Welcome to the end of another wet winter week. Does it help to know it’s less than five months till Christmas? Our feature image this week is a moody Karangahape Road in the rain, courtesy of Scott Caldwell.
The Week In Greater Auckland
- Tuesday’s post by Matt dug into recent stats on travel into and around the city centre.
- On Thursday, Matt looked into potholes and the politicising thereof.
Matt was also busy on air this week, explaining to NewstalkZB the critical flaw in ACT’s proposed policy of outsourcing roadbuilding and charging drivers for using the results.
Climate-friendly street projects around the motu
Hamilton is getting cracking on the first of 29 climate-friendly street improvement projects, which are described in really clear and helpful ways:
“There’s going to a be a steady flow of projects hitting the streets that aim to make it safer and easier for people to get around our city, no matter how they choose to travel,” said [Hamilton City Council’s Public Transport and Urban Mobility Manager Martin] Parkes.
“There are some tight timeframes that we’re working to. It’s going to take hard work from our teams and some patience and understanding from the community to get these all wrapped up.
“We’re in a climate emergency and doing nothing won’t address the issue. The planet is telling us that the way we’re living isn’t working. Future generations are relying on us to make the right calls,” he said.
In the Waikato, the town of Kihikihi is consulting on a shared path along a main route that will also turn several side streets into low-traffic cul-de-sacs:
Council’s transportation manager Bryan Hudson said unless cul-de-sacs were built, pathway users will be forced to cross multiple roads.
“The purpose-built pathway is going to be used a lot by kids going to and from school so from a safety perspective, I think cul-de-sacs are clearly the best option. But that’s not my decision to make.”
In Rotorua, a six-month trial has found strong support for restricting vehicle access through Kuirau Park, their equivalent of the Domain:
Tarewa Rd resident Mere said the trial closure had “made a world of difference for the community”.
“To say the park has thrived since the road has been closed off is an understatement. Since the road has been closed, there has been no destructive behaviour. The whole area feels much safer to walk in and take our babies [to].
“There are plenty of other ways to get across to the other side of the park with a vehicle instead of going through it. Leaving [the northern section of] Kuirau Street open to provide a shortcut for people also opens it up for people to be destructive again,” Mere said.
And in Hastings, the council is working with a whole bunch of schools (more than 20!) in its Heretaunga Arakura programme to create safe pathways to school:
Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst sees the potential of Hastings leading the way as a healthier, greener city.
“With Aotearoa’s target for net zero emissions by 2050, it’s vital we start transitioning young people and their whānau from their reliance on cars, towards more sustainable transport like bikes, scooters, skating or walking around their neighbourhoods,” the mayor said.
Meanwhile, in Auckland…
Our political and transport leaders could really take notes from many of the regional councils mentioned above. Auckland Transport’s new 18-month CEO Dean Kimpton acknowledged this week that the organisation is struggling to walk the talk on the promised Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway. As reported by Todd Niall:
Kimpton highlighted the gap between the council’s aspirations to cut emissions and what the agency believed was do-able with current, and foreseeable, funding.
“I don’t think we are going to get there on our current trajectory,” said Kimpton on the aim to halve driving by 2030.
Kimpton said not only was funding insufficient, but the scale of how Aucklanders would need to change their lives was a conversation that needed to be led by politicians.
“If we are going to be real between the aspiration and the delivery of it, then we need to have these honest conversations – not just about what we [AT] do, but about what everybody does to achieve that target,” Kimpton said.
That said, AT always seems to be calling for others to front-foot the case for change – but doesn’t exactly leap into action when that political air-cover and public concern appears, as Councillor Richard Hills points out in the article:
The stance on TERP has left the councillor leading the climate change portfolio, Richard Hills, frustrated.
“First AT ignored our climate plan, then they said we needed an emissions reduction plan, we worked on that in partnership with them, they approved the TERP and they promised to complete early actions before it was approved, then an implementation plan, none of that was done,” Hills said.
“While the world is breaking hottest day records and the city has recently had record floods, AT still doesn’t seem to believe they need to consider climate change in every decision and project,” he said.
In a possibly related move, the Mayor has removed Cr Mike Lee as Council rep on the AT Board, with Cr Chris Darby taking his place. This was part of a broader shuffle of committee responsibilities, as covered by Todd Niall for Stuff and Bernard Orsman in the Herald, which also put Councillors Shane Henderson and Kerrin Leoni in charge of the CCO Oversight Committee.
Watch these spaces!
Te Huia Coming Back
Kiwirail announced yesterday that they’ll be allow to operate Te Huia in Auckland again.
KiwiRail and Waikato Regional Council have welcomed Te Huia being allowed to resume running into central Auckland – and there will be free tickets for a week to mark its return.
Last night, rail regulator Waka Kotahi lifted its recent prohibition on Te Huia travelling through the Auckland metro network to The Strand in Parnell.
The Hamilton-Auckland commuter service is expected to resume travelling to The Strand by Monday, 7 August.
Since 11 July, Te Huia has carried passengers only as far as Papakura after Waka Kotahi required a specific piece of equipment (European Train Control System or ETCS) to be installed, which would take years to achieve.
Mr Ashton says KiwiRail agrees with the regulator that ETCS should be installed on Te Huia, if its running rights are extended beyond its current five-year contract.
“We are also planning to install this technology on all our mainline freight trains operating in Auckland, but this will take time.”
Alternative safety measures are being used for Te Huia. “We have installed Electronic Train Protection (ETP) on Te Huia, which automatically stops the train if it passes a red signal. This safety measure is bolstered by a very safe rail system design, which causes other signals to turn red if one is passed, to stop all trains in the area. ETCS is a predictive system, which slows a train as it approaches a red signal.
When car companies lobby against road safety
Powerful companion-reading to Hayden Donnell’s shocking recent story in Metro: in a piece for Newsroom, Tim Welch highlights a worrying blind spot – verging on misinformation – from motoring interests who advocated against safety improvements on Great North Road:
…what jumps out [of the several repeated submissions] is the final line, that there “have been no fatalities as a result of any vehicle-related accidents in over a decade”.
To write such a statement is to either be unaware of or to deliberately ignore the death of 81-year-old Elaine Leong on August 16, 2018. Elaine was crossing Great North Road from west to east and was in the northbound lane when a Porsche Cayenne, driven by Ivan Marinovich, came around a slight bend in the road and fatally struck her.
The situation is different for Giltrap Group Holdings, which also submitted the very same statement. Ivan Marinovich had been an employee of Giltrap for 47 years. At the time of the fatal crash, he was driving a Giltrip-owned car back to work at Giltrap Porsche. In the New Zealand Herald article about Marinovich’s conviction, Shaun Summerfield, Giltrap’s head of communications, even makes a statement confirming it was a company-owned car.
Saving the St James
Last weekend the government confirmed they would put up $15 million to help restore the St James theatre in Auckland, with the condition that Auckland Council do the same. However, the restoration is part of a wider private development and Mayor Wayne Brown doesn’t think it will happen.
Auckland mayor Wayne Brown has poured cold water on plans to save the St James theatre, calling it a “festering hole” and that he wouldn’t bet on restoration getting underway.
The government has committed $15 million to save the crumbling theatre, matching a similar sum agreed by Auckland Council in 2016, subject to conditions.
In repeated jabs at the council’s offer, Brown told councillors he doubted the ratepayer contribution would be called upon, or that existing venues would ever face St James as a new competitor.
Public contributions towards the 95-year-old historic theatre lapse if work by its private owner doesn’t start by July 2024.
The mayor said as a result of the 2016 decision “we now have an ugly festering hole in the middle of our main street”.
Quick good news about bike stuff
- New urban cycleways are popping up in Tauranga on Cameron Road, and in Wellington on Cambridge and Kent Terraces.
- The untapped – but significant – potential for growing cycle tourism in Northland.
- A gorgeous article by Anna Loren for Stuff about cycling the Shimanami Kaido, a 70km route around Japan’s inland sea, rated as one of the most beautiful bike trips in the world.
- You know who loves e-bikes? The Amish do.
- Speaking of e-bikes (and other electrified mobility options that aren’t cars), how about this amazing graph, from this presentation by Horace Dedieu:
Week in flooding, etc
We’ve pretty much retired our Week in Flooding (and Fire) corner of the weekly roundup. What was once a wry commentary on the fact that nobody was talking about climate impacts seems beside the point now that we see and hear frankly terrifying footage on every news bulletin.
But here are a couple of climate stories that caught our eye this week:
- From the New York Times (free link), a story from Detroit about farewelling parts of your city as it’s taken over by flooding.
- From Stuff, a piece about the back-to-back La Nina events, exacerbated by greenhouse pollution, which will continue to give us more rain than we like.
- From the Onion (a year ago), a helpful slideshow on what to say to people who are still denying climate change is a thing.
Here’s a lovely piece by Mitchell Bachmann-Fuller about the bicycle as a tool for urban rediscovery and change.
A magical story from the Spinoff, about a Christchurch artist who’s making miniatures of many of the city’s most iconic buildings lost in the quakes.
Also in the Spinoff: Why is it so hard to make climate-friendly choices in our everyday lives, asks Danny Rood. It really shouldn’t be! The answer is systems-level change, including quickly rolling out things like “safe and fun cycleways”:
Ultimately, being able to do your best on all levels is pretty restricted right now. Improvements in our own lives in combination needs to happen along with systems change. We will get there with eight billion people doing things imperfectly, opposed to one billion perfectionists who are destined to come up short anyhow.
And, also on the theme of bringing enjoyment back into everyday things: Kathryn King, Urban Mobility Manager at Waka Kotahi, outlines the vision behind the recently adopted Reshaping Streets regulations. This will surely resonate with people who have children, or have ever been a child:
My childhood was spent roaming in west Auckland, where quiet streets wound their way through lush native bush and as kids, we were free to explore as far as time allowed—our neighbourhoods a playground for discovery, wonder and joy.
We spent most of our days outside, chasing adventure at every turn and coming home grubby, giggly and exhausted. But that reality feels so far out of reach for many of today’s communities—our urban neighbourhoods have changed immensely in just a generation or two.
My 10-year-old is energetic and independent, a bouncy boy with an adventurous spirit who craves the freedom to visit his friends on his own and explore our neighbourhood and beyond without fear of traffic.
Quieter streets could help give my son and all Kiwi kids that freedom that my generation thrived in, as well as contributing to that all essential peace of mind for parents.
Speaking of adventurous spirits: shout-out to the epic new adventure playground in Hayman Park, a short walk from Manukau train station and featuring Aotearoa’s tallest play tower! Plus twin flying foxes, a pump and wave track, and the all-important public loos and kiosk to make family outings run smoothly.
As Cr Angela Dalton notes, South Auckland is woefully under-resourced when it comes to public facilities, due to the funding set-up. So it’s awesome to see this new treasure brought to life by Eke Panuku and the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board.
(And ideally, every local playground should be a destination playground, so kids and families never need to jump in a car to enjoy themselves.)
Have a great and adventurous weekend out there, everyone!