Tēnā koutou. It’s MARCH!! Thanks for stopping by, summer, you were… chaotic.

Header image: the bicycle club of the Holy Sepulchre on Khyber Pass Road. Image via Twitter.

The week in Greater Auckland

Tempted to rename this section ‘the week in Auckland Transport’ because our posts had a real AT focus this week – and a lot happened.

On Monday, first Matt wrote about the AT board papers for Tuesday’s board meeting, then we had a special guest post from Heidi, who gave us 8 big questions to ask the AT board.

Tuesday’s post looked at ways of improving buses to reduce the effects of ‘March Madness’ – when everyone goes back to school and university, and transport chaos ensues.

Wednesday’s post was about the strategic challenges facing AT’s new CEO.

Yesterday, Matt wrote about recently-released ‘indicative priorities’ for the next Government Policy Statement on Land Transport.

On the move in Aotearoa


Yes, it is March today, but importantly, the 3rd of March (that’s TODAY) is the global School Strike 4 Climate. Tāmaki Makaurau’s march begins at Britomart at 3pm. On Newsroom, teen climate activist Aurora Garner-Randolph explains why school strikers need everyone’s support. 

My generation is growing desperate. With each passing year of unfulfilled political promises and unambitious climate policies, we are watching our future become unliveable. We don’t strike because we fancy a day off school, we strike because it’s the most effective tool we have to make our voices heard.

The last School Strike 4 Climate, in 2019, drew 170,000 people to the streets across Aotearoa. Image via Stuff.

Meanwhile, one part of town where vehicle traffic has dropped significantly is Queen Street, and landlords are noticing the positive effects on their tenancies. Demand is picking up and increasing pedestrian space is a clear factor.

“With the recent pedestrianisation of Queen Street, workers returning to the office and the restart of tourism, we’ve already seen retail vacancy rates steadily decrease,” JLL NZ’s head of research Gavin Read said, adding office vacancies also fell.

CRL construction is making steady progress – each day’s a step closer to getting trains on those tracks! Grady Connell has some great photographs of progress at Maungawhau Station:

And there’s some equally awesome images of the Karangahape Road Station in this newletter.

A 3D diagram of the station construction site just off Mercury Lane.
The Spinoff’s journalism rising to the moment

The writers at The Spinoff put out so many pieces we wanted to share this week that they get their own section. Tommy da Silva commented on the topic of the moment, the will-they-won’t-they saga of the Inner West cycling projects. Ursula Cochran urges us to look at the geological truths in our landscapes when making decisions about where to build.

Let’s give our rivers more space, keep away from landslide-prone hills and rebuild around the safer edges of existing settlements. Visionary leadership will be required, as will hard work to figure out the financially-viable, legal, community-enhancing and equitable way to do this, but people are worth it.

Nadine Ann Hura shared an incredible conversation with Nyze Manuel of Whangaroa about her mahi as a kaiwhakahaere for Taitokerau Border Control, and how they protected whānau in their area during Cyclone Gabrielle.

It really bothers me because we don’t like being in a crisis response space. If you’re prepared it’s not an emergency. We’d rather be in a space of planning and preparation, building the right types of buildings in the right places, being self-sufficient in terms of energy, growing our own kai in circular economies, so that we are not in a position of being reliant on anybody else in a time of crisis

And finally, Max Rashbrooke weighed in on the (very unhelpful) adaptation or mitigation debate, criticising the argument that ‘it’s too late to mitigate, we need to focus on adapting.’

It is a seductive message for those who wish to leave their lifestyles undisturbed, and an understandable response to the devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle, an event that concentrates attention on how best to protect vulnerable communities. But it is absolutely the wrong lesson to draw from that disaster.

News around the motu

Yikes, we hope the driver of this train is doing OK:


Our ears pricked up at the news that the Ōtaki to north of Levin motorway might go through a tactical re-scope. It’s one of many massive roading projects in the NZ Upgrade programme that have experienced eye-watering price rises over the last few years.

[extra] funding was necessary after individual projects nearly doubled in cost. Penlink went from $411 million in January 2020 to $830m in June 2021, O2NL went from $817m to $1.5b over the same time, and the Melling interchange went from $258m to $420m.

Ahh, Ōtautahi, cycling to the future. It’s been an epic summer for cycling in Christchurch, according to this post on local blog Talking Transport. We hear they’ve actually had a summer down there this year too. The city’s busiest counter, Antigua St, broke its own record and clocked over 2,500 cyclists in one day. Bike numbers are up throughout the network, new and old sections alike.

Generally they are all recording healthy growth. St Asaph St stands above the rest, almost doubling numbers in just five years – that’s pretty amazing considering all the controversy when it was put in.

Ideas worth stealing

Tāmaki Makaurau-based urban designer Cam Perkins is in Sydney, enjoying the city’s wider lightrail network and, of course, the gorgeous George St car-free section. Squint, and it’s Queen St.


Cycling is seen as so important to the future of transport in Europe that the European Parliament has resolved to develop an EU-wide cycling strategy. The strategy will aim to double the number of kilometres travelled. Yep, that’s right – Europe’s going double cycling in less than 7 years.

The European Parliament’s Resolution, […] sets out a 17-point action plan to develop more cycling infrastructure, lay fertile ground in Europe for bike, component and battery production, and grow two million jobs in a ‘cycling ecosystem’ covering manufacturing, tourism, retail, health and sports that already employs one million people in Europe today.

The UK might no longer fall under the EU’s strategic direction, but London is still making massive progress when it comes to safe cycling infrastructure. In the centre of London, it’s been built and the people have come: on some streets, more people go by bike than any other vehicle.

This article starts out talking about the benefits of apartments arranged around courtyards and then goes in a charming and unexpected direction. In the end, it’s still about how great a shared courtyard can be for community and connection.

Last week we wrote about NYC’s new Public Space Czar. This week we read that the city is unveiling an entire new planning division that’s designed to help communities make positive change in their neighbourhoods.

Director Dan Garodnick said the City Planning and Engagement Division will reach deeper into communities and work with students, young people and grassroots groups to determine what gets built where. The team will also work with other city agencies to overcome a tendency for neighborhood proposals to be removed from the demands of the actual people who live there.

Lots to think about in this analysis of the often complicated relationship between central and local government agencies and the consultants they hire to help get work done. Why does it work well sometimes, and so terribly at other times?

In contrast [to the European model], the American (and British) way is to privatize the state to consultants root and stem. The agency managers are generalists who look down on technical people and treat the consultants as an infinite resource, who they can ask to study everything.

Eric is quoted as saying “They studied everything” of Second Avenue Subway: every conceivable possibility was studied just in case, and there was nobody in charge who knew enough about planning or engineering to prune the search tree and save some money. In effect, what we’re seeing is unusually low office productivity, in tandem with low blue-collar laborer productivity in tunneling.

Pockets of Joy

The city of Montreal in Quebec, Canada, ran some fantastic open streets over the summer. Turns out they don’t let a serious Canadian winter get in the way of some open streets fun either.

This barbershop is so perfectly Japanese it looks like a live-action Studio Ghibli set. The little barber shop, which is no longer in use, has been swallowed over time and now you’d barely know it was there.

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Bikes, the original joy machine since at least when this photo was taken.

And we’ll finish with one for all you map nerds out there. Can you date this? Best guesses at the answer can be found on Twitter.

Hope you’ve got a great weekend ahead of you. And ps… high tide’s once again right after work, Safe Swim’s showing a green tick for most beaches around the city, and … the sun is shining!

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  1. When we were students Mrs mfwic wrote an essay for stage 3 history about the NIMT construction. She showed me a book with a story from one of the men building the section from Hamilton to Te Awamutu. He claimed they parked a wagon load of broken rock on a particularly wet part of the peat swamp. The wagon sunk to the axles then kept on sinking – eventually there was a hole full of water and a wagon of rock at the bottom.

  2. The derailment at Te Awamutu has being cleared and the line has being reopened however Northland and the Hawkes Bay lines will be out of action for months.
    The plan is to reopen the line as far as Hasting and road bridge containers from there to Napier Port. It has become impossible to keep the rail line open to Gisborne and a real struggle to even keep roads operating. The other option besides more trucks on fragile roads is coastal shipping. I have often thought we should have a ship plying the east coast ports of the North Island. However if it was economic I suppose some operator would be doing it. But in the present situation it would help. Maybe Kiwirail could run a subsidised service if a suitable ship could be found. It would useful in the present situation. And by the way the major freight on the North Auckland line is Dairy and cement. Hardly carbon friendly.

    1. And also a forgotten section of the railway North of Swanson to Whaangarei , which KR has just spent $90mill plus and mother nature has taken it’s toll on . This finally made the news on all channels yesterday after basically being ignored
      And the line itself will be out of action for 3months or more . ;-

  3. We seem to have accepted man made climate change.
    Now the next important debate will be whether to build large concrete flood protection walls or not.
    The cost would be enormous and huge swells can easily lift away concrete.
    No we are better to reduce our emissions

    1. “We seem to have accepted man made climate change.”

      We? Who is we? [Not being accusatory – just saying we should be careful with generalisations]

      Yes, we have moved too far down the track that we could do without adaptation / managed retreat.

      But if we don’t stop or at least slow down further climate change, that adaptation will in turn be wasted money! What might be able to be held back with a 2m seawall (at great cost) turns out to be an enormous amount of wasted money if the typical storm surges in the future are 3+m. Moving half a town up to higher ground is useless if most of the town left un-moved then becomes endangered 20 years later than the first part that got moved.

      There’s no way around it – we can’t just accept climate change as the new normal. Every year we dither, it will get worse one decade later.

    2. We have no choice but to accept it. If NZ went negative emissions tomorrow it wouldn’t make any difference to the climate.

      1. Exactly. NZ should of course meet its climate commitments, but it won’t change anything.
        The expensive way to address CO2 emissions is to replace fossil fuel with synthetic fuels made from P2X and carbon capture. The cheap way is through population reduction.
        This is not an issue that we can cycle out of and banning cars is not the answer.

  4. Pedestrianisation of Queen Street has *improved* things for commercial property?

    After years of high-pitched shrieking in the Herald and elsewhere that it was doing the opposite?

    Surely some mistake?

    Surely the Right wing on council will be backtracking and apologising if this is true?!?

  5. Queen St is so much more pleasant than a decade ago. Clearly good work going into the rail network. We just need some light rail / electric minibuses to link the city up a little more climate change friendlier. With electric ferries of course. Kia Kaha Global Strikers

    1. It’s visually more appealing, but the vibe could hardly be getting worse. Incidents of anti social behaviour and serious crime are more and more frequent. Whereas they used to be limited to the early hours of Saturday/Sunday morning, you now have incidents like the critical assault on a downtown bus at 8pm only a couple of weeks ago.

  6. Above both Christchurch and London showing that when you build even just a minimum viable bike network you get good growth in numbers. For that indeed is the aim of building cycle lanes, to build numbers, not because there are already thousands of bike riders riding in traffic, dying for a safe space.

    Councillor Lee has found some data points in order to claim cycling numbers are declining somewhere in AKL. Well Mr Lee, even if so, that’s just more evidence for the need to provide safe lanes, in order to return these numbers to their previous growth.

    The evidence is universal that that’s how to gain the growth in numbers he claims to support. Both in NZ and around the world. We know only the really determined are foolhardy enough to ride on our lethal streets.

    He also claims that only a few deaths have occurred on these streets, this is a terrible metric, whatever the number, no serious transport planner waits for ‘enough deaths’ to act on unsafe designs. What constitutes a safe environment for all users is well understood by experts. It is well known that unsafe conditions deter people from riding rather than lead to a huge pile-up of corpses. People in general are not stupid and will simple avoid unsafe routes, or, especially, not ride at all, contributing to congestion and pollution.

    1. Correct. I live about 5kms from work. It’s flat the whole way and I choose to drive. I would love to bike but there is no way I’m cycling down the Mt Wellington end of Great South road in peak traffic . I used to take the Bus but with its frequent non appearance I’ve simply given up. At my work it’s a common refrain that traffic is shit and people wish they could walk/bike/bus but with such crap infrastructure/service why bother. Sad

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