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

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”.

The St James before it closed

Quick good news about bike stuff

A graph showing global uptake of electric cars (small, respectable numbers) and other kinds of electric mobility (bikes, scooters, etc, off the charts)

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:

Weekend reading

Here’s a lovely piece by Mitchell Bachmann-Fuller about the bicycle as a tool for urban rediscovery and change.

A lovely poster by Mitchell Bachmann-Fuller, illustrating the bicycle as a tool for urban rediscovery.

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.

The new adventure playground in Hayman Park, Manukau. Excellent photo by Pacific Media News.

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!

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  1. “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.”

    “what the agency believed” is the sticking point here, not the council’s aspirations, which are entirely reasonable. Would he care to think about the choices his successor will have in just 10 years time if we don’t meet our climate commitments?

    Who should Kimpton look to for advice?
    – The same ELT and I&P managers who have found excuses against action every step of the way?
    – International experts on decarbonisation?
    – Council officers who have collated and applied the international evidence in a comprehensive plan for decarbonisation?

    AT senior staff have consistently prevented the adoption of the very changes in approach that would enable the organisation to meet the commitments. For example, when asked why the TERP didn’t guide the recent Capital Expenditure Review (and there are some very straightforward guidelines that would have had a significant and positive effect on the budget if they had), AT replied:

    “The TERP is not a project guidance document, it is a pathway that sets out what would need to happen to reduce emissions by 64% by 2030. AT are developing a TERP Implementation Plan which will set out more detail on how the ambition of TERP can be delivered.”

    This answer refers to the plan that Waka Kotahi CEO described thus:

    “What do we get for the first piece of that plan in terms of an emission reduction? I don’t think we really get anything. We get some plans, and get some information.”

    1. I completely disagree with you that it’s a public servant’s role to drive public debate. Public debate is the fundamental job of a politician. If Auckland Councillors are serious about climate change (as they say they are), then they need to communicate the full impacts to their communities daily lives.

      Politicians – stop hiding behind these organisations trying to do your dirty work for you.

      Until there is a full debate on TERP, and people understand that they will no-longer be able drive their kid 100m+ down the road, people like Mr Kimpton will continue to fail.

      It is just not enough to point to a plan that the general public don’t understand. The politicians need to take their communities with them on their decisions. Government can’t just force things on people because there is a plan. Take people with you.

      Maybe this is a symptom of poor voter turnout at local elections. Council doesn’t have the mandate it thinks it has.

      1. “Government can’t just force things on people because there is a plan. Take people with you.”

        Politicians also cannot refuse to make change happen because some people and organisations disagree with it. Yet that is what we are seeing with climate action.

        Leaders lead.

      2. Scott, it is hard to know where to begin.

        A critical part of the transport expertise required – from consultancies, contractors and bureaucrats – is implementing change. Anyone in transport who doesn’t understand that their role now includes shifting our system away from unsafe, inequitable, destructive car dependence to a sustainable, safe, accessible system needs to resign from the sector. There is simply no time nor space for ignoring the enormous risks we face, and the urgency of the problems.

        But even before it become obvious that our system is systemically unsafe and that it is Auckland’s biggest contribution to climate change, and thus is systemically causing our civilisation’s demise, transport experts have had a requirement to act professionally. There are lots of requirements about acting professionally. One requirement is that they give consistently evidence-based advice to politicians, governance and public.

        AT staff and Board have consistently not done so. The head of safety says things to politicians and public that conflict with evidence. The chief engineer says things to the AT Board that conflict with evidence. The manager of Investment and Planning says things to the High Court that conflict with evidence. The AT Board Chair says things to the Transport and Infrastructure Committee that conflict with evidence. The safety engineers say things to workshops that conflict with evidence. The head of finance says things to the AT Board that conflict with evidence.

        I can go on and on and on. I have hundreds of pages of evidence.

        You have assumed that evidence-backed change requires a higher standard of public support than continuing with unsafe and unsustainable policy does. This bias towards the status quo is lethal. It is highly significant, and highly unethical, to continue with practices known to be unsafe and unsustainable.

        You are also assuming the public aren’t supportive of change, and this is simply not the case. AT is recording public support for change all the time. Again, I have pages of evidence on this.

        What is happening here is that AT haven’t stood up to regressive politicians, haven’t responded to progressive politicians, and haven’t presented a consistent, evidence-based.

        It is AT staff who shouldn’t be hiding behind politicians.

        AT are supposed to be the experts and they have been given political independence. The salaries that the Tier 1, 2 and 3 staff get are considerable. We are paying for that. We deserve these staff fronting the change or doing it anyway. They should be willing to protect their junior staff themselves without constantly blaming the politicians.

  2. “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.

    Here’s an honest conversation:

    a) Have a population strategy aimed at maximizing wellbeing (Econ+Soc+Env) per capita. Our emissions targets are absolute not per capita. We can’t have high immigration and meet emissions targets

    b) Once inflation is under control increase fuel excise duty & RUCs so there is sufficient funding to manage the land transport system. (they havent been increased with inflation for some time)

    c) Get rid of the taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies and further increase fuel excise duty and RUCs. Its meant to be user pays.

    d) Add congestion tolls in AKL and any other Tier 1 city that wants them. This will crush the need for road capacity increases & force peak period mode shift.

    e) Slowly remove greenfield development subsidies so that brownfield development becomes relatively more cost effective.

    f) Zone for TODs (& PnR where appropriate) around all Rapid Transit Stations

    g) Charge for almost all on-street parking (demand-based) & remove time restrictions.

    h) Ban on-street parking on main roads. Its not safe (kills & seriously injures cyclists) & can be used for cycle lanes and bus lanes. Want people to cycle – then provide the Safe facilities.

    i) Add a vehicle air pollution levy (everything but GHG which is covered by ETS) to the fuel excise duty & RUCs.

    j) Complete full networks of footpath, cycleways and crossings that are Safe (not just safer) so that people feel safe moving to those modes.

    k) Provide 24/7 (on-demand as needed) PT services so there is always an alternative to the car in at least the Tier 1 & 2 cities.

    l) Improve the rail system in AKL & WLG and base the MRT in Chch on rail.

    1. I wonder why, on a ship going to Egypt, only 25 of the 2,857 vehicles were electric. Is that normal for the region?

      A member of the coastguard say it started “near” an EV. An insurance guy says “Electric cars burn just as much as combustion engine cars. When batteries overheat and a so-called ‘thermal runaway’ occurs, then it gets dangerous,”

      Batteries would presumably heat when being charged, when the car is in use, and if they’re in a hot space. On a ship where they’re not being charged or driven, and if it was the battery of an EV, is the implication here that this is another outcome of the climate-created European heatwave?

      1. I think the reasons for so few EVs is because incomes are not high, petrol is cheap and air conditioning is permanently on. I think the thermal runaway is a risk when there is any damage and that can happen when they are fitted to a car. Once it happens the battery makes its own oxygen so you can’t put it out. Maybe they need an aircraft carrier style steam launcher for EVs when they ship them.

      2. Possibly the reason that so few cars going to Egypt is that
        A) their economy is not as booming as European or North American economies – there is still a huge amount of very poor people there.
        B) most of their cars are ancient and would make our fleet seem very modern.
        C) the electricity network is unstable – but the petrol network can function with low connectivity. Cairo has powercuts – and some of the villages further out by the Nile still use horse and cart, as well as delapidated old peugots and citroens.

    2. Here is an item on that Car Carrier that was posted on You Tube and he said there are 400 plus EV’s on board ;-

  3. Giltrap need to publicly apologise.

    All the businesses do, actually. I agree with this reader’s comment on the Newsroom version of Welch’s article:

    “By focussing on ‘fatalities’ they’re ignoring or downgrading the significance of other accidents. Between 2014 & 2019 “There have been 139 recorded crashes in this timeframe, with over 80 per cent of them occurring at intersections.”

    “11 of those were deemed “serious injuries”, – which can result in paraplegia, amputations, brain injuries, organ damage and other trauma. All accidents can be traumatic and can have life-altering effects, to varying extents.

    “Quote from here: https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/great-north-road-improvements/

  4. St James: Why is a private owner getting so much public money?

    Surely when he bought it he knew of the restoration costs. If those have increased and he can’t meet them, surely he should just sell?

    1. He had plans for a multi story building next to it to help pay for the restoration but that went down the Toilet and now he has put his hand to the public purse i.e Government and Council , Both coughing up 15 million ,

      1. I hope the apartment development is revived too.

        It wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I like these types of upgrades. History restored at ground level and behind/above it, new apartment blocks bringing people and activity.

    2. He’s not really just a private owner. As far as I understand he has set up a fund for restoration, right from the start. But it is a fantastic theatre that deserves all efforts to save it. They were going to demolish the Civic once as well, you know. Took a huge effort by many to fight off the cultural boors who wanted to demolish it. Please support the restoration.

      1. I support the renovation, I just don’t support one guy getting given $45m to generate private income.

        If it’s in a trust or not for profit, something like that, OK. Otherwise, take a loan or sell it off.

    3. The theatre and the apartments are completely separate entities. The theatre is grade 1 listed, and the apartments were planned to be part of physically, and somewhat financially the same development.
      I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say Steve Bielby ‘has his hand out to the public purse’ but perhaps you know more about this than I do.

      1. Here is the item about the funding ;=

        “The Government has agreed to make a conditional contribution of $15 million towards the conservation of the theatre. The Government’s contribution “will match and is contingent on a pledge of $15 million from Auckland Council, as well as other funding conditions that will be developed following community engagement”, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Carmel Sepuloni, said today in a statement. ”


        1. Yes I read that but that’s for restoring the listed theatre. I don’t think that has anything to do with the apartment development that was planned.

  5. Very good to see that Mike Lee has been removed from AT, the one time I witnessed their board meeting he was the least helpful, and I daresay the most boorish character present.

    That Wayne Brown does not believe in the St James is obvious, he is not a true citizen of our great city, just another pale stale male who wants to put his name on a few less complicated structures (there is one outside the Waitematā Train Station that is particularly irksome to a progressive mind).

    I particularly like that AT have installed a light pole marking Waitematā (Britomart) at the entry to the rectangle square that sits between the Ferry Building, Train Station and Commercial Bay. English in brackets inferring it to be a secondary name, as it is. Very clever!

  6. “And ideally, every local playground should be a destination playground, so kids and families never need to jump in a car to enjoy themselves.”

    Roaming the city finding new playgrounds and skate parks is very much part of me and my kid’s weekends. Unfortunately it’s the lack of safe cycle infrastructure and/or poor PT that makes us go by car at least a majority of the time. That’s not to say we don’t go to our local ones, we do! But it’s refreshing to go to new ones. And that one in Manukau looks like a banger!

    1. Can confirm, banging!

      Something for all ages, toddler to teen.

      Saturday afternoon parking anarchy all over the berms, though.

      Makes the Barrowcliffe Place / Tuaiwi Street bridge downgrade from active modes only even more tragic…

  7. While we can celebrate three active mode projects proceeding,Gt Nth Rd,Auckland,Cameron Rd,Tauranga,Cambridge &Kent Terraces,Wellington,the truth is that these have been vigorously opposed every step of the way,by self interested lobby groups and individuals. They ( the bike lanes) ,will face further opposition when opened,because (a)they are not fully jammed with cyclists,(b) are fully jammed with cyclists, hindering the motoring public.
    I guess it is easier for the smaller regional towns to implement people friendly infrastructure,the councils seem to be represented by more “salt of the earth” people ,not captured by lobby groups and such like.

  8. I listened to the interview and didn’t get what was the flaw in the policy. Numbers did not add up, no investors to build transmission gully found, no transmission gully built, no taxpayer money wasted. Sounds reasonable.

  9. Last Saturday when the Eastern Line was open in the form of a single track , I had the opportunity to have a look at what FR where doing and most of the work seems to be at Meadowbank , this was shot while in the EMU . ;-

  10. The new REM metro that opened in Montreal, Canada is great. Interesting vid on the elevated aspect of it and the controversy with the east end getting changed to have some tunnelled sections which put the price tag up massively.
    …did somone mention Canadian Pension Fund?

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