Monthly Board report November 2015

This report provides highlights from my Waitematā Local Board activities during October 2015. It is included on the agenda of the Board’s November business meeting.

Penelope Carroll (Massey University) and children from central schools present on the children’s audit carried out as part of the Freyberg Square consultation
Penelope Carroll (Massey University) and children from central schools present on the children’s audit carried out as part of the Freyberg Square consultation


Public Forum

Public forum at the Board’s October business meeting was one of our most interesting and thought-provoking with seven presentations covering a range of projects and issues. We are really fortunate that people in the Waitematā Local Board area are willing to take the time to engage with local government through our public forums.

Charlotte Fisher and Erwin van Asbeck bring along the litter collected from a Herne Bay beach to highlight local stormwater, sewage and pollution issues.
Charlotte Fisher and Erwin van Asbeck bring along the litter collected from a Herne Bay beach to highlight local stormwater, sewage and pollution issues.

Friends of St Davids, Grey Lynn Surrey Crescent shopsworking group, Hauora Gardens at Studio One, Brian McClure a local business landlord and the Grey Lynn pump track society also presented at the public forum.

Presentations that were tabled are available on the Council website.

Berm planting

Auckland Transport has done a great job sparking interest in berm planting!  Local Board feedback on Auckland Transport’s draft berm planting guidelines was made available in October (our feedback was attached to the October agenda) leading to media coverage extending all the way to the BBC and a NZ gardener petition.

Disappointingly Auckland Transport incorrectly claimed in the media that the draft had been provided to local boards in confidence. Throughout the development of the draft guidelines AT has shown a lack of understanding of Local Board’s placemaking role and processes.

Photo Credit: Nick Young
Photo Credit: Nick Young








Ponsonby Road feeder lane
Ponsonby Road feeder lane

Ponsonby Road safety improvements

A new feeder lane and advance stop boxes (“fresh Kermit) have been installed on Ponsonby Road as part of Auckland Transport’s resurfacing project.

Report back: Future of Cycling symposium: Challenges and Possibilities

I attended the Future of Cycling symposium hosted by the University of Waikato and Cycling New Zealand at the Avantidrome in Cambridge on 2 October 2015.

The symposium was a first for bringing together academics, sports administrators, cycle advocates and representatives from transport agencies to discuss a range of cycling related issues and opportunities.

The symposium was opened by Andrew Matheson, CEO of Cycling NZ. He shared some interested statistics from research Cycling NZ has carried out:

–       23% of adults get on a bike at least once a year

–       Half have high engagement with cycling

–       High engagement riders are estimated to save our health economy $1 billion per year

I was particularly interested in presentations about safety and making cycling an everyday transport option.  For example from a  report back from the Cycle Safety conference in Germany we heard about new bike technology to make cycling safer for older people (in Holland cycling injuries and fatalities are very low by international standards but older people make up the largest and growing group of victims). It was recommended that rather than follow the lead of Europe we need to find our own safety solutions to meet them in the future.

Gerry Dance from NZTA reported that we are now “riding with a political tailwind” due to the increase in cycling investment from the government.

I attended the symposium with members Christopher Dempsey and Rob Thomas. Registration of $80 was paid from the Board’s professional development budget.

October events and functions

In addition to Local Board workshops and meetings I attended:

  • Cycling symposium in Cambridge on 2 October
  • Pecha Kucha Maritime edition at the Voyager Museum 8 October
  • Art Week opening at Silo 6 on 9 October
  • Auckland Refugees Council AGM on 10 October at the Grey Lynn Community Centre
  • Kelmarna Spring Festival on 11 October
  • Ponsonby Business Association Board meeting on 14 October
  • Introduction to Local Board members by the new Panuku Development Agency
  • At the Beach NZ Fashion Museum launch at Voyager Museum on 15 October
  • Spring Fling in the Myers Park underpass on 16 October
  • Diwali Festival opening ceremony in Aotea Square on 17 October
  • Grey Lynn Farmers Market AGM on 18 October  (I have now resigned from the Grey Lynn Farmers Market management committee after 5 years as Chair )
  • Bikes vs Cars documentary screening on 18 October
  • Ports of Auckland community reference group meeting
  • Presentation by the world homeless expert Dr Sam  Tsemberis, Pathways to Housing, NYC  at Merge Café hosted by Lifewise on 20 October
  • Opening of the Screenies International children’s film festival at TAPAC on 22 October
  • Inner city network meeting to discuss neighbours day 2016 preparations
  • Ponsonby Business Association AGM on 27 October
  • The Lesson opening night at Basement Theatre on 27 October
  • Franklin Road community liaison group meeting on 28 October (to discuss the latest options for the upgrade of Franklin Road)

Feedback on Auckland Transport’s draft berm planting guidelines

Selbourne St berm Grey Lynn  Jan 2015Auckland Transport has been promising to draft grass verge (berm) planting guidelines for some time. The guidelines are needed because there is a lot of interest from people who would like to make use of the berms outside their homes for more than just grass. Private plantings have the potential to benefit neighbourhood streets but can also cause issues. Unfortunately the first draft of the guidelines prepared by Auckland Transport and shared with Local boards for comment are unworkable.

Here is the Waitematā Local Board feedback available on the board’s October agenda explaining exactly why AT needs to start again with the guidelines.

Feedback on Auckland Transport- Draft Guidelines for Private Planting in the Road Corridor


On 9 December 2014 the Waitematā Local Board passed the following resolution (Resolution number WTM/2014/243):

b)     That the Waitematā Local Board

  1. Supports encouraging and enabling community use of berms as much as practicable
  2. Supports the development of berm-planting guidelines, which would include:
  • Benefits of appropriate berm planting
  • Safe depths to dig to
  • Ideal plants in a number of categories – natives, food, tree
  • Maintenance expectations, including in regard to safety e.g. height
  • Role of Local Boards in acting as a key conduit for Auckland Transport to have community relationships around berm planting
  • Working with neighbours

3. Requests Auckland Transport to develop berm planting guidelines in conjunction with Local Boards

  •  Requests Auckland Transport report on progress to the Board’s February 2015 meeting.
  • Auckland Transport has now prepared a draft approach to berm planting “Guidelines for Private Planting in the Road Corridor” (the guidelines). The guidelines have been considered by the Auckland Transport Board’s Customer Focus Committee and has been approved for consultation with Local Boards.
  • Under the draft guidelines, Auckland Transport (AT) proposes to allow some private planting in the road corridor, as a permitted activity, where it meets certain specifications. Plantings can only be undertaken by the adjoining landowner on the “back berm” immediately adjacent to their property (and only to a height of 600mm).  Low-level planting (defined as under 300 mm in height) may be undertaken between adjacent vehicle crossings or around mail boxes and street trees providing it does not encroach onto the footpath and does not exceed a total area of 2m².
  • Applications for approval will need to be made for planting that does not comply with the guidelines, and this will be considered on a case by case basis at the discretion of AT.  An application fee of $150 (including GST) will be payable to Auckland Transport to cover the cost of assessing the application and, where appropriate, issuing the approval to plant in the road corridor.  If the application is declined it is proposed the fee will be refunded.
  • Under the draft guidelines, local boards:
    • will be asked to confirm that applications for approval of proposed plantings are consistent with the existing streetscape environment and their placemaking aspirations for the specific area.  If the local board does not agree, the application will be declined
    • will have the opportunity to rectify situations where non-complying planting is proposed to be removed by AT.
  • The draft guidelines explain potential problems with private planting, including:
    • the encroachment of footpaths and impeding pedestrians, particularly those who are visually impaired or use wheelchairs
    • adversely affecting the visibility of pedestrians or street signs or sight lines at intersections and driveways
    • causing challenges for utility operators when maintaining or installing infrastructure – both in terms of providing notice to affected landowners and root damage
    • different landowners and residents having conflicting views on appropriate planting
    • landowners losing interest or changes of ownership can mean plantings are not maintained
    • fruit trees can encourage vermin (when the fruit falls).
  • A workshop with the Waitematā Local Board to discuss the berm planting guidelines was held on 1 September 2015.  AT requested feedback on its draft guidelines by 30 September.
  • On 8 September the Waitemata Local Board delegated feedback on the draft guidelines to Transport portfolio holders Pippa Coom and Christopher Dempsey and member Greg Moyle (Resolution number WTM/2015/132).


  • The Waitematā Local Board joins a number of other local boards in expressing concern that the response by Auckland Transport to community interest in berm planting has been based on an excessively restrictive rather than an enabling and empowering approach.
  • The information presented by AT does not recognise the significant benefits of berm planting, which have repeatedly been pointed out by local boards to AT and also through the Community-led Placemaking Champions group.
  • People wish to undertake berm planting to enhance the amenity of their neighbourhood, connect with neighbours, create bee-friendly environments, grow and share food.  Allowing, rather than restricting, these aspects of berm planting should be central to this policy and its practical implementation.
  • The Board is opposed to the licensing framework proposed in the draft guidelines, which creates a barrier to people’s sense of connection to their local streets and fails to recognise  that, despite Council being the legal owner of the berms,  the responsibility of maintaining grass berms adjacent to properties now rests with the owners or occupiers (with some exceptions).
  • The board seeks to take a more enabling community approach where use of the berm is supported as much as is practically possible.
  • Currently there is a very limited scope in terms of permitted activities. For example private planting is only allowed on “back berms” and must be small inedible plants. This is far too restrictive a measure. It is in complete opposition to the view of the board, which seeks to promote the use of public open space for appropriate activities such as creating bee-friendly corridors. A large portion of existing berm plantings would likely require licenses or not be permitted under the proposal, despite no evidence to date of any harm or problems as a result of those plantings.
  • In older parts of Auckland like the Waitematā area very few properties have “back berms” further limiting what is permitted, even with approval, under the guidelines.
  • The board supports a more effects-based approach, which seeks to avoid or mitigate the adverse effect of private planting in the berm. Some of the potential hazards are included in the draft document e.g. noxious weeds, potential missiles/impalement hazards and impairment of sightlines. The effects of edible plants and trees could be described in terms of their potential tripping hazard from fruit drop and root intrusion (and the need to ensure soil is not contaminated outlined). These effects can then be avoided or mitigated with measures such as root barriers when needed and a commitment to keep the footpath clear of organic debris.
  • Auckland Transport could support communities with the above approach by encouraging utility agencies to make asset maps available so people can determine the proximity of services in their berms.  If it is not possible to undertake this comprehensively, then it would be advisable to do this work whenever a berm is dug up by utility agencies, so that we can progressively build up maps over time.
  • If Auckland Transport decides to continue with this licencing regime, the board requests a change in emphasis. A higher threshold for licensing would minimise the barrier to people’s engagement with public open space and recognise that, with the end of berm mowing by Auckland Transport, many residents feel a sense of ownership over berms adjacent to their own property and other properties in their neighbourhood.  If there is to be a licencing approach then that should apply to a small minority of the total number of berm plantings, and in exceptional circumstances, rather than being the default.  
  • Only in exceptional circumstances should the consent of landowners either side of the “subject property” be required as part of an application process.
  • Further if a licensing fee is imposed, even at a higher threshold, the board considers $150 licence application cost far too high. By applying for a licence the applicant is showing commitment to compliance, so it is unreasonable to put a financial barrier in the way.
  • The draft guidelines do not outline how Auckland Transport proposes to deal with berm planting that currently don’t meet the guidelines. For example is AT proposing to accept retrospective applications? The attached photos show a sample of berm planting in the Waitematā area that would be considered non-compliant under the draft guidelines even though these plantings enhance and support placemaking.  There is a high risk of AT creating unnecessary neighbourhood conflict and administrative costs if the draft guidelines are implemented.
  • While the board recognises the role of berms in allowing access to services, it considers that utility agencies should notify neighbours if private planting is to be removed. This could be as simple as dropping a flyer in the letterbox to notify the adjoining resident, which is not a burden on the agency and should be encouraged as good practice in general.
  • As local boards have decision-making responsibility for local place-shaping activities the role suggested for local boards in the guidelines is not appropriate.  Local boards should be in a policy role as governors instead of signing off – on individual disputes. Auckland Transport has the ability to delegate not only decision-making but policy development on this issue to local boards and it is disappointing AT has chosen not to do so in this case.
  • If a licensing regime is implemented Local Boards should be advised of all licencing applications, not just those that were recommended for approval by Auckland Transport.  The guidelines need to outline the process local boards will have to undertake when confirming applications or rectifying situations of non-complying planting.
  • The board also notes, with disappointment, that neither Local Board Services nor Auckland Council’s operation division have been involved in development of this response from AT, despite the proposed regime impacting on both these parts of Council.


  • The Waitematā Local Board supports the provision of guidelines for berm planting but considers that these should take an empowering communities approach where use of the berm is supported as much as is practically possible.
  • Requests that Auckland Transport re-write the guidelines in conjunction with Local Board Services and that the guidelines include:
    • details about why berm planting is encouraged and supported
    • sets out an empowering and enabling criteria
    • clarifies the local board role
    • identifies how to mitigate potential hazards and maintenance expectations
    • tips on working with neighbours to achieve the best outcomes for the community from private plantings in the road corridor

Berm gardening in the news

Berm gardens to be banned under tough new rules, Stuff, 19 October

Aucklanders may need a permit for planting on berms, NZ Herald, 19 October

$150 license proposed to beautify berms proposed, NewstalkZB, 19 October

On the Wire, 95bfm, 20 October 2015

Petition gathers pace as pace as opposition to planned berm ban grows, Stuff, 21 October

Mayor Len Brown says Auckland Transport needs to calm down on berm ban, Stuff 21 October

Gardeners dig in over verge gardeners, BBC online news, 21 October

Monthly Board Report February 2015

This is my first report for 2015 covering highlights from December 2014 and January 2015.

Welcome Queens WharfOpening up the city centre to people

Despite the transport messaging that the Central City was “closed” the streets of Lower Queen St and Quay St were very much full and open to people over Auckland anniversary weekend.

I enjoyed the impressive 3 days of events for Auckland 175th birthday that included the Waitematā Local Board supported International Buskers Festival and the Story of Auckland in Shed 10 (I attended the launch of both). It was great see so many people enjoying the waterfront and finding time to give feedback about improving the city centre.

The weekend really showed the huge potential for improving downtown by re-prioritising road space.

Saving the Pohutukawa 6

I have provided regular updates on the Board’s opposition to Auckland Transport’s proposal to remove 6 mature Pohutukawa trees on Great North Road. The latest update is attached (ATTACHMENT A) following on from the Commissioners decision on 17 December to recommend removal.

Cycling & walking investment

I am really delighted to have been appointed to the Urban Cycling Investment Panel by the Transport Minister on the recommendation of LGNZ.  The launch of the urban cycling programme was held on 30 January 2015 on the old Nelson St motorway off- ramp (ATTACHMENT B). I attended the first meeting of the panel in Wellington on 8 December.

causeway opening group2015 is going to be the year to celebrate new cycling infrastructure in Auckland starting on 20 January when I joined the Albert- Eden community, Cycle Action, David Shearer MP and NZTA to celebrate the opening of the new causeway bridge on the NW cycleway.

The much anticipated and beautifully constructed Westhaven Promenade opened at the end of January. It is perfect for cycling with children in a safe, attractive environment but still needs to be connected to all the way to Silo Park. Auckland Transport announced on 30 January that Westhaven promenade January 2015construction of the final leg of the shared path on Westhaven Drive continuing along Beaumont Street is starting in February with a completion date in March (the shared path is intended as an interim measure).

Over the summer break I enjoyed one of the many cycling adventures now possible in Auckland (ATTACHMENT C)

Speed enforcement

In response to the many unjustified and ill-informed attacks over the summer on the NZ Police in response to speed limit enforcement I decided to write up my personal experience that influences my personal support for the safer systems approach to road safety (ATTACHMENT D). On the positive side I think there is a growing demand for slower speeds especially on residential streets and in the city centre.

Kelmarna Community Gardens

I attended the Kelmarna Community Gardens Trust public meeting on 29 January that gathered people together to reflect on their connections to the garden and to help plan the future now that Framework has withdrawn as a tenant.

It was an incredibly positive, well attended meeting demonstrating a huge amount of support for the gardens to continue as an organic farm with a place for everyone.  The Trust, with the assistance from Council officers, is considering options for managing the gardens going forward.

Everyday is your chance to make this city a little betterPlacemaking

The January Inner City Network meeting was hosted by Waterfront Auckland. Frith Walker gave an excellent presentation on placemaking that inspired the many people who attended to consider what it is possible to achieve in Auckland with clear vision and creativity.

Way finding

Street signage has been a topical local issue over the summer in response to Auckland Transport’s trial new signs on city streets (so far mainly in the Fort St no exitAlbert- Eden area). The Board has not yet been asked to give formal feedback on the design.  In the meantime I continue to push for way finding signage for pedestrians and cyclists on streets that are only NO EXIT for vehicles (such as on Fort St).

I was impressed to see the new way finding signs that have gone up in Myers Park. They are clear and well-designed providing a best practice template for future way finding designs.

Berm planting

At the Board’s December meeting we passed the following resolution in an attempt to progress Auckland Transport’s draft guidelines to encourage responsible plantings on grass verges. In the meantime “happy berms” have appeared over the summer.

Some of the events I attended during December and January

Grey Lynn library cake cuttingThe centenaries of Parnell Pool and the Tepid Baths were celebrated in December and the Grey Lynn Library’s 90th birthday.

Mayoral Reception on the occasion of the Battle of the River Plate 75th anniversary commemoration with the remaining 5 survivors.

The final Citizenship Ceremonies of 2014 were held on 1 December at the Town Hall (I was in the official party for the afternoon ceremony)

Auckland put on a beautiful morning for the Ironman 70.3 on the waterfront. I attended the welcome function on 16 January.

I attended the Breakers game on Friday 23rd January as a guest of the Mayor

It was sad to farewell Chris Davidson at the end of January as the CEO, Parnell Trust but he leaves the Trust in great shape.