Anybody who went to Karangahape Road for Matariki last Thursday evening (27 June), would have seen it absolutely packed with people.

From Queen Street to Pitt Street, Karangahape was closed to traffic. And that opened up the space for so many amazing things! Kids playing hopscotch?

Yes, please. Alternatively, if you were tired after work, don’t worry – they had you covered!

After a rest, how about something special to welcome the long weekend and Matariki. How about some live music? On the main stage, Rangatuone ki Tamaki / Pan Moana Group combined taonga puoro, bass, violin, and more, for a haunting and intriguing sound that recalled the deep history of Te Karanga a Hape… the place from where Hape called out to welcome new arrivals.

Turns out, it’s amazing what you can do in a city with some extra space. And as the day turned into night, more and more people came.

This speaks to the insatiable desire we have for these kinds of spaces. Spaces focused not on the movement of vehicles, but on making room for people to gather, socialise, and have fun. Oh and eat, drink, and buy things!

The energy was electric, and I sincerely doubt a single person on that street was thinking “Wow, I wish cars could drive through here right now”.

In fact, I think they probably wondered (as happens at every Open Streets event, and as happened with Auckland’s first full Open Streets event eight years ago on the same street):

Why we don’t have more of this, and why don’t we do this more often?

Frankly, it was just an amazing evening.

And why can’t we do more of this? In fact, why can’t we always have this space available to mix and mingle? Why can’t we have so many more spaces like this, all over the city, especially but not only for special occasions? Don’t STOP, keep going!

I don’t think anyone regrets pedestrianising Times Square in New York. And how about closer to home, say, Sydney? You only have to look at what Danish urban planner Jan Gehl said when talking about the highly popular move to pedestrianise George Street:

“A good city is like a good party – people stay longer than really necessary because they are enjoying themselves,” Gehl said. “If you see a city with many children and many old people using the city’s public spaces it’s a sign that it’s a good quality place for people.”

Karangahape Road definitely took a direct approach on Thursday, by throwing a literal party – but we shouldn’t accept this as a one-off. It’s proof this works. If we make the space for people, they will come!

So, like many making Matariki wishes on stars last week, let me make one more.

I wish for more places in Auckland to be for people. Let’s make every day in our city feel like a good party.

Images: Jolisa Gracewood

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  1. I took my seven year old and 4 year old boys there and they had an amazing time. It is truly transformative to open these spaces to people; and keep the traffic separated by heavy machinery, trucks, concrete blocks and anything else that can stop a ram raider; be they a volvo, a dodge, or a ranger!

    bah humbug

    1. Difference is the public and active transport service to each area. A suburban town center that was serviced by a couple buses and small population in the walking catchments, vs the nexus of frequent bus routes from all over the city, a (future) train station, and 10’s of thousands of people in apartments nearby.

    2. That needs to happen again. It’s the perfect place for a pedestrian mall. No need for cars just there.

  2. Key is to have somewhere else that necessary vehicles can use while the street is open for people – either permanently, like Te Komititanga, or for events, like Avondale.

  3. TRM happened to come across this event. [Post edited here.]

    The E-List music acts brought in a crowd that could only be described as disappointing given the large effort to close the street and construct a stage. The constant cacophony of noise killing any atmosphere that threatened to build.

    There was little to do at this event. 10 uninspiring stalls pulled people away from permanent businesses that could do with an economic lift. Some old bloke trying to cajole others to kick a hacky sack with him whilst he tried to recapture his youth. A D-grade skateboard comp that consisted of a mini-ramp and a misplaced car. Most entertaining thing that happened was a punch up.

    Thought the event was an incredible disappointment and wasn’t worth any more than 10-15 minutes of anyone’s time. It caused transport inconvenience to busses, vehicles and emergency services. Hopefully some lessons can be learned and the event re-located and re-envigored for next year.

    1. I was surprised there were no food stalls – so I veered towards St Kevins, saw the crowds, then supported the streetside kebab shop with a view.

      However I was mainly surprised to find that the event even existed, though people who read FB, listen to radio or read suburban papers more than me might not have been? Bigger marketing spend next time?

  4. I, as a local nearby was deeply inconvenienced – I needed to buy a fridge which obviously I couldn’t do that by bicycle – but I had to spend an extra 6 minutes to get around the mess caused by this mess (I just don’t see how this sort of nonsense contributes to improving our GDP) then my house caught fire and the fire trucks couldn’t get there because the road was closed, we had a terrorist attack that the police couldn’t respond to in time. After I got back from hospital (late – the ambulance got stuck too) from a foot injury (caused by a cyclist dashing me over on the footpath (they weren’t wearing a helmet either!)) I wanted to go to see the event causing me so much torment, but because of my injury and the lack of parking outside at Kevin’s arcade I had to stay at home and lament to my Facebook group about it all.

    (I am actually mad about this because I had no idea it was on until now)

  5. An honest question, because i normally get a bus that goes along there when I’m in Auckland – where did the buses go? If they have a route available for one day, could they take that alternative route everyday?

  6. A one off event does not justify closing off a street permanently. Since Queen St has has reduced traffic access is died off. Smith and Caughey is closing and I don’t know a single person who likes the changes to Queen St. Onehunga Mall was nearly killed in the 70s or 80s by pedestrianising and was finally reversed to allow traffic again. I work around krd and am just really grateful I didn’t need to be working on Thursday or it would’ve been chaos. We already have spaces suitable for these sorts of events. Aotea Square, Myers Park, Auckland Domain, all within walking distance. By all means have a great party and enjoy the novelty of closing down a street. But to countenance making this permanent is lunacy.

    1. I like Queen Street better than before they completed the new cycle path and locked most cars out. Do I count?

    2. “Smith and Caughey is closing” – offline retail requires innovation and S&C haven’t done anything like that.

      “..I don’t know a single person who likes the changes to Queen St.” – you and I must exist in very different spaces. I’m a 50 year old working in the CBD and almost everyone I know is very happy with it! But anyway, we shouldn’t use anecdotes to resolve factual questions — has footfall on Queen St fallen since the changes.

      What’s a bigger issue is the slow speed at which landlords have sought new types of businesses to take over traditional retailers. All over the world, traditional shopping districts are changing as e-commerce has grown. More and more service-type businesses (including food, games, personal beauty, etc.) are coming up, and some of them are appearing on Queen St now, which is great news.

      1. Most of the businesses you’ve mentioned drag down city centres in the UK, Europe and the USA. They actually make the place less appealing.

        My local town centre in Buckinghamshire is a shell of the place it once was now that it is full of “cheap” nail salons and chicken shops.

    3. The only people who think Queen Street has “died” are suburbanites who don’t use downtown for anything other than commuting to/from work anyway. Those of us who actually live there know differently.

    4. I’m tired of hearing the ‘Smith & Caughey’ argument being trotted out as a justification for not pedestrianising Queen Street. The number of daily customers required to keep a department store financially viable could not possibly be carried there in cars parked in the street outside its doors.

    5. I’m one who works in the city, and i like it.

      The decline of the CBD hasn’t been caused by removal of carparks on Queen St, it’s more to do with the crime and antisocial behaviour.

    6. This re-writing of history is insane, when you can just go on google maps and look at how it used to be.

      Queen street had functionally zero parking, and there are no driveways for accessing businesses. All parking garages or side streets are accessed on other streets and are faster to get to using other routes which are still open.

      The only reason to drive on queen street was if you were lost, or were going through to somewhere else (and so wouldn’t patronise those businesses anyway)

      Comparing a suburban town center with poor public transport, versus the most well served PT destination in the country with thousands of apartments, is a very strange and tortured comparison as well.

  7. The series of open streets I wrangled in Avondale last year (after a long battle since the 2015 one on Karanga a Hape Rd) may have had something to do with bringing the concept back to the consciousness of the consenting agencies. Our matariki night ride was in its 3rd year last year and for the first time, held on a major arterial, close to cars and open to people.

    Temporary opportunities for road corridors to be used for placemaking such as this is integral to building the future culture of our city and it’s neighbourhoods.

  8. Turns out it’s actually people not loud, dirty, mostly-empty metal boxes that bring life to an area, who knew?


    1. Queen St is much better after being opened up to pedestrians!
      Once the rail link is finished, it will be thriving!

  9. I really enjoyed the street party but it was cold so headed into St Kevin’s after a bit and it was heaving in there. As it was a long weekend a number of colleagues headed off to the bach. Don’t know what you do about that? Perhaps celebrate at the very beginning of the Matariki period but not on the even of a long weekend? Anyway, more of this, please! And I prefer the more pedestrian-friendly Queen St and Te Komititanga too.

  10. Queen Street has changed very much for the better over the last 25 years I have lived nearby.
    But the epicentre has moved north by some blocks, closer to the waterfront.
    I suspect largely because of vastly improved rail access, and the new trains.
    But also redevelopment has been concentrated here.
    I am sure many though, miss their buzz of being able to cruise their cars, and competitively sprint, between the lights on the four available traffic lanes.
    For the rest of us, we enjoy having vastly improved pedestrian amenity and much better public transport access to the area.

    1. Just send all traffic down Crowhurst/Gillies. They can manage for one day. Especially if its a long weekend.

    2. The Italian festival that took over Kent Street behind the Rialto was fantastic, it was a brilliant atmosphere and very well-attended. There should definitely be more street events of that type held in the vicinity, the area is kinda perfect for it with the already high foot traffic combined with the lack of vehicle thoroughfare.

  11. Every road that is full of cars is therefore proof that more spaces need to be dedicated to vehicle traffic??
    Your logic is seriously flawed.

  12. Fantastic off peak use of k road and agree that it should be used to support the existing retailers.

    Per the Queen St comments, i walk it most days…it’s massively improved imo and there are no shortage of carparks within 100m either side of it.

    Add to that, the mid city strategic plan sees much needed investment to go along with the opening of the train stations. More commerce, cultural and community enhancements will lift the area between midtown and k road in the next decade. This is needed to support the growth in private and social housing in the area.

    I’m fully optimistic about the area.

  13. I was there. While people that there were enjoying themselves it was hardly “packed” as the writer says. It was busier than a usual Friday night (it being Thursday but the start of a weekend) but hardly that much busier

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