Viv Beck: Dolphins, car parks and other shemozzles
This message from Viv was published as a column in the NZ Herald on 30 April 2019.
Just a few months out from our local body elections, this has not been a good week in the quest for smart leadership to avoid ad hoc decisions as Auckland's city centre transforms.
First, plans were announced to sell off inner city carparking buildings when they are a critical piece of the transformation to a pedestrian-friendly and innovative city centre. As on-street parking is given over to people, these conveniently located buildings provide affordable short-stay parking for people who need to come to the city by car. They can also be used to radically change how we do things – think courier and freight hubs, bike parking, recycling hubs, electric charging centres and more.
Second, it was a sad moment to hear that we will have ugly mooring dolphins hanging off the end of Queen's Wharf for the next 15 years. Sure, it's better than the 35 years Panuku initially asked for but it's disappointing that it's come to this when Captain Cook Wharf is earmarked to be the home for large cruise ships. Getting those cars off faster so Queen's Wharf can become the People's Wharf, as intended, would have made it more palatable news.
And third, it was disappointing to read the chief executive of Ports of Auckland bemoaning that he wasn't told about the impact of the works on Quay St.
It's true this is a shemozzle and Heart of the City, too, continues to raise concerns about the impact on traffic through the transition to a beautiful waterfront boulevard. But, in our long-standing call for a co-ordinated approach across the council group, the CEO's comment is the last thing we needed to hear. Issues between council organisations should be sorted out early and directly so we can have confidence that these changes are being managed as well as possible. This lesson should also have been learned by now with the City Rail Link in Albert St.
Fortunately, it was not all bad news for our city this week. In rural New Zealand over Easter, I spoke to a man who could see all the benefits of what is happening in Auckland's city centre. As an entrepreneur he is excited watching what he called the only true international city in New Zealand take shape. We share his optimism. We can see the transformation literally taking place under our feet. We support public transport and the growth in usage is fantastic. I can recall a time not that long ago when I wouldn't accept a job that didn't offer a car park. Now it wouldn't even occur to me to ask for one. My proximity to work hasn't changed, only my attitude to using public transport.
Not everyone has access to public transport. This will take time and it may never happen completely. But options like ride share will become more readily available to provide access in new ways. In the meantime, we need to ensure access to the city's heart is maintained so everyone can come in to enjoy the events, the dining, the shopping, the entertainment and, not least our beautiful waterfront. And to ensure property owners can get their buildings serviced and businesses can get their deliveries as space for service vehicles becomes scarcer.
We also appreciate that change is not easy – there is a lot to do and growth is happening on all fronts. Things are never going to be perfect but they can and must be better.
The chief executive of Auckland Council commented honestly in a rare interview that co-ordination is not perfectly seamless across the council group and they will keep working on it. Awareness is the first sign of action, so I urge them to hurry along and knock down those silos. An inspiring, cohesive city centre masterplan that includes the land occupied by Ports of Auckland will be an excellent start. And please, Auckland Council, leave those carparks alone when the decision is made this week.