Tag: The New Zealand Herald

The Auckland Project?

Inspirational or  Not Inspirational?

 

It explains the large amount of commentary pieces yesterday in the NZ Herald as I see they decided to run a “Project Auckland” “series” that Transport Blog picked up on and ran their own commentary with.

From Transport Blog

By Matt L, on November 12th, 2013

The Herald today has a large amount of op-eds on what is being called Project Auckland which is looking at how Auckland is going to develop and as you would expect, housing and transport features very heavily. Op-eds include

Now I’m not going to comment on every single article but rather some of the general themes within them, although I will pick out a few individual comments that have annoyed me (as I seem to be in a grumpy mood today which is quite unusual).

The really positive thing about all of the pieces is that in general people think the city is heading in the right direction and considering how much has had to be done by the council over the last few years to merge all of the various council plans and policies together. Things could have easily gone quite wrong and so the council staff (from all organisations) and the politicians need to be congratulated for that.

Of course not everything has been plain sailing and there have been (and still are) a number of issues that haven’t been handled ideally. The Unitary Plan is one of those where the lack of clear enough information about what was proposed led to the development of groups like Auckland 2040 that used misinformation and scare tactics to oppose the plan. In the article about the Unitary Plan I wanted to highlight some of the positive comments in relation to it. First from Penny Hulse

You can read the full piece over at Transport Blog http://transportblog.co.nz/2013/11/12/project-auckland-op-eds/

 

I went scouring through every single Project Auckland commentary piece from the Herald last night and apart from the “The debate over change” piece I was not entirely inspired nor displaying great amounts of confidence in what was being said – at all.

Sure in the “The debate over change” Deputy Mayor and Chair of the Urban/Rural Development Committee Penny Hulse and Chief Planning Officer Dr Roger Blakeley outline the tremendous efforts Council is doing in slowly nudging the City over via the Unitary (and later Area) Plan(s) towards 21st Century urban developments.

On a mass scale size we can see this “nudging” over in Auckland’s brand new Metropolitan Centre that has started construction over in Westgate/Massey North (New $1b Westgate starts rising.) Despite a few things that could have been improved (supermarket and large bulk store (Mitre 10 etc) car parks should be behind the building (or underground as we are seeing in South Auckland), not in front of it roadside) this new Metro Centre (with a 8 storey height limit) is a good nudge over – in my opinion. So thumbs up to New Zealand Retail Property Group on this development.

While the Westgate Metropolitan Centre is a “greenfield” development that is part of the nudge over towards 21st Century development, there is also 21st Century redevelopments in the pipeline such the Manukau’s 21st Century Development that will act as the Brownfield “nudge”. Okay that is a private citizen based idea but like most things in life it starts with an idea, gains traction then takes off into fruition.

 

So yes we can see nudging over towards 21st Century urban developments – away from the 1950’s past we have been stuck with currently. This is all good and positive and deserves credit – well done. Sadly looking at Auckland 2040’s comments in the Herald piece and picked up by Transport Blog, they would rather have us stay in the 1950’s despite the recent elections which can be seen as a “mandate” to continue with the Unitary and Area Plans. Transport Blog did critique Auckland 2040 right back in their respective post.

Later on I’ll copy over a Twitter scrap that occurred over Auckland 2040 last night – quite interesting to read and see as it gives fuel to what I am going to continue on about this Auckland Project.

 

Back to the rest of the commentary pieces on Project Auckland. As I noted earlier I scoured through all the Herald’s Project Auckland pieces and I was left both uninspired and not showing a lot of confidence in it at all. Sorry guys you are going to have to forgive me on several fronts here for not displaying that confidence on Project Auckland.

First reason being history especially around how currently The Southern Initiative has fallen by the wayside and doesn’t even have “buy-in” from the respective Councillors and Local Boards that are in the Initiative Area at the moment. A sign of dysfunction and lost energy on what is meant to be a key project for South Auckland? Most likely and something I might bring up on November 28 at my (pending) presentation as this falling to the wayside does not inspire a community to rally around worthwhile cause/project…. Remember “battles will be won or lost in the suburbs” and with the Southern Initiative it is currently being lost in the suburbs of South Auckland.

 

Second Reason for not having confidence in Project Auckland is that what most of these guys are proposing is the exact same stuff we have been stuck with since the 1950’s. Sure they acknowledge a Unitary Plan (that has been scaled back too far) and a Unitary Authority but more highways such as the destructive East-West Link? Come on we are beyond this and beyond low-rise and endless sprawl as well.

Quoting Transport Blog:

On the infrastructure side though there is a very clear push through quite a number of the pieces about the East-West Link. The project is one that came from obscurity to be ranked one of the most important in the region in The Auckland Plan a few years ago and there has been a strong indication that the council’s support of it was the price to pay for the business community supporting the CRL. It is now being moved well ahead of the CRL in the overall timeline and the government is expected to agree to a funding package for it next year despite there not having even been a business case completed for it yet, let alone a confirmed route – although I’m also hearing that option 4, the route that is the most destructive, most expensive and that has the least benefit for freight is the one that is now the front-runner. It makes me wonder if all these mentions of it is part of a concerted effort to soften up the public on the need for it.

Option Four of the East-West Link I am watching very VERY closely as it affects friends and family that would be in the firing line of that particular route option. Also there are more cheaper and efficient options in moving the freight from the airport, Penrose/Onehunga, East Tamaki and Highbrook industrial areas rather than destructive motorway-grade link that only reinforces 1950’s planning thinking which seems to be ‘business over all else.” I see Auckland Transport’s CEO David Warburton seems to be championing the link here “Package solution for transport projects.” So again on this aspect I display not much confidence nor being inspired for Project Auckland if this is the obsolete path being purported.

 

Speaking of transport I do notice Auckland Transport constantly underselling public transport projects. Although with AT-HOP and NZ Bus I be cautious as well but as Transport Blog said:

“The reason AT keep underselling it is they are afraid to promise anything in case they aren’t able to deliver it but they fail to realise that if they keep underselling the project then it risks losing public support.”

Transport investment wise which does not inspire any confidence at all towards Project Auckland is the $60 billion failure called the 2012 Integrated Transport Program. It is currently $15 billion short of the “required” fund to carry out the projects in the 2012 ITP but yet if all these projects were built, congestion still gets much worse by 2040. So please tell me again why are we sinking $60 billion (for which we don’t even have all the money for) down an apparent black hole for a final outcome that is going to be worse congestion and travel wise than now?!

Good news is that Generation Zero and Transport Blog did produce the Congestion Free Network as a fully viable alternative that cheaper AND improves our travel situation unlike the current 2012 ITP – that Project Auckland is supporting.

 

This all brings around to the earlier mention of a Twitter spat I got into with two conservative pundits last night around project Auckland.

  1. 56Ben Ross ‏@BenRoss_AKL19h

    Who the heck let NIMBY Auckland 2040 have a spiel but not a YIMBY like @GenerationZer0 or myself here http://www.nzherald.co.nz/project-auckland/news/article.cfm?c_id=1502830&objectid=11155167 …

  2. Tiny Klout Flag53Bill Ralston ‏@BillyRalston19h

    @BenRoss_AKL @GenerationZer0 You call them NIMBY I call it grassroots democracy with people taking an interest in what happens to their hood

  3. Tiny Klout Flag56Ben Ross ‏@BenRoss_AKL19h

    @BillyRalston @GenerationZer0 @TransportBlog also called out Auckland 2040 as well for purporting well crap to be simple

  4. Tiny Klout Flag58TransportBlog ‏@TransportBlog19h

    @BenRoss_AKL @BillyRalston @GenerationZer0 Grassroots is fine if they told the truth. 2040 didn’t, they twisted details to scaremonger

  5. Tiny Klout Flag53Bill Ralston ‏@BillyRalston19h

    @TransportBlog @BenRoss_AKL @GenerationZer0 Apologies. We should all STFU and let you planners dictate how we live. Ok.

  6. Tiny Klout Flag57John Drinnan ‏@Zagzigger13h

    @BillyRalston @TransportBlog @BenRoss_AKL @GenerationZer0 Agree with Bill – why are you trying to shut down debate

  7. Tiny Klout Flag56Ben Ross ‏@BenRoss_AKL13h

    @Zagzigger @BillyRalston @TransportBlog @GenerationZer0 Herald shut it down on their own. A Monologue from one side isnt a debate

  8. Tiny Klout Flag57John Drinnan ‏@Zagzigger13h

    @BenRoss_AKL @BillyRalston @TransportBlog @GenerationZer0 ger whale oil on your side – that’ll get the numbers

  9. Tiny Klout Flag58TransportBlog ‏@TransportBlog13h

    @Zagzigger @BenRoss_AKL @BillyRalston @GenerationZer0 All we ask for is a balanced debate and not one-sided misinformed hysteria.

  10. Tiny Klout Flag57John Drinnan ‏@Zagzigger13h

    @TransportBlog @BenRoss_AKL @BillyRalston @GenerationZer0 who is we?

  11. Tiny Klout Flag57John Drinnan ‏@Zagzigger13h

    @TransportBlog @BenRoss_AKL @BillyRalston @GenerationZer0 I find misself agreeing with @billyRalston – dialogue 1 way – skeptics are chumps

  12. Tiny Klout Flag43Ian Allan ‏@decanker13h

    @Zagzigger @TransportBlog @BenRoss_AKL @BillyRalston @GenerationZer0 I haven’t heard a skeptic offer an informed alternative.

  13. Tiny Klout Flag57John Drinnan ‏@Zagzigger13h

    @decanker @TransportBlog @BenRoss_AKL @BillyRalston @GenerationZer0 notn well enough informed 4 yr debate – Ill leave it to you and Ben

 

 

What can’t be seen as that branched off into another debate thread was the fact that myself, Transport Blog writers, Generation Zero and supporters are not planners. We are citizens who all want a Better 21st Century Auckland

This sub-thread further answered John’s question on who “we” actually are:

  1. 58TransportBlog ‏@TransportBlog13h

    @Zagzigger @decanker @BenRoss_AKL @BillyRalston @GenerationZer0 We want to help inform people with facts but sadly many don’t want to listen

  2. Tiny Klout Flag58TransportBlog ‏@TransportBlog13h

    @Zagzigger Generally referring to @BenRoss_AKL & @GenerationZer0 & ourselves. @BillyRalston

 

 

This Twitter spat that kicked off after my protestation on Auckland 2040 getting a slot to spiel their (well it is) propaganda (and proven) but yet the Herald did not bother to contact myself, Transport Blog and/or Generation Zero for our valid opinions and counter-proposals to provide balance for Project (21st Century) Auckland.

That alone when only one narrow side gets put out there but no counter-balance to offer an alternative to the wider City is enough for me to not display inspiration nor much confidence in such a “vision” like Project Auckland. All ideas and alternatives need to be put out into the public realm for an honest and frank debate by everyone. You will find the better if not best solutions come out of those debates. Not this one sides purporting of one set of “solutions” that should be taken as gospel as could be seen in Project Auckland as that often gets us the worst of solutions and results as there is no scrutiny, no counter-proposals able to be put forward.

 

 Project Auckland? Probably get me black listed for writing a constructive critique such as this (where I have little to be inspired for and little confidence to be displayed) – all for wanting a Better Auckland – a 21st (not 1950’s) Auckland…. 

 

 

Grinch that Stole Christmas?

$20/head for a non-alcoholic party? Good investment – just “bad timing”

 

I see two particular people are pushing a barrow against Auckland Transport this morning (well one was last night looking at the Scoop release). Affordable Auckland’s Stephen Berry and the NZ Herald‘s Bernard Orsman seem to be pushing the barrow around Auckland Transport holding a family orientated, no-alcohol based event at The Cloud last weekend.

From the NZ Herald:

$40k Auckand Transport do draws flak

By Bernard Orsman 5:30 AM Tuesday Nov 12, 2013

Cash-strapped Auckland Transport criticised for ‘enormous’ staff party at the Cloud.

A financially troubled council body has splashed out about $41,500 on a party for 1700 staff and family at the Cloud, including entertainment from X Factor NZwinner Jackie Thomas.

Auckland Transport held the One Team party at the waterfront venue on Saturday – the first time in three years staff across the organisation and their families have got together.

As well as Jackie Thomas, a juggling group and ethnic dancers entertaining party-goers, four food trucks served food and soft drinks at a combined cost of about $20 a head.

Auckland Transport paid another council body, Waterfront Auckland, $7500 for the hire of the Cloud.

Last night, Auckland Transport chief executive David Warburton – whose organisation is forecasting an $18 million shortfall for next year’s budget – said the council body was concerned about the wise use of ratepayers’ money but believed the event was a sound investment and good for organisational culture.

Staff had requested an opportunity to meet more of their colleagues and it could never been done in work hours for operational reasons, he said.

Mr Warburton said the $20-a-head cost was less than the budget of $30-$35 a head for Christmas functions, there was no alcohol and some activities for the children.

You can read the full article over it in the NZ Herald

 

Essentially the event came to $20/head which is pretty cheap and quite prudent for again what was a family orientated mass party. I am quite sure the children would have not minded Jackie Thomas putting out a few hits knowing X-Factor had a quite a few followers at the beginning of the year.

 

The saying goes there are Christmas Parties and there are Christmas Parties with the latter often being booze-fuelled events and often terrible hang-overs that go beyond the traditional hang-over. This Christmas bash would have not been the latter but rather a wind down and for staff from AT’s large empire, to see each other and just relax.

Especially after not an easy year which is still on going (Future of grace period for old bus cards uncertain) and could be easily pinned to senior management not being on the ball <_<  with the entire AT-HOP saga and buses.

 

I did Tweet this earlier this morning:

56Ben Ross ‏@BenRoss_AKL23m

@sudhvir no alcohol, family event, close to public transport, good night out, $20/head This should be retweeted for all positive reasons

In saying that probably “bad timing” on the event owing to what I alluded just earlier not being an easy year for Auckland Transport and their staff. However, I am not going to be the Grinch that stole their Christmas either, just hope the people at the party had a very good time 🙂

 

 

Retraction and Apologies

When Wrong – One Apologies Promptly

 

I caught the update to the train incident that was reported in the NZ Herald on Monday and subsequent reaction in Talking Auckland soon afterwards.

This is the update from Stuff:

Rail operator backtracks for mum

 

After Transdev and Auckland Transport viewed Colour CCTV footage there was more to the saga than meets the eye originally when reported from the black and white CCTV footage at Takanini Station.

As a result of this update and the respective Talking Auckland Post on Monday (now fully retracted) I do offer a full and utter apology to Ms Johnson and her children.

In light of the issue, further measures will be put into place to make sure this kind of incident does not occur again at Talking Auckland. In saying that there is always a risk when doing “second-hand” reporting from a Main Stream Media source into a blog post. However, utmost professionalism will occur when running commentary on such emotive issues.

 

In saying this I need not remind Auckland that the rail network is a very dangerous place and can kill. The case of the dad running to the train as it was departing from Ranui Station last year resulting in the accident and eventual death as he slipped from the platform, underneath the train and was effectively run over in front of his family and other passengers is that STARK reminder of what happens when something can go so utterly wrong.

So please in light of all of this: Please be at the platform 5 minutes before the scheduled departure of the train with your ticket ready or AT-HOP card tagged on.

 

As for Te Mahia Station – lobbying continues for it to be fully closed!

 

 

Here We Go Again with Port of Auckland

Round Two

With Port Expansions

 

This is a case of here we go again with Port of Auckland and its more modest expansion plans at its Waterfront site.

Seems Bernard Orsman has a new (well old) topic to go latch onto until August 13 – when the Auckland Plan Committee meets again.

The Herald is planning to run a “series” on the latest plans for expansion at the Waitemata site. Talking Auckland though will not be running any commentary on the latest rounds from POAL and its expansion proposals.

The reason being that I have originally covered matters relating to the Port expansion plans earlier (check the Waterfront Auckland Waterfront Index at the top of the page) as well as that there is no new material to comment on until Part Two of the review is conducted (if it ever will be). Orsman did handily outline the two parts to the review for easy reference:

From the NZ Herald

Port push into harbour set to be part of Auckland plan

By Bernard Orsman @BernardOrsman

5:30 AM Monday Aug 5, 2013

Expansion plan reviews – what’s involved

Stage 1
* A technical study by PricewaterhouseCoopers on the current and future freight demand and supply for the three upper North Island ports, Auckland, Tauranga and Northland.

It found:
* The upper North Island needs all its ports to meet strong growth, and the best way to meet future demand is to grow the ports.
* Ports of Auckland is likely to face capacity constraints before Tauranga and Northland.
* Losing the 3ha of land at Captain Cook and Marsden wharves would make matters worse.
* Further reclamation needed over the next 30 years, but less than previously thought.

Stage 2
* To inform the long-term strategic planning choices for the Auckland waterfront.

To consider:
* Different configurations and alternative locations for Ports of Auckland.
* Economic costs and benefits of various options.
* Alignment with current transport strategies, plans and programmes.
* Legal and other barriers to various options.
* Auckland Council engaging with communities with an interest in port development about the results of the work.

—ends—

 

August 13 folks – it is open to the public and I will be there running the commentary live as it happens.

Those Secret Papers

Where’s Wally?

 

Seems our Ageist Old Fart from the NZ Herald – Bernard Orsman has had one of those John Key/David Shearer “brain fade” moments when banging on about the Unitary Plan. Orsman decided to go post this piece in the Granny Herald which caught the attention of a few people:

Secret plan papers kept from public

By Bernard Orsman @BernardOrsman

8:06 AM Monday Apr 29, 2013 

The Auckland Council is sitting on secret documents used to draw up a new planning rulebook for the city and instructed its top lawyer to keep them hidden from the public.

Mayor Len Brown and chief executive Doug McKay have rejected requests from the Herald to release background papers used by a political working party to develop the most important planning document in the history of Auckland.

The new rulebook – or Unitary Plan – sets out a new way of life for Auckland’s 1.5 million residents that includes high-rise apartments and infill housing to cope with squeezing another 1 million people into the city.

But when the Herald sought the background papers on the heritage rules from Mr McKay under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, the council’s general counsel Wendy Brandon refused to release the material. Requests for background papers on other issues would also be refused, she said.

The Herald is seeking a review of the council decision from the Ombudsman.

 

Not trusting Orsman I decided to go digging up for myself for these apparent secret papers. Often private citizens – those being private citizens who have not gone out of their way annoying Council have better luck getting a hold of council documents than the commercial media. I got an answer back pretty much the same day in regards to those “secret” paper and it is the following:

 

The papers are both beside me and on my desktop. I have had them since 2011 (with the collection still ongoing) and I already refer to them quite often here at this blog for research. Heck the paper version even follows me to Unitary Plan Community Meetings as well. So what were those papers? Well they were:

  • The (operative) Auckland Plan
  • The 7000 page draft Unitary Plan including maps – both electronic and hard copy
  • Every single Auckland Plan Committee agenda with all the attachments (often with Powerpoint presentations attached) added since The Auckland Plan became operative in 2011 if not earlier

 

Anything not available would have been from commercial sensitivity grounds such as someone’s property to be directly affected by a project (happens). However, those documents can also be sort after – usually with some black highlighter through it.

 

So the question was asked (basically Where’s Wally) about the background documents used to draw up the Draft Unitary Plan. Well seems the answer was if I trawl through over 10,000 pages of both hard and digital material – the background information is all there. One just needs to go sifting through it to go find it – or be more proactive and go ask someone who knows 😛

 

 

Might be time to leave the Herald alone folks. I see Stuff.co.nz do a pretty decent coverage on the Unitary Plan from all angles including the youth angle.

 

At the same time I could always go out to the community and talk Unitary Plan independent from the Council. Might go work on that business flyer this morning…

 

BEN ROSS : AUCKLAND

BR:AKL: Bring Well Managed Progress

The Unitary Plan: Bringing Change

Auckland: 2013 – OUR CITY, OUR CALL

 

March Madness

City Still Reeling from Thursday’s Motorway Disaster

 

I am still seeing reports all over the main stream media and social media on the traffic chaos from Thursday’s crash on the Newmarket Viaduct right in the afternoon peak. Pretty much the city is still reeling from what can be described as an absolute disaster as buses, cars and trucks were basically going nowhere in Central Auckland. In the end walking and trains (for those who could use them) proved to be the fastest method of transit on Thursday afternoon.

 

The Herald ran a piece this morning on the Thursday disaster:

From the NZ Herald:

Forecast: More traffic chaos ahead

By Mathew Dearnaley

5:30 AM Saturday Mar 9, 2013

Auckland’s worst traffic gridlock for years was caused by an extra squeeze of pressure on a stretched transport network – and it is not over yet.

Although the city has struggled through its busiest traffic week of the year, culminating in Thursday’s chaos after a serious crash closed all four southbound lanes of the main motorway out of town, Auckland Transport warns of a difficult weekend.

It is urging Aucklanders and their visitors to consider using public transport or share car rides with friends or neighbours as hundreds of thousands of people throng to a raft of events over the weekend.

Commuters stewed in traffic queues over three successive afternoons, but the longest were caused by the cascading impact of a 2-hour closure of Newmarket Viaduct’s southbound carriageway at the height of Thursday’s peak travel period.

The viaduct is the country’s busiest section of motorway, normally carrying 7000 southbound vehicles an hour during afternoon peaks, and the closure from a serious crash could not have come at a worst time for what the Transport Agency acknowledges is a highly sensitive urban traffic network.

Not only that, but Auckland Transport says this was already the busiest traffic week of the year, as students hasten to the first classes of term joined other commuters trying to make an earnest start back at work from the summer holidays.

The phenomenon known as “March madness” happens every year, and tends to ease off after the first frenzied week, but Automobile Association traffic spokesman Phil Allen says he has never seen a worst example of gridlock than on Thursday afternoon.

You can read the rest over at the Herald

 

The point I am raising here is that unless we get on top of the transport situation, Thursday is only going to repeat itself more often and will absolutely cripple the city as we move towards two million people.

This week alone I had written several transport related posts that interlink to Thursday’s chaos:

SOUTHERN MOTORWAY GRIDLOCK – Bring Back the Eastern Highway?

A post on how if the Eastern Highway and the Botany Line were built in 2004, a fully operational and high-capacity back up route for trucks, buses, cars and trains (the trains tapping into the currently unreached East Auckland) in and out of the CBD bypassing State Highway one could have alleviated some if not a lot of the mess from a blocked State Highway One

 

PATRONAGE BELOW FORECAST – Rail Patronage Some Millions Below Forecast

This touched on an interview on Radio NZ with Auckland Transport Chair Dr Lester Levy and how rail patronage is going to be some two and a half million passenger trips below forecast ending June 30. Full trains mean an easier run on the motorway, empty trains as they currently are mean a blocked State Highway one – and I have seen both situations.

 

This weekend would have been a perfect opportunity to showcase our public transport system with an absolute diverse range of events including Pasifika Festival in Western Springs and Around the Bays tomorrow which bring out countless residents and visitors today. You would think rather than operate our infrequent weekend timetables today, Auckland Transport would go out of their way and actually run a full Friday timetable for buses and trains to help getting people out of cars and freeing up the roads. Further more you think our fares would be affordable to also get people into public transport. This means actually selling the old Rail Family Pass right across the rail network rather than Britomart, Newmarket and New Lynn; and allow that Pass to be used freely on bus shuttles from Britomart and Morningside to Western Springs for Pasifika. I even called on AT for reasons why this is not happening:

  1. and @AklTransport any reason why Rail Ticket Inspectors not selling the old Family Pass up and down the entire network today?

  2. Ben Ross ‏@BenRoss_AKL

    @AklTransport any reason why we are not operating Friday Train and Bus Timetables today with the amount of events on.#repeatingthursday?

 

Perfect opportunity today for public transport – wasted! Lord help any one on the roads today if they back up…

 

Moving on

 

GOING FORWARD – Progress

This post mentioned that despite Thursday I can feel confident and excited on a new leaf being turned for our transport system – for the better. That this new leaf and evolution will be led by private citizen initiatives rather than public civic institution led and that in time Auckland will actually have an integrated transport system that we all understand.

 

 

What will my next commentary be on March 25? I wonder with Auckland’s Transport