September 2014 Local Board Member Report

Logo croppedPurpose

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

Executive Summary

  • Deliberations on the Local Board Plan were completed this month with significant input from community submitters
  • The Mayor’s proposal for the Long Term Plan 2015-2025 will have major implications for Council capital expenditure. Particularly hard-hit will be parks, libraries and community facilities facing proposed cuts of up to 39% of CAPEX
  • Ellen Melville Hall – Pioneer Women’s Centre was removed from the list of deferrals and has been funded $400,000 for 2015-16 to proceed in concert with the targeted rate-funded renovation of Freyberg Square
  • Attended the opening of the Grafton and Beach Road Cycleways
  • Attended the re-opening of O’Connell Street
  • A complete listing of the heritage-scheduled sites, buildings and trees in the Local Board area was finalised
  • Planning for a Grey Lynn/Arch Hill Community-led Design Panel was initiated. This work will be focused on the Great North Road Special Housing Area. A design study from the Built Environment Unit will be a starting point

Recommendations

That the Waitematā Local Board:

  1. Receive the Monthly Report of Member Tava

Comments Local Board Plan Hearings

On the 2nd and 3rd of this month we had hearings on the Local Board Plan. We received 213 written submissions and heard 33 submitters over the two days. These were all interesting and some were very enlightening. I was impressed by the amount of work and care that community volunteers dedicate to their causes and the public good. Submissions in the heritage, urban design and planning areas in particular have informed new work streams to be elaborated on in the portfolio review section of this report.

Grafton Cycleway Opening

It was an uncomplicated pleasure to attend the opening of the Grafton Cycleway on the morning of 6 September. I have been watching the construction of the cycleway along the edge of the Grafton Gully with great anticipation. The word ‘transformational’ is somewhat over-used in the current Council parlance but in this case it is entirely appropriate. The benefits of this project are three-fold: it forms a ‘trunk line’ in the city’s cycling network, it is a fully dedicated cycleway in a city that has for the best part of a century been given over to motorised transport, and it allows access to the forested gully that bisects the central city and has been off-limits to walkers and bike riders since the 1960s. The Grafton Cycleway (built by New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA)) connects to Beach Road Cycleway (built by Auckland Transport (AT)), Auckland’s first protected on-road cycleway.

The Grafton Cycleway connects the North-Western and Waterfront Cycleways. A joint project between NZTA and AT, it allows a bike rider to ride from Te Atatu to the Waterfront Boulevard/Tamaki Drive with only crossings on the road network (Image credit: transportblog.co.nz).

The Grafton Cycleway connects the North-Western and Waterfront Cycleways. A joint project between NZTA and AT, it allows a bike rider to ride from Te Atatu to the Waterfront Boulevard/Tamaki Drive with only crossings on the road network (Image credit: transportblog.co.nz).

This cycleway is the fruit of the combined labours of three separate groups: the cycling advocates, politicians, and the unique hybrid of planner and traffic engineer needed for these projects, ‘Plan-gineers’. Max Robitsch, one of the very talented individuals who was instrumental to this project has, in an interesting history on Auckland Transport Blog,  described Auckland as a fortified city:

What is sure to become one of Auckland's iconic views. The cycleway passes under the span of Grafton Bridge on the way into the city.

What is sure to become one of Auckland’s iconic views. The cycleway passes under the span of Grafton Bridge on the way into the city.

‘[O]ne surrounded by a “moat” on three sides, and the coast on the fourth. Except that this moat doesn’t contain water, but traffic. Speeding traffic, noisy traffic, fuming traffic, jammed traffic, depending on time of day. It works well as a defense against cyclists and pedestrians! Like any good fortified city, the city centre has only a few limited entrances. And unless you do what the original designers of those gateways intended you to do – arrive in a metal box – access can be somewhere between inconvenient and daunting.’

The Prime Minister, John Key, riding with the Mayor, Len Brown.

The Prime Minister, John Key, riding with the Mayor, Len Brown.

The project started as a result of the persistent advocacy of  Cycle Action Auckland  (CAA), led by an indefatigable Barbara Cuthbert, to the NZTA. NZTA understood that they had long neglected cycling in Auckland and although they didn’t own land in the central city, they did own the land around the motorway junction encircling the city. In a pragmatic compromise, CAA worked with NZTA to plan for the cycleway connection in its current place. That plan was shelved in 2011 when NZTA had cash-flow issues but CAA revived the idea in 2012 and found a receptive audience in the unitary Auckland Council which was now prepared to treat the route more like a park and an urban design opportunity than simply a transport corridor.  AT  revived older plans for Beach Road cycle facilities to connect the Grafton Cycleway to the Waterfront Boulevard that had just been announced by Waterfront Auckland.

Waitemata Local Board Chair, Shale Chambers, Member Vernon Tava, Member Christopher Dempsey, Mayor Len Brown and Deputy Chair, Pippa Coom, by the Wellesley Street underpass.

Waitemata Local Board Chair, Shale Chambers, Member Vernon Tava, Member Christopher Dempsey, Mayor Len Brown and Deputy Chair, Pippa Coom, by the Wellesley Street underpass.

The Waitematā Local Board has championed the project from its inception and has been particularly activist in the past year urging AT to ensure that the Beach Road Cycleway was completed in time to connect with the Grafton Cycleway at the time it was officially opened. There was some doubt in the early months of 2014 as to whether this would happen but staunch advocacy particularly from Local Board Chair, Shale Chambers, and Deputy Chair and Transport Portfolio lead, Pippa Coom, got it done.

Beach Road Cycleway, Auckland's first fully-protected cycleway, connects the Grafton Cycleway to Britomart and the Waterfront Boulevard.

Beach Road Cycleway, Auckland’s first fully-protected cycleway, connects the Grafton Cycleway to Britomart and the Waterfront Boulevard.

So, what’s it like to ride on? Very smooth with plenty of room to manoeuvre around walkers and bike riders coming from the other direction. The path is four metres wide most of the way, down to three metres at pinch points. There are some rather steep sections, in parts up to 6% grade, but they are short and are more than made up for by the beautiful, long descent into the city when riding northward along the cycleway. Beach Road Cycleway, Auckland’s first fully-protected cycleway, connects the Grafton Cycleway to Britomart and the Waterfront Boulevard.

Re-Opening of O’Connell Street 1488205_732276336825929_3273561099826707385_n

It was one of the highlights of the month to see the O’Connell Street shared space officially re-opened and turned over entirely to people for the night. Paid for by the city centre targeted rate, this is not the first shared space in Auckland but it is certainly one of the most beautiful, lined by architectural gems such as Administrator House and The General Building. I look forward to seeing Bledisloe Lane and Federal Street launched as shared spaces later this year. Other features of the street include new stone seats containing information on the street’s heritage. There are also special pavers marking the line of the original eastern side where construction teams discovered the foundations of the original properties during the upgrade. fort holeThe street has a strong ‘full-stop’ at the southern end, punctuated by the Metropolis building. The view looking north, however, is less complete. The old Auckland Star building that occupied the facing site on the other side of Shortland Street would have been a beautiful view but it was demolished in 1989, after many years of neglect, for a development that never eventuated. It has been one of Auckland’s post-’87 holes since then, being used as a rather pricey carpark. Early this year (see March 2014 Member Report) a consent was granted for a three-storey carparking building with an active frontage on Fort and Shortland Streets. I objected to this use strongly when the Local Board was consulted but the consent was granted. The site is hugely important as it is the punctuation for Commerce Street, right down to the water, as well as for O’Connell Street. We will be advocating for a better use of the site and if a later consent is granted for more height, will strongly recommend that the view to the water be given full consideration along with its built context.

Budget Deferrals in the Long Term Plan Deliberations – Ellen Melville / Pioneer Women’s

At the Finance and Performance Committee meeting of 24 September, final decisions were made on the deferral of regional and local board projects. Officers had been asked to deliver savings by deferring any projects that did not meet a strict criteria of being required for urgent health and safety renewals, already legally committed, growth-related, in tender process, representing cost savings, revenue generating, or renewals. $35 million in cuts were proposed by staff in August but councillors requested they be referred to local boards for review. The boards came back with proposals to limit referrals to $21 million but staff recommended $30 million, which was approved by the committee. $72 million of regional projects were also cut. The officers’ recommendation to defer the Ellen Melville/Pioneer Women’s Hall project in full as an uncommitted project in accordance with the standard criteria was one of very few local projects reversed and supported with the necessary $400k budget retained in the 2014/15 budget to enable the project to proceed in tandem with the Freyberg Square targeted rate project this year. The motion was moved by Cr Ross Clow, seconded and well-supported by our Cr Mike Lee. This implies support for the project budget being provided for (out of presently non-existent proposed budget) next year for it to be completed. Board Chair, Shale Chambers, did an outstanding job putting in the ground work to gain Governing Body level and officer support for this position in advance of the meeting. The vote was won 9-9 (10) on the chair, Penny Webster’s, casting vote.

Portfolio Report: Parks & Open Spaces Implications of Mayor’s Proposal for Long Term Plan 2015-2025

It has been a sobering few weeks for Waitematā Local Board as we discuss the implications of the Mayor’s proposal for the Long Term Plan 2015-2025 (LTP). The LTP is Council’s budget for the next ten years and it is being shaped primarily to keep the average rates rise to between 2.5% and 3.5% for the next three years while paying for the City Rail Link. At the same time, Council will be attempting to eliminate the differential between residential and business rates. This will require major cuts to Council spending. The ‘theme’ that will be most hard hit is ‘Parks, Community and Lifestyle’ (PC&L). This includes Parks and Recreation and Community Development and Culture (CDaC) which includes libraries. The proposed budget reduction to the capital programme in this theme is a massive 39% for the next 5 years. This goes beyond a temporary reduction in spending; it will cost jobs and as a result will seriously reduce capacity for much longer than the 5 years for which spending is cut.

Resolutions of the September Business Meeting

Five parks projects were advanced at the September Business Meeting of the Local Board. I would like to acknowledge and thank our Parks Advisor, Mark Miller, for completing so many decision reports in a short amount of time. Summaries of the resolutions follow:

  • WTM/2014/160 Point Resolution/Taurarua: Approving the Point Resolution Taurarua Development Plan for public consultation and delegating final consultation plan to portfolio holders.
  • WTM/2014/161 Highwic Garden: Approving the Highwic Garden Interpretation Plan; approving $15,000 CAPEX already allocated for signage; referring consideration of $43,020 approx. CAPEX as 2014/15 or 2015/16 LIPs project to LIPs officers and Finance Committee or alternatively as part of LTP deliberations; referring consideration of allocation of additional $4,000 OPEX for development of website/mobile applications as a 2014/15 or 2015/16 LIPs project to LIPs officers and Finance Committee; referring consideration of replica Summer House, audio interpretation and external directional signage to LTP deliberations.
  • WTM/2014/162 Costley Reserve Playground: Endorsing developed design of Costley Playground; allocating $50,000 CAPEX from 2014/15 Playground Upgrade Budget to Costley Reserve Playground upgrade; transferring upgrade budget, including LIPs funds to Parks for completion.
  • WTM/2014/163 Weona-Westmere Walkway: Endorsing preferred option of commencing walkway by implementing resource consent conditions (site clearance, basic track formation and fencing) and considering walkway infrastructure as part of the LTP deliberations in 2015; approving $445,000 CAPEX from the Board’s existing Weona Walkway Project 2014/15 budget to implement resource consent conditions this financial year.
  • WTM/2014/164 Grey Lynn Park: Approving the Grey Lynn Park Development Plan for public consultation; delegating to Transport lead and Parks & Open Spaces lead to approve final Grey Lynn Park Greenways Plan for consultation; delegating final community consultation plan to Parks & Open Spaces portfolio.

Western Park Development Plan

A pre-consultation meeting invitation was sent to the 13 iwi of the Local Board area. Ngati Whātua o Ōrakei, Te Kawerau ā Maki, Ngaitai ki Tāmaki, Ngati Maru, Ngati Paoa iwi responded. Representatives from Ngati Whātua o Ōrakei, Ngaitai ki Tāmaki, Ngati Maru and Te Waka Angamua attended a hui held on 30 September at our offices. The draft Development Plan will go to the Local Board’s December Business meeting to be approved for public consultation.

Portfolio Report: Heritage, Urban Design & Planning Acting Portfolio Lead

For the month of September I have been the portfolio lead. As well as the usual workload of commenting upon planning and liquor licencing applications, I have led the following initiatives:

Community-led Design Panel with Arch Hill and Grey Lynn Community

Great North Road running through Arch Hill from the corner of Ponsonby Road to Surrey Crescent presents one of the last great opportunities for intensified residential development in the inner suburbs. Aligned as it is along the ridge of mostly car yards and light industrial buildings built post-1960s, there is room for the construction of apartment buildings and terrace houses with little in the way of urban amenity being lost along the street frontage. However, some sensitive design must be employed because on either side of the ridge are the Victorian villas and wooden houses that make the area unique. Any development along the ridge needs to take careful account of the heritage slopes to its north and south. The community in the area have been galvanised by the Bunnings development, a large-scale, ‘big box’ development that was consented without public notification in 2012. Three apartment buildings have now been consented along Great North Road at six storeys (i.e. heights over 20 metres), when the height limit in the operative District Plan is four storeys at 15 metres and in the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP) at the slightly lower Terrace Housing and Apartment Building (THAB) zoning of 13.5-14.5 metres. The area has also been declared an Auckland Housing Accord Special Housing Area with limited notification and rights of appeal. The Grey Lynn Residents Association, Arch Hill Residents and Grey Lynn Business Association each submitted to the Local Board Plan hearings that they wanted to establish a ‘community-led design panel’. I think this is an idea with real merit and, given that there is no plan for the Great North Road SHA area, a valuable opportunity to have a real community-developed vision for the street. I have met with the heads of Grey Lynn & Arch Hill Residents Associations and Grey Lynn Business Association to initiate this. The Built Environment Unit (BEU), a department of Council with responsibility for urban design planning, will use the 15 hours that is allocated each year to the Local Board to do a design study on the Great North Road SHA area and this will form a basis for the community-led discussion.

Complete Listing of Heritage Buildings and Trees in the Waitemata Local Board Area

I have requested a comprehensive list of all Heritage-listed sites in the Local Board area, broken down by suburb. Assembling this list was a more difficult undertaking than anticipated and I thank Trina Thompson, the Local Board’s Senior Advisor, for completing the task. The list includes A-listed & B-listed buildings and sites as well as scheduled trees. I have also requested a list of sites proposed to be protected under the Unitary Plan. These lists will be provided to community heritage groups in each of the Local Board area suburbs so that they can recommend any sites they believe should be listed and also any that they believe should be upgraded from a B to an A-listing. The portfolio will take these recommendations under advisement and advocate as per our Local Board Plan for these to be scheduled and/or upgraded to be investigated by the Heritage department of Council.

K Road Plan

The K Road protected cycleway has been put on a shortlist of priority projects to be investigated with a target of implementation of a trial cycleway by the end of 2014. The final draft for publication is expected to be ready for sign off at the Local Board business meeting in November.

Meetings/Events Attended

2 September:

  • Local Board Plan Hearings

3 September:

  • Local Board Plan Hearings
  • Meeting with AT representatives on Newmarket Rail Crossing
  • City Centre Integration Group workshop re: QEII Square

4 September:

  • Parks Portfolio monthly meeting
  • Finance & LIPS Committee meeting
  • K Road Plan catch-up with planning staff

6 September:

  • Grafton Cycleway Opening

9 September:

  • City Centre Waterfront Building Height and Form Strategy
  • Local Board Plan Deliberations Workshop
  • Local Board Business Meeting

10 September:

  • Swimming Pool Exemptions site visit
  • Swimming Pool Exemptions hearings

11 September:

  • Local Board workshop
    • G2 Greenways
    • Parnell Rail Station
    • Final K Road Plan Presentation
    • Newton Plan update
    • AT update

16 September:

  • Formal deliberations to resolve directions on  Local Board Plan
  • Local Board workshop
    • Finalising Local Board Plan following deliberations workshop
  • K Road Business Association meeting

17 September:

  • K Road Plan Catch-Up with planning staff
  • Urban Design 101
  • Meeting with Libby McLeay and Grafton residents about the Grafton Special Housing Area

18 September:

  • Parnell Heritage AGM

19 September

  • O’Connell Street Re-Opening

23 September:

  • Local Board Workshop
    • Long Term Plan phase 2 workshop
  • Boroughs Project meeting
  • K Road Plan meeting with officers

25 September

  • Auckland Conversations: Auckland As A Design-Led City

30 September

  • Local Board Workshop
    • LTP Phase 2 Workshop
      • Project prioritisation
      • Advocacy – streamlining and advocacy
    • AT Update
      • Parnell Rise and Parnell Road Cycle Lanes
      • Ponsonby Road Plan Implementation – Raised pedestrian tables
    • Seddon Fields Traffic and Parking
  • Western Park Development Plan: pre-consultation with iwi
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About Vernon Tava

Business broker, elected member of Auckland Council. Focused on sustainability. Lives in Auckland, New Zealand.
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