Negative Views on Westgate/North-West Mall Continue
Manukau no longer ugly duckling but an example of ironically what to do
The arguments over the new North-West Mall over at the Westgate Metropolitan Centre continue with the negative side complaining on access, car parking, and retail variety while the pro-side focuses on jobs and a new hub for an area of Auckland.
Councillor Linda Cooper of Waitakere Ward for which North West sits in continued the debate this morning stemming from a Letter to the Editor in the New Zealand Herald. While I have stayed for the most part out of the Westgate debate recently I have weighed back in it given the Centres and Business Zones were recently debated at the Unitary Plan Panel. Also with the Rezoning Exercise due early next year for the Unitary Plan Panel it will be debated whether some Metropolitan Centres should be downgraded to Town Centres while others upgraded into new categories.
In any case the constant argument I have made about Westgate (and this is where Manukau enters the debate) was its transport accessibility:
Misses the point entirely and only further vindicates Darby and other critics even further.
The reviews are still coming back in negative territory for that mall which is described as a maze to get to, pain to park and has the same offering as Scentre’s West City for the most part.
One would not need to drive to Albany or even West City if West Auckland was more onto it with its public transport as the Isthmus and South are. I am talking about a QTN bus route set at 20 minute frequencies from Henderson to Massey to Westgate to Hobsonville Point to Albany and back.
If South Auckland which is soddingly large in geographical size can gravitate towards Manukau by car, bus or train without issues then the West can easily gravitate to Henderson or Albany – if they had better public transport links linking up the three Metropolitan Centres as I mentioned above.
Councillor Cooper replied (and somewhat missed the point):
Hey Ben. Westgate is not finished yet. All this focus on the mall is an over reaction. The bigger picture is the whole development of the Northwest. What you don’t get is that Albany is not a community of interest for a huge dollop of people on this side of the Greenhithe bridge. It’s been an abnormal concept and people have only gone there because there’s nothing locally. Henderson is still on the list. It’s not abandoned and it serves a different catchment.
On that argument alone it misses the point of the role of the Metropolitan Centre and how Manukau City Centre could have been Westgate’s saving grace from the get-go.
First the role of the Metropolitan Centre.
Note: The debate of the Metropolitan and proposed Super Metropolitan Centre is before the Unitary Plan Panel currently. For the most part I will refer to the Metropolitan Centre in the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan unless otherwise.
Per the Auckland and Proposed Auckland Unitary Plans the Metropolitan Centres are designed to:
Metropolitan Centre zone
11.10 There are 10 metropolitan centres, as contained in Attachment D. These centres are based in different sub-regional catchments. They are identified as significant areas for growth and intensification and are second only to the city centre in terms of scale and intensity. They are important public transport hubs for the region and serve a wide range of activities including commercial, civic, community and above-ground floor residential activities. Unlike other zones there are no GFA restrictions on commercial activities as these zones are considered a primary location for the commercial.
Source: Council Evidence to the Centres Zone (Topic 051) – Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan
There is also this from the Auckland Plan on the Centres Hierarchies
Now this presents the catchment argument which Councillor Cooper has brought up. It also brings up the point of are those ranked as Metropolitan Centres rightfully there.
Albany and Henderson for now are both Metropolitan Centres as is Westgate. Albany has a sub-regional catchment which is the North Shore, Hibiscus Coast and even Hobsonville Point and parts of Westgate itself. Henderson while it is a Metropolitan Centre for now has a catchment that overlaps into Westgate but is mainly Massey, Lincoln, Ranui, Swanson, Henderson itself and would have its southern border at Glen Eden (sharing with the New Lynn Metropolitan Centre).
So if I was in the rezoning exercise next year presenting to the Unitary Plan Panel and Judge Kirkpatrick using Councillor’s Cooper’s argument then with Albany and Henderson already Metropolitan Centres AND able to take the Metro Centre 72 metre height rule (Westgate is stuck with 32 metres) then Westgate should be relegated to a Town Centre given the catchment it would otherwise serve. If Albany were to become a Super Metropolitan Centre as I have proposed (so regional and inter-regional catchment) then the case for Westgate being demoted to Town Centre is even stronger.
To flip it over if I were to demote Henderson out of Metropolitan status to Town Centre status then Westgate would be more fitting as a Metropolitan Centre however, its height restrictions compared to Henderson and Albany do kill the viability of Westgate being a Metro off (Metro’s are reliant on their height especially as we intensify).
As for travel and community focus especially local community focus I would recommend to Councillor Cooper checking the difference between a Town and Metropolitan Centre as they have two distinct purposes.
Manukau and how it could have been Westgate’s saving grace
Manukau City Centre is unique in a lot of ways. It is listed a Metropolitan Centre under the Unitary Plan although a prime candidate for it to become a Super Metropolitan Centre to recognise its regional and inter-regional catchment (as I have argued to the Unitary Plan Panel). That is because Manukau’s true catchment spans from Otahuhu all the way down into the northern Waikato making Manukau technically the most prominent of all ten Metropolitan Centres. Manukau City Centre as either a Metropolitan Centre or a Super Metropolitan Centre technically does not serve a “local” community as Councillor Cooper would imply with Westgate. Papaptoetoe, Hunters Corner, Otara Town Centre, Mangere Town Centre, Manurewa Town Centre and arguably Papakura Town Centre (even though for now it is ranked a Metropolitan Centre) are all Town Centres that serve the local.
Manukau City Centre is the Metropolitan or Super Metropolitan Centre that is the nexus or central hub linking those Town Centres up (as well as four of the five heavy industry complexes that reside in the South). Thus Manukau serves a much wider community as if Westgate were to be a Metropolitan Centre would and as Albany Metropolitan Centre already does hence people from the West travelling there.
So how could Manukau have saved Westgate?
Buses, it is all about the buses!
With the buses we have the historic network which we currently have before we switch over to the new bus network next year. With the new network the buses gravitate around two central points; the City Centre itself and Manukau City Centre itself. For the rest of Auckland the bus routes either originate, terminate or pass through depending on what the route is serving. Historically this has been the same with the legacy bus network as well.
When Manukau City Centre and its mall first opened in 1976 it was then in the middle of nowhere and the Motorway ended at Redoubt Road. The then South Auckland buses were diverted and altered pretty much en-mass to service this new Centre. Over time more routes would originate or terminate from Manukau to such a point most major bus routes that trundle through South Auckland will eventually pass through Manukau one way or the other. This continues with the new bus network with the bulk of the major routes in the South gravitating around Manukau and its delayed major transport interchange. Also urban development surrounds Manukau today
Westgate is technically in the same position now. In the middle of nowhere at the end of a motorway with large urban growth due to occur over the next thirty years. Catch? Someone forgot about the buses. The buses to and from Westgate now and with the new network are not of the same frequency from Henderson and Albany when compared to Manukau or even Henderson itself. The lack of decent frequents originating, terminating or passing through Westgate compared to Manukau will only encourage people to get on the North Western Motorway (already congested) and drive to Westgate. A pretty big fail as is. Having no bus lanes down Lincoln Road and the North Western Motorway (Lincoln to Westgate) only makes that fail even bigger.
If Westgate were as this Metropolitan Centre has a Quality Transit Network that went: Henderson, Lincoln, Westgate, Hobsonville Point, Albany and return at every 20 minutes all day backed up by bus lanes and priority measures then most of the planning complaints about Westgate would not simply exist. That said Auckland Transport’s new West Auckland Bus Network starting next year does have Henderson to Westgate (and even to Constellation Drive) buses although the frequencies are at 30 minutes in the day and pushing 60 minutes at night.
Remember Manukau when she was built from the get-go had the buses gravitating through it while Westgate does not. It showed then despite what Manukau was meant to represent (ugly duckling sprawl) the transport planning was done at the same time as the urban planning and that was 1976-1980’s). Today and Westgate being prime example we build the urban development but the transport side is a total afterthought!
This Councillor Cooper is why Westgate faces strong criticism. Its place as a Metropolitan Centre for now can be easily disputed while someone in the former Waitakere City Council and even Auckland Regional Council forgot the buses in comparison to Manukau City Council and the regional body who were being proactive with the buses.
Primary Evidence on the Metropolitan and Super Metropolitan Centre