An outstanding example is the careful and detailed work of the Auckland CBD Residents Advisory Group Inc. The Court heard from its acting Chair - Tim Hannah - that the incorporated society has been in existence since 2004, that no fee is required for membership, has a board of 5, an active membership of around 30, and a circulation list for its newsletter of 500.
Here is its statement, given after lunch on day 4 of the hearing, in full:
1. My earlier submission to the Court (volume 3, tab 47) aimed to convey a view of City Centre residents on the proposed Plan Change which envisages the sacrifice of Queen Elizabeth Square (QES), by its location a unique area of public space.
2. We took into account the expert evidence submitted by Auckland Council and Precinct Properties. Members of our Residents’ Advisory Group Executive Committee (RAG ExCo) have reviewed rebuttal evidence submitted since then. We remain very strongly supportive of the Auckland Architecture Association appeal against the Plan Change.
3. For the record the City Centre is the area falling within the urban motorway system and the harbour edge. Not just a business district but with high residential density –higher than Sydney or Melbourne.
4. Future expected residential growth is significant, by any measure. Within some 70m of this Court, 386 apartments will be completed in the next 18 months, mostly pre-sold for occupation. More families, more infants and children, more pets, more locals meeting up with out-of-town friends visiting the City Centre by rail or bus. A growing, liveable city needs every public space it has and more in Auckland’s case. Indeed this is the stated view of the Council -in its City Centre MasterPlan of 2012.
5. Until now, City Centre residents have not, we believe had proper opportunity to say whether we agree specifically with the sacrifice for all time of QES, a significant and reasonably substantial public space, located centrally at the City’s transport hub. Or if so, agree that only a modest part of the sale proceeds go in mitigation to waterfront development –of an area that much of is already in the public domain. Or agree that a substantial balance go to the CRL project, which should and is claimed to be, budgeted for in its own right, not paid for in this way.
6. Yes there was an on-line survey on current and future open-space provision downtown and consultation with the WLB and, with a selected focus, with iwi. But that specific question in all its significant elements has not been put.
7. But we do note a related public consultation -a survey in 2015 of local passers-by, as to their preferences for development of downtown public spaces. It is a sad irony that this highlighted hospitality and retail as lowest priority preferences. Yet this is precisely Precinct Properties’ proposed outcome of the sale of QES.
8. My earlier statement (paragraphs 4.11-14) canvassed a few different ideas that occurred to us, albeit amateurs, for redevelopment of QES both to rescue and enhance it and to recognise its scope to complement the new LQS project.
9. Council and Precinct Properties’ experts and officials’ rebuttal evidence very largely goes to some length to discount redevelopment of QES as at all worthwhile, almost even impossible. Rebuttal evidence especially target ideas for family-friendly facility type options which we advanced among others, civic or recreation-focussed.
10. It is a particular disappointment that Council officials now disavow the great emphasis they gave in the City Centre MasterPlan (2012) to “giving priority to children and young people…developing a strategic action plan that puts children and young people first”. Not more retail and hospitality outlets, one might footnote.
11. That Plan notes that “currently there is little to encourage parents to raise their children in the City centre or bring them to visit...more playgrounds and places for play will attract children and young people to visit and live in the city”.
12. So what about somewhere very central, relatively secure and congenial, often sheltered from the sun and not so exposed, removed from the hustle and bustle, where, for example, a parent who comes downtown or into town with a pushchair or young child could sit especially to await a friend or partner working in one of the many offices and entreprises in the city centre, or coming into it from elsewhere. QES fits this reasonable prescription extremely well. And offers other opportunities. Unlike LQS as proposed, the smaller area squeezed between major bus lanes and with busy east-west pedestrian flow.
13. At least in comparison with Mr McIndoe for Precinct Properties (vol.1 page 762 paragraph 4.11) who said earlier that the space was of “irretrievably poor quality”, Mr Falconer for the Council offered a glimmer of encouragement, however grudging: ”..an enhanced outcome for QES, even including a playground, will create at best some recreational value in a space set back from the hustle and bustle of LQS and apart from the nearby waterfront” (Vol. 1 page 503 paragraph 6.5).
14. To our regret he immediately reverts to support the Council waterfront development, which is of course unable to offer the same advantages, is simply not central, hardly adjacent, is across a busy road and moreover quite exposed.
15. Incidentally, Mr Johnston for Precinct Properties (page 762 in Vol.1 12.2) tells us that he does not consider the heart of the city as an appropriate place for “tranquillity, contemplation or isolation”. This is most distressing quite dystopian advice to thousands of our residents. Fortunately quite out of sync with Council’s aspiration for a ‘liveable’ city centre. I’m sure like me, many here have valued spaces in hearts of cities elsewhere where one can just sit and contemplate life passing by, in relative tranquillity and isolation, aside from the hustle and bustle. We hope the Court may ignore Mr Johnston’s view. Even perhaps that Precinct Properties may not support it.
16. Turning to the proposed waterfront development, Your Honour and Commissioners, the RAG Executive Committee has not taken a position against this. On the other hand, we do not quite share the self-gratifying feeling of shock and awe echoing round Council chambers at this alternative they are offering.
17. For Mr Falconer (vol.1 page 503 paragraph 6.5), QES doesn’t stack up against the “pleasures of viewing the wider harbour, observing the movement of watercraft, promenading, dining and recreating (sic) in the sunny environment of the waterfront”. Well, you can effectively do all that now; the new development will scarcely lift a veil on the wider harbour and not everyone wants to be out in the sun anyway. Then Mr Vinall, also for the Council, also disparages QES and its possibilities, mostly because he ‘doesn’t interpret’ it as fitting the old District Plan definition of a ”premier civic space” (vol.1 page 577 paragraphs 6.2-6.3). Plan provisions have now apparently become decisive.
18. But to move on, as noted we do not dismiss the Council’s proposed harbour development as such, just the sacrifice of QES to enable it to proceed. It’s not even a good partial trade-off, in our view. We are also sceptical –at least, about related aspects of the overall transaction. Our reservations were discussed in my initial statement, paragraphs 4.15-18.
19. To sum up, the Group recognises that its lay contribution stands in some isolation from others, from the many experts and officials involved in this hearing. But there are of course differences between them. We have sought to point to discontinuities and considerations relevant to city centre residents’ concerns, those specifically of the neighbours to QES. The Auckland Architecture Association speaks well for these.
20. We are strongly convinced of the civic and public amenity value to be secured for CC residents by the Square’s retention and redevelopment both in its own right and to complement and add value to the adjacent linear Lower Queen St public space. We believe our views may resonate with many of the non-locals who will visit or pass through this special central point in Auckland.
21. Your Honour and Commissioners, the Group’s decision to join this appeal as an S274 party was not taken lightly. Quite the contrary. Much debated among Executive Committee and some other members whether we should, indeed could, do so. Involvement has been a considerable challenge. But development and maintenance of public space has been a continuing priority focus by the Group since its inception in 2006. We ask that a city centre residents’ perspective can be given some weight in your deliberations, please.
Interim Chair, CBD Residents’ Advisory Group
c/ The Secretary, CBD Residents’ Advisory Group Inc.
4c/22 Emily Place, Auckland 1010
Secretary: Mr Adam Parkinson