The Mayor plans to dismantle Auckland City Council’s multi-billion dollar legacy that is the Britomart transport interchange. Britomart was the vision of successive Auckland City mayors; underwent extensive public consultation; was the subject of an international design competition and took a decade to complete. Those who lived, worked and used the area daily during its time as a mall will remember the dead centre of Auckland that was QE Square before Britomart – dangerous at night and a place for muggers and dropouts. They will also remember the decade of disruption to Quay, Queen and Custom Streets while the train line was being extended into the city centre from its former Beach Rd terminus. The result (apart from the ferry piers and Queens Wharf, which still need a lot of work) is a well functioning transport hub connecting rail, bus and ferry services. Just what one expects from an international city.
For Waiheke in particular, Britomart has proved a great boon, a veritable lifeline. Easy access to hospitals, universities, work, schools, friends, family and domestic and international travel links has made the lifestyle choice of living on the island even more attractive. At the same time the island’s economy has thrived because of easy efficient access to and from the city for tourists. QE Square is easy to traverse and businesses have slowly recovered from the Britomart construction chaos. The formerly blighted area is now thriving.
But now the Mayor of Manukau wants to make his mark on our central city. Ignorant of the history of the transport centre; the needs of central city dwellers, commuters and visitors and all those who rely on Britomart and downtown and the services they provide, he, and his equally naive Deputy Mayor, have decided to change it all. Oblivious to the many millions of dollars that have already been invested and the Auckland City legacy, only 12 years since the ribbon was cut to open the transport centre, the Mayor prepares to dismantle it. Make no mistake it’s the Mayor’s ‘vision’. The planners and consultants are simply there to make it happen. The plan is to rip up downtown; move the buses out of lower Queen St, scattering them about the adjoining streets; make the area a construction zone for another decade of disruption and all to make way for the City Rail Link, at least, a $5 billion project, which primarily benefits west Auckland.
So focussed is Loopy Len on the destruction of the Britomart transport centre, yet another expensive downtown redesign, and the City Rail Loop (CRL) that he has thrown the baby out with the bathwater and will bankrupt the city in the process.
Here is former Auckland Regional Councillor and Chair of the Regional Land Transport Strategy Committee, Joel Cayford on the subject:
I write here as a former Chair of Transport (North Shore City for 3 years, Auckland Regional Council for 3 years) and as a strong supporter of public transport investment. While the Mayor’s determination is laudable, his lack of experience in city-building is on display, and the risks that arise from his actions and aspirations (presuming they are supported by councillors) will be borne by the city and its citizens – not by him or them. These risks include putting our few transport eggs into one basket thus ensuring good public transport services remain unavailable for decades to those outside that basket; hoisting Auckland’s debt level even higher and foisting debt repayment obligations on future
Given the affordability of the CRL, the low hanging fruit public transport priority needs to be to deliver the frequency and promise that can be obtained from the new frequent bus sections of the network, which require modest investments in key sections (bus priority lanes, other priority measures such as priority signalling, some network interchange stations, extended lanes, corridor widening, and additional bus stops and shelters).
I understand that all of these bus network corridor improvements have been planned and await funding in a package of works that will cost about $200 million, but that this package is being stalled because of the perceived priority of the CRL. Under the mayor’s current direction, the CRL project is becoming a black hole. All consuming. Surely it's a priority for South Aucklanders to benefit from the promised frequent bus service.
The CRL will not get the city moving. In fact just the opposite will happen. Loopy Len needs to listen to people of real experience - like Joel Cayford. Goodness knows your first Waiheke Local Board made all these points and more on numerous occasions to both the Mayor and his design team. He wasn’t listening then and I doubt he’ll listen now. That’s the problem with these grandiose schemes. They get a life of their own – and need a bank balance of their own. The Mayor’s well and truly nailed his colours to the CRL mast. I hope he gets hoisted by his own petard in the process.