Auckland Freight Plan Launch Leaves More Questions than Answers. Also No One Touched the OJ.

The start of the journey on what will be a very long one for freight

I was at the Auckland Transport – Auckland Freight Plan launch this morning to see what was two years of work come together. The one hour session left me with more question than answers – the most pertinent one being was I the only one drinking the OJ and eating the biscuits. More on that later.

So we started with an opening preamble from the CEO of Auckland Transport – Shane Ellison in which Shane emphasised that the product (including a glossy book which I have copy of) took two years to reach where we are today. After that Shane left and we went to a Panel that went through the motions of this Freight Plan.

My thoughts on this panel are another matter entirely (I am not a fan of the pre-stage pre-planned Panel when three sets of five minute presentations with a Q+A is more efficient and effective). But I did get three takeaways from this event:

  1. That there is still animosity between the Freight Industry, and the Transit/Active Mode advocates. That seriously needs to stop.
  2. The Freight Industry while they had a story to tell and want to tell one to the public so the public can understand them they have no allies to do this. Essentially they are looking for allies to tell their story.
  3. In the same breath as looking for allies they managed to burn off any potential allies in the very next breath. Making a remark about traffic islands being an inconvenience to trucks will win you no friends and allies in a hurry. Probably owing to the fact I might be wanting said traffic island to cross the road safely lest you want me to be run over by said truck causing the driver, truck, and freight to be off the road with further delays to every one else. If your truck can not fit then it is not suited to the infrastructure. Vehicles adapt to the infrastructure not the other way around per Vision Zero. Just ask Japan.

After the Panel was all said in done, and barbs were traded by the Panel and Transit/Urbanist Advocates in the Q&A did everyone shuffle off with no one again touching that OJ nor the biscuits. For me I managed to catch up with a few allies who I have not seen in a while before making my way back to our second City Centre (I did touch the OJ and eat the biscuits).

Two Years of Work Leaves More Questions Than Answers

Again for two years apparent work I found there was not much to really show for it. More to the point factoring in the three take-aways there were more questions going begging than answers being received. The 28 glossy pages on Freight could be found in the Auckland Plan (in fact they are) so to me we have duplication in effect. Health and safety I do not quite think the Industry has grasped in the quip about traffic islands was anything to go by either. Page 22 of the Freight Plan had the Action Plan and 95% of it was all “Subject to Funding.”

In the end I felt underwhelmed if this is the product of two years of work. As a Spatial Planner I engage in work that will influence behaviours that subsequently inform spatial form and vice versa. Being a resident of South Auckland I am acutely aware of the role of Industry and Freight given South Auckland’s (the largest and fastest growing sub region) heavy industrial complexes including the Airport. During Level 3 of Covid Lockdown our industry was still fully functioning with freight being shifted around to keep the City and nation going. I am also aware that Industry and Freight in South Auckland is some of our biggest employers as well. I also know trucks do not belong on residential roads either and that our systems are no where up to par for an international city!

So if I plan for Industry here, commercial over here, residential this way, with the logistics hubs and lines to connect it all up the freight movements will enter the equation. And given freight movements don’t align with some land uses and activities very well efficient and safe freight movement is also safe urban environments for everyone else. Yet I saw none of this across the 28 pages of the Auckland Freight Plan yet the Spatial Planning is the foundational key point in any Plan.

Spatial Planning including your Industry and Freight is critical to a City

None-the-less thank you for the biscuits, my thanks for the OJ and thank you Auckland Transport for the invitation to the Auckland Freight Plan launch earlier today. The biggest key takeaway I got was the Freight Industry needs allies to help get their story told to the general public. BUT to even start doing so lets not make remarks about traffic islands please, Vision Zero does apply.

One other thing, please do not do pre-stage or scripted Panels as they are not the best way to put a story across as well as that information I should be able to find in an A4 FAQ sheet. This I offer as free advice as a veteran Toastmaster.

From one City Centre to another on my journeys today.

About Ben

🤔With experience in Human Experience Engineering, Urban Planning, Urbanism, Regional Planning and Land Use Planning (Spatial Analysis/Planning), I have been at the forefront of advocacy of improving such human experience in transit, urban design and spatial form for Southern Auckland.

🏙️From large urbanism projects like Our Manukau and Airport to Botany Rapid Transit to smaller place making projects such as street calming, parklets and bus lanes. I strive in building relationships with decision/policy makers, fellow urbanists, and those who dream of wanting their urban area to be one of a human experience not a human drama – which is even more critical than ever in the Post Covid era.

🔹As a Spatial Planner my mission is: to bring the Human Experience Engineering in all things Transit CX/UX, Urban Design, and Spatial Planning.

🔹 I have also recently completed certification in Tactical Urbansim through the University of Amsterdam (via Coursea) bringing skill sets in how to plan, build support, implement and review tactical urbanism projects large or small.

✅With the continued rise of Human Scale and the 15 Minute City I will be there as a Human Experience Engineer and Spatial Planner advocating for cities being a human experience not human drama!

👉🏼I am the Vice President Public Relations for MCBC Toastmasters, and Area O2 Director for District 112 Toastmasters New Zealand North looking after six Clubs.

🏙️ Panellist to the 2021 Urban Futures Conference