May 2014 Local Board Member Report

Logo croppedExecutive Summary

This report covers my Waitematā Local Board Activities during May 2014 as Deputy Chair of the Finance Committee, Deputy Chair of the Hearings Committee, Co-portfolio holder of Parks and Open Spaces, Co-portfolio holder of Heritage, Urban Design and Planning and Local Board representative on the K Road Business Association.

Parks & Open Spaces

Drinking Fountains in Parks

This project aims to reduce waste from plastic water bottles and provide better amenities for the community. The Board has committed $180,000 over three years to install drinking fountains in parks with priority given to parks with playgrounds and dog exercise areas. In the 2013/14 year, fountains will have been installed at Auckland Domain, Basque Park, Bayfield Park, Arch Hill Reserve, Herne Bay Beach, Sentinel Beach, Vermont Park, Francis Reserve, Jaggers Bush, Lemington Reserve, Alberon Reserve, Heard Park, Myers Park and Old Mill Reserve. The end of this financial year is something of a milestone as all the planned fountains will have been installed.

Tauarua/Point Resolution Plan

This plan will encompass the areas of Hobson Bay walkway (to Thomas Bloodworth Park), Point Resolution Reserve, Tauarua Point, connections to the Point Resolution Bridge and the Judges Bay pedestrian facilities between the bay and the Parnell Baths. On the 15th of May, the Board reviewed the latest iteration of designs for the draft Plan. On the 20th, we held a second round of stakeholder consultation to check in with the group on feedback incorporated into the designs. The draft final Plan will come to the Board for consultation to be approved and public consultation will carry on through July and August before coming back to the Board for final approval and adoption in August.

POP Beezthingz – Victoria Park

pop1This project is part of the POP series and is ostensibly part of the Arts and Culture Portfolio. However, the projects are also staged primarily in parks and there is one installation in particular that I feel demonstrates a sufficiently novel use of a public park to be included in this report. The ‘Bee Hotel’ pictured above is a collection of six hive boxes in the western end of Victoria Park. I attended a blessing of the bees by local iwi on 3 May. It is promising to see bees being returned to the urban environment

Park Site Inspections

The Parks portfolio holders and our Parks Advisor pay a monthly visit to a selection of parks, generally in connection with assessing needs for renewals. This month’s visit took in Tirotai Reserve, Western Springs playground by zoo, Gladstone Park and Cox’s Bay Playground.

Heritage, Urban Design & Planning

Presentation on the History of the Newton Gully Area

We heard a fascinating historical presentation by David Verran at the portfolio monthly meeting on the early European history of the area now covered by the K Rd and Newton Plan areas. Some interesting points on nomenclature: Eden Terrace so named because it was the family name of Lord Auckland; Newtown so named from ‘New Town’ as it was a distinct development apart from the downtown area; Grey Lynn was named for Sir George Grey. This was useful background to, among other things, the discussion among the Local Board about the naming of the Newton area which has a confused definition since the Central Motorway Junction carved through the area and its focal point of Newton Gully.

Heritage Foreshore Project

The aim of this project is to mark Auckland’s original shoreline based essentially on the existing foreshore trail sites. This is to mark and celebrate the pre 1840 mean high watermark (high tide) line. One of the challenges has been obtaining building owner consent to mount plaques at 33 sites. Of these, only 2 have presented difficulties.

The project consists of two phases:

Phase 1 – Display and celebrate the pre-European high tide line by marking 25 relevant points along the accurate 1840 high tide line.

Phase 2 – Place commemorative artworks at regular intervals on the trail.

Seismic Protection Project

This project aims to undertake heritage protection through development of a seismic protection project in partnership with the University of Auckland.

Heritage portfolio holders have met with the Heritage Team to confirm the project plan. An Auckland Council Property Limited property on Queen Street has been identified as a suitable building to showcase the project. Negotiations are underway with ACPL to progress as an exemplar building but a commitment has not yet been made by the Auckland Property department on undertaking the retrofit work within the next 1-2 years.

Tanya Sorrell will be working to progress phases one and two of the project, a public-facing document to make the technical engineering aspects widely understandable as well as detailed project design before the end of this financial year.

Little Grocer site, Richmond Road

After strong advocacy from Member Dempsey and I, the application for a 60-seater café and roastery at the Little Grocer site by the West Lynn shops on Richmond Road will be going to full notification. This is a win for the West Lynn community as the proposed consent is in a Res 1 area with a fine collection of well-maintained wooden, Victorian houses. The narrow side streets and difficult intersection immediately adjacent to the site militate against a development of such scale as the influx of cars will create significant parking and traffic issues. It is only appropriate that the community have a say in the consenting process for this development.

Re-Development of Downtown Shopping Centre Block and Sale of QEII Square

I was present at the joint workshop of the Auckland Development Committee of the Governing Body and the Local Board to discuss the redevelopment of the Downtown Shopping Centre block (DSC). Board Chair Chambers presented the views of the Board:

  • That an equivalent civic space be arranged to replace the loss of QEII Square which, for all its shortcomings is the meeting place for protests and demonstrations proceeding along Queen Street. As such, it is an important part of the democratic fabric of the city and must be replaced by at least an equivalent amount of space and one that is ideally of higher quality.
  • That of the options for an alternative civic space, only one was an acceptable option and that is still held by Ports of Auckland who have not yet been approached to seek their approval for this use. The other three are council-owned and have development plans already in place. One of those was actually the Quay Street crossing.
  • That the east-west passage between Lower Queen Street and Lower Albert Street be open at all times and that an easement for public access if not a legal road be created in order to guarantee free public access without the possibility of exclusion by a private landowner.

It was striking to hear the officers responsible speak so dismissively of the value of the site. This hardly seems a good strategy for obtaining a good price from the developers who wish to purchase it. In any event, the mandate of the Governing Body is different from that of the Local Board with regard to the square and the downtown area. Our role is one of place-making and ensuring local input into future plans.

Rail Heritage

The focal point of rail heritage at the moment is the Mainline Steam buildings in Parnell. There has been no response to the letter to the Mayor from the Heritage Advisory Panel and the Local Board. A very interesting presentation by Nick Seymour, Director PT Capital Improvements, Auckland Transport, on the extensive work done to restore the Remuera Rail Station. The entire building was raised 600mm and the exterior is now in pristine, restored condition although the interior still needs a lot of work and was damaged in the process of lifting the building. Papakura Rail Station: the entire station was lifted to the other side of the rails and beautifully restored to original condition. AT clearly has the capacity to do this type of detailed restoration work. The Newmarket Station Building (one of the largest of the 44 metres long with 3 metres at each end for the awnings) has been removed from the site and is currently stored in Swanson. Michael Cullen put aside $5 million aside for the restoration and replacement of the building . The Mainline Steam sheds are not in the way of the proposed location of the Parnell Station and could stay where they are without interfering with the plans for Parnell. There is a concern that Kiwirail may wish to send the Parnell building to Glenbrook. The signal box that was part of the building has been left on site and needs to be returned to the Parnell building. Cr Lee made the observation that there is an “aesthetic coherence” with the new electric trains and the heritage station buildings. I must say I agree that they are a beautiful mix of the old and the new.

Heritage Programme report from Noel Reardon at Heritage Advisory Panel Meeting: 20 May 2014

The Heritage Acquisition Programme is the single largest council investment in heritage protection. Progress is being made on the purchase of Carlile House but there are still obstacles to be negotiated. Pre-1944 building demolition overlay. In response to consent applications, 124 preliminary assessments completed; 19% went to further assessments; 2 properties have reached the threshold for scheduling (one of which was the Pt Chevalier house that was moved). 24% have been recommended for special character assessment. Auckland Heritage Survey: unfortunately the K Road assessment wasn’t completed in time to go into the draft of the Unitary Plan but it will go to the panel of commissioners for consideration as a submission. This was completed in collaboration between the Council heritage team and K Road Business Association. I made sure when this was being finalised that the Association and Tanya Sorrell of Council had refined the language of the submission to ensure that the appropriate consideration could be given to the protection of heritage on the street. Submissions for buildings to be scheduled were included.

The Karangahape Road Plan

With the planning team at St Kevin’s Arcade for the First Thursday drop-in session on 1 May

With the planning team at St Kevin’s Arcade for the First Thursday drop-in session on 1 May

The Karangahape Road Plan fits under the Local Board Plan in the hierarchy of Council plans. The timing of consultation and finalisation of the plan has been timed so that any projects arising from it can be costed in time for bids to be made for funding in the Long Term Plan. Consultation continued through May with a great presence at the First Thursdays event on 1 May in St Kevin’s Arcade. The last of the public drop-in sessions will be on 5 May, 11AM-2PM, Methodist Church, Pitt Street, Newton. Once public consultation has ended, the plan will be finalised over the remainder of May and June to be approved by the Board in July.

There has been significant media and public interest in the draft Plan. The New Zealand Herald ran a two-page spread, in which I was quoted, on 1 May using the K Rd Plan as a basis for discussion of the tensions inherent in developing an area that has developed as a function of neglect rather than deliberate planning. Although I disagree with the thesis of the article that there is an inherent conflict between character and safety, it was a reasonably even-handed coverage of the challenges facing this part of the city.

I am particularly pleased that Generation Zero have run a campaign, Support Protected Cycle Lanes on Karangahape

Saddle tags designed by the Generation Zero team for the #KRDCYCLELANES campaign as affixed to my bike

Saddle tags designed by the Generation Zero team for the #KRDCYCLELANES campaign as affixed to my bike

Road, centred around a petition, promoting dedicated cycle lanes along the full length of K Rd. I met with Niko Elsen and Luke Christensen of Generation Zero, together with the Council planning leads, and we fully support their initiative. It is exciting to have this kind of interaction between the Local Board and civil society – especially a youth-led group – to effect change for which there is a real community appetite. The petition collected over 2600 signatures. Among the signatories were 100 local businesses which is most encouraging as local retailers often present the most trenchant criticisms of cycle lanes due to concerns over the loss of parking.

Public consultation on the draft closed on the 14th and feedback summary reports have been finalised as of 30th May. The planned process timeline is now as follows:

  • 3-9 June: Meet with Subject Matter Experts to review feedback summary
  • 10 June: Hui with iwi on the precinct plans together with Puketapapa Local Board and delegated representatives from Albert-Eden Local Board
  • 17 June: Local Board Workshop to work through feedback received and suggested changes, including the implementation plan
  • 1 July: Presentation of draft ‘final plan’ content at Local Board workshop for discussion
  • 22 July: Final review by Local Board on publication version of the document at a workshop before it goes to reporting
  • 12 August: Reporting and final sign-off of plan for adoption

Events of Note

(l to r) Member Dempsey, Chair Chambers, Mayor Brown, Member Tava, Deputy Chair Coom at 1 Ponsonby Road

(l to r) Member Dempsey, Chair Chambers, Mayor Brown, Member Tava, Deputy Chair Coom at 1 Ponsonby Road

Tour of the Board Area with The Mayor

On 21 May we took a tour of highlight projects of the Local Board area with Mayor Brown. These included Ellen Melville Hall, Freyberg Square, Point Erin Pools, 254 Ponsonby Road and Artstation.

Janette Sadik-Khan at Auckland Conversations

On the evening of 26 May, I attended a long awaited talk by Janette Sadik-Khan, former Commissioner of New York City Department of Transportation from 2007-2013 under the Bloomberg administration. Her most celebrated project was a conversion of a segment of Broadway into a pedestrian plaza but this was part of a much larger body of work in which the Department of Transport would paint, measure results of and then finalise street re-designs.

This event was on another level of scale to previous Auckland Conversations I have attended, held in the Aotea Centre ASB Theatre rather than the usual side room, showing the sheer level of public interest in transport issues in Auckland. One of Sadik-Khan’s opening contentions was that “we’re not going to achieve healthy, safe, sustainable cities by planning just for cars.” Her experience in New York was that there is a “deep hunger” for public space and when a street is opened to people, they “materialise like in Star Trek.” New York is so densely populated that they experience “ped-lock” (pedestrian gridlock). A performance group painted lanes on some footpaths labelled ‘Residents’ and ‘Visitors’ as a response to the two-speed use of pavements. People actually used them.

There was huge opposition to the closing of streets and removal of parking. A lot of the initial concern was alleviated by the impermanence of installations; much of the work was done with orange barrels, paint and deck chairs. Sadik-Khan noted that the speed with which she was able to free up public space so quickly was because of the paint-on-the-road, temporary installation nature of the changes. Conventional modelling and detailed design of more permanent, built barriers and installations would have taken at least 5 years to achieve the same result. Post pedestrianisation of Times Square there was a 63% drop in motoring injuries and a 74% drop in pedestrian injuries. Mayor Bloomberg was very data-driven. One of his favourite sayings being: “In God we trust, everyone else bring data.”

Street seating is very important in a streetscape, not just for the obvious amenity but also to soften the line between pavement and street. Sadik-Khan’s team moved very quickly; 643 kilometres of cycle-lanes were created in just 6 years. A study showed that at any time, 10% of New Yorkers are lost hence a major focus on way finding. Planning regulations creating parking minimums and car-dominated streetscapes are the result of outmoded approaches: “If you were a businessperson and didn’t change your biggest capital asset for 50 years, would you still expect to be in business?” With an aging population, it is important that we provide accessible infrastructure, remembering that “we are all only temporarily able.”

Sadik-Khan identified Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as a primary funding source for transport infrastructure. This echoed the views of Professor Peter Newman, a recent previous speaker at Auckland Conversations. “Density is destiny”, transport options grow with density and become part of the real estate value. Retailers are often trenchant critics of the removal of parking spaces along streets. Sadik-Khan advises starting a dialogue with locals and retailers to discuss with them the proven value of more walking and cycling along main streets but also to keep parking where possible such as through the use of ‘Copenhagen lanes’. Final words: “You just have to find your streets. They’re hidden in plain sight.”

Meetings/Events Attended

1 May:

  • Parks portfolio site visit: Grey Lynn Park
  • First Thursdays on K Rd

3 May:

  • Blessing of the Bees
  • POP Beezthingz public workshop

6 May:

  • Local Board Workshop
    • Local Board Plan Consultation Feedback
    • Auckland Transport Update
  • Bi-Monthly meeting with Resource Consents officers Mark White and Ian Smallburn
  • Meeting with Richard Blakey on the consent for a new property in St Mary’s Bay
  • Western Bays Community Group Meeting
  • Public Meeting on a ‘Plastic Bag Free Auckland’

7 May:

  • Finance Portfolio Meeting
  • Parks Portfolio Meeting

8 May:

  • Site visit for the Cowie Street Road Extension / Newmarket Level Crossing project (Parks & Open Spaces and Transport portfolios)

The walled-up old rail tunnel was visible from the normally-inaccessible service road alongside the rail tracks below Cowie Street. This is proposed as a cycle tunnel.

  • Parks Portfolio Site Visit – visited playgrounds on the FY15 renewals list
    • Tirotai Reserve
    • Western Springs playground by zoo
    • Gladstone Park
    • Cox’s Bay Playground

13 May:

  • Open Streets Initiatives in NZ – webinar. Participated with Members Coom and Dempsey
  • AT Parking Strategy Workshop
  • Waitematā Local Board Business Meeting

14 May:

  • Resource Consent applicant presentation/seeking feedback in Parnell

15 May:

  • Joint workshop with Auckland Development Committee of Governing Body and the Local Board discussing re-development of Downtown Shopping Centre block
  • Waitematā Local Board Workshop
    • Review of latest iteration of Point Resolution Masterplan post-stakeholder consultation

19 May:

  • Meeting with Chair Chambers and Stephen Quin, landscape designer, to fine up points of the Point Resolution draft Plan before going to public consultation

20 May:

  • Waitematā Local Board Workshop
    • Smokefree policy implementation: signage locations
    • Treaty settlement workshops
    • BIDs presentation to the Local Board
      • Newmarket Business Association
      • Uptown Business Association
  • Point Resolution Plan second stakeholder meeting to present and discuss work resulting from actions from previous meeting
  • Heritage Advisory Panel meeting

21 May:

  • Mayoral Tour of the Waitematā Local Board Ward
  • Update briefing to the Local Board from Waterfront Auckland

22 May:

  • K Rd Plan catch-up
  • Grants Committee Meeting. I sat in as a non-committee member
  • Heritage, Urban Design and Planning Portfolio Meeting

23 May:

  • Speaker at an AIESEC-organised event: The Isolated Web at University of Auckland. The event is one of a series called ‘Generation Y’ run by AIESEC each semester in which lecturers (I teach a course at the Department of Planning: PLAN305 ‘Planning and Governance’) and students interact around a current topic. I spoke on ‘Civic Commons and Digital Democracy’.

24 May:

  • Presented a seminar at the inaugural Animal Lawyer’s Workshop held at University of Auckland. My presentation was entitled, The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill 2013: progressive reform or a step backwards?

26 May:

  • Attended Auckland Conversations: Janette Sadik-Khan

27 May:

  • Waitematā Local Board Workshop
    • Arts and Culture Strategic Action Plan
    • Local Board Bi-Monthly Work Programme
    • Regional Pest Management Plan
    • BIDs presentation to Local Board
      • Parnell Business Association

28 May

  • Climate Risk Management Lecture with Dr Andy Reisinger

About Vernon Tava

Barrister. Lives in Auckland, New Zealand.
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