In the past, I have been critical of Auckland Council meeting reports, as they often did not include all the information needed to make informed decisions. As a new Councillor, I was the first to put my hand up to chair the political working party to improve staff report writing. I set the targets high; so high, in fact, I was cautioned I had set them too high. But I held my ground.
We changed the format, made other changes and added a financial implications category – I know you’d think that would have been there already. The new reports were implemented in key committee meetings. I am pleased to advise the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, who independently evaluate local and central government report writing, evaluated Council’s improved reports and gave them the highest score out of any council in New Zealand. In fact, the score was higher than many central government departments.
That’s the good news. Now the bad.
The Quay St lane closures are an unmitigated disaster; particularly for those in Parnell and the Ōrākei Ward. Auckland Transport closed one lane either way at the end of December, permanently reducing a four-lane road to two lanes.
Here is what they didn’t do. They didn’t advise the Mayor and Councillors of this timing. They didn’t communicate with the thousands of people who use Quay St. They didn’t communicate with residents of 300 apartments, whose homes are severely affected. They didn’t allow for any trialling of new routes for east/ west traffic in advance of the closures. They didn’t consider the impact on businesses, bars, restaurants, shops, offices, and hotels. They simply didn’t do enough to prepare for a change of this significance.
Traffic has now been at an almost standstill in peak hours, even in the January ‘holiday’ period. The Strand route is now clogged and trucks — who used this route to access the motorway from the port — are now using residential streets to access the motorway at Greenlane.
Using Customs St to travel east/west is a potential option, yet it’s full of road cones due to the huge amount of construction going on there. So at the very least, timing of the Quay St changes is completely impractical.
In January, I wrote to AT’s chief executive asking him to return Quay St to two lanes each way. I have published it, in full, on my website, desleysimpson.co.nz (under recent news) if you would like to read it. AT is supposed to be a Council Controlled Organisation. The Mayor and Councillors have a ‘no surprises’ policy. In my opinion, the Quay St decision broke that policy.
What AT has warned us of though, is a proposed bylaw to reduce traffic to 30km throughout the CBD and other places, including Mission Bay and St Heliers. The driver (pardon the pun) for reduced speed is safety. AT statistics reflect more than three serious injuries or deaths on Auckland roads each week. A pedestrian hit at 50km has an 80 per cent chance of death; whilst at 30km that drops to 10 per cent. At 60km, the chance of death is 95 per cent.
Those against the speed reduction want to keep traffic moving when it can, and say safety on our roads would be increased if those on foot walked on the footpath – crossing at pedestrian crossings as opposed to jaywalking; cyclists used cycle lanes; buses on bus lanes; and cars on the road, with serious repercussions for red light runners.
What do you think? Please have your say. Consultation is open through to the end of March. You can submit your views via the ‘Have Your Say’ section of the AT website, at.govt.nz.
To help inform your views, the AT board chairman has agreed to my request to come and speak on speed reduction at a community meeting. At time of writing, those details have not been finalised. However, I will be writing more on this in my newsletter and will post the details on my site when I have them. Please contact me at Desley.Simpson@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz to be added to the newsletter distribution list.
Finally, as promised, I have always voted on feedback from the Ōrākei Ward and hope to hear from as many of you as possible on the Mayor’s draft Annual Plan. For the first time, Ōrākei has two funded projects in this budget, which I worked hard to secure.
The plan also includes a new investment to reduce homelessness. Please go to: aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/haveyoursay or pop into an advertised local drop-in session to learn more.