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Heart of the City Feedback to the City Centre Master Plan (CCMP)

Submission
Friday 29 Nov 2019

Introduction

Heart of the City is the business association for the city centre, which includes more than 4000 commercially rated properties and 12,000+ businesses. We are committed to the growth and success of the city centre as a vibrant, accessible, safe and welcoming urban community.

Overall

Heart of the City welcomes the opportunity to provide feedback on the City Centre Master Plan (CCMP) refresh. To date we have seen the benefit of the significant public sector investment that has occurred in the city centre in recent years, guided by the CCMP 2012.

We are positive about some of the new ideas that have emerged through the CCMP 2019 refresh process, particularly the Access for Everyone (A4E) concept, the idea of better connecting the city centre to the east with the SH16/Grafton Gully/Strand concept that is emerging and ideas that will ensure the city will be differentiated genuinely from other cities.

We have already provided feedback through the Auckland City Centre Advisory Board (ACCAB) and through our day to day work and in this document we focus on key principles rather than detailed references to sections of the document. 

We are pleased Council has taken on board feedback to bring the CCMP and Waterfront Plan together into one document.  However, we do not believe the Plan has gone far enough with its aspiration for the waterfront. The city needs to be bolder and more aspirational in terms of unlocking one of the city’s most important assets and Heart of the City believes that the CCMP is where this should be articulated.

The Plan should include the land occupied by the port to ensure that there is a holistic and aspirational plan for this prime land that can effectively guide investment over time.  This is also important to ensure there is sufficient mixed use development to cope with projected growth in the city centre.  We have outlined below an existing idea that could be utilised to achieve this collaboratively.

We broadly support the intent of the refreshed CCMP although we believe work is needed in how it is presented and communicated to ensure it inspires people to work together to achieve it.

We also note that the plan assumes the introduction of Light Rail along Queen Street during the lifetime of the plan. Heart of the City supports the development of rapid transit to ease congestion and transform our rapidly growing city, however there is currently much uncertainty about this project. Given this, we want to ensure that the transformational move A4E, developed in response to the proposed implementation of Light Rail, remains a priority across the council family for further development and trialling irrespective of the status, timing and future of Light Rail.

Delivery of the CCMP 2012 has been slow and consideration needs to be given to prioritising projects, collaboration from the outset, construction methods and funding in order to optimise results.   It is also important that project funding includes an appropriate component for development response and mitigating the impact of construction on impacted businesses.   

   

Our feedback

Data & Targets

Data and its utilisation is vital in developing a smart city and we’d like to see this become integral to city centre planning. 

There should also be measurable targets included as a separate section in the document, supported by regular progress reports. Progress reports could also include project specific KPIs – such as results of the High Street pilot project.

There will need to be more data collection points installed across the city centre (for example, walking, cycling, scooters, vehicle movements and air quality).

Priorities, funding and implementation:

We note that the Long Term Plan (LTP) process, as well as the City Centre Targeted Rate (CCTR) programme, with input from the Auckland City Centre Advisory Board (ACCAB), will determine funding priorities for the identified transformational moves. Whilst we note that the CCMP is set up to be a “starting point for further consideration” we believe that the transformational moves should be prioritised, with indicative timeframes for implementation, and confirmation of funding status.

Strategic Outcomes:

Overall, we are broadly supportive of the ten strategic outcomes that have been updated to shape the overall vision and have made brief comments only below.

Accessible City Centre

We are supportive of giving focus to improving access to the city centre, and we are particularly heartened that the plan recognises the importance of improving access for servicing and loading. There must be investment, innovation and collaboration to address the significant and growing issues around access, particularly for business servicing into and around the city centre.

Sustainable City Centre

We are supportive of the need for the introduction of a Zero emission area in the Waihorotiu Queen Street Valley, and recognise that A4E is a concept that could help deliver on this objective.

Liveable city centre

There are specific references to safety and homelessness under this outcome. Heart of the City notes that these are also important issues for the wider city centre community (visitors, students and workers in addition to residents) and city centre perceptions, and this is substantiated by our own qualitative and quantitative research. We ask that there is reference in the plan to the wider city centre community in respect to these particular issues.  

Prosperous City Centre

We’d like to reiterate the importance of ensuring the city centre is prosperous, particularly as it is showing as the last outcome.   

We have a growing night-time economy in the city centre which generates more than $450m per annum in spend. There is an opportunity to harness and capitalise on this growth and develop a vibrant and positive night-time experience. To do this it is imperative that we have a safe and accessible city centre, with well-lit public spaces and streets, and diverse activity that considers the needs of the whole city centre community. This thinking should be incorporated into the CCMP.

Heart of the City would like to see a specific reference to the night-time economy included in the CCMP, noting that it naturally aligns with the Prosperous City Centre, Accessible City Centre & Liveable City Centre outcomes.

With particular reference to the table on page 27, the document outlines "Traffic congestion threatening the appeal of the city centre as a business location”. We'd recommend specifically noting initiatives to support enhancing servicing and loading in the response, as this is a key driver of A4E, and is a significant issue for business (reference Gravitas survey 2017, commissioned by Auckland Transport with support from Heart of the City).

Transformational moves

Overall, we are broadly supportive of the transformational moves, with the exception of the Waterfront and Harbour Edge Stitch.  High level comments are noted below.

Maori Outcomes

We are pleased that there is a greater focus on increasing Mana Whenua presence, Māori identity and life into the city centre and waterfront.

We note that the “Papa Kōkiri” does not appear to be identified in the Harbour Edge Stitch and therefore it is not clear how this idea is integrated into the wider plan for the waterfront. We talk about this in more detail in our commentary about the integration of the Waterfront Plan under the Harbour Edge Stitch section below.

East and West Stitch

Albert Street Tunnels: We are pleased to see the inclusion of the Albert Street tunnels project into this transformational move. It is an innovative and interesting idea that could unlock access on the eastern side of the city and become an appealing city centre destination. 

The East: The emerging concept for Grafton Gully and the Strand could address the issues of congestion, particularly freight, and pedestrian severance between Parnell and the north-east of the city centre. We are supportive of this idea being taken forward for further investigation.

Consideration will need to be given to flexible design to future proof any changes, such as a reduction in freight traffic that could come from any changes at POAL.

Waihoritiu Queen Street Valley

We are supportive of the A4E concept, which has emerged out of the need to respond to city access and operational changes that the proposed Light Rail would require. Given the uncertainty of timing and status of Light Rail, we believe moving forward with further developing and trialling of the A4E concept should not be predicated on Light Rail proceeding.

We are supportive of trialling changes to Queen Street to provide more pedestrian priority, as well as continuing with trials in High Street, which will support the delivery of the Low Emissions Zone.  These trials will need to be fully integrated with the Auckland Transport Freight Strategy and Auckland Council will need to establish a city centre waste strategy in support of the A4E concept.

Retaining positive perceptions of access for the city centre is critical at a time of significant construction. Therefore it will be paramount that trials consider all access needs including: servicing and loading, essential vehicles access such as taxis, mobility parking and acknowledge that some people will still want to be able to drive into the city centre.

We also recognise that we are in a city in transition and change cannot just simply happen overnight. There must be adequate investment and commitment to support these changes across the council family.

We note the reference to the development of the Aotea Master Plan which Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) is responsible for delivering. We expect that the masterplan will take into account the area beyond Aotea Square (which is the current remit of RFA).  It is important that it integrates with the other areas in the Aotea quarter (such as the central library and we hope in the future an operational St James theatre) and considers the significant investment and changes coming with the Aotea Station, and possible Light Rail on Queen Street.

Rapid Transit Oriented Development

Rapid transit development must be considered holistically in terms of how the city centre functions and integrates into wider transport plans.  Proactive consideration must also be given regarding how best to leverage investment in major new infrastructure, such as the City Rail Link stations, across the public and private sectors. 

Waterfront and Harbour Edge Stitch  

One of the major omissions of the CCMP is a holistic and aspirational masterplan for the wider waterfront, including the land occupied by the port. While decisions about the port have yet to be made, it is clear the port will eventually move and we are concerned about ongoing short-term decisions that are detrimental to the city – for example, mooring dolphins off Queen’s Wharf and the covered carpark on Bledisloe Wharf.  Such decisions are a blight on our beautiful waterfront and must be avoided.

The waterfront is one of our city’s best assets and Aucklanders love it – often putting up ideas to develop it that unfortunately generate discussion and then gather dust.  This must stop and we believe there is an opportunity that could be used to work towards a holistic masterplan.

Developing the waterfront is not just a ‘nice to do’.  With the level of projected growth in the city centre we don’t have sufficient public space, housing or infrastructure to support this growth. 

For many years, there has been discussion about a cultural centre on the waterfront and a downtown stadium.  Heart of the City would like to see both ideas evaluated, along with other aspirations for the waterfront and engagement with Aucklanders.  Agreed concepts would be included within the CCMP.    

We believe the collaborative model behind the “crater” concept proposed for Bledisloe Wharf could be used to:

  • bring clarity about the future of a stadium/entertainment hub and a cultural centre; and
  • provide valuable input to develop a holistic and aspirational CCMP that maximises the value and future use of the waterfront and can be used to guide investment.

The “crater” consortium proposes a collaborative NZ Inc approach involving stakeholders to determine the best outcome for the future of the city

While the concept proposed for the stadium is iconic (a finalist in the 2019 World Architecture Festival Awards), we agree it must be evaluated through a thorough feasibility study that evaluates the key proposals currently up for discussion.  Feasibility would include the assessment of future needs and use of a facility like this to ensure it is future proofed.

Access for Everyone

Heart of the City supports the idea of Access for Everyone. It is bold and innovative and based on a concept of improving access to the city for all whilst reflecting the needs of an evolving city centre, where space is becoming increasingly contested. The concept will require significant involvement from the community and stakeholders, as well as testing and trialling to prove that this is the right idea for the city centre. We are supportive that it prioritises people movement whilst also identifying the critical need to accommodate essential movements for city operations to support vital business servicing and loading.

We have appreciated the opportunity to be involved in the early development of the concept and look forward to ongoing involvement as the idea is taken forward.

We would like:

  • Clarification on where taxis/rideshare fit within the A4E components as there is no specific reference under any of the three components in the summary document. We would expect this should fit under Component 2: Public Transport Priority.
  • City management & operations: Whilst A4E looks at the physical changes in the streets to support a shift in the way the city works, it also recognises that there is a need for changes to be made to specific city operations – such as better kerbside management, loading and delivery timeframes, waste etc. We understand that Auckland Transport is in the process of developing a freight strategy and this includes a city centre element to it. Please ensure that A4E is integrated and considered as part of its development.
  • Waste Strategy: In our discussions with Council as part of the A4E development we have identified the need for the development of a city centre waste strategy that would take a holistic approach to thinking about waste. This would consider how to deal with waste on the street and look at innovative ways of reducing waste in the city.
  • Future proofing:  Given that A4E is still at conceptual stage, we would like to understand how this is being integrated or considered within the city centre projects that are currently programmed to be rolled out, including any planned transport projects.   
  • Trials and testing: We are supportive of initiating trials to test the A4E concept, especially given it can be done with reduced impact and disruption as the first stage of the High Street pilot project has recently demonstrated. This can include place-based trialling such as on High Street and Queen Street, but also trialling ideas around waste and kerbside (and off street) management.

Yours sincerely,

Viv Beck

Chief Executive, Heart of the City