It’s Friday again and it’s been nice having a few weeks respite from the politics – though that ends this afternoon with the release of the official election results. In the meantime, here’s some of the articles that caught our attention this week.
This week in Greater Auckland
- On Monday Matt looked at the plans to improve Wellesley St
- On Wednesday Matt covered the latest Auckland Transport Board Meeting
- On Thursday we reran a post from 2014 honouring Raymond Siddalls and his massive contribution to rail in Auckland. Raymond passed away last weekend.
Auckland Council Adopts New Future Development Strategy
Earlier this year the council consulted on a change to it’s future development strategy which looked to pare back some of the previously planned greenfield development in favour of more development in existing suburbs. The change was particularly opposed by the likes of sprawl building companies and land bankers.
Auckland Council adopts the Future Development Strategy 18-3:
Yes: Baker, Bartley, Darby, Dalton, Brown, Hills, Henare (IMSB), Fairey (me), Fuli, Filipaina, Henderson, Sayers, Watson, Walker, Newman, Lee, Ashby (IMSB), Leoni
No: Turner, Williamson, Stewart
— Julie Fairey (@juliefairey) November 2, 2023
Auckland Council has adopted a plan for how the city is expected to grow over the next 30 years.
At a meeting of the Planning, Environment, and Parks Committee this morning, council heard strong support for its draft Future Development Strategy (FDS), which looks at building housing across the city.
About 10,084 submissions were received on the draft.
The Future Development Strategy recommended building most new housing in existing suburbs (referred to as brownfield development) instead of undeveloped land (greenfield development), to reduce emissions and avoid high infrastructure costs.
Significant changes had been proposed as a result of the consultation, including a stronger focus on adapting to flooding hazards and the protection of life and property.
A greater recognition of the financial challenges facing Auckland Council and ratepayers was also included after consultation.
Brown said the population of Auckland was growing at a rate that infrastructure could not keep up with.
“At least with in-fill, you are using infrastructure which is here,” he said.
“The trouble with greenfields is that, whilst the developers put the infrastructure in within the actual subdivision itself, that subdivision demands more – stuff that we have to pay for.”
Auckland Council cont.
Speaking of council, they’ve now appointed a new CEO.
Mayor Wayne Brown has today announced the appointment of Phil Wilson as Auckland Council’s new Chief Executive.
“It is Phil’s depth of knowledge of the politics of local government and how the council works that makes him the right candidate.
“Appointing from within the council’s executive does not mean business as usual. His long association with the council, in both organisational leadership and political office roles, forms a solid foundation for making the type of change needed to deliver for Aucklanders.
Meanwhile, the Ombudsman has called out the council’s ‘Secret Wednesday’ workshops.
Most weeks at Auckland Council include ‘Secret Wednesday’.
It is the day set aside for “workshops” or briefings where councillors and officials meet behind closed doors to digest reports on current issues, bounce ideas and questions around, and get up to speed.
The workshop topics are not published in advance, and while formal material presented may be released a month or so later, the detailed nature of discussions is not recorded or disclosed.
It is a practice which in one form or another the council has run since its formation in 2010, and which occasionally, in response to challenges, defends as being in line with public information statutes.
A report by the Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier on the practices of eight local bodies, calls out much of the way Auckland Council works, even though it was not one of the councils he studied. In his words workshops should not automatically be confidential:
- I do not consider controversy, complexity, or the potential for embarrassment, to be good reasons in themselves. Difficult or contentious issues are often the very ones that warrant the greatest level of transparency.
- On workshops being a “safe space to ask silly questions”: Councillors are elected to public office, a position that demands accountability. They should be prepared for a level of scrutiny and even reasonable criticism from those they represent.
- I also caution against workshops including a significant component of determination, such as a substantial narrowing of options prior to public consultation.
Boshier’s recommendations are particularly relevant to Auckland Council.
- Adopt a principle of openness by default for all workshops (and briefings, forums etc), including a commitment to record a clear basis for closure where justified, on a case-by-case basis.
- Make sure the time, dates, venues, and subject matter, of all workshops are publicised in advance, along with rationale for closing them where applicable.
What happens to the bus shelters
The future of 1,000 privately-owned Auckland bus shelters is unclear as the advertising contract which funded them, is up for grabs.
Sydney-based Oooh Media built and owns the shelters, in deals originally struck with former Auckland councils 20 years ago, in return for the right to use them as advertising sites, and share the revenue.
That deal is coming to an end, after Auckland Transport (AT), which took over the shelters under the city’s 2010 local body amalgamation, put the advertising rights for the entire network, out to competitive tender.
Cash strapped AT believes hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue could flow its way from new long-term contracts, not just for bus shelters, but existing and future signage on buses and at facilities.
With the lucrative shelter contract yet to be decided, both oOh and AT are not saying much about what would happen to the shelters if a new agency wins.
Alongside the bus shelter contract, is one currently held by Mediaworks covering about 100 digital screens across the public transport network, all bus and train exterior advertising and activations at bus and train stations.
AT also saw great appeal in major downtown train stations that will be part of the underground City Rail Link, due to start in 2026.
But will he use it?
Battery powered freight trains
This is neat, I wonder how long before we see this becoming much more common.
Wabtec and Australian mining firm Roy Hill have unveiled world’s first 100% battery-powered, heavy-haul locomotive for mainline service in ceremonies today (Oct. 31, 2023) at Wabtec’s Erie manufacturing facility.
The FLXdrive locomotive contains 72 lithium-ion modular battery packs with a total of 36,288 cells, giving the locomotive an energy capacity of 7 megawatt-hours.
Currently, Roy Hill uses four Wabtec ES44ACi Evolution Series diesel-electric locomotives to pull its 240-car ore trains from the mine to a company-owned port facility. The FLXdrive locomotive will replace one of the diesels in the consist. The line’s profile sees empties moving upgrade and loaded 33,000-ton ore trains returning downgrade. Roy Hill expects the battery-powered locomotive will be able to fully recharge its batteries on the downhill run using regenerative braking.
The Spinoff has called out fake suburbs in Auckland.
When people questioned the legitimacy of my new suburb, I set out to find all the other fake suburbs in Auckland.
I recently moved to the Auckland suburb of Waterview, but several people I told – all lifelong Aucklanders who had lived or worked nearby – were unaware the suburb existed. They asked questions like “Isn’t that Point Chev?” and “Are you just moving to Mount Albert?” One even called Waterview a fake suburb. As a Waterview patriot, I huffed and puffed that it is genuine and not a phoney place like Australia.
People questioning the legitimacy of Waterview made me wonder which Auckland suburbs could be considered fake, and there are many. With an incoming cut-hungry National-led government plus mayor Wayne Brown’s wish to streamline Auckland, now is the perfect time to reduce the number of Supercity suburbs – starting by removing the fake ones. Tāmaki Makaurau already has too many suburbs as it is without the added murkiness of barely-there postcodes.
The definition of a suburb is super arbitrary, and often, their boundaries are too. So, for the greater good of Tāmaki Makaurau-Auckland, I will arbitrarily deregister several so-called suburbs once and for all in the name of cuts and efficiency.