famous cherry blossom (Sakura) festival in Japan every year. Just as people flock to Cornwall Park in the spring to see the cherries in bloom then. Pohutukawa do look impressive in bloom but once that’s over they look exactly the same for the other 11 months or so. Plus they knock out all the winter sun and drop leaves all year round. Not a great choice for city streets.

        1. I’m not aware of that grove but maybe the kauri were too big for the space? They grow massive and not just at the top. They are also not able to be coppiced as far as I’m aware.

      1. “People travel from all over the world to see the famous cherry blossom (Sakura) festival in Japan every year.”

        This isn’t a very good argument against using natives….

  5. Somebody has to say, this. The contrast between the AK CC tweet taken ar 4:37 and the artists impressions are from two different worlds. Reality and fantasy. How about designing a city scape for actual Auckland? Cars have left the CBD and the CBD is dying, crime is up and uncontrolled. Why all the cycleways when there isn’t the demand?

    1. I’m sure will be different once the place looks nicer again & the CRL is finished. Wake up, there is hundreds of new residents to be living in the central city of different ages. The CRL will deliver thousands of people per hour right into 3 different locations, particularly mid town, which is what this post is about. There is demand for cycleways when they are connected and useful. A harbour one would make a huge difference, allowing north shore residents to enter and cycle the city centre 😉

    2. The picture in the tweet is of planters awaiting placement. Your linking of cars, ‘dying’, crime and cycleways is unintelligible.

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