Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bridging Quay Street Like Wellington

This is a little doodle....

Here's Quay Street between Queens Wharf and Queen Elizabeth Square. On a quiet day. Not much traffic and few pedestrians...

Here's how Wellington bridged their equivalent. Very successful piece of functional art.
It might just fit across our Quay Street....
See! And what a great viewing platform it would make. A grand entrance onto Queens Wharf, and from it, across QE II Square, and up Queen Street. Show some respect for the Ferry Building.

And something similar to Princes Wharf. Or maybe we'll bite the bullet and pedestrianise that section.

Ok. There are problems with this idea. For example it would block views. So perhaps it could be narrower, or a more open lattice sort of structure. Have a look at the 3rd and 6th pictures in this Singapore posting. One things for sure though - there needs to be a transformation in opening up pedestrian access from city to waterfront and Queens Wharf. (And to Princes Wharf, and from Victoria Parl to Wynyard Quarter.....)

Sign of Council's Split Personality

Attended an Auckland Council Governing Body meeting the other day. Held in the old Auckland City Council building as usual.

Was amused by the signs....
Decisions: turn right.

Financial accounting: turn left.

To stand a better chance of getting a manageable public debt, maybe the governing body should spend some time in the council chamber learning about financial accounting.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Planning Priority for Queens Wharf

The Herald wrote a few weeks ago describing a Waterfront Auckland "draft masterplan" for Queens Wharf. The story says:

" ....The thinking is for the single-storey Shed 11 to be reinstated south of Shed 10 for a market and other public uses.  The waterfront agency is also proposing to build a new shed, respecting the traditional shed form, for the servicing components of the cruise ship terminal at Shed 10.  It would be located north of Shed 10 at the end of Queens Wharf and include a mezzanine level for functions, along the lines of the mezzanine floor at the end of the Cloud. The draft masterplan will envisage removing the Cloud at some stage to free up the western side of the wharf for public space.
....said the Cloud could remain for five to 10 years...."

This story provoked a critical editorial response from NZ Herald, which received a few comments. Many of these supported the Herald's line:  ".... just because a building is old does not mean it has aesthetic appeal. The sheds are simply ugly embarrassments undeserving of any historic status....". I thought this was an irresponsible comment for our country's leading newspaper - making no mention of the work of the Historic Places Trust. It is simply one person's opinion. That's OK for a letter to the editor, but I think an editorial needs to more broadly reflect the public interest in the shape and history of its urban form.

But thankfully some comments spoke in support of adaptive re-use.  

It's good that Waterfront Auckland's plan is described as "draft masterplan" and it is "due out for public consultation in the next few weeks..."

But there are some terrible echoes in what's happening on Queens Wharf, of what happened in the planning of Princes Wharf. The draft masterplan talks about public space, but that can't happen until the Cloud is removed ("could remain 5 to 10 years"). And the proposed building at the end of Queens Wharf - ancillary to cruise ship visits - will block views of the Waitemata Harbour entrance - and more or less enshrine the cruise ship business carpark that is already emerging at the end of Queens Wharf (this is what now happens on most of the "public space" on Princes Wharf.)

The "draft masterplan" appears to prioritise the construction of a Shed 11 structure at the Quay Street end of Queens Wharf - this could well be a positive step I think, but needs to be seen in the context of a pedestrianised Quay Street and Queen Elizabeth Square (as was promised in 1980!). According to the NZ Herald story the draft masterplan includes a new shed at the end, maybe alongside the mayor's state house sculpture (which I wrote a bit about here), and only then, almost as an after-thought, a public space. But only after everyone's finished with the Cloud....

The public spaces on Princes Wharf were all after-thoughts, and are miserable failures as a consequence. We can, and must do much better with Queens Wharf.

This is what Disney has done at the Hyperion Wharf. Activated (but not dominated by places to spend money), multi-level, shade from the sun, shelter from winds, access to the water, places to sit.

I suggest you click on this picture to see the detail...

I know it's a bit of a fantasy...
These three pictures are of Boston's Long Wharf. This one is at the end - reminiscent of the end of our Queens Wharf. Note the absence of permanent fences - one of the least attractive aspects of our Queens Wharf at present. 
There are grassed areas as well - closer to the landward end of the wharf.
This view is looking back landward from the end of Long Wharf. While the building shown is brick - it has a similar form to Shed 10. This view is impossible on our Queens Wharf, because the bloody security fence, which is always up, prevents access.
We can do this stuff well in Auckland.

When we get some good planning in place that is. This is Silo Park in the Wynyard Quarter. It's reclaimed land. But the grass looks and works well. Surrounded by interesting structures from the industrial background of the place.Successful. Internationally recognised.
And just a reminder of Wellington. This map gives an indication of the amount of waterfront public space that was planned, and is provided, for Wellington citizens (and it is not dominated by cruise ship parking - by the way).
Here's another map showing the amount of open space - without buildings - on Wellington's waterfront.
I prepared this rough equivalent for Auckland. And it's a generous interpretation. It does show the space that is without buildings, but it is important to note that much of the space on Queens Wharf, and on Te Whero is taken up with car and vehicle parking, and by traffic.
This next two pics are about a part of Washington DC. Planners' images for the use of part of the waterfront (bottom), and of a narrow wharf (left).

I do have some experience of how artistic impressions can be used to lull the public into a state of calm, and allow developments to occur that drive the public away, rather than the whole being genuinely designed and planned, as a priority, for public.

The two pieces of waterfront development at Auckland that have generally been successful are the Viaduct and Wynyard Quarter (I appreciate it's early days for Wynyard, but it has started reasonably well).

The two pieces of waterfront development at Auckland that have not been successful are Princes Wharf and Queens Wharf (so far).

What the two successes share in common is that in each case the land was subject to a Plan Change under the RMA. This allowed a major public consultation process to play out and unfold. Sadly, that has not happened with either Princes Wharf or Queens Wharf. You can read here my recent detailed research about the sorry planning history of Princes Wharf.

Queens Wharf has fared little better so far. That history is next on my list of research projects, but it includes the Rugby World Cup Empowering Act, and the Hon Murray McCully and the might of the Auckland Regional Council, with a heap of opinions and personal visions, and no proper planning. Which is why it is the way it is today.

The planning rules for Queens Wharf, in the Unitary Plan, as far as I can make out, are: "The activities in the General Coastal Marine zone apply to the CMA in the Central Wharves Precinct unless otherwise specified in the activity table below....." and the activity table says that "public amenities" are permitted, and that "Minor cosmetic alterations and repairs to a building that does not changes its external design and appearance" are permitted, and that: "New buildings, and alterations and additions to buildings not otherwise provided for" are restricted discretionary.

The words "public amenities" are rather vague, and the assessment criteria for any new building don't appear to be onerous. My assessment of the planning controls is that the owner has a great deal of flexibility, about what can happen on Queens Wharf - you can drive a coach and horses through those sorts of rules. And that the public has no real certainty about what might happen there. Certainly there is no stated commitment to public space. Just flexibility.

And the unitary plan does not mention the deal that was done with Ports of Auckland Ltd, and about which I don't recall the details now, but which relates to a strip around Queens Wharf (not the end) where POAL has mooring rights and rights to collect mooring fees. From cruise ships.

Ports and Cruise Ship planning are the elephants in the room of Queens Wharf. Auckland needs a staged waterspace and wharfspace allocation plan, for the next 10 years or so, which allows more certainty in the planning of public space and public park spaces on its waterfront. The future of cruise ship parking - whether it's on Princes, Bledisloe, Captain Cook with a dolphin, Wynyard Wharf, or with much less impact on Queens Wharf and shared across these other options - needs decisions.

Queens Wharf deserves better than it's had so far - in planning terms - and in terms of public involvement.

Princes Wharf Planning: Pocket History

It’s surprising what you find when you get the inclination to dig into Auckland archives. Like investigating how we ended up with a Hilton Hotel and hundreds of private apartments on Auckland’s publicly owned Princes Wharf and little else for locals. 

This is my story of discovery. I show and tell from my recent journey into the bowels of Auckland planning archives. It is a story that needs to be told so we can learn, reflect and – hopefully – avoid repetition.

Please be patient with my story-telling. I didn’t know what I didn’t know when I started. One set of archives led to another. One step forward two steps backward. Then onward again, but better informed.

This story begins in 2004 when I was elected onto the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) alongside Mike Lee and Sandra Coney. Mainly responsible for public transport funding and environmental protection, the ARC had just been handed control of the Ports of Auckland company and its waterfront land assets, some of which were surplus to Port’s requirements.

The ARC’s thirteen councillors found themselves in the hot seat responsible for the development planning of what was then known as the Western Reclamation, today as Wynyard Quarter, including about 18 hectares of prime waterfront real estate held in public ownership.

Councillors were taken on tiki tours around the Viaduct Basin and out to the end of Princes Wharf where we were shown the meagre provision there for public viewing. Standing outside I felt as if I was intruding on the holidays of the rich and famous sitting comfortably behind plate glass in Hilton’s lap of luxury. 

The months flew by as ARC Councillors considered urban designs and land use proposals for Wynyard Quarter, put them out for public consultation, collected feedback, held stakeholder fora, and came under the media spotlight. The demand for public space, things to do, visitor destinations, character buildings to protect, places to see, marine industry development was huge.

Eventually the ARC and Auckland City Council prepared changes to land use planning documents – how high buildings could be, what was public, what was commercial, what was marine, streetscapes, heritage buildings, transport, what could be moored and where – anything and everything – and these were put out for submissions. In Resource Management Act lingo – the plans were publicly notified.

While all this was happening in 2007 I asked myself this question: if we have to go through all this palaver, jump through so many RMA hoops for the Wynyard Quarter, how come Princes Wharf got developed without so much as a dicky-bird chirping? Construction had started at the end of 1998, well after the RMA was law. So how did the Princes Wharf development get under the radar?

I asked long serving ARC Councillors, and senior staff. But nobody told me. Looking back now I wonder how many could have told me. Perhaps I asked the wrong questions. But I had little time to fret because suddenly Rugby World Cup fever descended on Auckland and Queens Wharf jumped to the top of the ARC’s list of things to worry about. Helter Skelter.

Toward the end of my time on the ARC in 2010 I went into bat with Sandra Coney to protect Queens Wharf’s Shed 10 from demolition. So did Heart of the City and Mayor John Banks to their credit. Pressure for another big cruise ship terminal on Queens Wharf and the for demolition of heritage buildings had been huge. My fear was that Auckland would get another Princes Wharf type development.

Since then I've had some time to reflect. About Auckland planning. Time to think about that question again: How did the Princes Wharf development happen?

For a few months in 2013, with twelve years of local government experience and a planning degree behind me, I have been on a mission.

Auckland Library Archives

To kick off my investigation I started with the New Zealand Herald archives which anyone can access over the internet. Keyword: “Princes Wharf”. Hundreds of entries: creating a thriving new heart for the city; café set worrying mariners; city wharf vital to trade; bars hinder sightseers. Stuff like that. But the digital archiving that I could access started in 1999. I needed to go back before that.

Someone suggested I check Auckland Library archives. I’d used my daughter’s library card in the past to get books from Devonport library, but it had lapsed. She’d long left home. So I joined and a strange (for me) new world opened up.

The Auckland library has a heap of digital archives available – to card-carrying-members – over the internet. The New Zealand Card Index is one of these. It began in the 1950’s as a manual card system, closed in 1996, and has since been digitised. It focuses on people, places and organisations, and selectively indexes the NZ Herald and Auckland Star newspapers and something called the Auckland Scrapbook (ASB for short) which was started in 1921.

I’m told that this scrapbook – large, heavy cardboard covers, gold lettering - was kept by the desk of the Auckland City Council Secretary. His or her job included cutting out and pasting in newspaper articles of interest. There are dozens of these Auckland Scrapbooks. And when I searched for “Princes Wharf” a heap of Scrapbook card index entries came up. Including:
·    ASB Aug 1983, Page 242: Auckland Harbour Board. Work has begun on the board's new headquarters building at the base of Princes Wharf - with this development will be the upgrading of the "downtown quayside" by the Auckland City Council
·    ASB Feb 1984, Page 290: Auckland Harbour Board. 8 huge concrete "legs" are part of the base of the $14.2 million Auckland Harbour Bd. headquarters on Princes Wharf
·    ASB Nov 1987, Page 224: Auckland Waterfront. 3-way race for the proposed redevelopment of Princes Wharf was won yesterday by the Mace Development Corporation.

And tantalisingly, this from the Auckland Star:
·    Star, 9 Oct 1987, Front page: Auckland Harbour Board has chosen a $190 million design by Mace Development Corporation incorporating hotel, markets, entertainment centre and a museum for the 63 year-old Princes Wharf site.

But how to see the actual newspaper articles? Over the phone the receptionist at Auckland Library Archives explained I needed to go into the Auckland Library – the archives floor – with my card index references – and they’d show me. She said I should set aside a few hours.

Next day I visited the Central Auckland Research Centre. Level two of the Lorne Street Auckland Library building. Acres of carpet and silence. Kilometres of old volumes and filing cabinets. She asked if I knew about microfilm. No. I was shown where the rolls of film were stored and how to work an old microfilm reader. Talk about exciting.

The picture in the Sun newspaper (10.10.87) showed a stunning development for Princes Wharf, and the article shouted: “..features for the development include:
·    225 bed hotel;
·    maritime museum and commercial marina
·    public steps which will form a grandstand to the harbour
·    entertainment and cultural centre
·    modernised arrival area for cruise ships
·    quayside marketplace, foodhall and variety of restaurants
·    art gallery and cinema
·    carpark…”  

So what happened? Where’s the waterfront grandstand? What about the cultural centre? And the quayside marketplace, art gallery and cinema. What happened to the Harbour Board’s promise of Princes Wharf being transformed into a ‘people place’?

Other library archives gave a partial answer. In its 19th January 1989 issue, the National Business Review (NBR) reports:
“Work on redeveloping Auckland’s Princes Wharf has shifted from overall design to planning for legislative changes needed….   The $275 million project had been reviewed since the original design licence was awarded to Mace a week before the sharemarket crash…”

A crash. Bet that came as a nasty surprise. The report continues:
“…approvals required include maritime planning permission… and an Act of Parliament must be amended to allow construction of commercial property on the wharf...”

Legislation and maritime planning. These would have been spanners in the works. Before going onward from 1989, I need to back-track a little. My curiosity in the rather striking Auckland Harbour Board Headquarters Building had been piqued by the Library archives. Another hunt in the NZ Card Index was called for:
·    ASB, Feb 1980, Page 79:  The Auckland Harbour Board has revealed its design for a $7.7 million quayside office building.
·    NZ Herald, 13 Oct 1982, Page 4: Travelodge NZ Ltd and AMP Society's appeal against Planning Tribunal decision that Auckland Harbour Board's proposed new headquarters on Princes Wharf can go ahead being heard in High Court.
·    ASB, July 1985, Page 29:  Auckland Harbour Board building wins one of the NZ Institute of Architects awards.

Both the NZ Herald and the Auckland Star ran features after AHB released proposals for its new HQ. These included a striking illustration of  “Quayside Project” plans to pedestrianize Quay Street all the way from Queens Wharf to Princes Wharf, and from Shed 10 on Queens Wharf up through Queen Elizabeth Square. (You can see this picture here.)

The Auckland Star article (14.4.1980) reads:
“This is the way the Auckland Harbour Board visualizes the downtown waterfront area developing, including its new building at the corner of Princes wharf and the quayside. The Mediterranean concept, as board chairman Mr Bob Carr, once described it, is aimed at bringing the port to the people…”

So what happened to those plans? Maybe it was just a public con job.

And the Herald report (15.4.1980), headlined: “Harbour Board Feeling Call of the Sea”, states that the first floor of its HQ “is set 36 feet above an open lower story… the open lower floor has been designed to provide public access through to the existing waterfront…”

Man oh man. Look at this building today. The whole underneath has been filled in. Vertical infill. How did that happen? More on that later.  (You can see here for before and now)

So. AHB got their HQ. Cost them around $14 million. Money they didn’t have, so they needed a bank loan. But their really big plan was to develop Princes Wharf real estate. Make serious money.

But it took some detective work to piece this together.

Auckland City Council Archives

I knew I’d have to get immersed in Auckland City Council archives at some point. There’s a sort of meta-data system anyone can access over the net. I tried words like “Wharf” and “Princes” and found a whole lot of references to “Scheme Change 4” of the “Waitemata Harbour Maritime Plan”. By “references” I mean record numbers, dates, file numbers. Stuff like that. No actual documents though.

So I sent an email to the queries address. By return I was advised I needed to show up at the Auckland Council Archives offices. Two stories underground by the Academy Theatre – also in Lorne Street interestingly. Pressed the buzzer. Was let in and told, “this is a pencil and paper only area. Put your things in that locker.”  Heavy. Did as I was told, and was presented with a pile of old manilla folders dated between 1986 and 1989 stuffed with papers about a change of planning controls for Princes Wharf. 

Cutting to the chase: In 1989 Auckland Harbour Board applied to the Waitemata Harbour Planning Authority for changes that would allow commercial development on Princes Wharf. Its application states:
“…It is intended that Mace should be granted a lease to permit the redevelopment and operation of Princes Wharf as a commercially based mixed-use complex of benefit to the citizens of Auckland and visitors to the city. To provide a planning opportunity for that development, the Authority has introduced this Proposed Change to its Scheme…”

The fine print permits most activities known to mankind; allocates wharf space roughly between hotel uses, shops, offices, and public space; permits a maximum height of 62 meters above the deck; and states: “the redevelopment is intended to contain an appropriate and balanced mix of uses which will ensure its commercial viability while facilitating public access and providing for public enjoyment of the wharf…”

Auckland City Council opposed the application. 

In an internal memo (23.3.1989), Council’s Divisional Planner City Development, writes:
“It is extremely important that this Council lodge objection to Proposed Change 4 and pursue this matter with vigour….”

He refers to the “Quayside Project” (mentioned earlier, with Quay Street pedestrianised and Queens Wharf paved. This turns out was a joint plan between Auckland Harbour Board and Auckland City Council) and other joint plans: “the emphasis (of these) is to encourage reuse and refurbishment of existing structures and to encourage greater public use of those spaces…”

Points made in Council’s objection include:
“…at a height of 62 metres, the new building can hardly be construed as a reuse of an existing and obsolete wharf…”
“…’commercial viability’ is a market influence and should not dictate planning decisions which are made in the public interest…”
“…the Scheme Change would permit development of a scale and nature which is not appropriate to this important maritime location… and such development would be permitted without right of public scrutiny or objection…”

I suggest you re-read that last quote – especially the last part of it.

Other documents in the folders show that changes were made to the application, and that AHB’s modified application was granted. Man oh man. Given the strength of those objections from a council planner – what the hell happened?

No detail. Frustrating. I had been given Auckland City Council archives - but only files that were “unrestricted”. I was told that to see “restricted” files I would have to apply to Auckland Council under the Local Government Official Information Act. That might be a mission.

But staff at Auckland Council Archives had a suggestion. They told me that all the Auckland Harbour Board files - with its side of the story – much more detailed - were held by the Auckland Maritime Museum.

Auckland Harbour Board Archives – Maritime Museum

I made an appointment. Asked to see files about the late 1980’s proposed Princes Wharf development, and anything they might have about Scheme Change 4. She told me she’d dig them out and that I should set aside a day.

This was treasure trove. “Pencil and paper” environment but few restrictions. I was led to a large table with piles of folders and boxes. She showed me some of the big A3 documents first explaining, “these are the design submissions for Princes Wharf.” They looked amazing. Nothing like what’s down there today. I got the impression these particular documents had been shown to lots of people before me. Probably architecture students.

“Not sure what’s in these boxes though”, she said, indicating the rest of the documents, “but sounds like you know what you’re looking for.”

 Altogether I was looking at about a thousand pieces of paper, a tiny proportion of the AHB archives, and I didn’t really know where to start, or even what I was looking for. So I decided I’d go through the lot, folder by folder, box by box, page by page, taking pencilled notes of documents of interest. I was a bit put off by the cost of photocopying (high because staff did it for you), but after signing a copyright document I was permitted to use my digital camera to photograph whole pages.

What was most surprising were the blunt letters from Russell McVeagh lawyers providing strategic advice to the AHB chief executive and board of directors every step of the way. Much of it was advice about how to deal with Auckland City Council concerns about the Head Quarters building and Princes Wharf proposals.

Letters from Auckland City Council planning staff make it clear that the Council would not submit against AHB’s proposed HQ plans, on the understanding that AHB would take steps to implement the widely publicised Quayside Project. Travelodge (now the Copthorne Hotel) wasn’t impressed though, wanting to protect hotel window views across Quay Street, so it took the AHB’s plans to the Planning Tribunal Court (the precursor of the Environment Court).

Noted Judge Sheppard dealt with the case and ruled in AHB’s favour, confirming specific conditions of consent in his decision (8.7.1982):
“the (HQ) building to be used solely as the administrative offices of the Auckland Harbour Board and not leased, sub-leased or otherwise let to any other party …”
“the building to be treated by the Board as part of a comprehensive plan for progressive re-use of the Quayside area…”
“the pedestrian plaza areas, landscaping and public amenity provisions… are constructed contemporaneously with the building itself…”

Documents reveal that only four years after the HQ’s construction, port admin staff vacated the building and it was leased to commercial tenants. Another public con.

Back to Princes Wharf – but this time viewed through the lens of AHB’s archives.

AHB’s first step in the development of Princes Wharf was to conduct a design competition. The brief for this reads: “with its proximity to Auckland’s CBD there is considerable cope for an imaginative development plan…  the overall development will need to be commercially viable to attract capital. At the same time and not necessarily in conflict, public activities are seen as an essential feature… preliminary applications are invited from parties seriously interested in the development of Princes Wharf ...”

 Fifteen entries were received by the closing date (31.10.1986). These were culled to a short-list of four which were released to the Auckland public in a well organised media event including a public display of scale models of the winning designs. (The May 1987 issue of Metro Magazine published details and ran a poll on readers’ preferences.)

The public loved what they saw. So did the newspapers. Concept images did a great selling job on the public. A people’s waterfront at last.

Next step for the short-list was another design competition – only this time the entrants were advised: “parties should refine their preliminary development proposals to the stage that they would be prepared to enter into a binding development/lease agreement with the Board… lease would be for 20 years…right of renewal… lease rental basis could be based on value of property….or equity participation….”.

A big reality check. Grand designs were revisited and cut down to size. The Mace Development proposal was chosen – though minutes of AHB Board Meetings show that members were extremely unhappy with the final design – one that was economically feasible – and talked of “walking away from the deal”.

In parallel AHB got on with the serious business of changing the planning rules (summarised above), and New Zealand legislation, to allow commercial development on Princes Wharf.

This was a time when the Lange-led Labour government was hard at work restructuring New Zealand’s economy. Entrepreneurialism and market forces rule.

Auckland Harbour Board was corporatized in 1988 by Act of Parliament. Port assets and operations were handed over to a newly formed company, Ports of Auckland Ltd, (POAL) 100% owned by AHB, but whose shares could be traded on the stock exchange. The purpose of the reform was clearly stated: “The principal objective of every port company shall be to operate as a successful business.”

AHB held onto Princes Wharf for a couple of years. Getting it ready for development, prior to handing it over to POAL to do the business.

In 1989 the Hon Minister Prebble introduced the Princes Wharf Empowering Act into Parliament. Hansard tells us what he said, “to me, one of the most exciting things about the proposal is that for the first time it will open up the wharf to the public of Auckland…..  benefits or proposals intended for Princes Wharf include a new, upgraded international cruise-ship passenger terminal; a waterside plaza with a ceremonial landing---and it is to be hoped that the America's Cup boats will come into there; a low-level pontoon, and a marina promenade; a pedestrian link leading right to downtown; a theatre complex; a maritime museum; and public viewing areas…..”.

Parliament was persuaded to allow Princes Wharf leases to be sold commercially.

Interestingly, AHB files explain how Auckland City Council’s objections to Princes Wharf development proposals were finally overcome. Internal AHB legal advice states: “The City seek to have the Princes Wharf area brought within its planning jurisdiction. This would be a very dangerous concession. At the present moment it is in the maritime planning area and the scheme change is almost at the point of being made operative….  Alternative approaches… provide for the area to be deemed part of the City’s district for the purposes of the Rating Act 1967 only…”

The Council was partly bought off by the promise of rates revenue, and left planning responsibilities alone.

But Council had gone public in the Herald about its concerns, and St Mary’s Bay residents took up the fight. They were concerned about losing their views from a waterfront development that could go as high as 62 metres.

Despite these objections a public hearing signed off the AHB’s Princes Wharf development proposal. However an appeal to the Planning Tribunal was filed by the Auckland Regional Authority (the precursor to the ARC) seeking: “to limit development on the wharf to redevelopment and reuse of the existing buildings; or to permit buildings of no greater height than 25 metres above wharf level…”

A deal that was done out of court (dropping the maximum height from 62 metres to 37 metres) is hinted at by a filed court memorandum: “… clarifying the practicability of achieving a height reduction of the proposed Mace project… by eliminating the 650 seat theatre…. the hotel could be ‘dropped’ to sit immediately above the present deck level… the theatre foyer area which, in the present design, enables internal public access through to the top of the Waitemata Steps would be occupied by the hotel….”

Man oh man. Keep the hotel the same size but lose the theatre and internal public access. Con or sell out? Who knows. St Mary’s Bay residents forced the issue, and the rest of Auckland lost out big time.

By now the development was all over bar the shouting. But then came the crash and the Mace deal disappeared. Nothing happened on Princes Wharf for ten years.

However, unbeknownst to an unsuspecting public the planks for what we see today on Princes Wharf had already been laid by these historic decisions.

Next piece of the jigsaw was the Resource Management Act (RMA). This was enacted in 1991 and required the newly formed Auckland Regional Council (ARC) to prepare Auckland’s Regional Plan Coastal – which would regulate activities on the coast and above the sea (which includes on wharves).

Put simply, under the new RMA regime, any development proposed on Princes Wharf after 1991 would need to comply with Auckland’s Regional Plan Coastal, and if it didn’t, it would need a resource consent.

The RMA came from much the same parentage as the rest of New Zealand’s 1980’s free market reforms, and though it promised much in the way of environmental protection, it was – and still is – silent on human, social, and public needs.

Urban planning was reduced to the assessment of environmental effects.

The ARC could have written its Regional Plan Coastal from scratch. But in common with most NZ Councils it adopted large chunks from the previous planning regime. And by this I mean the Waitemata Harbour Maritme Plan, which – you will remember - had been changed to allow for the Mace development on Princes Wharf.

It has proved difficult for me to get files on this next stage. The Ports of Auckland Ltd have denied me access to their files – even though they are 100% publicly owned. But I have been able to obtain the Property File for Princes Wharf from Auckland Council.

Princes Wharf Property File Archives

A typical residential property file (like for where your house is) might contain a dozen or so entries describing the original subdivision, later subdivisions, and any resource or building consents. The Princes Wharf property file – which I got on CD from Council for $50 – contains around 10,000 planning files for the period since 1991. All nicely scanned and ready to read. But a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.

What I found has appalled me.

The new ARC Plan Coastal notes that by 1991 the development that had been originally envisaged by Ports of Auckland had not taken place, and contains these words:
“… the upgrading and modernisation of facilities on Princes Wharf could significantly benefit tourism, recreation, and the public amenity values of the waterfront. Any development would need to complement the urban landscape, be in scale with adjacent land-based development, and retain views of the harbour from surrounding locations. A high level of public access would need to be maintained, particularly around the northern end of Princes Wharf…”

Some commitment to public access but little else. And when you get to the rules, ARC’s Plan Coastal states that anything that fits within a building envelope 37 metres high, and runs solid along the wharf, could be built as of right, as a fully complying activity. No notification necessary. Subject to a tiny bit of planning discretion being retained by the ARC so it:
“had control over… the extent to which the design and external appearance of any buildings or structures recognises the city/harbour relationship, the prominent maritime setting of the site, and the public use of the development…”

That was feeble. The ARC showed its woeful understanding of urban planning. Ports of Auckland now had control of the lease to Princes Wharf. With a statutory obligation to be a successful business it must have been laughing. And with a planning regime like that in place, it was only a matter of time before a resource consent application to develop Princes Wharf would be received.

On the 18th June 1997, Ports of Auckland Ltd issued a media release through NZX (Capital Markets) which announced the sale of POAL’s leasehold interests (98 years) in Princes Wharf to Kitchener Group of Companies for $25.752 million.

A few months later the ARC received an application to: “construct alterations to existing buildings contained on Princes Wharf, and to install 52 racking piles to provide additional lateral support for the wharf structure.”

The ARC officer’s report (25.2.1998) notes: “the applicant has designed the proposal to comply with all requirements of the Regional Plan Coastal…. falls for consideration as a controlled activity…. The Manager… determined that the application be processed on a non-notified basis.”

In planning speak “Controlled” is like saying permitted.  And “non-notified” means what it says. No public notification.

That’s why no-one knew about it.

But there was a check. The ARC’s Plan Coastal, required that the developer should obtain a certificate from an independent registered architect. That one person needed to formally certify: “that the design and appearance of the proposed development of Princes Wharf is responsive to the city/harbour relationship, the prominent maritime setting of the site and the public use of the development and its setting…”

So an architect was retained who “worked closely with the developer”. Part of his report signing off the development reads:  “Although the height of the buildings will be greater than those currently existing on the wharf… the additional height proposed will help to achieve a sense of enclosure and definition to the harbour space in front of the Ferry building. The proposed development will act like a ‘constructed headland’… this will assist in restoring a more visually interesting and spatially attractive city waterfront which, as a result of successive harbour reclamations since the founding of the city, has been reduced to a relatively flat, straight edge…”

Which is just a matter of opinion. The expert “certifying report” minimising environmental effects is full of urban design speak that smoothly turns black into white.

Consistent with the purpose of the RMA, consent was granted. Without a hearing and without notification. By now the proposed development no longer included a cinema, theatres, museum, Waitemata Steps, festival shopping arcades. Such public amenities had long gone from this business-friendly proposal.

But it gets worse.

Over the next two years the developer applied for modifications to the original consent. These included: 37 more hotel rooms,  79 more apartments,  increased building heights, a pedestrian bridge, and a new lift. The developer also applied to restrict the public’s “unfettered access” to the end of Princes Wharf, and for six new vertical piles to hold the weight of the building. Parking increased. Restaurants spilled out between the protected colonnades. On and on.

Step by step the public lost out, and private interests took over Princes Wharf.

The same developer now owned the old (new) AHB headquarters building and applied for and obtained consent to fill it in with three new floors of commercial office space, again with the support of the friendly independent architect. Public access underneath and onto Princes Wharf was lost. And unknown additional lease payments were made to Ports of Auckland Ltd.

So that’s how it all happened.

The lesson for future waterfront development is this. Market forces can be relied upon to return profits to private shareholders. But public benefits on Auckland’s waterfront – including access, open spaces, parks, views, peace, seating, toilets, shelter, theatres, museums, galleries – can only be guaranteed when the public interest is rigorously defended and promoted by powerful and determined local government.

Newman Shows Transit Bias

Auckland Conversations. Peter Newman. Return of the City.

Peter Newman was introduced by Greg Edmonds, Chief Operating Officer for Auckland Transport, and excited after a big day with the PM and the Mayor switching on the 25,000 volt circuit which will power Auckland's new electric trains. A $600 million investment he said, and the trains have been tested to 121 kph. We were reminded of Peter's Perth background and his role in reversing the fortunes of rail there.

Newman began by saying that cities need to talk with each other, learn from each other. He said that Perth and Auckland are "similar", so it's good to talk to each other, learn from each other.

He introduced his talk with a little urban planning theory. How urban fabric was shaped first by walking, transit (tram and rail), then car. That Perth and Auckland were largely shaped by car.

I enjoyed his material about Melbourne and urban walkability and cycling - how Melbourne rediscovered its walking history. He extolled the virtues of Jan Gehl. And his role in Broadway, New York, Melbourne and Perth. Then he got onto transit. And the history of Perth's rail project: pearls on a string; how it must be fast and efficient; and interestingly he said, "it must include the hospital and the university...."

Amen to that.

He showed pictures of Perth's rail corridors: fast trains with slow lanes of cars on either side. The classic picture. That was what struck me when I visited. How fast the trains were, relative to the cars. And how wide the transport corridors were - with motorways and rail together - and large interchanges.

His pictures do underline that Perth's topography is not the same as Auckland's. The rail networks are not similar either. Perth's rail corridors were built separated from the road network. Very few controlled crossings at grade. Not so in Auckland. We have many problematic intersections between road and rail.

Another difference. Newman's slide indicated that: "rail costs $17 million/kilometre". That's pretty cheap. You might be able to do that on flat land that wasn't developed. Auckland's CRL project belies that. I know it's a tunnel, and tunnels are expensive.

Newman talked about East Perth, Subiaco - "New Lynn-like" - and that the next stage for Perth would be Light Rail to link key education and health centres.

Which brought him to "the next stage for Auckland", and was where his bias FOR rail and AGAINST bus showed in a way that I thought was surprising. His arguments for the proposed "Ring Rail" project at Perth were much more pro-growth, and disruptive of quiet urban communities, than I would expect from a champion of sustainability. (He mocked the "Save Our Suburbs" lot.)

Things he said (and my comment):
- "PT use is growing, some bus use, but more rail..."  (in most cities - apart from cities in very rich countries like Switzerland - more bus-passenger kilometres than rail-passenger kilometres)
- "Hong Kong is the great example of value capture, where land is purchased by the authority, developed into a station and TOD, and they make money...." (I have attended several lectures at Kuala Lumpur delivered by Hong Kong's MRT people. The patronage rates in Hong Kong are an order of magnitude more than in Perth, which is why it is one of the only commuter rail systems in the world that is profitable. Comparing Hong Kong with Perth - or Auckland - is apples with oranges)
-  "people/hour by mode; suburban car travel - 800/hour;  freeway - 2000/hour; bus - 5000/hour; LRT - 20,000/hour; Heavy Rail - 50,000/hour...."  (Peter did not mention Bus Rapid Transit - BRT - which runs at between 10,000/hour up to big numbers around 25,000/hour in Curitiba.)
-  "we're talking about a driver and 600 in a train people replacing 20 buses...."  (This is a classic simplistic pro-rail argument.)
 The Victoria Transport Institute has recently published (31st March 2014) a 110 page (without references) handbook about transit modes. Thoroughly recommended reading.

Among other things, it has a section comparing bus with rail, and I include a couple of paragraphs:
Summary of Rail Versus Bus
.....Rather than a debate which is overall superior, it is generally better to consider which is most appropriate in a particular situation. Bus is best serving areas with dispersed destinations and lower demand. Rail is best serving corridors with concentrated destinations and ridership, such as large commercial centers and urban villages (Kuby, Barranda and Upchurch 2004). Rail tends to attract more riders within an area but buses can cover more area, so overall ridership impacts depend on conditions. Both become more efficient and effective at achieving planning objectives if implemented with supportive policies that improve service quality, create more supportive land use patterns and encourage ridership....

....Tirachini, Hensher and Jara-Díaz (2009) modeled the infrastructure, operating costs and user time costs of three public transport options (light rail, heavy rail and bus rapid transit) in relatively sprawled Australian cities. They conclude that in most scenarios BRT is most cost effective because it has the lowest total costs (infrastructure, rolling stock and operating cost), shortest access time and waiting time cost. Rail is more cost effective only if it operates fast enough that the speed difference outweigh the BRT’s advantage on operator cost and access and waiting times. The analysis held trip generation factors constant and so did not account for rail and BRT’s ability to increase transit ridership and create transit-oriented development.....

You can download the whole report here.




Auckland Cruise Ships: How Lucrative? (2)

This picture was taken a little while ago. Among other things it shows the Oosterdam cruise ship docked at Queens Wharf.

The Oosterdam visited Auckland again a week or so ago, docked at Queens Wharf.

I decided to interview a few of the passengers about how much they spent, and what they did while they were in Auckland.

Last time I blogged I wrote this piece questioning how lucrative the cruise ship industry actually is for Auckland Inc. An Auckland consultant emailed me about it, and sent me this info:

"....there are sources of information which can assist in understanding the value of cruise to NZ and Australia  - the principal one being the annual Economic Impact report prepared for Cruise New Zealand by Market Economics (it used to be part funded by the former Ministry of Economic Development) available at this web site - http://www.tourismnewzealand.com/sector-marketing/cruise/cruise-resources/


The early part of the report outlines the way in which the data is collected, modelled and presented. The direct expenditure figures included include cruise related (port, maritime costs, bunkering, providoring etc), passenger related (those you focussed on plus pre and post cruise expenditure and flights costs where applicable) and crew related (similar but related to crew). All of this was included in the reports to the ARC that made up the final report of the cruise project in 2009.



The regional summary data provides figures for total expenditure (including air fares and ship fuel) net expenditure (excluding those items) and value add (synonymous with GDP and the figure we mostly use as the one most applicable to the impact on the Auckland economy)   The value add totals for 2012-13 shows that Auckland received $116.3m from 100 ship visits (thus the $1m a ship comment), made up of $66.3m from 179,800 passengers, $7.3m from 67,900 crew, and $42.7m from cruise vessel related value add.


Covec have looked more closely at passenger spend and conclude that each exchange passenger (those who start or finish their cruise in Auckland) is worth $1,128 and each transit passenger is worth $782 in terms of ground product purchases in the 2011-12 season...."

This piqued my interest further, and I decided I'd chat with a few passengers from time to time, when I had the time waiting for the Devonport ferry, and when there was a cruise ship in with passengers relaxing on Queens Wharf.

It turned out the Oosterdam was only in for the day - so that obviously meant passengers only had a day to do their thing in Auckland. I spoke to a group of Australians (there were five in the group, average age 65-70 I estimate), and a young bloke who turned out to be from Belgium.

This is the guts of what the Australians told me:
"we spent $75 each on two bus tours and a few drinks...."  (Not much. It seems it's the bus tour operators who do best out of cruise ship visits.)

"we get everything we need on the ship - we don't need to buy stuff...."  (This seems obvious. If you've paid for your meals in your cruise fare - why would you spend more?)

"we each paid a few thousand for our cruise tickets..."  (This is an indication of how wealthy cruise ship passengers are, and how much discretionary money they have for extras.)

They reckoned "American tourists spend more", and said more than half the passengers were from Australia.

The guy from Belgium told me he didn't spend any money in Auckland. Just walked around the waterfront improving his suntan and taking pictures. But he said he did spend $2000 in Christchurch. When I asked him about that, he explained he bought a camera, and that duties payable in NZ for such things is less than in Belgium. Maybe we are seen as a duty free port by some?

The Aussies I spoke to were from Sydney. They said they really liked the Queens Wharf docking location.... "fantastic to be so near the centre, compared with what it's like in Sydney".  Now. You might read that as supporting a view that cruise ship parking on Queens Wharf should be retained. But you can read it another way. That is that Auckland has bent over backwards to allow cruise ship parking in the heart of the CBD - at the expense of providing a central park for its citizens.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Decouple, Disconnect or Deliberate Plan?

This leaflet was delivered widely in the Bayswater and Hauraki suburbs of Devonport/Takapuna Peninsula, and I went along to see what happened....
The hall was full. About 100 attended.I was sitting toward the front. It was very well organised: flip charts to record comments, sound system.

What was especially interesting about the meeting, and also the earlier one at Belmont which was also well attended, was that they were instigated by the local community groups (not by the Local Board). So this one, and the one at Belmont were organised by the Belmont-Hauraki Residents Association. I understand a similar meeting was held at milford which was organised by the Milford Residents Association. Auckland council officers attended in each case, and so did members of the Local Board.

These meetings, and the interest, and the swelling membership of these local resident associations, have obviously been in response to concerns raised by the intensification proposals that are in the Unitary Plan. They are grassroots responses, and should be taken seriously by council. They are an indication of what can be expected across Auckland as awareness of the implications of the intensification proposals grows in communities.

Local resident, and Belmont-Hauraki Residents Association member Tony Keenan chaired and facilitated the meeting. Local Board members Mike Cohen, Grant Gillon, Jospeh Bergin and Jan O'Connor attended. Cllr George Wood arrived toward the end of the meeting. Richard Burton and Ms Hanson from Vision 2040 were present, as were officers from Auckland Council (Ross Moffat) and Auckland Transport (Scott McCarten).

Tony explained that the community had expressed strong views about the intensification proposals that were in the draft unitary plan. And that people were worried about infrastructure provisions - because the unitary plan effectively de-coupled infrastructure provision from intensification. He said that "normal planning integrates that". He said that "now we have that gap-filling in planning via the Area Plan..."  The question now is what infrastructure is needed upfront, and what level of infrastructure maintenance is needed to ensure infrastructure and services don't erode.We need to plan for their upgrades...."

Three questions were to be put for the views of the meeting:

1)  What do you like and value in your area?
2)  What would make it an even better place to live?
3)  What services and amenities ought to be provided?

The meeting was informed that the earlier meeting at Belmont (on Monday) had expressed concerns about transport infrastructure, ferries, buses, schools, wastewater and stormwater. Burton for 2040 talked about "residential character".

There was an animated discussion and notes were taken which will be provided as feedback. There were many comments about Lake Road congestion. One or two wanted the cycle lanes taken out to provide more space for cars (thankfully only one or two!). Scott from Auckland Transport indicated that a $56 million provision to improve Lake Road (not sure what this entailed) had been pushed back in the plan to 2022, to provide for "higher priority projects". AMETI, CBD Bus Upgrade, CRL, Onehunga motorway link, and Whangaparaoa roading projects were mentioned.

This was the resolution that was adopted by the meeting. There was significant concern at the lack of connection, integration, coordination between intensification plans and infrastructure provision.

In my opinion, this disconnect is deliberate, because the objective of the approach pursued by Council is to remove obstacles to building and development activity across the Auckland urban environment. That is why the Unitary Plan has a few simple zones - with few rules, and that is why there is no obligation imposed on developers to upgrade infrastructure, and it also why there are no structure plan requirements for urban areas that have been up-zoned. These requirements are seen by some as obstacles to growth and economic activity.

However these requirements are the minimum in most other western countries, where people expect systems to be in place to protect them and their communities from the effects of up-zoning, through comprehensive area planning which includes infrastructure and suchlike.

Again, in my opinion, Council is making a rod for its back, and for the backs of it communities, by pushing ahead with this market-led approach to urban regeneration. Communities will resist it.

It begins with agitation, moves into education (as residents inform themselves and get to grips with urban planning and what is reasonable and fair), and then to organisation. These local groups are getting very organised.

Auckland Councillors need to take notice.

Stop Backroom Waterfront Deals!



Auckland Council must be prevented from destroying what little public realm now exists on Quay Street, Queen Elizabeth Square and Queens Wharf.

I understand that deals now being considered by Auckland Council envisage chunks of Queen Elizabeth Square being traded for development in exchange for a capital contribution toward the proposed Central Rail Loop project.

It is a poor reflection on the state of urban planning in Council that the public know nothing about this. A greater concern is that Auckland councillors and local Waitemata Board members are also in the dark.

Auckland’s waterfront transformation has a sad record of public deceit that is at risk of being repeated unless citizens and representatives of the public intervene.

Princes Wharf is an example. During early planning stages, public attention was diverted by images of museums, pavilion-steps to the water, delight-filled public spaces, and by promises of theatres and galleries alongside apartments, an improved cruise ship terminal and a hotel. Almost none of the public benefits were provided. Instead public bodies got their lump sums and additional rates revenues, and private investors got what they were after.

The octagonal shaped building at the base of Princes Wharf was originally developed on condition that it was needed for Port Headquarters. In fact it was made available for private use years ago, and public profits quietly pocketed by Ports of Auckland. Public commitments that were made then in mitigation included the paved pedestrianisation of  Quay Street between Albert and Queen Streets, with paving extending up Queens Wharf and across into Queen Elizabeth Square. Apart from improvements that were made to existing footpaths, none of this happened, and the promise that the new building would leave two stories of open space beneath for public views and access was destroyed in another deal done by Ports of Auckland.

These tawdry examples are at risk of being repeated along the next part of Quay Street, Queens Wharf and Queen Elizabeth Square.

Auckland’s CBD waterfront offers Auckland’s one and half million citizens very little in the way of a fulltime party central, let alone great waterfront parks, spaces and places to chill and enjoy life by the sea in the city. Unless Council addresses that need and prioritises that outcome, the public messages that are issued from Auckland Council, about having a world class waterfront, about being the most liveable city in the world, need to be treated with distrust and doubt.

Ratepayers are keenly aware that Auckland Council has funding problems. It has a burgeoning debt problem, and ratepayers are hurting. It has a booming building industry knocking on its doors for consent and other permissions to ease the way for development. It may be right for Council to stitch up deals with developers and trade off public amenity and assets. But it cannot be right for such transactions to be hidden from public scrutiny and from careful consideration by elected representatives.

Especially when it affects and involves the heart of Auckland.

This brings me to transport planning, which in Auckland is still siloed away from urban planning, remains a negative influence to good place-making, and threatens good outcomes on the waterfront.

The success of all of Auckland’s recent urban transformational projects have been damaged by the priority given to car traffic.

The New Lynn town center project was a great urban place-making idea based around a trenched railway station, but whose attractiveness and future is compromised by the extensive and pedestrian-unfriendly roading network that remained in place.

The Northern Busway project offered opportunities to transform Takapuna (by taking the busway through Barry’s Point and along Taharoto Road) and to improve Wairau Valley (by having a station there), but instead the project was seen as an opportunity for high occupancy car traffic and potentially for heavy traffic.

And the AMETI set of transport projects (based around Panmure) which could have delivered some high quality villages and urban places, has been fundamentally driven by the need to move traffic, and promise a low quality urban future.

Unfortunately these same tendencies are influential today in the planning of Auckland’s waterfront. Quay Street is still seen as a “traffic right” by many, and any reduction in capacity seen as a threat, forgetting that Auckland coped well when it was closed during the construction of Britomart. There are many who see Queens Wharf as “transport hub” rather than as “people’s place”. That Queens Wharf should be given over to ferries and cruise ships. These arguments have their place in any public debate.

But commitments to transport provision – be it rail, ferry, car, or cruise ship parking - that are considered by Auckland Council as part of any deal with a private developer, especially where such commitments might conflict with the provision of “world class” public parks and places, cannot be given unless there is a high level of public engagement with such trade-offs.

It is time Auckland Council went public on its plans for our waterfront, and it is time Auckland honoured decades of promises to transform Quay Street, Queens Wharf and Queen Elizabeth Square into “world class” public places for people rather than vehicles.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bridging Quay Street Like Wellington

This is a little doodle....

Here's Quay Street between Queens Wharf and Queen Elizabeth Square. On a quiet day. Not much traffic and few pedestrians...

Here's how Wellington bridged their equivalent. Very successful piece of functional art.
It might just fit across our Quay Street....
See! And what a great viewing platform it would make. A grand entrance onto Queens Wharf, and from it, across QE II Square, and up Queen Street. Show some respect for the Ferry Building.

And something similar to Princes Wharf. Or maybe we'll bite the bullet and pedestrianise that section.

Ok. There are problems with this idea. For example it would block views. So perhaps it could be narrower, or a more open lattice sort of structure. Have a look at the 3rd and 6th pictures in this Singapore posting. One things for sure though - there needs to be a transformation in opening up pedestrian access from city to waterfront and Queens Wharf. (And to Princes Wharf, and from Victoria Parl to Wynyard Quarter.....)

Sign of Council's Split Personality

Attended an Auckland Council Governing Body meeting the other day. Held in the old Auckland City Council building as usual.

Was amused by the signs....
Decisions: turn right.

Financial accounting: turn left.

To stand a better chance of getting a manageable public debt, maybe the governing body should spend some time in the council chamber learning about financial accounting.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Planning Priority for Queens Wharf

The Herald wrote a few weeks ago describing a Waterfront Auckland "draft masterplan" for Queens Wharf. The story says:

" ....The thinking is for the single-storey Shed 11 to be reinstated south of Shed 10 for a market and other public uses.  The waterfront agency is also proposing to build a new shed, respecting the traditional shed form, for the servicing components of the cruise ship terminal at Shed 10.  It would be located north of Shed 10 at the end of Queens Wharf and include a mezzanine level for functions, along the lines of the mezzanine floor at the end of the Cloud. The draft masterplan will envisage removing the Cloud at some stage to free up the western side of the wharf for public space.
....said the Cloud could remain for five to 10 years...."

This story provoked a critical editorial response from NZ Herald, which received a few comments. Many of these supported the Herald's line:  ".... just because a building is old does not mean it has aesthetic appeal. The sheds are simply ugly embarrassments undeserving of any historic status....". I thought this was an irresponsible comment for our country's leading newspaper - making no mention of the work of the Historic Places Trust. It is simply one person's opinion. That's OK for a letter to the editor, but I think an editorial needs to more broadly reflect the public interest in the shape and history of its urban form.

But thankfully some comments spoke in support of adaptive re-use.  

It's good that Waterfront Auckland's plan is described as "draft masterplan" and it is "due out for public consultation in the next few weeks..."

But there are some terrible echoes in what's happening on Queens Wharf, of what happened in the planning of Princes Wharf. The draft masterplan talks about public space, but that can't happen until the Cloud is removed ("could remain 5 to 10 years"). And the proposed building at the end of Queens Wharf - ancillary to cruise ship visits - will block views of the Waitemata Harbour entrance - and more or less enshrine the cruise ship business carpark that is already emerging at the end of Queens Wharf (this is what now happens on most of the "public space" on Princes Wharf.)

The "draft masterplan" appears to prioritise the construction of a Shed 11 structure at the Quay Street end of Queens Wharf - this could well be a positive step I think, but needs to be seen in the context of a pedestrianised Quay Street and Queen Elizabeth Square (as was promised in 1980!). According to the NZ Herald story the draft masterplan includes a new shed at the end, maybe alongside the mayor's state house sculpture (which I wrote a bit about here), and only then, almost as an after-thought, a public space. But only after everyone's finished with the Cloud....

The public spaces on Princes Wharf were all after-thoughts, and are miserable failures as a consequence. We can, and must do much better with Queens Wharf.

This is what Disney has done at the Hyperion Wharf. Activated (but not dominated by places to spend money), multi-level, shade from the sun, shelter from winds, access to the water, places to sit.

I suggest you click on this picture to see the detail...

I know it's a bit of a fantasy...
These three pictures are of Boston's Long Wharf. This one is at the end - reminiscent of the end of our Queens Wharf. Note the absence of permanent fences - one of the least attractive aspects of our Queens Wharf at present. 
There are grassed areas as well - closer to the landward end of the wharf.
This view is looking back landward from the end of Long Wharf. While the building shown is brick - it has a similar form to Shed 10. This view is impossible on our Queens Wharf, because the bloody security fence, which is always up, prevents access.
We can do this stuff well in Auckland.

When we get some good planning in place that is. This is Silo Park in the Wynyard Quarter. It's reclaimed land. But the grass looks and works well. Surrounded by interesting structures from the industrial background of the place.Successful. Internationally recognised.
And just a reminder of Wellington. This map gives an indication of the amount of waterfront public space that was planned, and is provided, for Wellington citizens (and it is not dominated by cruise ship parking - by the way).
Here's another map showing the amount of open space - without buildings - on Wellington's waterfront.
I prepared this rough equivalent for Auckland. And it's a generous interpretation. It does show the space that is without buildings, but it is important to note that much of the space on Queens Wharf, and on Te Whero is taken up with car and vehicle parking, and by traffic.
This next two pics are about a part of Washington DC. Planners' images for the use of part of the waterfront (bottom), and of a narrow wharf (left).

I do have some experience of how artistic impressions can be used to lull the public into a state of calm, and allow developments to occur that drive the public away, rather than the whole being genuinely designed and planned, as a priority, for public.

The two pieces of waterfront development at Auckland that have generally been successful are the Viaduct and Wynyard Quarter (I appreciate it's early days for Wynyard, but it has started reasonably well).

The two pieces of waterfront development at Auckland that have not been successful are Princes Wharf and Queens Wharf (so far).

What the two successes share in common is that in each case the land was subject to a Plan Change under the RMA. This allowed a major public consultation process to play out and unfold. Sadly, that has not happened with either Princes Wharf or Queens Wharf. You can read here my recent detailed research about the sorry planning history of Princes Wharf.

Queens Wharf has fared little better so far. That history is next on my list of research projects, but it includes the Rugby World Cup Empowering Act, and the Hon Murray McCully and the might of the Auckland Regional Council, with a heap of opinions and personal visions, and no proper planning. Which is why it is the way it is today.

The planning rules for Queens Wharf, in the Unitary Plan, as far as I can make out, are: "The activities in the General Coastal Marine zone apply to the CMA in the Central Wharves Precinct unless otherwise specified in the activity table below....." and the activity table says that "public amenities" are permitted, and that "Minor cosmetic alterations and repairs to a building that does not changes its external design and appearance" are permitted, and that: "New buildings, and alterations and additions to buildings not otherwise provided for" are restricted discretionary.

The words "public amenities" are rather vague, and the assessment criteria for any new building don't appear to be onerous. My assessment of the planning controls is that the owner has a great deal of flexibility, about what can happen on Queens Wharf - you can drive a coach and horses through those sorts of rules. And that the public has no real certainty about what might happen there. Certainly there is no stated commitment to public space. Just flexibility.

And the unitary plan does not mention the deal that was done with Ports of Auckland Ltd, and about which I don't recall the details now, but which relates to a strip around Queens Wharf (not the end) where POAL has mooring rights and rights to collect mooring fees. From cruise ships.

Ports and Cruise Ship planning are the elephants in the room of Queens Wharf. Auckland needs a staged waterspace and wharfspace allocation plan, for the next 10 years or so, which allows more certainty in the planning of public space and public park spaces on its waterfront. The future of cruise ship parking - whether it's on Princes, Bledisloe, Captain Cook with a dolphin, Wynyard Wharf, or with much less impact on Queens Wharf and shared across these other options - needs decisions.

Queens Wharf deserves better than it's had so far - in planning terms - and in terms of public involvement.

Princes Wharf Planning: Pocket History

It’s surprising what you find when you get the inclination to dig into Auckland archives. Like investigating how we ended up with a Hilton Hotel and hundreds of private apartments on Auckland’s publicly owned Princes Wharf and little else for locals. 

This is my story of discovery. I show and tell from my recent journey into the bowels of Auckland planning archives. It is a story that needs to be told so we can learn, reflect and – hopefully – avoid repetition.

Please be patient with my story-telling. I didn’t know what I didn’t know when I started. One set of archives led to another. One step forward two steps backward. Then onward again, but better informed.

This story begins in 2004 when I was elected onto the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) alongside Mike Lee and Sandra Coney. Mainly responsible for public transport funding and environmental protection, the ARC had just been handed control of the Ports of Auckland company and its waterfront land assets, some of which were surplus to Port’s requirements.

The ARC’s thirteen councillors found themselves in the hot seat responsible for the development planning of what was then known as the Western Reclamation, today as Wynyard Quarter, including about 18 hectares of prime waterfront real estate held in public ownership.

Councillors were taken on tiki tours around the Viaduct Basin and out to the end of Princes Wharf where we were shown the meagre provision there for public viewing. Standing outside I felt as if I was intruding on the holidays of the rich and famous sitting comfortably behind plate glass in Hilton’s lap of luxury. 

The months flew by as ARC Councillors considered urban designs and land use proposals for Wynyard Quarter, put them out for public consultation, collected feedback, held stakeholder fora, and came under the media spotlight. The demand for public space, things to do, visitor destinations, character buildings to protect, places to see, marine industry development was huge.

Eventually the ARC and Auckland City Council prepared changes to land use planning documents – how high buildings could be, what was public, what was commercial, what was marine, streetscapes, heritage buildings, transport, what could be moored and where – anything and everything – and these were put out for submissions. In Resource Management Act lingo – the plans were publicly notified.

While all this was happening in 2007 I asked myself this question: if we have to go through all this palaver, jump through so many RMA hoops for the Wynyard Quarter, how come Princes Wharf got developed without so much as a dicky-bird chirping? Construction had started at the end of 1998, well after the RMA was law. So how did the Princes Wharf development get under the radar?

I asked long serving ARC Councillors, and senior staff. But nobody told me. Looking back now I wonder how many could have told me. Perhaps I asked the wrong questions. But I had little time to fret because suddenly Rugby World Cup fever descended on Auckland and Queens Wharf jumped to the top of the ARC’s list of things to worry about. Helter Skelter.

Toward the end of my time on the ARC in 2010 I went into bat with Sandra Coney to protect Queens Wharf’s Shed 10 from demolition. So did Heart of the City and Mayor John Banks to their credit. Pressure for another big cruise ship terminal on Queens Wharf and the for demolition of heritage buildings had been huge. My fear was that Auckland would get another Princes Wharf type development.

Since then I've had some time to reflect. About Auckland planning. Time to think about that question again: How did the Princes Wharf development happen?

For a few months in 2013, with twelve years of local government experience and a planning degree behind me, I have been on a mission.

Auckland Library Archives

To kick off my investigation I started with the New Zealand Herald archives which anyone can access over the internet. Keyword: “Princes Wharf”. Hundreds of entries: creating a thriving new heart for the city; café set worrying mariners; city wharf vital to trade; bars hinder sightseers. Stuff like that. But the digital archiving that I could access started in 1999. I needed to go back before that.

Someone suggested I check Auckland Library archives. I’d used my daughter’s library card in the past to get books from Devonport library, but it had lapsed. She’d long left home. So I joined and a strange (for me) new world opened up.

The Auckland library has a heap of digital archives available – to card-carrying-members – over the internet. The New Zealand Card Index is one of these. It began in the 1950’s as a manual card system, closed in 1996, and has since been digitised. It focuses on people, places and organisations, and selectively indexes the NZ Herald and Auckland Star newspapers and something called the Auckland Scrapbook (ASB for short) which was started in 1921.

I’m told that this scrapbook – large, heavy cardboard covers, gold lettering - was kept by the desk of the Auckland City Council Secretary. His or her job included cutting out and pasting in newspaper articles of interest. There are dozens of these Auckland Scrapbooks. And when I searched for “Princes Wharf” a heap of Scrapbook card index entries came up. Including:
·    ASB Aug 1983, Page 242: Auckland Harbour Board. Work has begun on the board's new headquarters building at the base of Princes Wharf - with this development will be the upgrading of the "downtown quayside" by the Auckland City Council
·    ASB Feb 1984, Page 290: Auckland Harbour Board. 8 huge concrete "legs" are part of the base of the $14.2 million Auckland Harbour Bd. headquarters on Princes Wharf
·    ASB Nov 1987, Page 224: Auckland Waterfront. 3-way race for the proposed redevelopment of Princes Wharf was won yesterday by the Mace Development Corporation.

And tantalisingly, this from the Auckland Star:
·    Star, 9 Oct 1987, Front page: Auckland Harbour Board has chosen a $190 million design by Mace Development Corporation incorporating hotel, markets, entertainment centre and a museum for the 63 year-old Princes Wharf site.

But how to see the actual newspaper articles? Over the phone the receptionist at Auckland Library Archives explained I needed to go into the Auckland Library – the archives floor – with my card index references – and they’d show me. She said I should set aside a few hours.

Next day I visited the Central Auckland Research Centre. Level two of the Lorne Street Auckland Library building. Acres of carpet and silence. Kilometres of old volumes and filing cabinets. She asked if I knew about microfilm. No. I was shown where the rolls of film were stored and how to work an old microfilm reader. Talk about exciting.

The picture in the Sun newspaper (10.10.87) showed a stunning development for Princes Wharf, and the article shouted: “..features for the development include:
·    225 bed hotel;
·    maritime museum and commercial marina
·    public steps which will form a grandstand to the harbour
·    entertainment and cultural centre
·    modernised arrival area for cruise ships
·    quayside marketplace, foodhall and variety of restaurants
·    art gallery and cinema
·    carpark…”  

So what happened? Where’s the waterfront grandstand? What about the cultural centre? And the quayside marketplace, art gallery and cinema. What happened to the Harbour Board’s promise of Princes Wharf being transformed into a ‘people place’?

Other library archives gave a partial answer. In its 19th January 1989 issue, the National Business Review (NBR) reports:
“Work on redeveloping Auckland’s Princes Wharf has shifted from overall design to planning for legislative changes needed….   The $275 million project had been reviewed since the original design licence was awarded to Mace a week before the sharemarket crash…”

A crash. Bet that came as a nasty surprise. The report continues:
“…approvals required include maritime planning permission… and an Act of Parliament must be amended to allow construction of commercial property on the wharf...”

Legislation and maritime planning. These would have been spanners in the works. Before going onward from 1989, I need to back-track a little. My curiosity in the rather striking Auckland Harbour Board Headquarters Building had been piqued by the Library archives. Another hunt in the NZ Card Index was called for:
·    ASB, Feb 1980, Page 79:  The Auckland Harbour Board has revealed its design for a $7.7 million quayside office building.
·    NZ Herald, 13 Oct 1982, Page 4: Travelodge NZ Ltd and AMP Society's appeal against Planning Tribunal decision that Auckland Harbour Board's proposed new headquarters on Princes Wharf can go ahead being heard in High Court.
·    ASB, July 1985, Page 29:  Auckland Harbour Board building wins one of the NZ Institute of Architects awards.

Both the NZ Herald and the Auckland Star ran features after AHB released proposals for its new HQ. These included a striking illustration of  “Quayside Project” plans to pedestrianize Quay Street all the way from Queens Wharf to Princes Wharf, and from Shed 10 on Queens Wharf up through Queen Elizabeth Square. (You can see this picture here.)

The Auckland Star article (14.4.1980) reads:
“This is the way the Auckland Harbour Board visualizes the downtown waterfront area developing, including its new building at the corner of Princes wharf and the quayside. The Mediterranean concept, as board chairman Mr Bob Carr, once described it, is aimed at bringing the port to the people…”

So what happened to those plans? Maybe it was just a public con job.

And the Herald report (15.4.1980), headlined: “Harbour Board Feeling Call of the Sea”, states that the first floor of its HQ “is set 36 feet above an open lower story… the open lower floor has been designed to provide public access through to the existing waterfront…”

Man oh man. Look at this building today. The whole underneath has been filled in. Vertical infill. How did that happen? More on that later.  (You can see here for before and now)

So. AHB got their HQ. Cost them around $14 million. Money they didn’t have, so they needed a bank loan. But their really big plan was to develop Princes Wharf real estate. Make serious money.

But it took some detective work to piece this together.

Auckland City Council Archives

I knew I’d have to get immersed in Auckland City Council archives at some point. There’s a sort of meta-data system anyone can access over the net. I tried words like “Wharf” and “Princes” and found a whole lot of references to “Scheme Change 4” of the “Waitemata Harbour Maritime Plan”. By “references” I mean record numbers, dates, file numbers. Stuff like that. No actual documents though.

So I sent an email to the queries address. By return I was advised I needed to show up at the Auckland Council Archives offices. Two stories underground by the Academy Theatre – also in Lorne Street interestingly. Pressed the buzzer. Was let in and told, “this is a pencil and paper only area. Put your things in that locker.”  Heavy. Did as I was told, and was presented with a pile of old manilla folders dated between 1986 and 1989 stuffed with papers about a change of planning controls for Princes Wharf. 

Cutting to the chase: In 1989 Auckland Harbour Board applied to the Waitemata Harbour Planning Authority for changes that would allow commercial development on Princes Wharf. Its application states:
“…It is intended that Mace should be granted a lease to permit the redevelopment and operation of Princes Wharf as a commercially based mixed-use complex of benefit to the citizens of Auckland and visitors to the city. To provide a planning opportunity for that development, the Authority has introduced this Proposed Change to its Scheme…”

The fine print permits most activities known to mankind; allocates wharf space roughly between hotel uses, shops, offices, and public space; permits a maximum height of 62 meters above the deck; and states: “the redevelopment is intended to contain an appropriate and balanced mix of uses which will ensure its commercial viability while facilitating public access and providing for public enjoyment of the wharf…”

Auckland City Council opposed the application. 

In an internal memo (23.3.1989), Council’s Divisional Planner City Development, writes:
“It is extremely important that this Council lodge objection to Proposed Change 4 and pursue this matter with vigour….”

He refers to the “Quayside Project” (mentioned earlier, with Quay Street pedestrianised and Queens Wharf paved. This turns out was a joint plan between Auckland Harbour Board and Auckland City Council) and other joint plans: “the emphasis (of these) is to encourage reuse and refurbishment of existing structures and to encourage greater public use of those spaces…”

Points made in Council’s objection include:
“…at a height of 62 metres, the new building can hardly be construed as a reuse of an existing and obsolete wharf…”
“…’commercial viability’ is a market influence and should not dictate planning decisions which are made in the public interest…”
“…the Scheme Change would permit development of a scale and nature which is not appropriate to this important maritime location… and such development would be permitted without right of public scrutiny or objection…”

I suggest you re-read that last quote – especially the last part of it.

Other documents in the folders show that changes were made to the application, and that AHB’s modified application was granted. Man oh man. Given the strength of those objections from a council planner – what the hell happened?

No detail. Frustrating. I had been given Auckland City Council archives - but only files that were “unrestricted”. I was told that to see “restricted” files I would have to apply to Auckland Council under the Local Government Official Information Act. That might be a mission.

But staff at Auckland Council Archives had a suggestion. They told me that all the Auckland Harbour Board files - with its side of the story – much more detailed - were held by the Auckland Maritime Museum.

Auckland Harbour Board Archives – Maritime Museum

I made an appointment. Asked to see files about the late 1980’s proposed Princes Wharf development, and anything they might have about Scheme Change 4. She told me she’d dig them out and that I should set aside a day.

This was treasure trove. “Pencil and paper” environment but few restrictions. I was led to a large table with piles of folders and boxes. She showed me some of the big A3 documents first explaining, “these are the design submissions for Princes Wharf.” They looked amazing. Nothing like what’s down there today. I got the impression these particular documents had been shown to lots of people before me. Probably architecture students.

“Not sure what’s in these boxes though”, she said, indicating the rest of the documents, “but sounds like you know what you’re looking for.”

 Altogether I was looking at about a thousand pieces of paper, a tiny proportion of the AHB archives, and I didn’t really know where to start, or even what I was looking for. So I decided I’d go through the lot, folder by folder, box by box, page by page, taking pencilled notes of documents of interest. I was a bit put off by the cost of photocopying (high because staff did it for you), but after signing a copyright document I was permitted to use my digital camera to photograph whole pages.

What was most surprising were the blunt letters from Russell McVeagh lawyers providing strategic advice to the AHB chief executive and board of directors every step of the way. Much of it was advice about how to deal with Auckland City Council concerns about the Head Quarters building and Princes Wharf proposals.

Letters from Auckland City Council planning staff make it clear that the Council would not submit against AHB’s proposed HQ plans, on the understanding that AHB would take steps to implement the widely publicised Quayside Project. Travelodge (now the Copthorne Hotel) wasn’t impressed though, wanting to protect hotel window views across Quay Street, so it took the AHB’s plans to the Planning Tribunal Court (the precursor of the Environment Court).

Noted Judge Sheppard dealt with the case and ruled in AHB’s favour, confirming specific conditions of consent in his decision (8.7.1982):
“the (HQ) building to be used solely as the administrative offices of the Auckland Harbour Board and not leased, sub-leased or otherwise let to any other party …”
“the building to be treated by the Board as part of a comprehensive plan for progressive re-use of the Quayside area…”
“the pedestrian plaza areas, landscaping and public amenity provisions… are constructed contemporaneously with the building itself…”

Documents reveal that only four years after the HQ’s construction, port admin staff vacated the building and it was leased to commercial tenants. Another public con.

Back to Princes Wharf – but this time viewed through the lens of AHB’s archives.

AHB’s first step in the development of Princes Wharf was to conduct a design competition. The brief for this reads: “with its proximity to Auckland’s CBD there is considerable cope for an imaginative development plan…  the overall development will need to be commercially viable to attract capital. At the same time and not necessarily in conflict, public activities are seen as an essential feature… preliminary applications are invited from parties seriously interested in the development of Princes Wharf ...”

 Fifteen entries were received by the closing date (31.10.1986). These were culled to a short-list of four which were released to the Auckland public in a well organised media event including a public display of scale models of the winning designs. (The May 1987 issue of Metro Magazine published details and ran a poll on readers’ preferences.)

The public loved what they saw. So did the newspapers. Concept images did a great selling job on the public. A people’s waterfront at last.

Next step for the short-list was another design competition – only this time the entrants were advised: “parties should refine their preliminary development proposals to the stage that they would be prepared to enter into a binding development/lease agreement with the Board… lease would be for 20 years…right of renewal… lease rental basis could be based on value of property….or equity participation….”.

A big reality check. Grand designs were revisited and cut down to size. The Mace Development proposal was chosen – though minutes of AHB Board Meetings show that members were extremely unhappy with the final design – one that was economically feasible – and talked of “walking away from the deal”.

In parallel AHB got on with the serious business of changing the planning rules (summarised above), and New Zealand legislation, to allow commercial development on Princes Wharf.

This was a time when the Lange-led Labour government was hard at work restructuring New Zealand’s economy. Entrepreneurialism and market forces rule.

Auckland Harbour Board was corporatized in 1988 by Act of Parliament. Port assets and operations were handed over to a newly formed company, Ports of Auckland Ltd, (POAL) 100% owned by AHB, but whose shares could be traded on the stock exchange. The purpose of the reform was clearly stated: “The principal objective of every port company shall be to operate as a successful business.”

AHB held onto Princes Wharf for a couple of years. Getting it ready for development, prior to handing it over to POAL to do the business.

In 1989 the Hon Minister Prebble introduced the Princes Wharf Empowering Act into Parliament. Hansard tells us what he said, “to me, one of the most exciting things about the proposal is that for the first time it will open up the wharf to the public of Auckland…..  benefits or proposals intended for Princes Wharf include a new, upgraded international cruise-ship passenger terminal; a waterside plaza with a ceremonial landing---and it is to be hoped that the America's Cup boats will come into there; a low-level pontoon, and a marina promenade; a pedestrian link leading right to downtown; a theatre complex; a maritime museum; and public viewing areas…..”.

Parliament was persuaded to allow Princes Wharf leases to be sold commercially.

Interestingly, AHB files explain how Auckland City Council’s objections to Princes Wharf development proposals were finally overcome. Internal AHB legal advice states: “The City seek to have the Princes Wharf area brought within its planning jurisdiction. This would be a very dangerous concession. At the present moment it is in the maritime planning area and the scheme change is almost at the point of being made operative….  Alternative approaches… provide for the area to be deemed part of the City’s district for the purposes of the Rating Act 1967 only…”

The Council was partly bought off by the promise of rates revenue, and left planning responsibilities alone.

But Council had gone public in the Herald about its concerns, and St Mary’s Bay residents took up the fight. They were concerned about losing their views from a waterfront development that could go as high as 62 metres.

Despite these objections a public hearing signed off the AHB’s Princes Wharf development proposal. However an appeal to the Planning Tribunal was filed by the Auckland Regional Authority (the precursor to the ARC) seeking: “to limit development on the wharf to redevelopment and reuse of the existing buildings; or to permit buildings of no greater height than 25 metres above wharf level…”

A deal that was done out of court (dropping the maximum height from 62 metres to 37 metres) is hinted at by a filed court memorandum: “… clarifying the practicability of achieving a height reduction of the proposed Mace project… by eliminating the 650 seat theatre…. the hotel could be ‘dropped’ to sit immediately above the present deck level… the theatre foyer area which, in the present design, enables internal public access through to the top of the Waitemata Steps would be occupied by the hotel….”

Man oh man. Keep the hotel the same size but lose the theatre and internal public access. Con or sell out? Who knows. St Mary’s Bay residents forced the issue, and the rest of Auckland lost out big time.

By now the development was all over bar the shouting. But then came the crash and the Mace deal disappeared. Nothing happened on Princes Wharf for ten years.

However, unbeknownst to an unsuspecting public the planks for what we see today on Princes Wharf had already been laid by these historic decisions.

Next piece of the jigsaw was the Resource Management Act (RMA). This was enacted in 1991 and required the newly formed Auckland Regional Council (ARC) to prepare Auckland’s Regional Plan Coastal – which would regulate activities on the coast and above the sea (which includes on wharves).

Put simply, under the new RMA regime, any development proposed on Princes Wharf after 1991 would need to comply with Auckland’s Regional Plan Coastal, and if it didn’t, it would need a resource consent.

The RMA came from much the same parentage as the rest of New Zealand’s 1980’s free market reforms, and though it promised much in the way of environmental protection, it was – and still is – silent on human, social, and public needs.

Urban planning was reduced to the assessment of environmental effects.

The ARC could have written its Regional Plan Coastal from scratch. But in common with most NZ Councils it adopted large chunks from the previous planning regime. And by this I mean the Waitemata Harbour Maritme Plan, which – you will remember - had been changed to allow for the Mace development on Princes Wharf.

It has proved difficult for me to get files on this next stage. The Ports of Auckland Ltd have denied me access to their files – even though they are 100% publicly owned. But I have been able to obtain the Property File for Princes Wharf from Auckland Council.

Princes Wharf Property File Archives

A typical residential property file (like for where your house is) might contain a dozen or so entries describing the original subdivision, later subdivisions, and any resource or building consents. The Princes Wharf property file – which I got on CD from Council for $50 – contains around 10,000 planning files for the period since 1991. All nicely scanned and ready to read. But a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.

What I found has appalled me.

The new ARC Plan Coastal notes that by 1991 the development that had been originally envisaged by Ports of Auckland had not taken place, and contains these words:
“… the upgrading and modernisation of facilities on Princes Wharf could significantly benefit tourism, recreation, and the public amenity values of the waterfront. Any development would need to complement the urban landscape, be in scale with adjacent land-based development, and retain views of the harbour from surrounding locations. A high level of public access would need to be maintained, particularly around the northern end of Princes Wharf…”

Some commitment to public access but little else. And when you get to the rules, ARC’s Plan Coastal states that anything that fits within a building envelope 37 metres high, and runs solid along the wharf, could be built as of right, as a fully complying activity. No notification necessary. Subject to a tiny bit of planning discretion being retained by the ARC so it:
“had control over… the extent to which the design and external appearance of any buildings or structures recognises the city/harbour relationship, the prominent maritime setting of the site, and the public use of the development…”

That was feeble. The ARC showed its woeful understanding of urban planning. Ports of Auckland now had control of the lease to Princes Wharf. With a statutory obligation to be a successful business it must have been laughing. And with a planning regime like that in place, it was only a matter of time before a resource consent application to develop Princes Wharf would be received.

On the 18th June 1997, Ports of Auckland Ltd issued a media release through NZX (Capital Markets) which announced the sale of POAL’s leasehold interests (98 years) in Princes Wharf to Kitchener Group of Companies for $25.752 million.

A few months later the ARC received an application to: “construct alterations to existing buildings contained on Princes Wharf, and to install 52 racking piles to provide additional lateral support for the wharf structure.”

The ARC officer’s report (25.2.1998) notes: “the applicant has designed the proposal to comply with all requirements of the Regional Plan Coastal…. falls for consideration as a controlled activity…. The Manager… determined that the application be processed on a non-notified basis.”

In planning speak “Controlled” is like saying permitted.  And “non-notified” means what it says. No public notification.

That’s why no-one knew about it.

But there was a check. The ARC’s Plan Coastal, required that the developer should obtain a certificate from an independent registered architect. That one person needed to formally certify: “that the design and appearance of the proposed development of Princes Wharf is responsive to the city/harbour relationship, the prominent maritime setting of the site and the public use of the development and its setting…”

So an architect was retained who “worked closely with the developer”. Part of his report signing off the development reads:  “Although the height of the buildings will be greater than those currently existing on the wharf… the additional height proposed will help to achieve a sense of enclosure and definition to the harbour space in front of the Ferry building. The proposed development will act like a ‘constructed headland’… this will assist in restoring a more visually interesting and spatially attractive city waterfront which, as a result of successive harbour reclamations since the founding of the city, has been reduced to a relatively flat, straight edge…”

Which is just a matter of opinion. The expert “certifying report” minimising environmental effects is full of urban design speak that smoothly turns black into white.

Consistent with the purpose of the RMA, consent was granted. Without a hearing and without notification. By now the proposed development no longer included a cinema, theatres, museum, Waitemata Steps, festival shopping arcades. Such public amenities had long gone from this business-friendly proposal.

But it gets worse.

Over the next two years the developer applied for modifications to the original consent. These included: 37 more hotel rooms,  79 more apartments,  increased building heights, a pedestrian bridge, and a new lift. The developer also applied to restrict the public’s “unfettered access” to the end of Princes Wharf, and for six new vertical piles to hold the weight of the building. Parking increased. Restaurants spilled out between the protected colonnades. On and on.

Step by step the public lost out, and private interests took over Princes Wharf.

The same developer now owned the old (new) AHB headquarters building and applied for and obtained consent to fill it in with three new floors of commercial office space, again with the support of the friendly independent architect. Public access underneath and onto Princes Wharf was lost. And unknown additional lease payments were made to Ports of Auckland Ltd.

So that’s how it all happened.

The lesson for future waterfront development is this. Market forces can be relied upon to return profits to private shareholders. But public benefits on Auckland’s waterfront – including access, open spaces, parks, views, peace, seating, toilets, shelter, theatres, museums, galleries – can only be guaranteed when the public interest is rigorously defended and promoted by powerful and determined local government.

Newman Shows Transit Bias

Auckland Conversations. Peter Newman. Return of the City.

Peter Newman was introduced by Greg Edmonds, Chief Operating Officer for Auckland Transport, and excited after a big day with the PM and the Mayor switching on the 25,000 volt circuit which will power Auckland's new electric trains. A $600 million investment he said, and the trains have been tested to 121 kph. We were reminded of Peter's Perth background and his role in reversing the fortunes of rail there.

Newman began by saying that cities need to talk with each other, learn from each other. He said that Perth and Auckland are "similar", so it's good to talk to each other, learn from each other.

He introduced his talk with a little urban planning theory. How urban fabric was shaped first by walking, transit (tram and rail), then car. That Perth and Auckland were largely shaped by car.

I enjoyed his material about Melbourne and urban walkability and cycling - how Melbourne rediscovered its walking history. He extolled the virtues of Jan Gehl. And his role in Broadway, New York, Melbourne and Perth. Then he got onto transit. And the history of Perth's rail project: pearls on a string; how it must be fast and efficient; and interestingly he said, "it must include the hospital and the university...."

Amen to that.

He showed pictures of Perth's rail corridors: fast trains with slow lanes of cars on either side. The classic picture. That was what struck me when I visited. How fast the trains were, relative to the cars. And how wide the transport corridors were - with motorways and rail together - and large interchanges.

His pictures do underline that Perth's topography is not the same as Auckland's. The rail networks are not similar either. Perth's rail corridors were built separated from the road network. Very few controlled crossings at grade. Not so in Auckland. We have many problematic intersections between road and rail.

Another difference. Newman's slide indicated that: "rail costs $17 million/kilometre". That's pretty cheap. You might be able to do that on flat land that wasn't developed. Auckland's CRL project belies that. I know it's a tunnel, and tunnels are expensive.

Newman talked about East Perth, Subiaco - "New Lynn-like" - and that the next stage for Perth would be Light Rail to link key education and health centres.

Which brought him to "the next stage for Auckland", and was where his bias FOR rail and AGAINST bus showed in a way that I thought was surprising. His arguments for the proposed "Ring Rail" project at Perth were much more pro-growth, and disruptive of quiet urban communities, than I would expect from a champion of sustainability. (He mocked the "Save Our Suburbs" lot.)

Things he said (and my comment):
- "PT use is growing, some bus use, but more rail..."  (in most cities - apart from cities in very rich countries like Switzerland - more bus-passenger kilometres than rail-passenger kilometres)
- "Hong Kong is the great example of value capture, where land is purchased by the authority, developed into a station and TOD, and they make money...." (I have attended several lectures at Kuala Lumpur delivered by Hong Kong's MRT people. The patronage rates in Hong Kong are an order of magnitude more than in Perth, which is why it is one of the only commuter rail systems in the world that is profitable. Comparing Hong Kong with Perth - or Auckland - is apples with oranges)
-  "people/hour by mode; suburban car travel - 800/hour;  freeway - 2000/hour; bus - 5000/hour; LRT - 20,000/hour; Heavy Rail - 50,000/hour...."  (Peter did not mention Bus Rapid Transit - BRT - which runs at between 10,000/hour up to big numbers around 25,000/hour in Curitiba.)
-  "we're talking about a driver and 600 in a train people replacing 20 buses...."  (This is a classic simplistic pro-rail argument.)
 The Victoria Transport Institute has recently published (31st March 2014) a 110 page (without references) handbook about transit modes. Thoroughly recommended reading.

Among other things, it has a section comparing bus with rail, and I include a couple of paragraphs:
Summary of Rail Versus Bus
.....Rather than a debate which is overall superior, it is generally better to consider which is most appropriate in a particular situation. Bus is best serving areas with dispersed destinations and lower demand. Rail is best serving corridors with concentrated destinations and ridership, such as large commercial centers and urban villages (Kuby, Barranda and Upchurch 2004). Rail tends to attract more riders within an area but buses can cover more area, so overall ridership impacts depend on conditions. Both become more efficient and effective at achieving planning objectives if implemented with supportive policies that improve service quality, create more supportive land use patterns and encourage ridership....

....Tirachini, Hensher and Jara-Díaz (2009) modeled the infrastructure, operating costs and user time costs of three public transport options (light rail, heavy rail and bus rapid transit) in relatively sprawled Australian cities. They conclude that in most scenarios BRT is most cost effective because it has the lowest total costs (infrastructure, rolling stock and operating cost), shortest access time and waiting time cost. Rail is more cost effective only if it operates fast enough that the speed difference outweigh the BRT’s advantage on operator cost and access and waiting times. The analysis held trip generation factors constant and so did not account for rail and BRT’s ability to increase transit ridership and create transit-oriented development.....

You can download the whole report here.




Auckland Cruise Ships: How Lucrative? (2)

This picture was taken a little while ago. Among other things it shows the Oosterdam cruise ship docked at Queens Wharf.

The Oosterdam visited Auckland again a week or so ago, docked at Queens Wharf.

I decided to interview a few of the passengers about how much they spent, and what they did while they were in Auckland.

Last time I blogged I wrote this piece questioning how lucrative the cruise ship industry actually is for Auckland Inc. An Auckland consultant emailed me about it, and sent me this info:

"....there are sources of information which can assist in understanding the value of cruise to NZ and Australia  - the principal one being the annual Economic Impact report prepared for Cruise New Zealand by Market Economics (it used to be part funded by the former Ministry of Economic Development) available at this web site - http://www.tourismnewzealand.com/sector-marketing/cruise/cruise-resources/


The early part of the report outlines the way in which the data is collected, modelled and presented. The direct expenditure figures included include cruise related (port, maritime costs, bunkering, providoring etc), passenger related (those you focussed on plus pre and post cruise expenditure and flights costs where applicable) and crew related (similar but related to crew). All of this was included in the reports to the ARC that made up the final report of the cruise project in 2009.



The regional summary data provides figures for total expenditure (including air fares and ship fuel) net expenditure (excluding those items) and value add (synonymous with GDP and the figure we mostly use as the one most applicable to the impact on the Auckland economy)   The value add totals for 2012-13 shows that Auckland received $116.3m from 100 ship visits (thus the $1m a ship comment), made up of $66.3m from 179,800 passengers, $7.3m from 67,900 crew, and $42.7m from cruise vessel related value add.


Covec have looked more closely at passenger spend and conclude that each exchange passenger (those who start or finish their cruise in Auckland) is worth $1,128 and each transit passenger is worth $782 in terms of ground product purchases in the 2011-12 season...."

This piqued my interest further, and I decided I'd chat with a few passengers from time to time, when I had the time waiting for the Devonport ferry, and when there was a cruise ship in with passengers relaxing on Queens Wharf.

It turned out the Oosterdam was only in for the day - so that obviously meant passengers only had a day to do their thing in Auckland. I spoke to a group of Australians (there were five in the group, average age 65-70 I estimate), and a young bloke who turned out to be from Belgium.

This is the guts of what the Australians told me:
"we spent $75 each on two bus tours and a few drinks...."  (Not much. It seems it's the bus tour operators who do best out of cruise ship visits.)

"we get everything we need on the ship - we don't need to buy stuff...."  (This seems obvious. If you've paid for your meals in your cruise fare - why would you spend more?)

"we each paid a few thousand for our cruise tickets..."  (This is an indication of how wealthy cruise ship passengers are, and how much discretionary money they have for extras.)

They reckoned "American tourists spend more", and said more than half the passengers were from Australia.

The guy from Belgium told me he didn't spend any money in Auckland. Just walked around the waterfront improving his suntan and taking pictures. But he said he did spend $2000 in Christchurch. When I asked him about that, he explained he bought a camera, and that duties payable in NZ for such things is less than in Belgium. Maybe we are seen as a duty free port by some?

The Aussies I spoke to were from Sydney. They said they really liked the Queens Wharf docking location.... "fantastic to be so near the centre, compared with what it's like in Sydney".  Now. You might read that as supporting a view that cruise ship parking on Queens Wharf should be retained. But you can read it another way. That is that Auckland has bent over backwards to allow cruise ship parking in the heart of the CBD - at the expense of providing a central park for its citizens.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Decouple, Disconnect or Deliberate Plan?

This leaflet was delivered widely in the Bayswater and Hauraki suburbs of Devonport/Takapuna Peninsula, and I went along to see what happened....
The hall was full. About 100 attended.I was sitting toward the front. It was very well organised: flip charts to record comments, sound system.

What was especially interesting about the meeting, and also the earlier one at Belmont which was also well attended, was that they were instigated by the local community groups (not by the Local Board). So this one, and the one at Belmont were organised by the Belmont-Hauraki Residents Association. I understand a similar meeting was held at milford which was organised by the Milford Residents Association. Auckland council officers attended in each case, and so did members of the Local Board.

These meetings, and the interest, and the swelling membership of these local resident associations, have obviously been in response to concerns raised by the intensification proposals that are in the Unitary Plan. They are grassroots responses, and should be taken seriously by council. They are an indication of what can be expected across Auckland as awareness of the implications of the intensification proposals grows in communities.

Local resident, and Belmont-Hauraki Residents Association member Tony Keenan chaired and facilitated the meeting. Local Board members Mike Cohen, Grant Gillon, Jospeh Bergin and Jan O'Connor attended. Cllr George Wood arrived toward the end of the meeting. Richard Burton and Ms Hanson from Vision 2040 were present, as were officers from Auckland Council (Ross Moffat) and Auckland Transport (Scott McCarten).

Tony explained that the community had expressed strong views about the intensification proposals that were in the draft unitary plan. And that people were worried about infrastructure provisions - because the unitary plan effectively de-coupled infrastructure provision from intensification. He said that "normal planning integrates that". He said that "now we have that gap-filling in planning via the Area Plan..."  The question now is what infrastructure is needed upfront, and what level of infrastructure maintenance is needed to ensure infrastructure and services don't erode.We need to plan for their upgrades...."

Three questions were to be put for the views of the meeting:

1)  What do you like and value in your area?
2)  What would make it an even better place to live?
3)  What services and amenities ought to be provided?

The meeting was informed that the earlier meeting at Belmont (on Monday) had expressed concerns about transport infrastructure, ferries, buses, schools, wastewater and stormwater. Burton for 2040 talked about "residential character".

There was an animated discussion and notes were taken which will be provided as feedback. There were many comments about Lake Road congestion. One or two wanted the cycle lanes taken out to provide more space for cars (thankfully only one or two!). Scott from Auckland Transport indicated that a $56 million provision to improve Lake Road (not sure what this entailed) had been pushed back in the plan to 2022, to provide for "higher priority projects". AMETI, CBD Bus Upgrade, CRL, Onehunga motorway link, and Whangaparaoa roading projects were mentioned.

This was the resolution that was adopted by the meeting. There was significant concern at the lack of connection, integration, coordination between intensification plans and infrastructure provision.

In my opinion, this disconnect is deliberate, because the objective of the approach pursued by Council is to remove obstacles to building and development activity across the Auckland urban environment. That is why the Unitary Plan has a few simple zones - with few rules, and that is why there is no obligation imposed on developers to upgrade infrastructure, and it also why there are no structure plan requirements for urban areas that have been up-zoned. These requirements are seen by some as obstacles to growth and economic activity.

However these requirements are the minimum in most other western countries, where people expect systems to be in place to protect them and their communities from the effects of up-zoning, through comprehensive area planning which includes infrastructure and suchlike.

Again, in my opinion, Council is making a rod for its back, and for the backs of it communities, by pushing ahead with this market-led approach to urban regeneration. Communities will resist it.

It begins with agitation, moves into education (as residents inform themselves and get to grips with urban planning and what is reasonable and fair), and then to organisation. These local groups are getting very organised.

Auckland Councillors need to take notice.

Stop Backroom Waterfront Deals!



Auckland Council must be prevented from destroying what little public realm now exists on Quay Street, Queen Elizabeth Square and Queens Wharf.

I understand that deals now being considered by Auckland Council envisage chunks of Queen Elizabeth Square being traded for development in exchange for a capital contribution toward the proposed Central Rail Loop project.

It is a poor reflection on the state of urban planning in Council that the public know nothing about this. A greater concern is that Auckland councillors and local Waitemata Board members are also in the dark.

Auckland’s waterfront transformation has a sad record of public deceit that is at risk of being repeated unless citizens and representatives of the public intervene.

Princes Wharf is an example. During early planning stages, public attention was diverted by images of museums, pavilion-steps to the water, delight-filled public spaces, and by promises of theatres and galleries alongside apartments, an improved cruise ship terminal and a hotel. Almost none of the public benefits were provided. Instead public bodies got their lump sums and additional rates revenues, and private investors got what they were after.

The octagonal shaped building at the base of Princes Wharf was originally developed on condition that it was needed for Port Headquarters. In fact it was made available for private use years ago, and public profits quietly pocketed by Ports of Auckland. Public commitments that were made then in mitigation included the paved pedestrianisation of  Quay Street between Albert and Queen Streets, with paving extending up Queens Wharf and across into Queen Elizabeth Square. Apart from improvements that were made to existing footpaths, none of this happened, and the promise that the new building would leave two stories of open space beneath for public views and access was destroyed in another deal done by Ports of Auckland.

These tawdry examples are at risk of being repeated along the next part of Quay Street, Queens Wharf and Queen Elizabeth Square.

Auckland’s CBD waterfront offers Auckland’s one and half million citizens very little in the way of a fulltime party central, let alone great waterfront parks, spaces and places to chill and enjoy life by the sea in the city. Unless Council addresses that need and prioritises that outcome, the public messages that are issued from Auckland Council, about having a world class waterfront, about being the most liveable city in the world, need to be treated with distrust and doubt.

Ratepayers are keenly aware that Auckland Council has funding problems. It has a burgeoning debt problem, and ratepayers are hurting. It has a booming building industry knocking on its doors for consent and other permissions to ease the way for development. It may be right for Council to stitch up deals with developers and trade off public amenity and assets. But it cannot be right for such transactions to be hidden from public scrutiny and from careful consideration by elected representatives.

Especially when it affects and involves the heart of Auckland.

This brings me to transport planning, which in Auckland is still siloed away from urban planning, remains a negative influence to good place-making, and threatens good outcomes on the waterfront.

The success of all of Auckland’s recent urban transformational projects have been damaged by the priority given to car traffic.

The New Lynn town center project was a great urban place-making idea based around a trenched railway station, but whose attractiveness and future is compromised by the extensive and pedestrian-unfriendly roading network that remained in place.

The Northern Busway project offered opportunities to transform Takapuna (by taking the busway through Barry’s Point and along Taharoto Road) and to improve Wairau Valley (by having a station there), but instead the project was seen as an opportunity for high occupancy car traffic and potentially for heavy traffic.

And the AMETI set of transport projects (based around Panmure) which could have delivered some high quality villages and urban places, has been fundamentally driven by the need to move traffic, and promise a low quality urban future.

Unfortunately these same tendencies are influential today in the planning of Auckland’s waterfront. Quay Street is still seen as a “traffic right” by many, and any reduction in capacity seen as a threat, forgetting that Auckland coped well when it was closed during the construction of Britomart. There are many who see Queens Wharf as “transport hub” rather than as “people’s place”. That Queens Wharf should be given over to ferries and cruise ships. These arguments have their place in any public debate.

But commitments to transport provision – be it rail, ferry, car, or cruise ship parking - that are considered by Auckland Council as part of any deal with a private developer, especially where such commitments might conflict with the provision of “world class” public parks and places, cannot be given unless there is a high level of public engagement with such trade-offs.

It is time Auckland Council went public on its plans for our waterfront, and it is time Auckland honoured decades of promises to transform Quay Street, Queens Wharf and Queen Elizabeth Square into “world class” public places for people rather than vehicles.