Here we are in May already! And here are a few of the stories that caught our eye this week.

This Week on Greater Auckland

On Monday, Matt highlighted that it’s been a decade since Auckland’s rail system was electrified.

On Wednesday, Matt looked at AT’s rollout of new ways to pay for your public transport journeys.

Safe speeds for kids around the motu

In Dunedin, Stuff reports that police are “making no apologies over the use of speed camera vans” to snap drivers speeding in school zones, with one location seeing seven speeders per minute.

[That] was too many speeding drivers for the liking of Senior Sergeant Karl Hemmingsen. “It’s very disappointing that no care or respect is being shown around these speed limits which are in place to protect our most vulnerable and precious members of the community.”

Hats off to this officer for telling it like it is, and to Dunedin City Council for persisting with the programme. After all, the laws of physics won’t have changed since this programme was consulted on a year ago.

Likewise, kudos to Whanganui District Council for delivering safer streets for their tamariki, as reported by the Whanganui Chronicle. Some speeds past rural schools will fall from a completely unsurvivable 100kmh to the Vision Zero maximum of 30kmh. With a nod to the incoming government’s policy direction, it was noted at the council meeting that “economic and travel time impacts” would be “less than minor”, giving council the confidence to prioritise safety. The looks on these children’s faces say it all. Brunswick School students celebrate safer speeds Whanganui Chronicle 1 May 2024 Photo by Bevan Conley

Whanganui District Council is also calling on Waka Kotahi (aka NZTA) to improve safety on state highways in the area:

“With a clear community voice requesting change, now is the time for council to once again carry the voice of the community to central government and demand some action.”

The council unanimously voted to communicate to NZTA Waka Kotahi “in the strongest possible terms” for speed reductions around schools near state highways and for pedestrian protection measures on State Highway 3/Great North Rd.

[Whanganui Mayor David] Tripe said he was “always a man in a hurry” but safety was more important.

Progressing public transport in the provinces

While we’re talking about Whanganui, here’s some good coverage of public transport muse (and public transport muso) Anthonie Tonnon’s grand plans for better bus coverage of the city.

It’s a vision of high-frequency high-ridership services on a par with not just the comparable town of Palmerston North, but with what Whanganui itself used to enjoy back in the day, when Greyhound Buses gave “speedy, efficient service to citizens”.

We liked this quote, too:

“A Toyota Hiace is a great vehicle but it’s designed for intimate groups – your family, your sports group, your band. A bus is designed to make you feel comfortable with people you don’t know.”

It’s not easy being green (and in the path of a zombie mega-motorway)

A timely explainer by Stuff reporter Erin Johnston about the biodiversity of the inner Manukau Harbour, and the natural riches at stake in this government’s revived plans to run the massive (and massively expensive) East-West Link through there.

A lava field, Ann’s Creek [designated as a Significant Ecological Area in Auckland’s unitary plan] is the only place in Auckland where four particular indigenous and threatened plants grow together, Auckland Council’s senior regional advisor flora Emma Simpkins said.

Here, these small plants put down long roots between volcanic rocks.

“It gives us an insight into what our vegetation would have looked like across the region before we all came along and built things over the lava fields,” she said.

The area also has freshwater wetlands, saltmarsh and mangroves, and is home to breeding inanga (whitebait), as well as threatened birds – the Australasian bittern and banded rail.

Regular readers will know that the banded rail (or moho pererū) is only marginally more threatened than the elusive Auckland surface light rail (or terewhiti). Both of course deserve a healthy open-air environment in which they can thrive and reproduce to ultimately repopulate the isthmus.

The week in free PT

Glasgow is looking to trial free access to public transport, starting with a pilot giving 1000 Glaswegians a free ride for nine weeks  (although funding is still pending).

Meanwhile, on the Continent, the free public transport system of Luxembourg is extending its embrace across the border, to offer a fully free ride to any French citizens who commute to work in the tiny country just next door. Now that’s a good neighbour for you!

The secret of Gent

A lovely article with great photos about how the city of Gent halved traffic and multiplied health and happiness. It’s not really a secret. You just invest in the things you want more of, and shift people away from the things that don’t work. In the process, you become politically popular.

How do you slash car journeys from 55% of trips to 27%, and increase cycling journeys from 22% of trips to 37%? It’s a question only Filip Watteeuw, Deputy Mayor for Mobility in Gent, Belgium, can answer. Under his bold leadership, the city has transformed in less than a decade and on a limited budget.

It’s not been easy, and Watteeuw has felt the full heft of the noisy minority. Over the years, he has received death threats and been yelled at in the streets.

Even so, he persevered. Now, the city is buzzing with people walking and wheeling, and pollution levels are 18% lower than they once were. And Watteeuw is still in office, having been re-elected in 2018.

…many people would be surprised that he has survived re-election, given the criticism.

“It’s the other way around,” he explained. “It’s difficult not to be re-elected if you do such things. But you have to do it with full force, with belief, with passion — it’s not just a technical domain. Even when there is resistance, go further.

The dirt on CRL

Another monumental milestone for the City Rail Link:

Work that began with hand-held spades in the ground four years ago came full circle today with City Rail Link (CRL) today celebrating the end of work to shift one massive pile of dirt and then replace it with another at the project’s Maungawhau Staton site.

Removing a large sloping hill in Eden Terrace cleared the way for construction of the southern tunnel portal connecting CRL with the new station and the North Auckland/Western rail line. The hill has now been restored and most of the heavy construction hidden underground.

Special K for CRL: a green light for Karanga-a-hape upgrades

Once dubbed Project K, the Karanga-a-hape Station precinct integration works are set to get under way next month. Designed to complement the new CRL station and the 40,000 people expected to pour in and out daily, the design includes pedestrianised space, new cycleways, mobility parking and loading zones, and new bus stops.

The improvements extend beyond the station entrances on Mercury Lane and Beresford Square, along Pitt St, Canada St, and East St. Construction will take place from June 2024 to October 2025.

An upgraded Pitt St, to enhance the new Karanga-a-hape Station (artists impression via AT)

Get across (the Viaduct)

The Te Wero bridge, a temporary installation linking the Viaduct to Wynyard Quarter is out of action and likely to be for some time, to the chagrin of everyone up to and including the Deputy Mayor, with local residents and retailers suffering from a lack of connectivity. Business are saying it’s a risk to livelihoods, as it turns out that walking and biking access is vital for business.

RNZ reports that Eke Panuku will trial a free mini-ferry to help people bridge the gap, starting from 11 May.

Auckland Transport will be putting on free Red Boat ferries [with a capacity of 60 passengers] for pedestrians while the Wynyard crossing bridge is inoperable. They will take passengers between Te Wero Island and Karanga Plaza, on the outward side of the marina, for free.

Another option is walking around the basin, which is a fifteen minute stroll, or up to five minutes by bike or e-scooter.

Speaking of restoring local access…

With the (limited) reopening* of Meola Road this week to some through traffic (*conditions apply: detours and stop-go traffic management; bike path is still under construction), Auckland Transport took out a full page advertorial in the Weekend Herald to describe what a major undertaking it has been.

This is not a simple road renewal. It’s a full-noise rebuild of a road built on landfill, as part of a broad “dig once” effort that’s simultaneously upgrading water infrastructure, undergrounding powerlines, greening the streetscape, and improving pedestrian safety, while also adding safe and separated bike lanes.

Of course, some disruption for locals is inevitable (and the January 2023 floods offered a glimpse of the uncontrollable kind of disruption, leaving the road pitted with even more potholes than usual). But this is nice:

Amid the hard work and disruption, crew on the ground have reported back several stories of heart-warming community support. During the searing heat in the height of summer, locals were delivering ice blocks to exhausted road workers, who must work in full safety gear regardless of the temperature. Meanwhile a digger operator had an eager little fan, excitedly waiting every morning for him to start work, watching from inside the safety of his fence with his mum.

The project has another year to go, and once complete will feature a local cycle network on Pt Chevalier Road up to Meola Road and including part of Garnet Road. With the Great North Road upgrade also due to get under way soon, the logical next step for AT will be fixing the gap through Grey Lynn in a quick and affordable way.

In the article, AT’s Director of Infrastructure and Place describes some of the ultimate outcomes of the work:

“A safe cycleway, connected to a wider network of cycling routes, along with improved pedestrian access, will enable more people to access local businesses, parks, and sportsgrounds, by bike or on foot.”

Here’s a photo of some Western Springs College kids already doing exactly that, enjoying the raised crossing they’ve campaigned hard for since early 2019. Before this crossing was installed, they had to take their chances in traffic to get to and from the bus stop.

To come full circle on this roundup, children everywhere need better streets that give them more options and a pathway to a healthier future. Note that the Year 13 students in this photo would have been in primary school when the project was first proposed.

Good things take time, but they really shouldn’t take this much time.

That’s us for this week – any other stories and links, feel free to share in the comments. We appreciate your contributions!

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  1. The ferry option for Wynyard would have to be the most laughable, backward idea ever – every 30 mins, imagine the time spent trying to get people on and off that little boat?
    What a ridiculous option – just leave the bridge down or get on and fix it. The tall billionaire yachts shouldn’t hold us to ransom over a key part of the waterfront, in fact one of the nicer parts given most of it is taken up by the port or private boat berths.

    1. Has the person who designed this ever seen the bridge? On a busy Saturday 500 people will be left behind on each ferry sailing..

    2. That’s exactly what I’ve been saying. They should look at the majority, not the minority. Most of those boats/yachts parked never move anyway, far too precious to actually sail out into the harbour

      1. That area’s been dockage for a very long time, initially a fishing basin and now more upmarket. You sound a lot like the people who move next to a stadium known for hosting concerts then start lobbying for a reduction in the noise due to discovering surprises, surprise occasionally concerts are hosted there. If one to other had to go clearly it’d be the bridge. In reality AT should strive to be less incompetent and actually fix the bridge in a more timely manner.

    3. This area is offically part of the area the port has the right to occupy under their consent. Subsequently the resource consent for the bridge has the provision that it is either operable or forces it to be left open during repairs and maintainence. They cannot leave it closed.

    4. Yeah, look at the numbers it can carry! Like 10% of the volume that goes over there per hour in the peak times.

      1. What I don’t understand is the “once every 30m” trips. This is like 30m distance. Can they not do one trip every 5-10 minutes at least? The crew are already there. Limiting it to the frequency of a rare bus is ridiculous.

        1. Yep, to make remotely sense it would need a wide platform (like a vehicle ramp, no a gangway) and continuous operation as quickly as possible.
          Still pretty poor solution. Advertise the extra walk way, allow 2 food trucks to set up on the way, be happy.
          Build bridge within a few months.

  2. Mini ferry, such a beautiful idea. That shows how important Wynyard Quarter is…anything to do with the wealthy apartment owners and internet related professions?

    Howabout a ferry from Hillsborough to Mangere Bridge while they are doing such lovely things.

    It is a shame the postcode lottery remains, light rail could connect so many more people, but a place already served by at least three bus routes deserves a mini ferry too?

    50,000ish people reside in the city centre. Many more in Mangere. If we are serious about mass transit, let’s start moving the masses!

    bah humbug

  3. I wonder why it will take up to 9 months to repair the bridge? That is far too long for a simple bridge. Why not dismantle the bridge and repair it off site and put in a bailey bridge instead of a mini ferry.

    1. Bailey bridges are notably not something that can be lifted on demand to allow the yachts to pass through to the sea

      And the council built the bridge on the basis that a yacht can pass, so baked into the operating resource consent.

      Of course, it does amaze me sometimes that we can’t just fix the bridge so rather spend money on silly ferry boats. The army can drop a bridge in place (and remove it) in minutes using a AVLB ( but takes years here.

      Seems like opportunity for a great tourist attraction; you could have a zip line overhead, stand up paddle boards, gondolas, pole vaulting over the gap, water pressure jet packs… anything other than building a working bridge that people could walk across .

      I am in despair that we live in a world where hundreds of millions is poured into something like the Wēiti bridge in Stillwater, as it carries cars, but not a modest sized pedestrian bridge. Are cars more important than people?

      1. “Are cars more important than people?”

        In NZ, that’s part of the (unwritten) constitution, yes.

        1. No Cārwanatanga is part of our written constitutional document but incorrectly transcribed into article 1 as Kāwanatanga.

      2. Time to construct a decent light rail bridge there. Extend the model railway tram over it to Britomart to show the nay-sayers just how good decent light rail can be when it actually goes somewhere.

    2. I think a big part of the waiting is for sourcing, expensive, bespoke very weird parts to fix an originally temporary bridge. They had designed some replacement options but all got too hard and expensive when or after COVID hit.
      More money thrown at something doesn’t always work.

      1. Temporary is time limited usually. Why do NZ governments, local and central, not understand this? Do it right the first time and save money and disruption later on. See also the project irex fiasco.

        1. Its not just NZ. I work a building at LHR that had a “temporary life” of 10 years. It was built in 1975 and hasn’t been touched since!

  4. NZ Fashion Week has included the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of the Wynyard Bridge as a contributing factor to mothballing their fashion event. The mayor also had a comment along the lines of,”there is nothing more permanent than a temporary structure”. Auckland seems to want to continue in this vain ,with another “band aid” for Eden Park. I get that future planning is hard,except roads, but our forebears seemed to manage it,nowadays everything seems reactionary. The level crossing closures ,for example, should be well sorted by now,but have been left to the last minute.

  5. After 9 months of no Eastern Line trains last year, half the Eastern line is closed again this weekend from Britomart to Panmure. Trains only running to the Strand last weekend was annoying enough, what are they doing now that they need to close the section that should be perfectly rebuilt.

    1. Yes I’m lucky. This weekend the bits of the rail that are working I can actually use going south from Sylvia to Papakura. If Pukekohe was complete I’d probably save at least 30 mins. Lucky I’m money, not time poor at the moment.

  6. Good news on the Meola Rd works and glad to see it safer for school students. Despite this, there are still a small number of absolute moaners (mainly on the community facebook pages) who continue to rubbish the whole thing. One in particular – well known to all community board/transport committees who just seems to not care about safety? I cannot understand it

    1. Yes I must check out what they have done already and in the middle of. The pain of construction will be well worth it in the end.

  7. Surprised that Eke Panuku or the like are not highlighting/placemaking/championing the existing walk, bike ,scoot option that is available( as you say 15 mins or less). There are also a fair few businesses along the walk that would be happy with the extra visitors.

    1. Yeah, budget cuts maybe, but like most organisations just their echo chamber of a website or social media page, good info here though:
      Also in this article states the numbers:
      “This option, however, was estimated to only move about 1200 passengers a day with a single boat.
      “Capacity would be doubled with a second ferry, however, it should be noted that this is only a fraction of normal users of the Wynyard Crossing Bridge,” the report said.
      Statistics collected in 2022 showed an average of 6574 pedestrians used the bridge on a typical weekday, while 9094 used it at the weekend.”

      Another option is to double the City Link Bus frequency; it might be hard to find some suitable buses though and likely won’t be electric or red!

  8. That article on Gent is interesting. I even got Google translate out for reading some things on the map key. Yes, they had and still have vocal opposition to it, but the mayor was voted back in again. Also, they seem to use cameras & paint markings & not physical blocking methods to ensure drivers drive around the ring roads instead of through the city.
    Another good thing is city-owned bike workshop where mechanics fix bikes, they are ‘get you home repairs’. They don’t offer a complete service so as to not compete with regular cycle shops.

  9. Please help to Save the Te Huia from shutdown As this report from Newshub still has the clown from their Chamber still whining and getting a lot of his Facts wrong and that is from another that has Never Caught It and has been moaning since before it even started ;-

  10. And another one for those other detractors that Whine about KR and Contractors taking to long to do anything where it from go to whoa this was reopened with n a fortnight ;-

  11. Public transport in smaller centres was mentioned above.

    Nelson upgraded its bus network last year with mainly electric vehicles running every 30 minutes Monday to Sunday.

    Palmerston North revamped its network earlier this year with New Zealand’s first all-electric fleet. The service between the airport and Massey via The Square operates as frequently as every 15 minutes. All buses are free to tertiary students and staff; others pay a flat fare of $2 but no more than $16 a week (with a Bee card).

    The improved networks are really impressive but, especially for people outside the three main centres, taking a bus is beyond the pale and that is reflected in patronage.

    Whanganui’s improvements have not been on the same scale, in part because Whanganui is much smaller than Nelson and Palmerston North. In 2018, Palmerston North urban area was home to 92,000 and Nelson 80,000 but Whanganui just 44,000.

    It’s difficult to imagine buses (or bicycles) ever catering for more than a small minority.

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