It was with a sudden jolt that we found ourselves back in lockdown Level 4 council systems were quickly re-activated to ensure essential services continued to operate and council facilities closed down safely. As with the first lockdown, council staff have been redeployed, such as the catering team now providing meals to the City Mission and environmental health officers who are supporting contact tracing efforts.
We are now all very familiar with the health guidelines: stay home except to access essential services, stay within your bubble, wash your hands frequently, wear a face mask, use your QR code if you go out, exercise locally, maintain physical distancing and if you are ill, self-isolate and get tested.
The central place for information is the government’s website covid19.govt.nz. A free Covid-19 helpline service is available for Auckland businesses on 0800 500 362.
Exploring locally for exercise and fresh air provides a welcome break from online meetings and bubble routines. Throughout lockdown, people will be experiencing their streets and neighbourhoods differently due to lower levels of traffic and safer neighbourhoods. It also gives a sense of the enormous change needed to our “normal” lives in order to cut transport emissions by 64 per cent from where we were in 2016 by 2030. Auckland, as New Zealand’s largest and fastest-growing city, must make a greater contribution to transport emissions reduction than other parts of the country to achieve New Zealand’s commitment to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
Just prior to the lockdown Auckland Council established a Transport Emissions Reference Group to develop options to help achieve the bold emissions-reduction targets outlined in Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Plan. The scale of the challenge means a wide range of options and methods will need to be tested. Only radical change will reduce private vehicle demand and increase the uptake of active transport.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s Innovating Streets for People programme provides a fund to test out innovations enabling Aucklanders to continue after lockdown to enjoy their neighbourhoods and use streets not
just as roads, but as public spaces. Councils only have to contribute 10 per cent of any project costs. The ability to pilot new street layouts through the programme enables communities to get a sense of what their streets could be like before a commitment is made to major investment; testing, monitoring, and engagement occurs throughout the trial.
Grey Lynn School is one of a number of schools across Tāmaki Makaurau taking part in Auckland Transport’s Safe School Speeds programme funded through ‘Innovating Streets for People’. The project involves schools working with Auckland Transport to introduce new speed calming measures such as kerb extensions, speed humps, and new painted surfaces to keep children safe. It is not surprising that Grey Lynn School was keen to sign up for the trial. Only recently there was a serious injury crash on Surrey Crescent, and the school reports a lot of near misses and concerns about vehicle speeds on the approach to the school crossings. Travelling at 30km/h or lower outside schools increases driver reaction and stopping time, reducing the chances of serious crash injuries.
The trial will now benefit everyone out walking and cycling during lockdown. Locking-in and expanding the best of all the innovation streets projects will be one of the many emissions reductions pathways to a decarbonised transport future.
This first appeared in Ponsonby News September 2021