Unanimous vote to support Skypath

Skypath presentation with Richard HillsYesterday Auckland Council voted unanimously to support a Private Public Partnership funding model to deliver the Skypath project.  This now clears the way for a walking and cycling connection to finally be built on the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

At the Finance and Performance Committee meeting I was privileged to  speak in support on behalf of the Waitematā Local Board (the full report to Council is available here):

Happy smiles after the Skypath vote
Happy smiles after the Skypath vote

Thank you for the opportunity to speak in support of the PPP proposal in front of you today. I’m Pippa Coom Deputy Chair of the Waitematā Local Board joined by  member Richard Hill who will also present on behalf of the Kaipatiki Local Board.  Chair, Shale Chambers would have liked to have been here but gives his apologies.

We have been unflagging supporters of Skypath since day one of the Super City.  Our consistent support is found in our Local Board plan and each year as an advocacy position in our Local Board Agreement (extensively consulted on with our communties through the formal consultation process).    I would like to acknowledge those who have worked so tirelessly on this project over a long period of time (*listed below).

Support from the Waitematā community is strong.  You will have seen the map of submitters .    Of 63 submitters in St Marys Bay all are in support. In Freemans Bay 133 submitted in support.   In Herne Bay there is only one household in opposition .  From the  LTP consultation  558 submitters  specifically mentioned Skypath as a project with 485 in support.

The St Marys Bay Association  statement of position on Skypath notes they agree in principle to walking and cycling connection, note that there are technical and viability concerns but note that these technical issues can be resolved through NZTA licence to use process.  They also say the concerns raised by NRA about Council’s legal ability to fund Skypath are properly matters for Council.

The benefits to the Waitematā community are numerous:

  • Improved transport options to the North shore
  • Less congestion and less impact on the environment
  • Improved health and wellbeing of residents and greater productivity
  • Create the conditions for stronger local economies
  • Make both sides of the bridge more liveable
  • Opportunities to recognise mana whenua connections at  Pt Erin

I recommend NZ Govt/  NZTA’s recently published document Benefits of investing in cycling in New Zealand communities a comprehensive analyisis of the  key benefits of investing in cycling, for councils, communities and individuals.

These benefits return not just to Waitematā but to the wider Auckland region as Skypath plugs into a wider and  growing network of cycleways.  Like ATEED  we are also excited by the tourism potential.  I guarantee that no tourist will leave Auckland before experiencing Skypath and on to the harbour circuit.  It will be one of the must do attractions in NZ.  

Concerns have been raised about parking.   But I think parking issues have been over played and are based on the assumption that the Skypath experience starts and ends at the foot of the bridge.    Skypath is a missing connection of a much wider and growing network .  The starting point on the city side is  likely to be any number of locations on the network such as Tamaki Drive or  the downtown car park for those who really want to drive to a bike ride or a walk.  

We supported AT’s view that it is  unnecessary to do a parking survey on the southern side until we understand the extent of the currently hypothetical problem once Skypath opens. We can then look at what tools are necessary to manage  parking such as time restrictions or a residents priority parking scheme.  Fortunately AT now has a parking strategy with a suite of tools fit for purpose.

In the same way I think the query around patronage is also based on misconceptions about how Skypath is used – Barbara from Bike Auckland has addressed that well but just to also mentioned we are talking about trips – walkers, cycling, joggers – and the many return day trippers who will not exit at Northcote Point.

Skypath has been put under enormous scrutiny that is unprecedented for any other strategic transport project – except perhaps the CRL  . (I would love to see councillors push for the same level of assessment to roading projects ) It represents incredible value for money and is better value than most transport projects because of the wide benefits – environmental, tourism , health and well being, connected communities. We would  prefer for Skypath to be funded in the same way as nearly all regionally significant transport projects – from taxes and rates – but the PPP provides an excellent opportunity for a way forward that Council should support.

As the report in front of Councillors outlines the benefits of the PPP proposal are:

  • Skypath can be delivered sooner that would otherwise be possible and without Council carrying the entire financing cost
  • The private sector is incentivised to design, manage, finance, operate and maintain Skypath on an innovative and efficient whole of life basis
  • Appropriate delivery and operating risks are transferred to the private sector

Even if Council becomes liable for costs of any demand shortfall  (which is incredibly unlikely ) it is a relatively low cost project for the benefits we what we are getting  .  PWC review of the proposal concludes that the commercial terms are comprehensive and appropriate

If the PM and 3 ministers show up for the opening of 1km Quay St cycleway (not to mention the Mayor , Councillors, Chairman of the AT Board) – imagine the jostle of politicians when Skypath opens next year! But of course this is not about feel good photo ops for politicians. This project is for all Aucklanders that we just need to get on with and the means to do that are in the hands of Councillors today.

Award winning Te ara i whiti Lightpath has really opened Aucklanders eyes to how inspiring, innovative  and transformative a walking and cycle project can be  – Skypath is going to absolutely blow us away and will bring Auckland priceless international attention.

Thank you for your support.

*The many people we can thank for Skypath (from a list collated by Cr Chris Darby)

1970s & 1980s: Keith Salmon, Michael Bland and PATH group.

John Strevens, Colin Kay, Barry Curtis, Eric Salmon, Audrey van Ryn, Bryan Pulham, David Sidwell, the University of Auckland Cycle Club, the ARC Cycle Planning Group.

2003-2004 Petition: Graeme Knowles, Isy Kennedy, Ann Hartley MP, Bevan Woodward, Judy Barfoot,

Cycle Action Auckland: Including Adrian Croucher, Sally McAra, and others

Original Getacross Launch 2008:

Bob Harvey (now patron of the PathwayTrust)


Christine Rose (chair), Alex Swney, Andy Smith, Bevan Woodward, Kirsten Shouler (Coordinator), Roger Twiname (Airey Consultants engineers),Barry Copeland & Finn Scott (Copeland Associates Architects

Advisors: Lance Wiggs & Ed Willis

Cycle Action Auckland/Bike Auckland:

Graham Knowles, Barbara Cuthbert, Paul Shortland.

Launch of Initial Concept Design (2011):

Rod Oram, Mayor Len Brown, Nikki Kaye MP, Hopper Developments

Organisations – active support

Akina Foundation (then Hikurangi Foundation)

Ministry for the Environment (Community Environment Fund), Buildmedia, Heart of the City, Public Infrastructure Partnership Fund, Waterfront Auckland (John Dalzell), ATEED (Brett O’Riley), Auckland Transport (Kathryn King), Auckland Council (Marguerite Pearson), NZTA (Stephen Town), Beca Infrastructure, WT Partnership, KPMG, Russell McVeagh.

Advocacy: Generation Zero, Bike Auckland, Transportblog, Cycle Advocates Network, Walk Auckland.

Auckland Councillors: Chris Darby, Mike Lee.

Local Boards: Waitematā, Kaipatiki, Devonport-Takapuna.

Hundreds of Aucklanders donated time and money and many other Aucklanders donated money to pay for project expenses or gave pro-bono professional services including: Raul Sarrot, Graeme Lindsay.

Related reading

Unanimous vote for Skypath, NZ Herald

Greenlight for Skypath, Radio NZ (audio)

Auckland Council vote yes on Skypath, Stuff

The long road to Skypath – a 40 year time line, Bike Auckland

Where is Skypath- the story so far, Bike Auckland

Council gives Skypath green light, Bike Auckland

Council unanimously approves Skypath, Transport Blog