Some good news last week with the Council confirming that Te Hā Noa – Victoria St Linear Park will go ahead and with construction starting on 11 April – though with a few fishhooks.

Te Hā Noa, a renewed Victoria Street, is the next big project in Auckland Council’s Midtown Regeneration programme.

Since it first made the pages of the City Centre Masterplan (CCMP) in 2012, Te Hā Noa has been described in different ways: linear park, tree-lined avenue and ‘the new backyard’.

Last week, the green light was given by the council’s Governing Body for construction of the eastern section of Te Hā Noa – from Elliott Street to Kitchener Street – to begin.

Head of City Centre Programmes for Auckland Council, Jenny Larking, says it will be an historic day when the construction process begins on 11 April.

Te Hā Noa is a flagship for contemporary urban design, putting people at its heart. It is a pivotal feature in the CCMP – re-endorsed in 2020 – the blueprint for the city centre’s ongoing renewal.

The name Te Hā Noa was gifted by mana whenua, evoking a sense of freedom and imagining a place where people can take a breath and absorb the sights and sounds around them.

This midtown section of Te Hā Noa will become a high quality accessible public space to support the increasing number of people arriving at Victoria Street from Te Waihorotiu Station, through the northern portal, when the station opens.

“The design of Te Hā Noa supports the way we know people want to live, work and spend leisure time. They want fast and seamless access to everything – jobs, entertainment, restaurants, theatres, parks and universities,” says Jenny Larking.

Having construction start is exciting as the Linear Park is 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.

Last week the council agreed to two changes to the project.

  1. They’re looking to save $10 million by dropping the section from Hobson St to Federal St. This is really disappointing as one of the key benefits of the linear park is that it will help to distribute passengers exiting the new Te Waihorotiu station, and many of those are likely to be headed to locations west of Federal St. This decision clearly also has implications for the design on the Federal to Albert St section.
  2. They’re changing the funding mix to so that more from the City Centre Targeted Rate (CCTR). Council officers say this doesn’t have much immediate impact as there are some reserves in the fund, but clearly it will mean some future projects will miss out. Interestingly, the City Centre Residents Group have themselves suggested residential properties pay a higher annual CCTR ($67 to $210), which could potentially raise about $6 million annually and therefore cover the cost of the extra section over just a few years.

The project is being split into three general blocks and each side of the road will be worked on separately to minimise impact. Looking at each block:

Federal to Elliott St

This section is being delivered by City rail Link and the hope is to have the design sufficiently completed by December to allow the re-opening of Albert/Victoria St intersection in December this year. That is important to get buses back on Albert St and to allow the CRL streetscape works to commence on Wellesley St.

The impact of deferring the Federal to Hobson section can really be seen here with the cycleway abruptly ending and the road lanes curving to take the space. While I can understand the council trying to avoid some expensive streetscape works, it seems the council could have at least put in place some temporary design features so the linear park space continued to Hobson rather than just returning completely to its former design.

Elliott to Queen St

This section is being delivered by the council at the same time as the first section and will see public space expanded and trees added.

Queen to Kitchener St

The final section to be built will be east of Queen St. Across all sections, the council say 20 trees will be added to the corridor.

The changes here also include improvements to the intersection with High St and Lorne St.

During a Governing Body meeting last week the council approved the two changes mentioned earlier, and later, in a confidential session approved the funding for the project. But while it was in the public section of the meeting there were a couple of things that stood out.

  1. The biggest push against the project came from Mike Lee, who, after complaining about the disruption caused to businesses by the construction of the CRL, asked for the project to be deferred to the Transport and Infrastructure committee to review the design.
  2. While the Mayor has been very opposed to funding most things, he’s a strong supporter of the project. In response to suggestion by Lee said “Anyone who seconds that is going to be threatened within an inch of their life“. Later in the meeting he said of the targeted rate and the project “as the only city resident and the only one who has contributed to it, I have to declare an interest, I think it’s a bloody good thing” and “I’m a CBD ratepayer and I think this is a damn good thing“.He also had this to say about traffic management processes “When we do get around to approving this, if we ever live that long, I’ll make absolutely sure it is a condition that any of the contractors utes who are parked in areas in front of businesses will be crushed“.

You can see the public part of the discussion here

It’s exciting to finally see this project get underway. I just hope the council can look at some options for getting the Hobson to Federal St section built.

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  1. What are cyclists supposed to do at the west end near Fed St? Are east-bound cyclists supposed to get into that median to get access to the cycle lanes?

    Also do cyclists get their own phases, or are we now asking for trouble by having right turning traffic (say from Vic to Queen St southbound) cross straight-thru cyclists?

    1. Good question, it looks like the rendering got a very quick edit with no thought. It’d have to have a diagonal crossing light similar to beach road.
      I’d at least paint the car lanes in the places they’d be for future cycleway.
      Nice to see the mayor support this spending while struggling too balance the budget with Goffs fiscal hole and the CRL blowout. Shame dollars haven’t been found for the dropped section.

    2. Hopefully they make it one of those barnes dance phases (all pedestrians crossing) that allows cyclists. There’s one at the Karangahape road / Symonds street intersection.

      That always seemed ideal to me, bikes get well down the road before any cars catch up. Probably just needs some extra rule to say bikes / scooters must do under “5km/hr” or something similar when going through.

    3. Bike Auckland raised the glaring lack of continuation westwards to the existing Nelson Street and Vic Street West cycleways about 2 months ago with AT. We are discussing the possibility of an interim cycleway connection, because otherwise it is an extreme example of “stranded infrastructure” ripe for accusations by certain media people that “nobody uses it” (surprise, surprise, when on one end you have to risk your life to get to it).

      The good news is that AT seem to be listening, and that there’s some time yet before this is imminent – but clearly there is a need to keep pushing for that missing link to Nelson Street actually happening.

      1. [To clarify, what AT is considering would likely be a low-cost interim cycle safety solution, not an extension of the Te Ha Noa project itself – but a simplistic version akin to the early-days Nelson St cycleway would probably be all that is needed to fix 90% of the issue…]

      2. That is good to hear Max, hopefully the gap is filled immediately, unlike the Market Place section taking years.

        1. It’s likely that the gap between the Nelson Street cycleway and Victoria Street Linear Park ocurred due to AT wringing its hands about the impact of cycleways on the harmonious flow of traffic.

          As Max says, this would be a classic example of stranded infrastructure. At the risk of stating the blinking obvious, cycleways need to connect to other cycleways.

          If cash is short, this connection should be made with temporary materials like kerb separators and planter boxes.

          Maybe SkyCity could be persuaded to contribute to the section of Linear Park outside the Skytower? It’d give them a much better frontage onto Victoria Street and would help move the project along.

  2. On the one hand good to see this getting done before CRL opens, on the other this has to be one of the most Auckland projects ever. What would be a typical streetscape improvement rolled out in a few months as part of a wider program in Europe, is touted as a ‘flagship project’ by council that has promotional youtube videos, multiple rounds of renders, a decade-long design and consultation process before anything even gets built, and has to stave off rival proposals by other council organizations that never made sense in the first place but still need a round of public consultation just to make absolutely sure it’s a dumb idea. There are kids who were in daycare when this was first proposed who’ll be graduating high school by the time they finish building it. And after all that they aren’t even building a big chunk of what they just spent 10 years designing!

    1. Agree. It looks nice but it that’s it – a nice urban street, nothing fancy, still two lanes for cars, still underdeveloped cycling infrastructure. Do we need through-traffic there? Could there be a pedestrian-only space? Could the Linear Park run all the way to the actual Victoria Park?

    2. Don’t even mention the absurd business case waste theatre, consultant and staff welfare programmes. All for what should be a routine upgrading of dead tarmac from its low value last century space waste to people attracting high value contemporary urban realm. Meh.

      Roll it out, and keep rolling it out. For Christ’s sake complete this through to Nelson St and beyond. Then turn to Hobson/Nelson, etc

      Anyone who mentions need for any business case gets fired immediately. What a spectacular rort that industry is. Optimising/updating city streets is a design question, not a spreadsheet warrior game.

    3. 100% bang on Stoat. Love the imagine of us kiwis being no-nonsense, hard working, get it done types when it really is the opposite.

    4. How does Victoria Street remaining a two-way through road for car traffic fit in with A4E? I would have thought that the car-parks at each end (SkyCity and Victoria) would mean this could be fully pedestrianised. Why can’t we move past incremental tweaks?

      1. “Why can’t we move past incremental tweaks?”

        Incremental tweaks are fine. The issue is that we do our incremental tweaks with full-on street upgrades after a decade of consultation, not a couple each year, with lightweight design and approvals processes.

  3. I think this will follow a number of other projects, that once it gets started we see more calls for an increase in delivery or reinstatement of the original project scope.

    If that were to happen, painting the lines in the final position and putting up temporary infrastructure to say “we’ll get to this, just not now” is a prudent step.

  4. Geee, the curb radii still look pretty massive particularly in the block c section. Are we committed to putting the longest legal rigid vehicles down high street?

    1. Yeah the radii belie that this place programme is still controlled/ruined by traffic engineering 70 years out of date norms.

  5. Classic half ass project to lay some more grey stone – this is not a “park”. What a waste of time so underwhelming. The photos are so unrealistic, there’s about 4 cars in the whole picture

    Assume no buses will be going down these one lane roads? Otherwise will just get stuck like Queen st. Why can’t we do proper one way circuits in the city?

  6. I am torn. Good to see some improvements but this is just a ‘street with some trees’. it is not a linear park.

    There are still massive accessibility issues with the design (I have witnessed a person in a wheelchair be tipped out due to the grade of the street). It’s a missed opportunity to put in switch-back ramps and steps all the way through. This project should have been more like Freyberg Square in look and feel and less like an arterial road.

  7. Mike Lee is proving himself to be a real problem on Auckland Council. The damage he has managed to cause in a short space of time is extraordinary.

  8. Looks promising, but this is probably a bit loud to call it “the park”. This is just how normal city street should look like.

  9. The eastern end (block C) also raises plenty of questions.

    – Cyclists going east are on the wrong side of the street. How do they proceed.
    – The new separators on Bowen Avenue prevent cyclists from lining up with the new cycleway. Should be an island instead.

    And generally

    – The red “existing kerb alignment” lines suggest this is a pretty thorough rebuild rather than just putting down some tim tams. So, why not do the standard thing with a bike lane on either side? At least that gives you the option to have standard protected intersections. (see eg.

    1. Re cycleway onward continuity – the intention is for the cycleway to head onwards along Kitchener and then Wellesley St East (to university / Grafton Gully Cycleway etc). So that’s not such an issue – at least it makes sense. Of course in any ideal world we’d get that onward link at the same time or at least pretty soon afterwards. I am not so certain on that.

      Actually, I am not certain about it at all. Maybe by 2038 or so.

      1. If we are lucky the traffic lights will actually allow you to cross. Remember when Karangahape Road was finished and someone forgot to install a bicycle signal head at Grafton Bridge? Better keep an eye on it.

        Ideally the intersection would already get rearranged and the cycleway would stop just after the intersection. Looks like we have some spare space on Bowen Avenue anyway.

        Judging from contour lines, you would take Bowen Avenue instead of Kitchener Street, of if going the other way, go via Lorne Street or Queen Street.

  10. Glad its going ahead, agree on the process being over engineered for just a street upgrade.

    But cant agree with a mayor strong arming through his favoured projects. Eventually it will apply to one detrimental to the city. Mind you, I would have loved to have seen Mike Lee’s face.


  11. Now just need to open up the Albert Park Tunnels to allow a shortcut/flat (and of course interesting/unique experience) route through to Princess if not Symons St.

  12. What is the cost/benefit of this project?

    I struggle to see how it will be positive. $50 million seems to be an absurd amount of money to be paying for what is essentially a bit of streetscaping.

    And when will we stop paying huge dollars to put cycle lanes up steep hills? The visual evidence would suggest this severely negatively affects usage.

    Got to feel for businesses in the area. As usual treated like dirt with no empathy for the financial losses they will incur from this project.

    1. LOL. Steep hill! Not a problem for any geared bike and E-bikes eat little rises like this. Local business are are going to reap large rewards from all the increased foot traffic from CRL and now cycleway patronage.

    2. Steep hills? I ride up Ayr St every morning on an ebike, and have done for the last seven years. It’s a rare day I’d be the only cyclist I see now too. I’d love a bike lane up here (which could be done in the existing road corridor for very little cost), because the only issue with the gradient is that if you have to stop because cars are alternatively hard against the kerb and the centre line across a wide lane,l instead of queuing in one straight line, it’s a bit harder to get going again.

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