Gone is the concept of Britomart as the city's, if not the nation's, major transport hub. Quay Street is to become a boulevard for pedestrians and cyclists. No buses, no cars, no taxis, no easy way to get to the hospitals, no tour buses, no parking. Bugger the thousands of cruise ship tourists who want to take a day trip around Auckland or spend a few days in the regions. Bugger all Waiheke wanting to get to the airport, work, hospitals, their friends and family.
“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a great waterfront and city centre, and we need the best designers working with us as we develop our proposals to transform this area,” Deputy Mayor and Auckland Development Committee Chair Penny Hulse said. And just how is this supposed to keep the city moving exactly?
When you’re trudging through the beggars and muggers that will people the Quay St area as they did before it became a transport hub; when there’s a howling gale and not a cyclist or pedestrian in sight except for the commuters walking a few extra blocks to get to the ferry; when it’s full of drunks, druggies, and party goers in the height of summer, remember who put them there - a south Auckland Mayor, a west Auckland Deputy Mayor and a Waiheke Local Board and Councillor who don’t give a toss about representing your interests.
The artist’s drawings look pretty but they hide a reality that was well known to Waiheke residents in the late nineties before innovative city leaders created the hub we have now. The Mayor will throw the baby out with the bathwater because the planners don’t understand, and have no intention of making the effort to understand, what this area means to commuters who daily pass through.
There was a deluge of complaints to me as transport spokesperson on the former Local Board from Waiheke residents when access to ferry, bus and train services was disrupted during the Rugby World Cup and various events closed off the area. I made strong representations to Auckland Transport and ATEED (who controlled events) to get their act together and ensure access was maintained. Mike Lee told me there wasn’t an issue until I showed him the dozens of emails I’d received. Even then, as ever, he did nothing.
There is one lone voice on Council furious that Quay St is back on the agenda, and that is Orakei Councillor Cameron Brewer. He has asked “Where are the 30,000 cars per day going to go?” Ooops, they hadn’t thought about that. Anyway they don’t care because we’re talking cars not bikes.
Given that the future of the CRL (City Rail Link) is looking shaky, you’d have to wonder why the Mayor and planners are messing with the area until there’s some certainty. If it ever gets the go ahead they’re going to have to dig it up all over again. But that's our profligate mayor for you. Like a bull in a china shop he’s charging ahead and doesn’t give a toss what gets broken in the onslaught or how much of our money he wastes in the process. Anyway, he lives in south Auckland so his mess will be someone else’s problem – and that’s you and me.