Welcome back to another Friday. Here’s some articles that caught our attention this week.

This Week in Greater Auckland

Hold the Front Page: Supreme Court Finding on East-West Link

Yesterday the Supreme Court of New Zealand sent the East-West Link back to the Board of Inquiry for “reconsideration”. In short, the Supreme Court has ruled 4-1 in favour of Royal Forest and Bird’s right to appeal against the original Board of Inquiry decision to approve this costly project. Full ruling here, and a (somewhat) media-friendly summary here.

As we’ve covered previously (including here, here, here, here and here), this proposed urban motorway – reputedly the world’s most expensive road per km – just doesn’t stack up. If you read one previous post, make it this one about how even Infrastructure NZ inadvertently agreed it’s wildly over-specced.

Indeed, it’s a classic example of engineers putting their skills to solving the wrong problems. Note how in paragraph 159, the Supreme Court comments on Waka Kotahi’s (lack of?) consideration of alternatives to this massively costly proposal:

A screenshot of paragraph 159 in the Supreme Court decision giving Forest and Bird the right to appeal against the East-West Link. The text says: "[159] Relatedly, on the evidence before us, it seems to be the case that the assessment of alternatives under s 171 involved only a new road, with the debate being around alignment. Part D of the AEE contained a summary of Waka Kotahi’s consideration of alternatives. The introduction to that Part advised that alternative methods of achieving Waka Kotahi’s objectives would be outlined, but if that was intended to encompass options other than a road, none were offered. 152 Once again, given the strength of the avoid policies, the assessment ought, we might have thought, to have included any potential alternative methods which alone, or in combination with less intrusive roading options, might have resolved the transport problem without significant impact in the SEAs.153 It is not for us to suggest what any alternative method or combination of methods might be, but it is perhaps telling that no material of that kind was provided to or sought by the Board. 154 It calls into question the evidential basis upon which the Board could find that the EWL was, indeed, necessary."

Forest and Bird’s case on the grounds of environmental protections dates back to their very first appeal against the Board of Inquiry’s 2017 decision, with Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei also an interested party in the process. It’s a saga of impressive tenacity, having proceeded through the High Court (which rejected their grounds for appeal), before landing with the Supreme Court, which has now confirmed their right to appeal.

With the Mayor adamantly not a fan of the East-West Link and other mega-motorway projects–  and a growing range of public concern about financial and environmental costs of road-building – this will have interesting repercussions for the government’s hopes to ram this project through.

You’d expect this Breaking Local News on costly transport infrastructure to merit a headline, especially given our local newspaper of note has all the time in the world for campaigns on road cones and raised crossings. Not a peep yet, but hopefully we can look forward to some highly informed commentary in due course.

Traffic Management Costs

The Herald reports: “An Auckland Transport manager has put in a plea for less red tape around costly traffic management rules, saying in other countries there was an onus on drivers to be careful around roadworks rather than a “sea of red cones”.”

Mark Banfield, Auckland Transport’s (AT) general manager of infrastructure project delivery, was speaking to the transport select committee about the cost of traffic management around roadworks. It was part of a briefing on the $490,000 overall cost of the Williamson Avenue raised pedestrian crossing in Grey Lynn. Of that, about $142,000 was on traffic management alone.

Banfield said he was not happy about that cost, saying it was “burdensome” on both the public and AT’s coffers.


Asked what could be done to reduce the cost without impacting on safety, Banfield said less red tape would be helpful and pointed to NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi’s (NZTA) recent review of temporary traffic rules to take a site-specific approach based on risk rather than using the same measures for every project.

“Just keep moving in that direction would be my feedback on that.”

He said in countries such as the United Kingdom, roading projects did not involve “this sea of red cones”.

“It’s because there’s a huge onus and obligation on drivers to be careful around road workers. Whereas here, we seem to have a situation where we almost set up our sites as if everybody is drunk and under the influence of drugs and alcohol on the roads and we have to stop them being killed.”

Teresa Burnett, AT’s general manager of transport safety, also agreed with National MP Grant McCallum’s suggestion that stiffer penalties for speeding through temporary speed limit areas would be helpful.

We certainly need to do something about excessive traffic management costs, which have also impacted the viability of some events. But just asking people to be more careful is not exactly something that has worked well to date. Stiffer fines would help, but are unlikely to solve the issue on their own.

Nor does the discussion seem to account for the safety of people who aren’t in cars, and yet also need to move around or through work sites…

Some Safety Focus, eh?

…speaking of safety and AT, Stuff reports that in Te Atatū, a project to improve safety for pedestrians, many of them children, has left pedestrians, many of them children, in the lurch while the work is carried out:

Auckland Transport rushed to bring in safety measures on three road crossings near a primary and intermediate school, following the local community raising concerns over children being hit by cars.

Three pedestrian crossings on the busy Te Atatū Road in West Auckland, which runs either side of Rangeview Intermediate School and Freyberg Community School have been removed as part of the Northwestern Bus Improvements and will be replaced by signalled crossings.

However, while the change was happening, pedestrians spent two weeks trying to cross the bustling road during peak-hour traffic times

Parents from both schools were concerned about the risks and for those attempting to cross Te Atatū Road by the two schools, it took a1.2km detour to find a safe place.

Jean Kite, who leads a walking school bus to Rangeview Intermediate School every day, said it had become increasingly dangerous to cross Ta Atatū Road, but there were dangers with the previous pedestrian crossing, as it was hard to get cars to stop.

“We have high-vis jackets and we’ve been pausing the traffic and making sure the traffic has stopped, before we cross,” Kite said.

“We sometimes had to do that when the pedestrian crossing was there, because the traffic didn’t always stop.”

Kite believes there has been an attitude among drivers not to stop at the pedestrian crossing, which contributed to it being an unsafe spot.

“But yes, traffic does keep going, even if children step out. To be honest, as an adult, when I walk back, quite often they keep going when it’s just me, but we keep it safe for the kids.

“Many cars ignored the pedestrian crossing, hopefully they won’t ignore the lights.”

That’s terrible behaviour by drivers, but also terrible that these temporary safety measures during construction weren’t in place from day one. It’s also a good example of why things like raised crossings are a vital part of the picture – doing what it takes to reduce driving speeds to a non-lethal level where people are crossing the road. (That said, it doesn’t appear that raised crossings are included in this change to a signalised crossing).

Hold the front page

Stuff asks if Albert St is the worst street in Auckland, by once again bringing up the ongoing CRL-related construction and its impacts.

Stuff spoke to three businesses on Albert Street and found all of them were struggling to survive and were fed up at how long the construction had taken.

“The summers have been pretty good, but it’s been a short window where businesses come to the level where they’d originally been,” Sid Raina, the general manager of the Shakespeare pub said.

“My tenure here has been for just over a year, but from what I know, the rail works and construction work that’s been happening has really impacted the business negatively.

The CRL has been under construction for nearly eight years now. You have to wonder, did he not notice it before agreeing to take on the role?

As for the original question, yes disruption can be difficult and frustrating. But there are far worse streets in Auckland, like those permanently choked with cars and hostile to people outside vehicles; those with terrible footpaths and zero crossings; and those that reliably get congested due to a reluctance to reallocate street space to more efficient modes. Feel free to nominate your faves in the comments.

Paris as a 15-minute city

The Guardian looks at how Paris is transforming itself with the idea of 15-minute cities, and you have to wonder: who doesn’t want this??

The “15-minute city” has become a toxic phrase in the UK, so controversial that the city of Oxford has stopped using it and the transport minister has spread discredited conspiracy theories about the urban planning scheme.

But while fake news spreads about officials enacting “climate lockdowns” to “imprison” people in their neighbourhoods, across the Channel, Parisians are enjoying their new 15-minute neighbourhoods. The French are stereotyped for their love of protest, so the lack of uproar around the redesign of their capital is in stark contrast to the frenzied response in Oxford.

Carlos Moreno, a jovial and owlish professor at the Sorbonne University, came up with the phrase “15-minute cities” and has been quietly getting on setting them up in Paris. He has a bemused air when asked about how his modest proposal for a more enjoyable urban life has caused such vile conspiracy theories, and takes it all in good humour despite the death threats and other abuse he has received.


Hidalgo inevitably faced a large backlash from the motorist lobby. Stroll down the banks of the Seine today in the new protected parks and outdoor bars, and it is hard to imagine that it was recently a traffic-choked highway. But with the guidance of Moreno, this became a reality.

Before and after image of the river bank of the Seine in Paris. Before is full of cars; after, full of people.
Before and after, along the Seine: space for cars vs space for people. Image: a composite via the Guardian

Dunedin doing nicely

Meanwhile, in Dunedin, more evidence that shaping your shopping streets around people not only attracts people to come and shop, it also excited business interest as well. Who knew?!

As reported by Stuff, while construction has been a challenge for some retailers, with the finish line in sight, business confidence is surging:

Beauty retailer Mecca, which operates 100 stores on both sides of the Tasman, has advertised for staff for a central Dunedin store.
“It’s always pleasing when we see a retailer new to Dunedin setting up shop in our city,” A Dunedin City Council spokesperson said.
Staff involved in the George St upgrade have fielding a number of similar enquiries from prospective tenants looking to move to the city’s main shopping street.

Construction on the $51 million CBD project, which includes a $23m three waters’ upgrade, was expected to be open to vehicles on May 3 with the majority of work completed by the end of April.

The project remained on budget and was six months ahead of council’s original schedule.

Is this replicable in other cities, like, say, Auckland? Guess what: the data says yes! Also, some deep learning did a deep dive and discovered the same think: walkable streets encourage success.

Screenshot of a tweet by Hamish McNeilly, with a photo of a "cheeky little fashion show down Dunedin's redeveloped George St". Models stride the attractive pavement, while people sit nearby on new seating amidst new planting, enjoying the vibe.


Lubing the tracks

The Herald reports on a local noise control issue:

KiwiRail is developing a “lubrication strategy” across the Auckland rail network as it fields complaints from Remuera residents about screeching trains crossing Hobson Bay and Ōrākei Basin.

It follows a string of issues affecting passenger services, including heat restrictions, temporary speed limits, cancelled services and disruptions from the Rail Network Rebuild involving the replacement of railway foundations, tracks and sleepers.

The grinding of rail tracks last November, after the network rebuild in the Remuera area, has caused “wheel squeal” – and plenty of squealing from residents overlooking the bay.

“It’s like screaming banshees,” Remuera resident Allison Fisher said.

The family’s home had double glazing that cut out most of the noise from passing trains, but the noise over the summer shattered their peace.


KiwiRail metros general manager Jon Knight said wheel squeal was caused by friction between the train wheels and the top or side of the rails. It was exacerbated by dry conditions over the summer, which has led to complaints.

It could also occur after the maintenance practice of grinding rail, but the temporary roughness reduced as trains passed over the track and wore it smooth within a few months.

The rails were ground in November and the noise should have settled fully by the end of this month, Knight said.

“This, along with the cooler, damper weather, should significantly reduce the noise issues. It’s important to note that noise in Hobson Bay can carry further, depending on the prevailing wind and whether it is high or low tide.”

KiwiRail was also developing a rail “lubrication strategy” across the Auckland commuter network that included an understanding of where wheel squeal could occur, he said.

“Lubrication is another maintenance tool that helps protect train wheels and the rail from wear and tear.


Bike lanes are great for business, as this business owner from Providence, Rhode Island points out in what might be the tightest presentation we’ve seen on the subject. Our councillors could stand to hear more of this sort of thing. Bike-friendly businesses, take notes!

Stay dry out there, and have a great weekend. As always, feel free to share your fave transport and infrastructure stories of the week in the comments.

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  1. Re Traffic Management
    While I was living in Brisbane, you did not dare speed through temporary 30km/hr restrictions. You would most likely get a speeding ticket in the mail. Yes even in weekends and holidays. This would reduce the danger to construction workers if implemented in NZ.
    Re Pedestrian Crossings
    Even controlled crossings have red light runners. My particular concern is the crossing on Richmond Rd near Woolworths. Drivers will deliberately drive through the red if they feel that it is impeding their right to a journey free from delays. Pedestrians are not considered to be of any particular relevance

    1. It especially bad on highways here… If you go 70 in a temporary 50 zone, you are holding up traffic 🙁

        1. Been driving through the SH1 roadworks north of Drury for the last years. 100 in an 80kph zone is normal. You get truck drivers bullying you sometimes when you dare drive to the limit. No enforcement I can see.

          Sure, there are fewer (none, hopefully, despite the worksites) pedestrians in those areas, but it’s just an example that there’s so little enforcement of speed limits – and our new minister’s actual intent seems to simply raise the limits, rather than do anything else (despite claims they will enforce more – and with which police staff, by the way?).

  2. In the Supreme Court judgment, we see the Board of Inquiry was just not up to speed on the material. So, where does this leave us?

    “It cannot be known whether the impacts described are indeed “acceptable” as the Board found if there has not been a proper assessment of options that might have avoided them. The justifying comparator is not just the EWL’s benefits. It includes also the possibility of a less harmful solution to the transport problem. The Board’s assessment was in much broader brushstrokes. It only rarely engaged at the level of detail commensurate with the presumptive starting point that locating a proposal of this scale in SEAs is most unlikely to be approved.”

    “the Board failed to engage properly with the central premise of the AUP, which is that the EWL is presumptively inconsistent with and contrary to relevant objectives and policies and should not be approved except in narrowly defined exceptional circumstances.”

    1. It leaves us with leachate from the rubbish dumps on the foreshore forming the reclamation work polluting the harbour, and silt buildup promoting the invasion of mangroves.
      Anyone walking the length of the harbour would have to note how modified, degraded and just a huge mess 99% of this environment is. The EWL would have cleaned all this up and created vast areas of new wetlands. This was a large portion of the project cost and there is no other source of funds to clean it up.
      I don’t see this being a well balanced decision.

      1. There were simpler solutions had they bothered to think of them.

        The eastern part of Neilson could have been widened to two lanes each way where it narrows down to one at its eastern end.

        Church Street could have been blocked to traffic coming from the east when it meets Neilson Street. That way you don’t need a set of lights at the Church/Neilson intersection.

        Traffic that needs to get into Onehunga from the east either goes right at Orouke one block back or right at Captain Springs off Neilson.

        I’m prepared to contract this work starting at $500 million if anyone’s interested 🙂

      2. Why do you consider it to be an invasion of mangroves? Mangroves are a natural process that protect the shore line, filter run off and provide a breeding home for many species of fish.

        1. yeah,nah
          mangroves are awesome, but not so much for fish. Any protection they offer expires at low tide. Many other reasons for loving the mangroves however. Being carbon sequestering superheroes is but one.

    2. The Board of Inquiry was up to speed alright. They had their ‘approved’ stamp inked up before the hearing opened. Anyone who had anything bad to say about the project got a rough reception from the chairman. It just shows if a Government wants something approved they just have to appoint a retired high court judge who hasn’t got a knighthood yet.

  3. I would take exception to Mark Banfield’s comment “He said in countries such as the United Kingdom, roading projects did not involve “this sea of red cones”.”

    Absolute rubbish. Where do we think that we got this mania for cones from? From the British, that’s where! Having lived in the UK for over a decade, I noted the extraordinary amounts of cones used over there – often a line of cones physically touching each other with not more than a millimetre between. They take the road-coning of Britains really seriously ! Here, sadly, we are just starting. That picture up the top, outside the Ferry Building? There’s enough room to do a giant slalom between them ! Room for 600% more cones there.

    1. I worked with Transit NZ back in the mid 90’s on the first iteration of the Code of Practice for Temporary Traffic Management. It was based on experience from the UK. Using cones instead of the previous white painted empty 44 gallon drums was a huge step up for road user safety.
      I think that the change to a risk-based approach will be an improvement. We just need to balance good judgement with risk-aversion. That’s not easy for many people.
      Final observation- the TTM industry as a whole is not incentivized to be more cost and time efficient. If we as road users were prepared to accept more intense but shorter disruption we could have a better outcome.

      1. You’re right that TTM here is designed on an assumption that users wouldn’t put up with more intense but shorter disruption.

        But the thing is, Brent. How does the sector get away with that assumption, given it seems unlikely that few people would want projects to be strung out longer, at bigger cost? Particularly once they’ve had the chance to experience different options or discuss the details with experts? I’ve not seen public sentiment research on the topic. Have you? Or is this just more fear-based decision-making based on nothing more than trying to prevent the short-term grumpy driver complaints?

  4. The Paris stats show, again, why we need the Household Travel Survey to be reformed to deliberately track the travel choices in different types of residential environments. What is the modal split for people living in Queen St, for example? Or in medium density mixed use areas beside stations on the city fringe? Having averages across Auckland is really not that useful for planning.

  5. East-West Link. So I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I bike across Nga Hau Mangere heading north-west past the port and on to Orpheus Drive each day in the afternoon. Past the permanent queue of cars waiting to join the motorway.

    This queue of cars is there not because the lane is too narrow, but because the ramp signal lights are on, drip-feeding cars on to the motorway to make them have sufficient gaps to merge properly and keep the motorway flowing when its at capacity. So considering they want to basically turn this part into a 4-lane motorway, are there plans to increase the capacity of SH20? Because it seems at capacity already. I assume there will be ramp signals there resulting in the same queue but just 2 lanes of queue instead of one lane? And presumably the same number of vehicles entering per minute as what currently are? Will the whole East-West link just be the same queue of vehicles as Neilsen St currently is, just moved to the foreshore? For multiple thousands of millions of dollars? Do the trucks get to bypass some intersections only to end up in the same stop-start gridlock? My reckon is that even the few minutes they think it will save will effectively be zero.

    Oh and I don’t think it can be a trench, you know because sea level rise and flooding. The car that got flipped in the 2023 flood can attest to that.


    1. Plan is more widening for SH20/SH20A/SH20B plus a few new ramps. GA wrote about it a few days ago, has a headline of a PT project but is also a motorway one (and I’m sure active modes too will get something).

      Don’t think it’ll do anything North of Mangere Bridge, but should move the SH20/SH20A northbound bottleneck further towards Mangere Bridge (or maybe not, as it’ll be 5 lanes going into 4 rather than 4 into 3 like present).


      Re the EW link – it won’t be the same queue moved, it’ll be a new queue added – as local traffic will still clog the existing ramps, and other traffic will be on the EW link. More trucks/cars and it’ll become the go to route for East Auckland going to West Auckland and vice versa.

      Traffic is going to get worse with or without it though, as people pick their perceived best option, and more people needing to make more trips will be driving trucks/cars, even if we didn’t have a gov intent on making all trips by car bar the odd airplane. Personally, I think if it’s got a negative BCR the project should be deferred for other projects that actually have positive ones, but it’s a political choice – and I guess a quicker trip out to Piha on the weekend for those in East Auckland is more important that BCR ratios?

    2. A key thing with the “almost chosen cutdown version” was southern links to the Southern Motorway. This would get industrial traffic on to this motorway quicker & I guess Highbrook/East Tamaki that the current link to Manukau doesn’t provide.

  6. Our Public Transport workers at Auckland Transport, struggling with the ‘Cost of Living Crisis’., need more help than ever from government. Essential big corporate businesses like banks, supermarkets, insurance companies are the cause to high inflation on essential goods & services! What banks, supermarkets, insurance companies do is ‘spam advertisements of branding’ based on companies financial performance, if there performing well they don’t advertise as much, if the company is ‘performing poorly’, it spams advertisements regularly. It’s essential we do something about it! Essential businesses like banks, supermarkets, insurance companies do is ‘Advertising Endogeneity’, set advertising levels from all different Main-Stream avenues and sites. According to companies specific performance levels, which can come at a high cost and gets passed onto the consumers.

    Big corporates end up taking most of ‘market share’, where consumers have less awareness, take less consideration of smaller players due to ‘advertising space’. Big cooperates end up having more advertising power than small companies, which limits smaller companies to grow bigger and be a real competitor. As a result, the consumer misses out on making a proper formal decision on goods & services. The more Main-Stream avenues and sites like Television networks & News Organisations, the better the market will be for consumers overall.

    In the US, The Obama Administration conducted a ‘Advertising, Consumer Awareness and Choice: Evidence from the U.S. Banking Industry’ in 2014. What it found in the findings is that consumers were more aware of the bigger companies than the small companies were less likely to take into consideration to which meant affected the consumers ability to make a decision for themselves were compromised. Also small companies ‘presence is important’ main stream avenues and sites for awareness, consideration and choice. Advertising for companies by being informative or being persuasive does elasticities for awareness and choice.

    What we need in New Zealand is a ‘third player’ television network likes of Newstalk ZB becoming a television network or perhaps existing television network Sky TV to air more advertisements of smaller banks, supermarkets, insurance companies so they can show their promotional deals on multiple streams of television networks, news-sites and more. The more main stream networks we have, more it will help small businesses across the country. And lastly need government to implement legislation to ban ‘brand advertisement’ which causes companies to spam their branding on multiple advertising streams. Advertising should only be for ‘promotional offerings’!

    We need to make make life easier for our Auckland Transport workers and reduce their “Cost of living’, by creating more competition for banks, supermarkets, insurance sector which reduces costs!

    Evidence from U.S. Banking Industry, Maria Ana VitorinoYouTube · Center for Customer Insights at Yale SOM1K+ views · 9 years ago

    1. Desperate need for central government to let a third Main-Stream television network & news site to create more ‘advertising space’ for smaller companies to compete. Also to legislate ban on ‘brand advertising’ to reduce ‘Cost of living Crisis’ for Auckland Transport workers!

  7. East – West Link…
    I still think they should seal off the entire inlet where the Māngere Bridge is and reclaim that whole area.
    Huge piece of land (roughly double the size of Hobsonville) centrally located in Auckland. Could provide tens of thousands of homes, more industrial space etc, would provide plenty of connections across town, cheap direct option for HR on to Mangere and the airport. The project would pay for itself multitimes over. Even iwi could be gifted a portion of the land/sale value to make it worth their while.
    Could even develop a canal through it if really wanted. The costs of East-West link would then also drop dramatically and it’s usefulness would increase.

    1. Option 1: Rely on a dam or sea wall and create land below mean sea level, which will need constant pumping and will be inclined to flood at the first sign of rain. Not ideal for high value uses like dense residential or even industrial.

      Option 2: An incredible amount of fill gets quarried and trucked from some other place, which will then settle unevenly into the estuary sediment, creating problems for infrastructure and construction.

      I suppose we could go back to smashing up the maunga, I suggest starting with those holding up development of the central suburbs, especially if they are close to a rail line: Mount Eden, Mount Albert, Mount Saint John, Mount Hobson, Mount Wellington and then obviously Mangere, Otahuhu and Hamlins Hill since you can probably set up a coveyor belt long enough to dump them into the harbour.

      Mud flats don’t look like much, but they are biologically productive habitats, supporting fisheries and bird populations. Maybe best to try living with that.

  8. Kiwirail is wasting money, they’ll never placate entitled Remuera NIMBYs.

    Send them a cup of cement each and tell them all to harden up.

    Probably cheaper.

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