Sunday, September 28, 2014

Downtown Needs A Plan Change

Behind the scenes Auckland Council and CCO staff are working, discussing, coordinating and strategising how to progress Downtown planning. The pressure's on to sort out and fund the Central Rail Link (CRL) enabling works (the cut and cover section from Britomart, across Queen Elizabeth Square, under Custom Street West and some way up Albert Street) and to enable Precinct Properties to gain certainty and direction for the redevelopment of its property.

So far, one outcome of these frantic activities, is that the public has been involved in one decision and vaguely informed about a cluster of others:
  • For example the designation for the CRL route has been notified (leading to various property owners affected being compensated, some properties being purchased) and Auckland Council's annual plan (which was consulted) did provide for these costs. 
  • The public might have heard about the idea of Queen Elizabeth Square being sold to Precinct Properties (if they read the Herald), but they've not been consulted about this, though they could be involved in the formal process that would be required of "stopping" QE Square being a "road". (That is QE Square's planning status at the present. It is not a park. Nor has it ever been reserved for any public purpose other than being "road" - which might explain why it was used as car park and why it is still regularly used now by courier companies to park their vehicles.)
  • There has also been the pasteurised Downtown Development Framework. I mean "passed your eyes". The public has not been consulted about the ideas or priorities in this strategy document. Some attentive members of the public may have learned a bit from the Herald or the radio, but this cannot be described as reasonable public participation given the significance.
Is this a good public process? You'd be a charitable person to say that it has been a good process lately, even if you ignore waterfront redevelopment planning history. For example there's the recent decisions that led up to the present situation including a sequence of shonky resource consent decisions by the previous Auckland City Council granting Westfields the right to build a 41 storey tower, 471 basement carparks, a double width vehicle crossing into Lower Albert, commercial frontage onto Lower Albert and Custom Street infringing pedestrian amenity standards, and with barely any regard at all for the impact on bus services and interchange facilities. None of these planning decisions were publicly notified.

What constitutes good process? To answer that we need to look a little further back to the redevelopment planning for Quay Park, Britomart, Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter....

Any good urban planning starts with some understanding of the history of land uses in the vicinity. Something which seems to be strangely absent from anything I've seen so far from Auckland Council - except where it might support a particular rationale - such as the sale of QE Square.

The black line in this map indicates how much of Auckland's waterfront is on reclaimed land (the map shows reclamations before the current container port was reclaimed). By 1973 a total of 162 hectares of land had been reclaimed in proximity to the Auckland Central Business District. Of this, 27.5% was vested for industrial uses (including railways, post office, power station and a bus terminal) by Auckland Harbour Board. An extensive street system was made on a further portion (25 %) of the reclaimed land. Today, Ports of Auckland Ltd (which replaced AHB as part of neoliberal reforms in the last 1980’s), operates Auckland’s port on about 55 hectares of reclaimed land.

 So what happened to the the rest of the land and wharves that was surplus to ports and historic uses? Much of it has been redeveloped. And there's an interesting and simple history of this, some of which is good planning, and some of which is not good.
  
Quay Park Precinct
 This map shows the portion called Quay Park Precinct. It included the old railway station and today includes Vector Arena and other developments.

The important point to note for this posting is that the land went through a Plan Change before it was redeveloped. You can read the Quay Park Precinct district plan provisions. I suggest you click on the link and have a read. These changes went out for public consultation, were subject to submissions and stakeholder engagement, became operative, and then enabled complying redevelopment and public space provision.
Viaduct Harbour Precinct
 This map shows another portion of Auckland's CBD waterfront that went through a Plan Change process. This is Viaduct Harbour Precinct. Again - it inludes land that was privately owned and land that was public.The Plan Change allowed development to commence in the late 1990's that you can see today.

Critically, there was a set of Urban Design Guidelines that went with Plan Change 61. I suggest you have a read of these. They begin with this quote within a quote: "...."Determination and reservation of permanent open space is one of the, if not the most important design decisions in city planning: Open space, once made public, remains forever. It is thus to be carefully considered as to form, volume, meaning and symbolism." - extract from Capital Development Authority Dodoma, Tanzania; Urban Design for the National Capital Centre , June 1980, p 79. The spirit of this document is vested in the recognition of, and respect for, the fundamental importance of high quality public space in the urban environment...."

Britomart Precinct
This site had a controversial start to redevelopment planning. The Les Mills led Auckland City Council vision proposed a cluster of 30 storey plus towers and around 5,000 underground carparks associated with a railway station. It would have necessitated the demolition of most heritage buildings. Public outcry triggered a different approach. The newly elected Christine Fletcher led Auckland City Council promulgated a District Plan Change for the area which allowed redevelopment of the area to proceed in accordance with specific planning controls in the early 2000's. It clearly protected and defined public space and the alleyways and streetscapes that are now threatened by the higgledy piggledy bus "planning" being talked about by Auckland Council for the Downtown area.

Wynyard Quarter Precinct
Two major plan changes preceeded the developments now visible down there, particularly on North Wharf and Silo Park, which have attracted international recognition as well as public acclaim. There was Plan Change 3 by Auckland Regional Council relating to coastal provisions, and Plan Change 4 by Auckland City Council relating to land uses. See here the s.32 analysis of Plan Change 3. 

You can see how this precinct is provided for in the District Plan today, here. In that precinct plan document you can see recorded part of the planning process leading to the final provisions:

"The vision for Wynyard Quarter is based on four interrelated public strategy documents being; 
• Auckland Waterfront Vision 2040; 
• Auckland CBD Into The Future Strategy; 
• The Wynyard Quarter Concept Vision and Urban Design Framework; and 
• The Wynyard Quarter Urban Design Background Information Document. 
These documents were developed following extensive public consultation and input from key stakeholders." 

And that is only talking about the vision. Following that process was the plan changes themselves in which all stakeholders and public had the opportunity to make submissions about public spaces, buildings heights, heritage buildings, activity relationships between commerce, industry, fishing and recreation, and more. What you see on Wynyard Quarter was not some happy accident. It is the legacy of good planning.

So. You'd think that Auckland Council would learn from this experience and repeat what is good about it in planning what is arguably the most significant and central part the Auckland waterfront CBD. (NB: the one area of Auckland's waterfront that was redeveloped in what amounted to a non-notified way was Princes Wharf. Very few obervers consider that Princes Wharf planning is a model to be repeated. Yet that is the risk of the Downtown Precinct planning process at present.)

Downtown Precinct
So here's the remaining bit of Auckland's downtown sitting on zonings and planning controls that were put in place several decades ago. I understand the Price Waterhouse tower was permitted after a non-notified process. At present Auckland Council appears to only be looking closely at the right half of the Downtown area - the land bounded by Quay, Lower Queen, Custom, and Lower Albert Streets. But the "pasteurised" Downtown Framework considers the whole area - including opportunities like the Hobson Street flyover ramp and the downtown carpark building.

The rationale for requiring a Downtown Precinct Plan Change - even if it's one block at a time - is to protect both public and private interests, to provide opportunity for public and stakeholder input, and to deliver some certainty around outcomes, including bus movements and interchanges, typical of the plan change processes described above. The rationale for avoiding a publicly proposed Downtown Precinct Plan Change can only be seen as favouring private interests over public interests, and of avoiding the costs of due public process. It is neither appropriate nor fair to expect Precinct Properties to take responsibility for downtown development planning by means of its own private plan change or by seeking consent.

It is time for Auckland Councillors to call for wise action over expediency.
Auckland's Downtown Precinct needs a public plan change.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Auckland Planning Ignores Buses

It would have been more accurate to entitle this post "demeans", or maybe "sidelines", buses. But others who risk losing out in Auckland's Battle for Downtown include pedestrians. Winners and grinners look like developers, drivers and, ultimately, train commuters, part-funded by public property liquidation. But the option of a win-win-win-win outcome still lies on the table...

Downtown redevelopment planning, Queen Elizabeth Square, the Central Rail Link project, Quay Street and Custom Street are all in the public eye right now. There's been considerable public interest which will grow and should be welcomed by those responsible for planning and implementation.

I'm one stakeholder interested in how it's all going and learning from the past so we don't risk repeating historic mistakes. That's why I've sought information about the various resource consents and planning processes relating to the Downtown site, or Number 7 Queen Street, which is the address of the Downtown Westfield Shopping Centre that has been purchased by Precinct Properties for redevelopment, and under which will pass a section of tunnel allowing the Central Rail Link access into Britomart station.

This posting contains extracts from the decision report which went with the non-notified consent granted in 2008 to Westfield to build a 41 storey tower at 7 Queen Street (the picture shown is part of the original consent application documentation, looking North East across the Custom Street/Lower Albert Street intersection). That consent would have lapsed in 2013. This posting considered the extension process whereby Auckland Council, in 2011, changed the lapse date from 2013 to 2018. This is the resource consent purchased by Precinct Properties when it took ownership of No 7 Queen Street.

This newspaper article is based on information I obtained about the process that occurred between Auckland City Council, Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA), Ontrack, and Westfields in 2008 in regard to the problem of the CRL tunnel going under the site planned for the tower, and through the basement area planned for 471 car parks. In essence this appears to be what happened:
  • Westfields applied to Auckland City Council on the 14 April 2007 to build a 41 Storey Tower and 471 basement carparks on the corner of Lower Albert and Custom Streets. Despite letters from Auckland Regional Transport Authority and documentation from Ontrack about the proposed CRL tunnel, and despite conflicting legal advice, Auckland City Council officers decided the application did not need to be publicly notified and it was granted “without any issues of contention”.
  • Consent was granted in April 2008 at which time the senior planner wrote to an adjacent land owner stating: “I am informed that it may be several years before redevelopment proceeds.”
  • It appears that ARTA and Ontrack commenced judicial review proceedings shortly thereafter in May 2008 but these did not proceed. Documents suggest an MOU was signed between Ontrack and Westfields.
  • A year after amalgamation, in August 2011, Auckland Council received another application from Westfield, this time to extend the life of the consent from 2013 to 2018. It argues in that application: “Westfield was unaware of the rail tunnel proposition when the decision was taken to invest in the proposed scheme, and seek consent for the redevelopment of the site.” But documents indicate Westfield met with ARTA almost a year before the original consent was granted.
  • This time, Auckland Council dealt with the application, but it was the same Auckland City Council officer. He recommended the extension be dealt with non-notified again. A single commissioner sitting alone took a few minutes to sign it off, and the Auckland public remained none the wiser.
So - What About The Buses?

Most of the above has been about rail public transport. But the untold story, and one which needs to be appreciated and taken seriously by those planning Downtown now - especially as there's a commitment to getting buses out of Queen Elizabeth Square - is what has happened to the buses? How were they planned for in 2008, and what will happen now?

The original application included 471 carparks, a new double-width vehicle entry crossing on Lower Albert Street, and the commercialisation of part of the street frontage to Lower Albert Street. You can see what consent was needed for at the bottom of this posting.

The application lodged by Westfield in July 2007 contained in its assessment of effects, this statement which is a quote from the Integrated Transport Assessment (ITA) part of the application, which had been prepared by Traffic Design Group (TDG):

Then, in an email dated 1 August 2007 to Auckland City Council officers from a Senior Associate of Traffic Planning Consultants Ltd who had been asked to review the ITA part of the Westfield application, we read:
Documents indicate that T2 Traffic and Transportation Engineers were then commissioned by Auckland City Council officers to formally review the applicant's ITA, and to make recommendations accordingly. This review was provided to Auckland City Council on or about 23 January 2008, and it states:


The T2 review recommends that the applicant: "is to liaise with ARTA to ensure that the location of the access does not cause any issues in relation to the proposed bus stops. This should be included as a condition of consent."

Now I don't know about you, but I read all this as meaning that two different consultances were asked to review the applicant's Integrated Transport Assessment and found it woefully inadequate in regards to the impact on existing and proposed bus services on Lower Albert Street. The advice is that the traffic access/entry points associated with the applicant's proposal "do not cause any issues in relation to the proposed bus stops", and that this be a condition of consent.

In the end, Commissioners were not provided with advice reflecting the clarity and concern expressed in early reviews of the application's ITA. Instead they read of T2's vague proposal to deal with the problem caused by the applicant's carpark traffic by relocating the bus terminals off Lower Albert Street and onto Customs Street West! Man oh man. As if such a thing is so easy - and let's not bother notifying ARTA about this as an affected party.

This is shonky.

And not even a condition of consent as suggested by T2. Instead officers recommended a nice little "advice note" to the permit. (Some of you may be aware of the significance of an advice note. Not a lot.) Advice note 8 reads:


No "musts" in this feeble advice note.Words like "should"..."consider"...."unduly compromise"...suffice as far as Auckland City Council officers were concerned. This is would be a joke if it wasn't so tragic.

And now we have the situation where Precinct Properties holds a consent that presumably still allows it to build a double width crossing into Lower Albert Street, AND Auckland Council have decided to dispense with the bus terminal in Lower Queen Street and relocate half of it into Lower Albert, alongside the bus stops that are already there. Man oh man. I think I can see the rationale now for Queen Elizabeth Square. To sell it unencumbered, the bus terminal on it had to be relocated. Don't really care where. Will deal with that problem later. One thing at a time. Top priority is to liquidate Queen Elizabeth Square....

And then there's the related decision to shoe-horn the other half of the Lower Queen Street bus terminal into the little pedestrian-friendly laneways that we fought so hard to retain in the Britomart Precinct.

Sorry guys, but this is not good planning. Check out the bottom bullet point here.

So what to do about buses?

Not enough room in this post for that question. But I'd suggest for a start, that the solution lies in the treatment of Custom Street West and perhaps its intersection with Lower Albert Street. And that the time for the work is at the same time as CRL enabling work at that intersection, and that it involves strategic undergrounding of buses and bus infrastructure there. This is more of a transport priority now, as CRL enabling works advance, than de-tuning Quay Street.

Sell QE Square's Dark Side

Those who attended the meeting of Auckland Council's Development Committee last week reported here, and which had to contend with this news item, will have heard a deputation from The Auckland Civic Trust calling for caution in the sale of the whole of Queen Elizabeth Square.

Julian Mitchell, architect, principle of Mitchell and Stout Architects, had clearly read and absorbed the expert reports in front of the committee, and argued for retention of half of QE Square. He discussed the history of the Auckland Institute of Architects and their opposition to the erection of what is now the HSBC Tower, and told the committee that in his opinion it should be demolished. But if that option was not on the table, he said that the half of QE Square that is shaded by the HSBC Tower, and that is subject to the downward wind drafts that the tower gives rise to, could be sold and built on.

I agree with this approach, as do many other planners, urban designers and architects, not forgetting several councillors who are concerned at the unseemly haste of council processes in this regard.

The pictures in these slide images are from reports councillors considered at their meeting. This one shows Downtown as it is now. You can click on it to enlarge it.
I agree with Jan Gehl's expert assessment of QE Square now. He talks about the potentials and problems with it. And notes that demolition of the HSBC Tower would be the best thing for the whole of QE Square.
But, like Auckland Civic Trust, and many others, I don't agree with Council's fixation on selling the whole of QE Square as a way of fixing the HSBC problem, and using the money to buy other places already in public ownership! Man oh man! Like cutting off your nose because you sneeze. This picture shows Council's "preferred solution". PPL has already indicated it can develop its existing property quite well thank you, without QE Square, but of course it would be happy to have QE Square as well. What property developer wouldn't?
But there are many disadvantages in selling the whole of QE Square. Views of historic buildings would be constrained and confined. The north facing public edge of Zurich building would be lost. The size of the public space and potential civic square would obviously be reduced. And no doubt there are other issues that would emerge should the council decide to engage with informed-stakeholder, public, and expert opinion.
The suggestion, or compromise, offered by Julian Mitchell is that the dark side of QE Square be sold to PPL, but the sunny side retained in public ownership. The green shaded area in this modified image shows that outcome. It includes the small amenity area just east of the HSBC building (where the glass box cafe is now). This solution would provide a more generous and useful public square. The east facing edges can all be activated and provided with shelter for pedestrians from the weather. Views are not obstructed. Better outcome.
And when you consider Jan Gehl's assessment, particularly his RED SPOT "bad" assessments of QE Square as it exists now, they are dealt with by this modified approach. And if you don't believe me, Councillors and officers intent on selling our public spaces, how about asking Jan Gehl what he thinks about this option?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Downtown Precinct Cup of Tea Time

Lots of reasons to be cheerful this week, and then a couple of things to think about next week:
  • Auckland Council released its Downtown Framework coordinated by Council's City Centre Integration Team. The geographic extent of the framework is appropriate. It allows for integrated evaluation and assessment of projects and transformation opportunities in the downtown waterfront CBD area. The Downtown Projects list is comprehensive, and considers the removal of the Hobson Flyover, the redevelopment of the downtown carparking building, and potential redevelopment of Copthorne Hotel. It's good to see the Beach Road cycle infrastructure. However the framework is vulnerable to critique that its purpose is PRIMARILY to enable CRL enabling works and PPL Downtown development to go ahead AND the sale of all of QE Square land. All else later – maybe. But nothing else is costed.
  • Precinct Properties are proposing to lodge a new resource consent application for the Downtown development in January 2015. This is good news because it clearly signals PPL's interest in considering designs and outcomes that are different from those in the original Westfield consents. PPL will be interested in achieving floor area objectives, parking provisions and other commercial objectives which would be expected from this significant investment. PPL have for some time signalled a willingness to work with Auckland Council to achieve excellent outcomes on this very important site.
  • Other Auckland stakeholders are becoming engaged in the planning process. Yesterday's Auckland Council Development Committee meeting received deputations from the Allan Matson and Julian Mitchell of the Auckland Civic Trust. Next week's Urban Issues Group of the NZ Institute of Architects are holding a special meeting about Downtown Waterfront planning. This growing public interest presents Auckland Council with an opportunity to constructively engage with Auckland's creative community in planning and developing this part of the Downtown Waterfront.
  • Auckland Council has adopted a more nuanced approach to the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square land. What appeared to be a blunt sell it all approach, has now moved to an approach where lease options are to be investigated, as well as options of selling just a part of it (the shaded part for example). That's more like it.
  • Auckland Councillors are being provided with more information about the proposal, and about the planning issues, and the history of how the Downtown area developed to where it is today. This will lead to empowered and informed Councillors which is what Auckland needs. There is a very useful and readable article about Auckland's Downtown development in a recent issue of Architecture Now magazine. Which I would suggest is compulsory reading for all Auckland Councillors and officers working on this project.

Those are my reasons for being cheerful, apart from today being Friday.

They are also my reasons for thinking about what we could now discuss over a cup of tea. What could be on the table next week and beyond - with Auckland Council and with Precinct Properties.

I've got suggestions for a conversation or two...
  • Before trading away QE Square, offer Precinct Properties 2 or 3 more floor levels and the associated GFA on the low rise sections of its development site in exchange for lowering or demolishing the HSBC Tower. This would produce buildings on that section of the Downtown site of similar height to the Britomart building, capable of being nicely activated at ground level, of human scale, and delivering PPL commensurate value. This would at a stroke address the main QE Square quality issues (wind and shading) raised by the Jan Gehl and Reset Urban Design expert reports that were predicted by the Auckland Institute of Architects in their submissions at the time that tower was being planned (see article referred to above) which were dismissed by Auckland City Council when it granted planning permission.
  • The Downtown Framework discusses scenarios for the development of QE Square and downtown bus operations. The text states: "the CRL enabling works will require reinstatement of many of the streets in this downtown block. We need to determine what is to be put back to avoid missed opportunities and reconstruction works." Tne Downtown Framework also suggests that Quay Street will be "de-tuned" and that Custom Street will somehow at the same time be made more pedestrian friendly (at Queens Street and Albert Street intersections) without suggesting any projects that might achieve that outcome. It also indicates that a part of the current downtown bus interchange will be relocated to Lower Albert Street, which is also where PPL has consent for a substantial traffic crossing providing access to its basement car-parking. The Downtown Framework is silent on this. So what might be done? I have heard of concepts for off-line or underground bus interchanges that can take the buses off city streets. Several friends have talked about this for Custom Street. A tunnel for buses along Custom Street could be built with its entry east bound near the Downtown Council carpark building, and its entry west bound in the vicinity of Emily Place. Work could occur when the 20 metre wide and 20 metre deep trench is dug for the CRL enabling works that will cut across Custom Street. Taking buses off this section of Custom Street would make it for traffic and bikes only and with wider footpaths. It would be busy but much safer than it is now for pedestrians. Getting buses underground would improve pedestrian amenity in Britomart too. A variation of this idea would be to permit traffic accessing the Precinct Properties parking facilities to also use this infrastructure, thereby allowing traffic to access this important city block underground, and making Lower Albert much more pedestrian friendly and economically successful.

But I don't think this sort of discussion will happen over the teacups if the rationale for negotiation is simply the liquidation of council land by ACPL for the highest price. The conversation needs to be creative and future looking. Otherwise Auckland risks missing the multiple benefits that arise from this opportunity. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dirty Politics in Downtown Auckland

There has been a lot of interest in this posting I did about the non-notified Westfield resource consent for a 41 storey tower at the corner of Custom Street and Lower Albert Street obtained in 2008, and which Precinct Properties now owns along with its other property holdings at the site. You can read NZ Herald on the proposed building - and view a picture which is from the original 2008 application - here.

That 2008 permit would have lapsed in April 2013. But it didn't.

The Extension Process

What this posting is about is the process undertaken by Auckland Council and Westfield in 2011 to change the conditions of consent in the original permit, by inserting an extension to the tower permit out to 29th April 2018.

The chronology for this process is:
  • 3rd August 2011, application to modify Westfield Tower resource consent conditions lodged
  • 22nd August 2011, resolution grants the application to extend the consent out to 29 April 2018
Pretty quick. How many other consent applications get processed in this sort of timeframe?
But then, it wasn't notified, so there were no objections to deal with. Easy peasy.

The application for the extension begins with this reference to the relevant section of the RMA:


You can read there the tests that need to be passed for granting an extension.

The application argues that Westfield has done some detailed design work since consent was granted, and has approached the market to assess interest in the proposed commercial/office space. However, because of the GFC, Westfield argues, many construction projects were put on hold, and there was accordingly not enough time to get the leasing deals done, and the building built by April 2013. It also argued:


Apart from the spelling error this looks pretty tentative: "...have been actively negotiating...", "...termination clauses in most current leases...". And this is three and a half years after the consent was granted in 2008.

So what about the matter of approval. Apart from other building owners in the area, across Custom Street, and suchlike, there is the matter of the Britomart Rail tunnel proposal. This is very interesting....


Look at the words starting para 2: "Westfield was unaware of the tunnel proposition when the decision was taken to invest in the proposed scheme, and seek consent for the redevelopment of the site."

The Original Application

When I read these words, I decided to look back at the original resource consent application (April 2008). In the Auckland City Council planner's report about the application we find this para in a section discussing whether ARTA should be notified (or not) about the Westfields application to build the tower:

And there is this text in the planning officer report:


So we see here, in the original 2008 application planning report, that not only had the CEO of ARTA been advising Auckland City Council about the Britomart tunnel, but that ARTA had referred to "a dialogue it has established with the applicant (Westfield)", and that there had been media coverage about the tunnel project.

So how true is the statement: "Westfield was unaware of the tunnel proposition when the decision was taken to invest in the proposed scheme, and seek consent for the redevelopment of the site."....?

Interestingly, a chronology of events provided by the applicant in support of the extension, says this:


 Clearly ARTA was concerned that it was not officially notified about Westfield's original resource consent application, and that Auckland City Council must have supported the decision NOT to notify ARTA. What this all meant of course, that Westfield could obtain a resource consent for a 41 storey tower, without notification, and without taking into account the possibility of the rail tunnel.

It could thus claim to be first. First up, best dressed.

Concluding Assessment - Dirty Politics

Basically Westfield got its shit together in cahoots with Auckland City Council to ram through a 41 storey resource consent application, but was thrown off track by the GFC, and couldn't keep its shit together in time (5 years) to build it. In the meantime Auckland did get its shit together, the Supercity was formed along with Auckland Transport, which is a requiring authority by the way, and it has applied for the tunnel designation. I'd say to Westfield: tough. You win some, you lose some.

Question: does the timing of the extension application predate the Britomart Tunnel designation application?

And then we get to the final part of the test that needs to be satisfied:


This application to extend the permit was being considered in August 2011. Auckland Council would have been in existence for almost a year. I wonder how much was out there in the public domain about the Auckland Plan, about the rail plan, about the Britomart Rail tunnel project?

You'd have to say, if you were being a fair and reasonable person, that there were a lot of good reasons for NOT granting this extension.The commissioner decision to grant the extension is less than a page long. Man!

To finish this post I'll remind you why consent was needed in the first place in 2008. And this is according to Westfield's original application:


You can see the extent of effects - even without considering the Britomart Rail tunnel, and without considering the traffic impacts on bus movements in Lower Albert - let alone when a bus interchange is located there.

Sure "life goes on" and we can't always wait for good planning, but in my view this whole thing stinks from a consenting point of view. Lack of public notification gives an added stench.

Talk about dirty politics.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Is Quay Street REOI Too Limited?

It's good for Auckland that Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse and Council's Development Committee have taken some control over what's happening in Downtown Auckland and on the CBD Waterfront. They've called for Expressions of Interest from Urban Planners and Designers about Quay Street - not forgetting about the various other projects that interconnect.

Not everyone is delighted about this.

For example we read in stuff.co.nz: "BOULEVARD BLUES: Councillor Cameron Brewer is not convinced the plan to make Quay St a pedestrian-friendly boulevard is a good one...."

Council's media release advises:
Auckland Council is seeking proposals from designers to assist with the future redevelopment of Quay Street. Quay Street has been earmarked for change under the City Centre Master Plan – a blueprint for the future use of the central city.The council is issuing a request for expressions of interest from design consultants.Concept designs for development of Quay Street will be considered by the Auckland Development Committee, and Aucklanders will have an opportunity to have their say before designs are finalised.

“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a great waterfront and city centre, and we need the best designers working with us as we develop our proposals to transform this area,” Deputy Mayor and Auckland Development Committee Chair Penny Hulse said.

City Centre integration general manager Rick Walden, said the project was at a very early stage. “As options are developed we will be seeking input from the wider community.”

The council aims to complete the appointment of a design team in November. 
 That gives an idea of the process and the timeframe. Various bits and pieces of work for Quay Street have come and gone in recent years. The image below is from this previous Auckland Council work:


 No doubt this and other ideas will be available to those organisations that get through the Request for EOI process and are asked by Auckland Council to be the design team.

Transportblog has considered this image and its reading is that the image suggests the following:
  • Shared space intersections
  • Two lanes of traffic each way and no separate turning lanes at intersections
  • A central planted median with trees
  • Slightly widened footpaths
  • No parking
  • No Cycle Lanes
It looks to me as if the design visualised suggests significant changes at the bottom of Lower Albert as well. But it's useful to question what is in, and what is not in. What is up for change, and is it the change we need?

What Auckland Council is asking for:

The detailed text of Auckland Council's Request for Expressions Of Interest documentation is instructive. I have bolded particular sections:
Design and construction monitoring services are required for a transformation of Auckland waterfront area for the Quay Street Project. The project has both design and implementation stages.

Design and construction monitoring services are required for a transformation of Auckland waterfront area for the Quay Street Project. The project is estimated at 6 years in length with both design and implementation stages of the project. The Quay Street area of Auckland is the main welcome and arrival area for public from transport and tourism activities with Auckland Council wanting to transform the area to reinvigorate the Downtown and Waterfront area.

Summary

This Request for Expression of Interest process (REOI) seeks Expressions of Interest (EOI) from suitably qualified and interested consultants to enable a short list to be established by Auckland Council. Shortlisted participants from the REOI will be invited to respond to a Request for Proposal process (RFP) for the provision of design and construction monitoring services for the Quay Street Project.

This is a multi-disciplinary commission, and it is intended that a contract with one consultant, or lead consultant (in the case of a consortium), is to be awarded as a result of the RFP process that is to follow the REOI process. There is a preference for a design-led team with the ability to provide the management and skills required to deliver a design that meets the project brief and objectives.

If any consortia are proposed then details are to be included in the EOI. Any agreement entered into by Auckland Council as a result of the procurement will be with one contracting party, who may lead a consortium of major partners and a number of specialist sub consultants as required. Auckland Council will have the right to approve all subcontractors.

Non New Zealand resident International participation is encouraged, with a preference that these parties participate in association with a NZ resident practice.

The scope of professional services to be procured includes refreshed concept, preliminary and detailed design and construction monitoring.

Introduction and background

The Auckland Plan has identified the city centre, of which the waterfront is a critical component, as one of two key areas in the Auckland region requiring transformational change to meet the Mayor’s vision of making Auckland the world’s most liveable city.

Auckland Council’s City Centre Master Plan (CCMP) and Waterfront Auckland’s Waterfront Plan both identify the poor connections between the central city and waterfront. The proposal is to enhance both the north-south links from city to water, and create a grand urban axis in the east-west direction that connects the various parts of the wider waterfront. At the heart of the grand urban axis lies Quay Street. It is the central city’s ‘front yard’ and ‘welcome mat’ to the city centre for thousands of people on a daily basis.

Significant investment has been made in the Downtown precinct over the last 10 years. The council has made it a priority to transform Quay Street and the adjacent waterfront areas to help ‘unlock’ the surrounding destinations and create a stunning front door to a reinvigorated Downtown and Waterfront area.

The Quay Street Project responds to Council’s strategic direction for the Downtown precinct. It is funded by the 10 year CCMP Implementation Programme (2012-2022) and is being managed as part of the City Centre Integration Group (CCIG).

The project scope comprises of the following areas:

· Quay Street – between Lower Hobson Street and Britomart Place *
· Ferry Basin – water’s edge open space, adjoining Quay Street
· Ferry Building Promenade – open space immediately north of the Ferry Building
· Quay Street – between Britomart Place and Tangihua Street (Master Plan level).

The scope of professional services to be procured includes refreshed concept, preliminary and detailed design and construction monitoring.

There are numerous interfacing and interdependent projects and developments planned in the Downtown precinct. It is important that the Quay Street Project both leads and closely integrates with these.

Project Scope

The Quay Street Project scope includes:

· Quay Street – between Lower Hobson Street and Britomart Place
· Ferry Basin – water’s edge open space, adjoining Quay Street
· Ferry Building Promenade – open space immediately north of the Ferry Building
· Quay Street – between Britomart Place and Tangihua Street (master plan level)

Quay Street currently comprises six lanes of traffic and carries some 25,000 vehicles per day. Quay Street is used by general vehicle traffic, buses and some freight. 
A public transport “hub” is centred at the Quay Street/Queen Street intersection where there is access to the ferry terminal, the airport bus, taxis, coach services, and the Britomart bus and train stations. 
With the upgrading of Queen’s Wharf to be the primary cruise terminal, this intersection will see further traffic and pedestrian management challenges and will be of even greater importance in servicing this important transport hub.

The existing open space on the Ferry Basin water’s edge is provided by Piers 3 and 4, which adjoin the Quay Street seawall. Given the deteriorating condition of these existing piers, the proposal to seismically upgrade the Quay Street seawall and the Ferry Basin Master Plan’s proposal to upgrade and reconfigure ferry operations, it’s likely that these piers will be replaced with new wharf infrastructure.

Ports of Auckland Ltd are preparing a concept design for development of the Admiralty Basin water’s edge wharf area adjoining Quay Street. 
What I think is needed

This story is going to be around for a long time. So is Quay Street. So is Auckland. So are the other projects that this project will lead and integrate with. So I think it important that the scope we give the designers allows them to explore the big picture. And also to consider the staging of CBD regeneration required, and even what sort of governance arrangements need to be in place to give designers confidence that all aspects of their designs will be implemented - unlike the public good failure exemplified in Princes Wharf.

You will note from the REOI that it makes no mention of Downtown Precinct or of QE Square. Not in so many words. It doesn't mention Queens Wharf or Princes Wharf either. Which brings me there:


This picture is of the intersection between Hobson Street and Quay Street at Princes Wharf. (Thank you transportblog). It is a dangerous intersection for pedestrians. It's at the centre of the Auckland Council's envisioned Quay Street grand urban axis. I understand there's been some design attention paid to the intersection from Queens Wharf across Quay Street already (it's shifting a little east - but needs to be placed further east - see this posting). The REOI design scope does appear to include the Hobson Street intersection - but not any of the roads or uses off it - except Quay Street itself.

Now my last point. But before that, ask yourself this question: why did we build the Grafton Gully motorway connection with State Highway 1? In part this was to provide a direct road access for port truck traffic. But it also enabled traffic from Eastern Bays to bypass the Auckland CBD (if they were heading North), it also gave them direct access to Wellesley Street to access the CBD from that point of entry. A lot of design work has gone into making the links with Grafton Gully work better, so it is more useful for West and East bound traffic. For example see this posting in transportblog. The logic is remorseless surely. Plan Auckland's Waterfront CBD as a destination rather than a through route, and thereby make it a pedestrian haven.

Transport planning for the Auckland CBD needs a motto: to it - not through it

That's why it's the other end of Quay Street that's also key. My last point is summed up in this picture:


The Hobson Street ramp, with the Council carpark to the right. Any serious transformation of Auckland's CBD waterfront should include the removal of this ramp, and the redevelopment of the carpark building which would be rendered redundant by significant improvements in public transport.

The Hobson Street ramp will not be necessary when Quay Street is restricted to the two lanes of traffic shown in the artist's picture above.

Its removal would sharply increase the value and development potential of the municipal carpark land. Ramp removal would have other major planning benefits:
  • it would free up lower Hobson Street for development
  • the Princes Wharf intersection could be redesigned consistent with Quay Street's grand urban axis status
  • the finer grain street network east and west of lower Hobson Street could be reinstated
What is needed is staged implementation of Auckland's urban waterfront regeneration. We don't want to restrict the thinking of the urban designers and planners who are stepping up right now. Think of the future.

And think of this area comprehensively. If you don't get my drift, look at this recent posting about Wellington waterfront planning - scroll down and look at the mapped scope of that planning in 1985 and 1987 when it was Gabites Porter and Partners that prepared the Lambton Harbour Combined Scheme for that area.

Other cities have made bigger changes. Make Auckland's CBD Waterfront a liveable place.

Auckland CBD & Waterfront Regeneration

It is appropriate that Auckland Council is managing a design process for the Quay Street area. One that recognises there a number of interconnecting and inter-relating projects. One that will be public.

This posting has been prepared to inform the need to design and implement an effective institutional process and structure that can reliably deliver designs, visions and projects that will make up the regenerated and transformed Auckland downtown CBD (projects include: Quay Street; QE Square; Queens Wharf; The Seawall; Ferry Terminal(s); Bus Interchange(s); CRL; connecting transport infrastructure).

These projects are the trigger for major urban regeneration of downtown/waterfront Auckland.

Section A serves as an introduction to this posting, and reports on various UK regeneration models, and compares them with what is happening in Auckland, and what model is being pursued by its different agencies (leading to potential for conflict, and need for change).
Section B reports on findings about how regeneration needs to be managed over the 10 to 20 years in can take. This looks at agency culture, management style and ways of working that contribute or detract from regeneration success. It raises questions about what needs to happen in Auckland to build an effective partnership.
Section C reports on the relationship between sustainability and regeneration, and how the ideas and objectives of sustainability can be used to lever regeneration policies and strategies.
And there's a biref conclusion.

A.    Urban Regeneration (Urban Regeneration in the UK, Tallon)

What has happened in Auckland following the transfer into new ownership (Ngati-whatua and Council) of redundant Ports land and wharves, rail-sidings, and the central railway station, follows a similar pattern to the urban regeneration transformations that have been re-shaping UK, USA and European cities following de-industrialisation, containerisation and subsequent globalisation forces.  The literature explicitly acknowledges that regeneration patterns in OECD countries around the world more or less follow that same set of patterns, and experience the same problems.

First comes the creation of a new CBD fringe of development opportunities, then comes a sequence of regeneration projects. In the UK these have been implemented in different periods according to three models:
1)    Urban Renewal in the 1970’s was public sector driven and mainly concerned with large scale redevelopment of inner city slum areas;
2)    Urban Regeneration in the 1980’s focussed on economic growth and property development, and used public funds to lever in largely undirected market investment (exemplified by London Docklands);
3)    Urban Regeneration in the 2000’s seeks to combine private and public sectors in partnerships to achieve regeneration but with an emphasis on sustainability and community inclusion
In Auckland CBD we are mainly proceeding in accordance with model 2 under Auckland Council’s ‘One Plan’ direction, and on the waterfront at Wynyard, we are proceeding with a mix of models 2 and 3. There are different priority emphases evident between Auckland's public agencies.
Turok (2005) identifies three distinctive features of modern urban regeneration:
1)    It is intended to change the nature of a place and in the process to involve the community and other actors with a stake in its future;
2)    It embraces multiple objectives and activities that cut across the main functional responsibilities of local government and its agencies;
3)    It usually  involves some form of partnership working amongst different stakeholders, although the form of partnership can vary.
I would observe that these three features generally define and describe the behaviour and function of Waterfront Auckland today, but do not describe the behaviour and function of Auckland Transport.
In terms of the nature of modern urban regeneration actions and activities, Roberts (2000) describes it as:
1)    An interventionist activity;
2)    An activity that straddles the public, private and voluntary and community sectors;
3)    An activity that is likely to experience considerable changes in its institutional structures over time in response to changing economic, social, environmental and political circumstances;
4)    A means of mobilising collective effort and providing the basis for the negotiation of appropriate solutions;
5)    A means of determining policies and actions designed to improve the condition of urban areas and developing institutional structures necessary to support the preparation of specific proposals.
Again, we see that these actions and activities describe the former Sea+City organisation transforming into the current Waterfront Development Agency and evolving to manage the particular challenges presented by urban regeneration. But they do not describe Auckland Transport which has not adapted to the changing environment. It is still deeply enmeshed in industrial thinking.

Waterfront Auckland models the Post Industrial.

By the late 2000’s, internationally, three approaches to urban regeneration have become apparent. Each is related to different policy approaches and emphasis, and can be summarised as coming under: urban renaissance;  social inclusion and economic competitiveness umbrellas:
1)    The Urban Renaissance agenda (subsumed now within the idea of ‘sustainable communities’) is concerned with physical and environmental conditions, linked with brownfield redevelopments and issues surrounding greenfield development. It promotes high quality urban design, mixed use environments and sustainable cities.
2)    The Social Inclusion agenda is focussed more on social conditions within deprived neighbourhoods, and encourages the development of social cohesion, social capital, and community participation to bring about the regeneration of community and neighbourhood.
3)    The Economic Competitiveness agenda is concerned with improving economic performance and employment by increasing output, productivity and innovation.
It could be argued that agenda 3 is the prime objective of Auckland Council (though its supports the compact city elements of agenda 1), while agenda 1 is the prime objective of Waterfront Auckland (though it is interested in the employment and innovation elements of agenda 3).

B.    Management of Regeneration (Management of Regeneration: Choices, Challenges and Dilemmas by Diamond and Liddle)

The preface in this text emphasises the fact that experience with regeneration projects and initiatives has led to a blurring of relationships and boundaries between state, market and civil society. It states that multi-agency partnerships are seen as the norm, and that the managers of regeneration have to work within this new framework and make sense of new forms of governance. It emphasises that old forms of hierarchy and organisational forms embedded in old structures are no longer appropriate for the dynamic of regeneration.
It talks about how managers of regeneration need to engage in ‘partnership mapping’ – to aid understanding of the complex web of social, political and personal natures of networks that the work is enmeshed with. And that managers of regeneration themselves are involved in transforming received understanding of local government networks.
This book echoes the sentiment expressed earlier, that regeneration activities are associated with changes in institutional forms to better engage with the needs. It states that “…emerging forms of local governance are not fixed… themselves are the sites of struggle and contest over how power over decisions is to be exercised…”
I would observe that we are seeing this contest now with CCIG (City Centre Integration Group), and who does what, and who decides what. We see it also in the evolution of HED into CCIG, and in the transformation of Sea+City into WDA.

The preface introduces the point that managers of regeneration find themselves negotiating  and liaising with range of local networks and groups, and find that “….all these groups share a common set of assumptions that they will each seek to shape the regeneration project in their definition of what is needed and how it is to be delivered….”

Further, that managers of regeneration “…will be seeking to create the space where they can do their own work, and another space for where consensus can be achieved….”

The preface ends with the point that the challenges of regeneration: “…can lead to a capacity gap – or generational gap – where the skills developed over past 20 years of old style local government are no longer appropriate…..”

B1. Context Setting

This is a brief analysis of what made regeneration initiatives succeed or fail. Key learnings include:
·    a very real problem for managers of regeneration and residents is to develop a shared picture of what the neighbourhood could be like over a 10 – 20 year time frame…
·    suggests there is a need to understand how a renewal or regeneration program represents a break with the past…
·    reasons for regeneration failure include: resistance from professionals; lack of an analysis of power; lack of community participation
Much of the UK context material is about ‘partnership’ with local communities and with stakeholders. What works. I note here that we haven’t even got there yet with CBD stuff (QE Square for example), we are still figuring how to engage with family (AT, AC, WDA), let alone organisations like Heart of the City, the Local Board. Regeneration strategies deployed in the UK and the USA lately include:
1)    The redevelopment of the inner core to make it attractive for investment and innovation;
2)    The depoliticization of service delivery through separation of their activities from local government (eg CCO’s etc)
3)    The promotion of the partnership model;
4)    And emphasis on managerialism instead of local politics.
The text notes that in this context the place and role of local community groups was marginalised.  This appears to be the area of change and shift now, as local communities form their own networks and alliances to act as a political counter-point to the regeneration managerialists. They argue for example (Clarke, 2004) for the need to reclaim the public realm. It is a development in regeneration for a role of civic society in decision-making processes.

B2. New skills & competencies
This is about the new skills that managers of regeneration need to have/adopt. “…not only are they taking on roles as community champions or leading change processes, but the increased need to work in partnership with communities or partners beyond their own organisational boundaries, and stimulate cultural changes, have implications on how they perceive their roles…”

This area is also about the significance of leadership in engaging stakeholders, and the: “….messy and ambiguous settings lead managers to attempt to make sense and develop some order and clarity…”. Best practice in the modern public sector environment now demands:
1)    Citizen involvement
2)    Greater democratization
3)    The need to build capacities and improve quality and performance
4)    A requirement for skills mixes located in different people at different times
5)    An understanding that no one organisation or person possesses all the skills and competencies to undertake activities
6)    Effective performance by regeneration managers, who synthesise past experiences, skills, knowledge, behaviours and competencies within organisational, but increasingly in cross-boundary, settings
The most significant take-away from this chapter is that regeneration demands a different way of thinking and behaving from public officials, and that they also need to respond and change in a dynamic and changing environment. Emphasis is placed on the need for organisational and managerial behaviours that “learn”, and that “public learning” requires a systematic approach to:
1)    Involve the whole system, develop a shared understanding of current realities and collective vision for the future;
2)    Develop questions on gaps between current and desired state, in order to agree publicly with stakeholders on the way ahead;
3)    Develop a climate or culture in the parts of their own organisations to gain commitment and combat coercion;
4)    Challenge  rhetoric of competition with collaboration and partnership;
5)    Place a high value on learning in human resource processes and performance and appraisal;
6)    Develop and value a learning ethos, discourage action fixated behaviours;
7)    Reinforce learning, discourage competition and short-term target setting, and incorporate into pay and reward systems.
B3.  Partnerships
The central claim for partnership working is the belief that it ensures greater coordination of existing provision and that it facilitates a sharing of knowledge between different agencies, which allows them to have a greater positive impact than they would if they worked separately. There is a further claim, suggesting that partnership working has the potential to change the working policies or culture both within and between participating agencies – this claim starts from the premise that such change is necessary. In addition, because the nature of regeneration activities is multi-faceted and a mix of social, economic and environmental – making the mix a so-called wicked problem – it goes beyond the capacity of any one agency and therefore partnerships are seen as the most effective way of addressing it/them.

There are ideas about necessary pre-conditions for effective partnership working. These are seen as key for a partnership:
1)    To set out clearly their aims and objectives;
2)    To establish shared criteria;
3)    To identify agreed mechanisms to review and monitor their work;
4)    To think through mechanisms for securing trust between agencies;
5)    To reflect upon ways of delegated tasks to specific groups/agencies;
6)    To address the issue of which staff (and why) will be involved.
There are also views about the factors which can be influential for a successful working partnership:
1)    Commitment to the concept at senior, middle management and operation levels as a prerequisite;
2)    Clarity of roles and powers;
3)    Clearly defined short-term aims;
4)    Embedded changes in working practices;
5)    Independent ‘broker’ to co-ordinate different agencies;
6)    Successful co-ordination at operational level.
Where these factors exist, then inter-agency working can:
1)    Lead to agencies being less reactive to local context;
2)    Focus resources available more clearly;
3)    Lead to changes in the management of partner organisations.
And that when these factors are present, and partnership agencies are responding and developing to the new environment, then partnership working has the potential to:
1)    Ensure greater co-ordinations between agencies;
2)    Facilitate the sharing of knowledge between agencies;
3)    Change the working practices and culture of agencies;
4)    Target resources more effectively;
5)    Address the multi-faceted problems inherent in regeneration.
However, experience suggests that none of the above may be practically possible to achieve if partner agencies don’t see the need for change, don’t reflect on practices that can change to make partnership more effective, and in short remain fixed in old ways of undertaking activities. Because of this risk, it is suggested that before seeking to engage agencies in joint work and recognising the benefits of such an approach, it is helpful to make the case for change within the different agencies/professional interest groups engaged in regeneration initiatives. UK experience indicates that the attractiveness of partnership working has often failed to grasp the complexities involved in the process of the management of change. Rather than suggest existing arrangements will lead to failure, it is more constructive to think about ways of enhancing individual agency capacities to engage in self-reflection and continuous learning. This approach recognises the need to acknowledge the presence of an organisational ‘culture’ in agencies which may inhibit changes in working practice and thinking, and risk the effectiveness of the partnership.

The text suggest a number of ways of doing this:
1)    Using external facilitators to help identify barriers to change;
2)    Bringing in ‘critical friends’ for points of reference;
3)    Activity using the skills and expertise of evaluators to help influence strategic and operational management;
4)    Reducing the levels of decision making;
5)    Supporting and promoting the role of local managers;
6)    Enhancing the role and status of supervision;
7)    Promoting and supporting decision-making at a local or team level;
8)    Deliberately setting out a policy and practice of staff development through external secondment and training.

This is a reminder: if we do what we've always done, we'll get what we've always got. And that ain't the best.

C.    Sustainability and Regeneration (Citing Tallon)

The urban regeneration agenda linked to sustainable development includes areas such as housing, communities, governance, climate change, energy consumption, economics, construction, design, health, land-use planning, natural resources and environmental limits, waste, transport, education and young people. Sustainable development principles are increasingly apparent at neighbourhood, local, regional, national and international levels, and especially focus now on cities.

A generally accepted set of requirements (12) of sustainable communities which resonates with the urban regeneration agenda is:
1)    A flourishing local economy to provide jobs and wealth;
2)    Strong leadership to respond positively to change;
3)    Effective engagement and participation by local people, groups and businesses, especially in the planning, design and long-term stewardship of their community, and an active voluntary and community sector;
4)    A safe and healthy local environment with well-designed public and green space;
5)    Sufficient size, scale and density, and the right layout to support basic amenities in the neighbourhood and minimise the use of resources (including land);
6)    Good public transport and other transport infrastructure both within the community and linking it to urban and regional centres;
7)    Buildings – both individually and collectively – that can meet different needs over time and that minimise use of resources;
8)    A well-integrated mix of decent homes of different types and tenures to support a range of household sizes, ages and incomes;
9)    Good quality local public services, including education and training opportunities, health care and community facilities, especially for leisure;
10)    A diverse, vibrant and creative local culture, encouraging pride in the community and cohesion within it;
11)    A ‘sense of place’;
12)    Links with the wider regional, national and international community.
The emphasis within most urban regeneration policies has tended to be on economic rather than environmental or social regeneration (see earlier). However, the promotion of inner city living since the 1990’s (later here in Auckland) to meet environmental and social ‘sustainability’  aims, as well as supporting economic regeneration, has been a key strand of urban regeneration policies, and indicates how the two dimensions of regeneration and sustainability are closely interrelated.
When assessing the effects of regeneration it is increasingly common practice to measure ‘sustainability’ because of the links that exist between regeneration and sustainability.  Experts now suggest an approach to assessment that specifically includes the environmental sustainability of the scheme alongside aspects such as financial viability, and the contribution to economic regeneration, community spirit and social cohesion.

 The Sustainable Development Commission (Europe) in the first action point of a 2003 report, indicated that sustainable development principles should be at the heart of regeneration policy and practice. Thus, although energy efficiency measures are at the forefront of thinking, social, economic and environmental impacts are all emphasised.

Conclusion



This will be brief. It is good to proceed with a design oriented investigation into Quay Street and environs. But it is not sufficient. Auckland has a bad track record of preparing public visions that capture the public interest and imagination, and then failing miserably in the delivery of that vision. Public good, public amenity, public space quality falls through the cracks in implementation. Private interests win. Public interests lose. That has been Auckland's CBD and Waterfront history for too long. There are changes in this pattern that are visible at Wynyard Quarter.

Institutional attitude change is needed throughout Auckland local government.

Whither Now Local Government?

Centrally driven growth OR Locally planned development?

State policy settings in New Zealand have emphasized national economic growth rather than local economic development since the 2007 Global Financial Crisis. Headline examples of this strategy include regulatory support for massive increases in irrigation and dairy farming, for mining, and for red-tape-free redevelopment of Auckland’s built fabric.

Territorial authorities have been made pawns in this game by local government legislation changes that drive institutional changes locally and ensure consistency with central government’s short-term emphasis. But there is a growing risk that the baby of good local government will be thrown out in reform bathwater.

I explore some of these recent reforms in this article, including the Auckland Supercity reform and its Unitary Plan. But first, because this is an election year, I start by canvassing the local government policies published by the main parties.
Labour says that it will:

·    Restore the four well-beings – the cornerstone of the Local Government Act 2002 - and the powers of general competence.
·    Establish a Central & Local Government Cooperation Unit dedicated to the development, promotion, monitoring and sustaining of partnership.
·    Restore the right of citizens to have the final say by way of a referendum on whether their Council is included in any proposed amalgamation.
The Green Party says that it will:
·    Reinstate the four wellbeings (social, environmental, cultural and economic) into the purpose of local government as originally specified in the 2002 Local Government Act.
·    Retain the power of general competence conferred to local government in the 2002 Local Government Act.
·    Develop national policy statements and national environmental standards under the Resource Management Act to provide better policy guidance to local government, promote national consistency and help reduce plan preparation costs.
·    Identify ways to guarantee greater protection and independence for local government within New Zealand's legal and constitutional framework.

More similarities than differences, but very different from National's policy. 

The National Party’s local government policy was the subject of PM John Key’s speech to the Local Government conference in July this year. He reminded delegates:
 “Our changes to the RMA will tackle housing affordability by freeing-up land supply…”,
National’s overall approach is summed up by this remark: “…we’ll be crowd-sourcing ways to reduce the rules and regulations that stop people doing sensible things with their own properties…”,
and by his announcement that his incoming government would: “…establish a Central Government and Local Government review group known as the Rules Reduction Taskforce….  will listen to local concerns and find opportunities to reduce and improve local regulation…. will root out local regulation that could be improved.”

The central point of this speech is the clarion call to: “reduce the rules and regulations that stop people doing sensible things with their own properties.” This is a classic plea and appeal to the idea of common sense.

But the longer I live the more I see - and the more I understand that common sense is not at all common.

Economics and Land Regulation

The right of individuals to control their property has long been recognised, but that autonomy is counterbalanced by the fact that property use sometimes must be regulated for the common good. The common method of land use control in New Zealand is zoning, which allows local government to divide territory into districts or zones where particular uses or activities are permitted or prohibited. Zoning, which became common in the early 20th century, is the foundation of the modern local system of land use control.

Any decision to regulate, not to regulate, to regulate less, has an economic effect. There are winners and there are losers. Regulation can increase property values, and it can decrease property values.

If Auckland's residential development market was operating as a truly free market, then it would typically be argued by economists that no local government intervention or regulation would be required. The basic presumption is that market processes work best to allocate scarce resources (eg land) in the most efficient way.

But that when competition is imperfect, the consequent “market failures” can and must be corrected by local government (or central government). Market failure is the standard justification for local government action in welfare economics. Economists generally use the term market failure to describe a situation in which the invisible hand (Adam Smith's "invisible hand of the market") fails to allocate resources in a socially desirable manner, so as to maximize aggregate economic well-being (another phrase for “common good”). Market failure arises when economic agents face incentives that are distorted leading to economic outcomes that are bad from society’s point of view.

So let’s look at National’s policy emphasis on freeing up land supply as a preferred intervention. It wants local government to release more greenfield land for urban development. It says that this is to address the issue of housing affordability. But is that the only reason?

According to a recent OECD study of 78 OECD metropolitan regions, Auckland had the third highest average annual population growth rate. And Auckland had one of the highest proportions of its population comprised of overseas-born residents, just behind Toronto and Vancouver. Auckland’s exploding population – from immigration and from internal migration - is the real pressure for greenfield development.

But this is not only a concern and policy priority for central government. Auckland Council has adopted a Spatial Plan named “The Auckland Plan” whose central economic target is: “to increase annual average real GDP growth from 3% p.a. in the last decade to 5% p.a. for the next 30 years…”.

That’s a huge increase.

Auckland Council is a Creature of Central Government

There have been many institutional and legislation changes since the GFC that affect the role of local government in New Zealand. The most significant of these was the amalgamation of Auckland’s local bodies into Auckland Council which was required to prepare a Spatial Plan. Legislation states that the plan:
79 (4) (a) must recognise and describe Auckland's role in New Zealand;
Which is not something local government had been required by statute to think about much before.

After all we’re Jafa’s aren’t we?

The spatial plan has adopted a target of 5% GDP growth for Auckland (recognising Auckland’s role in delivering Central Government’s economic strategy), that is largely to be achieved through high population growth and associated building development. It is a target that is to be delivered and implemented by other tools under council’s control including the Proposed Unitary Plan.

Ambitious growth targets like these that might not be a problem for existing residents if they didn’t have to suffer the consequences, or to subsidise the costs of that growth. But just as the deterioration of New Zealand’s rivers is apparently accepted as the cost of growth in dairy production, deteriorating urban neighbourhood amenity and increased rates to subsidise growth infrastructure will be a consequence for citizens of Auckland Council’s urban growth plans.

While I appreciate the concerns about amalgamation that are expressed in Green and Labour Party policies, I read nothing in there to alleviate the mess that Auckland has been legislatively levered into.

Getting Auckland out of the Mess

In 2006 McKinlay Douglas Limited undertook a major project for Local Government New Zealand. It advised:
“An extensive review of the experience of local government amalgamation, whether sector wide as with recent New Zealand, English, Australian State and Canadian provincial experience, or focused on individual authorities as with Halifax, is at best equivocal on the proposition that amalgamation will produce benefits in terms of reduced costs and/or improved services. The reasons include the normally unanticipated but common impacts of factors such as alignment of salary scales, incompatibility of systems or the need to upscale, staff morale, and the disturbance associated with major organisational change.”

How prescient. Auckland media is awash with reports about salaries, systems change costs, further organisational change costs etc.

The mess for existing residents includes dealing with the fallout from Council’s growth policies. By fallout I mean that the common good will be reduced. This is because Auckland Council’s Central Government inspired policies for more greenfield sprawl (to accommodate high population growth) will themselves cause market failure for at least two reasons:
1.      Infrastructure Subsidy Market Failure

When a new housing development is built, roads and sewers must be constructed, and facilities such as schools, parks, and community facilities. The market failure arises because, under current financing arrangements (which will be exacerbated by central government proposals to reduce development levies), the infrastructure-related developer levy burden on new homeowners will be less than the actual infrastructure costs they generate. The rest of the cost is shared among all of the city’s residents rather than charged directly to those who require the new infrastructure. And developers pocket higher profits. Thus, by undercharging new homeowners for the infrastructure costs they generate, the current Auckland Council plan to subsidise growth related infrastructure will inevitably incentivise more urban sprawl.

2.    Excessive Road Commuting Market Failure

Commuters incur substantial costs, which include the out-of-pocket expenses of vehicle operation as well as the “time cost” of commuting. Together, these out-of-pocket and time costs represent the “private cost” of commuting, the cost that the commuter himself bears. And when the commuter drives on congested roadways to get to work, another cost is generated above and beyond the private cost. This cost is due to the extra congestion caused by the commuter’s presence on the road - which everyone else has to "pay". We face this problem in Auckland now. Some traffic could be diverted to off-peak hours (like heavy freight), when roads are less congested. Some car commuters would switch to public transport if it met their needs. The problem with these solutions is that they encourage people to commute long distances, the solutions effectively say "what you're doing's OK", and unless there are congestion charges or some sort of toll, road users never have to face the true costs of excessive road use leading directly to market failure, and indirectly to more urban sprawl.

To finish - some numbers. Auckland’s Proposed Unitary Plan generated 93,600 primary submission points. These have generated a further 400,000 secondary submission points. With all the good will and competence in the world, how will the independent commissioners manage the process?

Thousands of submissions have come from residents and individual property owners concerned at what might happen to their asset. They are worrying about what they might lose, if someone is permitted (by the Unitary Plan) to do “sensible things” next door. This worry is human. But it is not taken account of in Auckland’s Unitary Plan. This assumes all that’s needed is a few rule changes and the market will sort things out. There is no implementation strategy, master plan, structure plan or any other process available for whole communities to be able to have a say and a role in how their community develops and changes, and what infrastructure will be needed.

Christchurch is an exemplar. Maybe it took a real earthquake (rather than a political one), but in that city Master Plans for whole communities are being carefully used with communities and residents and commercial property owners to redevelop, intensify and regenerate mixed use urban landscapes in Lyttleton, Sydenham, Linwood Village, Ferry Road, Sumner Village, New Brighton and Edgeware Village.

There the emphasis is on local development rather than economic growth.

That’s what is needed in Auckland.

That’s the local governance we need.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Downtown Needs A Plan Change

Behind the scenes Auckland Council and CCO staff are working, discussing, coordinating and strategising how to progress Downtown planning. The pressure's on to sort out and fund the Central Rail Link (CRL) enabling works (the cut and cover section from Britomart, across Queen Elizabeth Square, under Custom Street West and some way up Albert Street) and to enable Precinct Properties to gain certainty and direction for the redevelopment of its property.

So far, one outcome of these frantic activities, is that the public has been involved in one decision and vaguely informed about a cluster of others:
  • For example the designation for the CRL route has been notified (leading to various property owners affected being compensated, some properties being purchased) and Auckland Council's annual plan (which was consulted) did provide for these costs. 
  • The public might have heard about the idea of Queen Elizabeth Square being sold to Precinct Properties (if they read the Herald), but they've not been consulted about this, though they could be involved in the formal process that would be required of "stopping" QE Square being a "road". (That is QE Square's planning status at the present. It is not a park. Nor has it ever been reserved for any public purpose other than being "road" - which might explain why it was used as car park and why it is still regularly used now by courier companies to park their vehicles.)
  • There has also been the pasteurised Downtown Development Framework. I mean "passed your eyes". The public has not been consulted about the ideas or priorities in this strategy document. Some attentive members of the public may have learned a bit from the Herald or the radio, but this cannot be described as reasonable public participation given the significance.
Is this a good public process? You'd be a charitable person to say that it has been a good process lately, even if you ignore waterfront redevelopment planning history. For example there's the recent decisions that led up to the present situation including a sequence of shonky resource consent decisions by the previous Auckland City Council granting Westfields the right to build a 41 storey tower, 471 basement carparks, a double width vehicle crossing into Lower Albert, commercial frontage onto Lower Albert and Custom Street infringing pedestrian amenity standards, and with barely any regard at all for the impact on bus services and interchange facilities. None of these planning decisions were publicly notified.

What constitutes good process? To answer that we need to look a little further back to the redevelopment planning for Quay Park, Britomart, Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter....

Any good urban planning starts with some understanding of the history of land uses in the vicinity. Something which seems to be strangely absent from anything I've seen so far from Auckland Council - except where it might support a particular rationale - such as the sale of QE Square.

The black line in this map indicates how much of Auckland's waterfront is on reclaimed land (the map shows reclamations before the current container port was reclaimed). By 1973 a total of 162 hectares of land had been reclaimed in proximity to the Auckland Central Business District. Of this, 27.5% was vested for industrial uses (including railways, post office, power station and a bus terminal) by Auckland Harbour Board. An extensive street system was made on a further portion (25 %) of the reclaimed land. Today, Ports of Auckland Ltd (which replaced AHB as part of neoliberal reforms in the last 1980’s), operates Auckland’s port on about 55 hectares of reclaimed land.

 So what happened to the the rest of the land and wharves that was surplus to ports and historic uses? Much of it has been redeveloped. And there's an interesting and simple history of this, some of which is good planning, and some of which is not good.
  
Quay Park Precinct
 This map shows the portion called Quay Park Precinct. It included the old railway station and today includes Vector Arena and other developments.

The important point to note for this posting is that the land went through a Plan Change before it was redeveloped. You can read the Quay Park Precinct district plan provisions. I suggest you click on the link and have a read. These changes went out for public consultation, were subject to submissions and stakeholder engagement, became operative, and then enabled complying redevelopment and public space provision.
Viaduct Harbour Precinct
 This map shows another portion of Auckland's CBD waterfront that went through a Plan Change process. This is Viaduct Harbour Precinct. Again - it inludes land that was privately owned and land that was public.The Plan Change allowed development to commence in the late 1990's that you can see today.

Critically, there was a set of Urban Design Guidelines that went with Plan Change 61. I suggest you have a read of these. They begin with this quote within a quote: "...."Determination and reservation of permanent open space is one of the, if not the most important design decisions in city planning: Open space, once made public, remains forever. It is thus to be carefully considered as to form, volume, meaning and symbolism." - extract from Capital Development Authority Dodoma, Tanzania; Urban Design for the National Capital Centre , June 1980, p 79. The spirit of this document is vested in the recognition of, and respect for, the fundamental importance of high quality public space in the urban environment...."

Britomart Precinct
This site had a controversial start to redevelopment planning. The Les Mills led Auckland City Council vision proposed a cluster of 30 storey plus towers and around 5,000 underground carparks associated with a railway station. It would have necessitated the demolition of most heritage buildings. Public outcry triggered a different approach. The newly elected Christine Fletcher led Auckland City Council promulgated a District Plan Change for the area which allowed redevelopment of the area to proceed in accordance with specific planning controls in the early 2000's. It clearly protected and defined public space and the alleyways and streetscapes that are now threatened by the higgledy piggledy bus "planning" being talked about by Auckland Council for the Downtown area.

Wynyard Quarter Precinct
Two major plan changes preceeded the developments now visible down there, particularly on North Wharf and Silo Park, which have attracted international recognition as well as public acclaim. There was Plan Change 3 by Auckland Regional Council relating to coastal provisions, and Plan Change 4 by Auckland City Council relating to land uses. See here the s.32 analysis of Plan Change 3. 

You can see how this precinct is provided for in the District Plan today, here. In that precinct plan document you can see recorded part of the planning process leading to the final provisions:

"The vision for Wynyard Quarter is based on four interrelated public strategy documents being; 
• Auckland Waterfront Vision 2040; 
• Auckland CBD Into The Future Strategy; 
• The Wynyard Quarter Concept Vision and Urban Design Framework; and 
• The Wynyard Quarter Urban Design Background Information Document. 
These documents were developed following extensive public consultation and input from key stakeholders." 

And that is only talking about the vision. Following that process was the plan changes themselves in which all stakeholders and public had the opportunity to make submissions about public spaces, buildings heights, heritage buildings, activity relationships between commerce, industry, fishing and recreation, and more. What you see on Wynyard Quarter was not some happy accident. It is the legacy of good planning.

So. You'd think that Auckland Council would learn from this experience and repeat what is good about it in planning what is arguably the most significant and central part the Auckland waterfront CBD. (NB: the one area of Auckland's waterfront that was redeveloped in what amounted to a non-notified way was Princes Wharf. Very few obervers consider that Princes Wharf planning is a model to be repeated. Yet that is the risk of the Downtown Precinct planning process at present.)

Downtown Precinct
So here's the remaining bit of Auckland's downtown sitting on zonings and planning controls that were put in place several decades ago. I understand the Price Waterhouse tower was permitted after a non-notified process. At present Auckland Council appears to only be looking closely at the right half of the Downtown area - the land bounded by Quay, Lower Queen, Custom, and Lower Albert Streets. But the "pasteurised" Downtown Framework considers the whole area - including opportunities like the Hobson Street flyover ramp and the downtown carpark building.

The rationale for requiring a Downtown Precinct Plan Change - even if it's one block at a time - is to protect both public and private interests, to provide opportunity for public and stakeholder input, and to deliver some certainty around outcomes, including bus movements and interchanges, typical of the plan change processes described above. The rationale for avoiding a publicly proposed Downtown Precinct Plan Change can only be seen as favouring private interests over public interests, and of avoiding the costs of due public process. It is neither appropriate nor fair to expect Precinct Properties to take responsibility for downtown development planning by means of its own private plan change or by seeking consent.

It is time for Auckland Councillors to call for wise action over expediency.
Auckland's Downtown Precinct needs a public plan change.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Auckland Planning Ignores Buses

It would have been more accurate to entitle this post "demeans", or maybe "sidelines", buses. But others who risk losing out in Auckland's Battle for Downtown include pedestrians. Winners and grinners look like developers, drivers and, ultimately, train commuters, part-funded by public property liquidation. But the option of a win-win-win-win outcome still lies on the table...

Downtown redevelopment planning, Queen Elizabeth Square, the Central Rail Link project, Quay Street and Custom Street are all in the public eye right now. There's been considerable public interest which will grow and should be welcomed by those responsible for planning and implementation.

I'm one stakeholder interested in how it's all going and learning from the past so we don't risk repeating historic mistakes. That's why I've sought information about the various resource consents and planning processes relating to the Downtown site, or Number 7 Queen Street, which is the address of the Downtown Westfield Shopping Centre that has been purchased by Precinct Properties for redevelopment, and under which will pass a section of tunnel allowing the Central Rail Link access into Britomart station.

This posting contains extracts from the decision report which went with the non-notified consent granted in 2008 to Westfield to build a 41 storey tower at 7 Queen Street (the picture shown is part of the original consent application documentation, looking North East across the Custom Street/Lower Albert Street intersection). That consent would have lapsed in 2013. This posting considered the extension process whereby Auckland Council, in 2011, changed the lapse date from 2013 to 2018. This is the resource consent purchased by Precinct Properties when it took ownership of No 7 Queen Street.

This newspaper article is based on information I obtained about the process that occurred between Auckland City Council, Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA), Ontrack, and Westfields in 2008 in regard to the problem of the CRL tunnel going under the site planned for the tower, and through the basement area planned for 471 car parks. In essence this appears to be what happened:
  • Westfields applied to Auckland City Council on the 14 April 2007 to build a 41 Storey Tower and 471 basement carparks on the corner of Lower Albert and Custom Streets. Despite letters from Auckland Regional Transport Authority and documentation from Ontrack about the proposed CRL tunnel, and despite conflicting legal advice, Auckland City Council officers decided the application did not need to be publicly notified and it was granted “without any issues of contention”.
  • Consent was granted in April 2008 at which time the senior planner wrote to an adjacent land owner stating: “I am informed that it may be several years before redevelopment proceeds.”
  • It appears that ARTA and Ontrack commenced judicial review proceedings shortly thereafter in May 2008 but these did not proceed. Documents suggest an MOU was signed between Ontrack and Westfields.
  • A year after amalgamation, in August 2011, Auckland Council received another application from Westfield, this time to extend the life of the consent from 2013 to 2018. It argues in that application: “Westfield was unaware of the rail tunnel proposition when the decision was taken to invest in the proposed scheme, and seek consent for the redevelopment of the site.” But documents indicate Westfield met with ARTA almost a year before the original consent was granted.
  • This time, Auckland Council dealt with the application, but it was the same Auckland City Council officer. He recommended the extension be dealt with non-notified again. A single commissioner sitting alone took a few minutes to sign it off, and the Auckland public remained none the wiser.
So - What About The Buses?

Most of the above has been about rail public transport. But the untold story, and one which needs to be appreciated and taken seriously by those planning Downtown now - especially as there's a commitment to getting buses out of Queen Elizabeth Square - is what has happened to the buses? How were they planned for in 2008, and what will happen now?

The original application included 471 carparks, a new double-width vehicle entry crossing on Lower Albert Street, and the commercialisation of part of the street frontage to Lower Albert Street. You can see what consent was needed for at the bottom of this posting.

The application lodged by Westfield in July 2007 contained in its assessment of effects, this statement which is a quote from the Integrated Transport Assessment (ITA) part of the application, which had been prepared by Traffic Design Group (TDG):

Then, in an email dated 1 August 2007 to Auckland City Council officers from a Senior Associate of Traffic Planning Consultants Ltd who had been asked to review the ITA part of the Westfield application, we read:
Documents indicate that T2 Traffic and Transportation Engineers were then commissioned by Auckland City Council officers to formally review the applicant's ITA, and to make recommendations accordingly. This review was provided to Auckland City Council on or about 23 January 2008, and it states:


The T2 review recommends that the applicant: "is to liaise with ARTA to ensure that the location of the access does not cause any issues in relation to the proposed bus stops. This should be included as a condition of consent."

Now I don't know about you, but I read all this as meaning that two different consultances were asked to review the applicant's Integrated Transport Assessment and found it woefully inadequate in regards to the impact on existing and proposed bus services on Lower Albert Street. The advice is that the traffic access/entry points associated with the applicant's proposal "do not cause any issues in relation to the proposed bus stops", and that this be a condition of consent.

In the end, Commissioners were not provided with advice reflecting the clarity and concern expressed in early reviews of the application's ITA. Instead they read of T2's vague proposal to deal with the problem caused by the applicant's carpark traffic by relocating the bus terminals off Lower Albert Street and onto Customs Street West! Man oh man. As if such a thing is so easy - and let's not bother notifying ARTA about this as an affected party.

This is shonky.

And not even a condition of consent as suggested by T2. Instead officers recommended a nice little "advice note" to the permit. (Some of you may be aware of the significance of an advice note. Not a lot.) Advice note 8 reads:


No "musts" in this feeble advice note.Words like "should"..."consider"...."unduly compromise"...suffice as far as Auckland City Council officers were concerned. This is would be a joke if it wasn't so tragic.

And now we have the situation where Precinct Properties holds a consent that presumably still allows it to build a double width crossing into Lower Albert Street, AND Auckland Council have decided to dispense with the bus terminal in Lower Queen Street and relocate half of it into Lower Albert, alongside the bus stops that are already there. Man oh man. I think I can see the rationale now for Queen Elizabeth Square. To sell it unencumbered, the bus terminal on it had to be relocated. Don't really care where. Will deal with that problem later. One thing at a time. Top priority is to liquidate Queen Elizabeth Square....

And then there's the related decision to shoe-horn the other half of the Lower Queen Street bus terminal into the little pedestrian-friendly laneways that we fought so hard to retain in the Britomart Precinct.

Sorry guys, but this is not good planning. Check out the bottom bullet point here.

So what to do about buses?

Not enough room in this post for that question. But I'd suggest for a start, that the solution lies in the treatment of Custom Street West and perhaps its intersection with Lower Albert Street. And that the time for the work is at the same time as CRL enabling work at that intersection, and that it involves strategic undergrounding of buses and bus infrastructure there. This is more of a transport priority now, as CRL enabling works advance, than de-tuning Quay Street.

Sell QE Square's Dark Side

Those who attended the meeting of Auckland Council's Development Committee last week reported here, and which had to contend with this news item, will have heard a deputation from The Auckland Civic Trust calling for caution in the sale of the whole of Queen Elizabeth Square.

Julian Mitchell, architect, principle of Mitchell and Stout Architects, had clearly read and absorbed the expert reports in front of the committee, and argued for retention of half of QE Square. He discussed the history of the Auckland Institute of Architects and their opposition to the erection of what is now the HSBC Tower, and told the committee that in his opinion it should be demolished. But if that option was not on the table, he said that the half of QE Square that is shaded by the HSBC Tower, and that is subject to the downward wind drafts that the tower gives rise to, could be sold and built on.

I agree with this approach, as do many other planners, urban designers and architects, not forgetting several councillors who are concerned at the unseemly haste of council processes in this regard.

The pictures in these slide images are from reports councillors considered at their meeting. This one shows Downtown as it is now. You can click on it to enlarge it.
I agree with Jan Gehl's expert assessment of QE Square now. He talks about the potentials and problems with it. And notes that demolition of the HSBC Tower would be the best thing for the whole of QE Square.
But, like Auckland Civic Trust, and many others, I don't agree with Council's fixation on selling the whole of QE Square as a way of fixing the HSBC problem, and using the money to buy other places already in public ownership! Man oh man! Like cutting off your nose because you sneeze. This picture shows Council's "preferred solution". PPL has already indicated it can develop its existing property quite well thank you, without QE Square, but of course it would be happy to have QE Square as well. What property developer wouldn't?
But there are many disadvantages in selling the whole of QE Square. Views of historic buildings would be constrained and confined. The north facing public edge of Zurich building would be lost. The size of the public space and potential civic square would obviously be reduced. And no doubt there are other issues that would emerge should the council decide to engage with informed-stakeholder, public, and expert opinion.
The suggestion, or compromise, offered by Julian Mitchell is that the dark side of QE Square be sold to PPL, but the sunny side retained in public ownership. The green shaded area in this modified image shows that outcome. It includes the small amenity area just east of the HSBC building (where the glass box cafe is now). This solution would provide a more generous and useful public square. The east facing edges can all be activated and provided with shelter for pedestrians from the weather. Views are not obstructed. Better outcome.
And when you consider Jan Gehl's assessment, particularly his RED SPOT "bad" assessments of QE Square as it exists now, they are dealt with by this modified approach. And if you don't believe me, Councillors and officers intent on selling our public spaces, how about asking Jan Gehl what he thinks about this option?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Downtown Precinct Cup of Tea Time

Lots of reasons to be cheerful this week, and then a couple of things to think about next week:
  • Auckland Council released its Downtown Framework coordinated by Council's City Centre Integration Team. The geographic extent of the framework is appropriate. It allows for integrated evaluation and assessment of projects and transformation opportunities in the downtown waterfront CBD area. The Downtown Projects list is comprehensive, and considers the removal of the Hobson Flyover, the redevelopment of the downtown carparking building, and potential redevelopment of Copthorne Hotel. It's good to see the Beach Road cycle infrastructure. However the framework is vulnerable to critique that its purpose is PRIMARILY to enable CRL enabling works and PPL Downtown development to go ahead AND the sale of all of QE Square land. All else later – maybe. But nothing else is costed.
  • Precinct Properties are proposing to lodge a new resource consent application for the Downtown development in January 2015. This is good news because it clearly signals PPL's interest in considering designs and outcomes that are different from those in the original Westfield consents. PPL will be interested in achieving floor area objectives, parking provisions and other commercial objectives which would be expected from this significant investment. PPL have for some time signalled a willingness to work with Auckland Council to achieve excellent outcomes on this very important site.
  • Other Auckland stakeholders are becoming engaged in the planning process. Yesterday's Auckland Council Development Committee meeting received deputations from the Allan Matson and Julian Mitchell of the Auckland Civic Trust. Next week's Urban Issues Group of the NZ Institute of Architects are holding a special meeting about Downtown Waterfront planning. This growing public interest presents Auckland Council with an opportunity to constructively engage with Auckland's creative community in planning and developing this part of the Downtown Waterfront.
  • Auckland Council has adopted a more nuanced approach to the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square land. What appeared to be a blunt sell it all approach, has now moved to an approach where lease options are to be investigated, as well as options of selling just a part of it (the shaded part for example). That's more like it.
  • Auckland Councillors are being provided with more information about the proposal, and about the planning issues, and the history of how the Downtown area developed to where it is today. This will lead to empowered and informed Councillors which is what Auckland needs. There is a very useful and readable article about Auckland's Downtown development in a recent issue of Architecture Now magazine. Which I would suggest is compulsory reading for all Auckland Councillors and officers working on this project.

Those are my reasons for being cheerful, apart from today being Friday.

They are also my reasons for thinking about what we could now discuss over a cup of tea. What could be on the table next week and beyond - with Auckland Council and with Precinct Properties.

I've got suggestions for a conversation or two...
  • Before trading away QE Square, offer Precinct Properties 2 or 3 more floor levels and the associated GFA on the low rise sections of its development site in exchange for lowering or demolishing the HSBC Tower. This would produce buildings on that section of the Downtown site of similar height to the Britomart building, capable of being nicely activated at ground level, of human scale, and delivering PPL commensurate value. This would at a stroke address the main QE Square quality issues (wind and shading) raised by the Jan Gehl and Reset Urban Design expert reports that were predicted by the Auckland Institute of Architects in their submissions at the time that tower was being planned (see article referred to above) which were dismissed by Auckland City Council when it granted planning permission.
  • The Downtown Framework discusses scenarios for the development of QE Square and downtown bus operations. The text states: "the CRL enabling works will require reinstatement of many of the streets in this downtown block. We need to determine what is to be put back to avoid missed opportunities and reconstruction works." Tne Downtown Framework also suggests that Quay Street will be "de-tuned" and that Custom Street will somehow at the same time be made more pedestrian friendly (at Queens Street and Albert Street intersections) without suggesting any projects that might achieve that outcome. It also indicates that a part of the current downtown bus interchange will be relocated to Lower Albert Street, which is also where PPL has consent for a substantial traffic crossing providing access to its basement car-parking. The Downtown Framework is silent on this. So what might be done? I have heard of concepts for off-line or underground bus interchanges that can take the buses off city streets. Several friends have talked about this for Custom Street. A tunnel for buses along Custom Street could be built with its entry east bound near the Downtown Council carpark building, and its entry west bound in the vicinity of Emily Place. Work could occur when the 20 metre wide and 20 metre deep trench is dug for the CRL enabling works that will cut across Custom Street. Taking buses off this section of Custom Street would make it for traffic and bikes only and with wider footpaths. It would be busy but much safer than it is now for pedestrians. Getting buses underground would improve pedestrian amenity in Britomart too. A variation of this idea would be to permit traffic accessing the Precinct Properties parking facilities to also use this infrastructure, thereby allowing traffic to access this important city block underground, and making Lower Albert much more pedestrian friendly and economically successful.

But I don't think this sort of discussion will happen over the teacups if the rationale for negotiation is simply the liquidation of council land by ACPL for the highest price. The conversation needs to be creative and future looking. Otherwise Auckland risks missing the multiple benefits that arise from this opportunity. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dirty Politics in Downtown Auckland

There has been a lot of interest in this posting I did about the non-notified Westfield resource consent for a 41 storey tower at the corner of Custom Street and Lower Albert Street obtained in 2008, and which Precinct Properties now owns along with its other property holdings at the site. You can read NZ Herald on the proposed building - and view a picture which is from the original 2008 application - here.

That 2008 permit would have lapsed in April 2013. But it didn't.

The Extension Process

What this posting is about is the process undertaken by Auckland Council and Westfield in 2011 to change the conditions of consent in the original permit, by inserting an extension to the tower permit out to 29th April 2018.

The chronology for this process is:
  • 3rd August 2011, application to modify Westfield Tower resource consent conditions lodged
  • 22nd August 2011, resolution grants the application to extend the consent out to 29 April 2018
Pretty quick. How many other consent applications get processed in this sort of timeframe?
But then, it wasn't notified, so there were no objections to deal with. Easy peasy.

The application for the extension begins with this reference to the relevant section of the RMA:


You can read there the tests that need to be passed for granting an extension.

The application argues that Westfield has done some detailed design work since consent was granted, and has approached the market to assess interest in the proposed commercial/office space. However, because of the GFC, Westfield argues, many construction projects were put on hold, and there was accordingly not enough time to get the leasing deals done, and the building built by April 2013. It also argued:


Apart from the spelling error this looks pretty tentative: "...have been actively negotiating...", "...termination clauses in most current leases...". And this is three and a half years after the consent was granted in 2008.

So what about the matter of approval. Apart from other building owners in the area, across Custom Street, and suchlike, there is the matter of the Britomart Rail tunnel proposal. This is very interesting....


Look at the words starting para 2: "Westfield was unaware of the tunnel proposition when the decision was taken to invest in the proposed scheme, and seek consent for the redevelopment of the site."

The Original Application

When I read these words, I decided to look back at the original resource consent application (April 2008). In the Auckland City Council planner's report about the application we find this para in a section discussing whether ARTA should be notified (or not) about the Westfields application to build the tower:

And there is this text in the planning officer report:


So we see here, in the original 2008 application planning report, that not only had the CEO of ARTA been advising Auckland City Council about the Britomart tunnel, but that ARTA had referred to "a dialogue it has established with the applicant (Westfield)", and that there had been media coverage about the tunnel project.

So how true is the statement: "Westfield was unaware of the tunnel proposition when the decision was taken to invest in the proposed scheme, and seek consent for the redevelopment of the site."....?

Interestingly, a chronology of events provided by the applicant in support of the extension, says this:


 Clearly ARTA was concerned that it was not officially notified about Westfield's original resource consent application, and that Auckland City Council must have supported the decision NOT to notify ARTA. What this all meant of course, that Westfield could obtain a resource consent for a 41 storey tower, without notification, and without taking into account the possibility of the rail tunnel.

It could thus claim to be first. First up, best dressed.

Concluding Assessment - Dirty Politics

Basically Westfield got its shit together in cahoots with Auckland City Council to ram through a 41 storey resource consent application, but was thrown off track by the GFC, and couldn't keep its shit together in time (5 years) to build it. In the meantime Auckland did get its shit together, the Supercity was formed along with Auckland Transport, which is a requiring authority by the way, and it has applied for the tunnel designation. I'd say to Westfield: tough. You win some, you lose some.

Question: does the timing of the extension application predate the Britomart Tunnel designation application?

And then we get to the final part of the test that needs to be satisfied:


This application to extend the permit was being considered in August 2011. Auckland Council would have been in existence for almost a year. I wonder how much was out there in the public domain about the Auckland Plan, about the rail plan, about the Britomart Rail tunnel project?

You'd have to say, if you were being a fair and reasonable person, that there were a lot of good reasons for NOT granting this extension.The commissioner decision to grant the extension is less than a page long. Man!

To finish this post I'll remind you why consent was needed in the first place in 2008. And this is according to Westfield's original application:


You can see the extent of effects - even without considering the Britomart Rail tunnel, and without considering the traffic impacts on bus movements in Lower Albert - let alone when a bus interchange is located there.

Sure "life goes on" and we can't always wait for good planning, but in my view this whole thing stinks from a consenting point of view. Lack of public notification gives an added stench.

Talk about dirty politics.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Is Quay Street REOI Too Limited?

It's good for Auckland that Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse and Council's Development Committee have taken some control over what's happening in Downtown Auckland and on the CBD Waterfront. They've called for Expressions of Interest from Urban Planners and Designers about Quay Street - not forgetting about the various other projects that interconnect.

Not everyone is delighted about this.

For example we read in stuff.co.nz: "BOULEVARD BLUES: Councillor Cameron Brewer is not convinced the plan to make Quay St a pedestrian-friendly boulevard is a good one...."

Council's media release advises:
Auckland Council is seeking proposals from designers to assist with the future redevelopment of Quay Street. Quay Street has been earmarked for change under the City Centre Master Plan – a blueprint for the future use of the central city.The council is issuing a request for expressions of interest from design consultants.Concept designs for development of Quay Street will be considered by the Auckland Development Committee, and Aucklanders will have an opportunity to have their say before designs are finalised.

“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a great waterfront and city centre, and we need the best designers working with us as we develop our proposals to transform this area,” Deputy Mayor and Auckland Development Committee Chair Penny Hulse said.

City Centre integration general manager Rick Walden, said the project was at a very early stage. “As options are developed we will be seeking input from the wider community.”

The council aims to complete the appointment of a design team in November. 
 That gives an idea of the process and the timeframe. Various bits and pieces of work for Quay Street have come and gone in recent years. The image below is from this previous Auckland Council work:


 No doubt this and other ideas will be available to those organisations that get through the Request for EOI process and are asked by Auckland Council to be the design team.

Transportblog has considered this image and its reading is that the image suggests the following:
  • Shared space intersections
  • Two lanes of traffic each way and no separate turning lanes at intersections
  • A central planted median with trees
  • Slightly widened footpaths
  • No parking
  • No Cycle Lanes
It looks to me as if the design visualised suggests significant changes at the bottom of Lower Albert as well. But it's useful to question what is in, and what is not in. What is up for change, and is it the change we need?

What Auckland Council is asking for:

The detailed text of Auckland Council's Request for Expressions Of Interest documentation is instructive. I have bolded particular sections:
Design and construction monitoring services are required for a transformation of Auckland waterfront area for the Quay Street Project. The project has both design and implementation stages.

Design and construction monitoring services are required for a transformation of Auckland waterfront area for the Quay Street Project. The project is estimated at 6 years in length with both design and implementation stages of the project. The Quay Street area of Auckland is the main welcome and arrival area for public from transport and tourism activities with Auckland Council wanting to transform the area to reinvigorate the Downtown and Waterfront area.

Summary

This Request for Expression of Interest process (REOI) seeks Expressions of Interest (EOI) from suitably qualified and interested consultants to enable a short list to be established by Auckland Council. Shortlisted participants from the REOI will be invited to respond to a Request for Proposal process (RFP) for the provision of design and construction monitoring services for the Quay Street Project.

This is a multi-disciplinary commission, and it is intended that a contract with one consultant, or lead consultant (in the case of a consortium), is to be awarded as a result of the RFP process that is to follow the REOI process. There is a preference for a design-led team with the ability to provide the management and skills required to deliver a design that meets the project brief and objectives.

If any consortia are proposed then details are to be included in the EOI. Any agreement entered into by Auckland Council as a result of the procurement will be with one contracting party, who may lead a consortium of major partners and a number of specialist sub consultants as required. Auckland Council will have the right to approve all subcontractors.

Non New Zealand resident International participation is encouraged, with a preference that these parties participate in association with a NZ resident practice.

The scope of professional services to be procured includes refreshed concept, preliminary and detailed design and construction monitoring.

Introduction and background

The Auckland Plan has identified the city centre, of which the waterfront is a critical component, as one of two key areas in the Auckland region requiring transformational change to meet the Mayor’s vision of making Auckland the world’s most liveable city.

Auckland Council’s City Centre Master Plan (CCMP) and Waterfront Auckland’s Waterfront Plan both identify the poor connections between the central city and waterfront. The proposal is to enhance both the north-south links from city to water, and create a grand urban axis in the east-west direction that connects the various parts of the wider waterfront. At the heart of the grand urban axis lies Quay Street. It is the central city’s ‘front yard’ and ‘welcome mat’ to the city centre for thousands of people on a daily basis.

Significant investment has been made in the Downtown precinct over the last 10 years. The council has made it a priority to transform Quay Street and the adjacent waterfront areas to help ‘unlock’ the surrounding destinations and create a stunning front door to a reinvigorated Downtown and Waterfront area.

The Quay Street Project responds to Council’s strategic direction for the Downtown precinct. It is funded by the 10 year CCMP Implementation Programme (2012-2022) and is being managed as part of the City Centre Integration Group (CCIG).

The project scope comprises of the following areas:

· Quay Street – between Lower Hobson Street and Britomart Place *
· Ferry Basin – water’s edge open space, adjoining Quay Street
· Ferry Building Promenade – open space immediately north of the Ferry Building
· Quay Street – between Britomart Place and Tangihua Street (Master Plan level).

The scope of professional services to be procured includes refreshed concept, preliminary and detailed design and construction monitoring.

There are numerous interfacing and interdependent projects and developments planned in the Downtown precinct. It is important that the Quay Street Project both leads and closely integrates with these.

Project Scope

The Quay Street Project scope includes:

· Quay Street – between Lower Hobson Street and Britomart Place
· Ferry Basin – water’s edge open space, adjoining Quay Street
· Ferry Building Promenade – open space immediately north of the Ferry Building
· Quay Street – between Britomart Place and Tangihua Street (master plan level)

Quay Street currently comprises six lanes of traffic and carries some 25,000 vehicles per day. Quay Street is used by general vehicle traffic, buses and some freight. 
A public transport “hub” is centred at the Quay Street/Queen Street intersection where there is access to the ferry terminal, the airport bus, taxis, coach services, and the Britomart bus and train stations. 
With the upgrading of Queen’s Wharf to be the primary cruise terminal, this intersection will see further traffic and pedestrian management challenges and will be of even greater importance in servicing this important transport hub.

The existing open space on the Ferry Basin water’s edge is provided by Piers 3 and 4, which adjoin the Quay Street seawall. Given the deteriorating condition of these existing piers, the proposal to seismically upgrade the Quay Street seawall and the Ferry Basin Master Plan’s proposal to upgrade and reconfigure ferry operations, it’s likely that these piers will be replaced with new wharf infrastructure.

Ports of Auckland Ltd are preparing a concept design for development of the Admiralty Basin water’s edge wharf area adjoining Quay Street. 
What I think is needed

This story is going to be around for a long time. So is Quay Street. So is Auckland. So are the other projects that this project will lead and integrate with. So I think it important that the scope we give the designers allows them to explore the big picture. And also to consider the staging of CBD regeneration required, and even what sort of governance arrangements need to be in place to give designers confidence that all aspects of their designs will be implemented - unlike the public good failure exemplified in Princes Wharf.

You will note from the REOI that it makes no mention of Downtown Precinct or of QE Square. Not in so many words. It doesn't mention Queens Wharf or Princes Wharf either. Which brings me there:


This picture is of the intersection between Hobson Street and Quay Street at Princes Wharf. (Thank you transportblog). It is a dangerous intersection for pedestrians. It's at the centre of the Auckland Council's envisioned Quay Street grand urban axis. I understand there's been some design attention paid to the intersection from Queens Wharf across Quay Street already (it's shifting a little east - but needs to be placed further east - see this posting). The REOI design scope does appear to include the Hobson Street intersection - but not any of the roads or uses off it - except Quay Street itself.

Now my last point. But before that, ask yourself this question: why did we build the Grafton Gully motorway connection with State Highway 1? In part this was to provide a direct road access for port truck traffic. But it also enabled traffic from Eastern Bays to bypass the Auckland CBD (if they were heading North), it also gave them direct access to Wellesley Street to access the CBD from that point of entry. A lot of design work has gone into making the links with Grafton Gully work better, so it is more useful for West and East bound traffic. For example see this posting in transportblog. The logic is remorseless surely. Plan Auckland's Waterfront CBD as a destination rather than a through route, and thereby make it a pedestrian haven.

Transport planning for the Auckland CBD needs a motto: to it - not through it

That's why it's the other end of Quay Street that's also key. My last point is summed up in this picture:


The Hobson Street ramp, with the Council carpark to the right. Any serious transformation of Auckland's CBD waterfront should include the removal of this ramp, and the redevelopment of the carpark building which would be rendered redundant by significant improvements in public transport.

The Hobson Street ramp will not be necessary when Quay Street is restricted to the two lanes of traffic shown in the artist's picture above.

Its removal would sharply increase the value and development potential of the municipal carpark land. Ramp removal would have other major planning benefits:
  • it would free up lower Hobson Street for development
  • the Princes Wharf intersection could be redesigned consistent with Quay Street's grand urban axis status
  • the finer grain street network east and west of lower Hobson Street could be reinstated
What is needed is staged implementation of Auckland's urban waterfront regeneration. We don't want to restrict the thinking of the urban designers and planners who are stepping up right now. Think of the future.

And think of this area comprehensively. If you don't get my drift, look at this recent posting about Wellington waterfront planning - scroll down and look at the mapped scope of that planning in 1985 and 1987 when it was Gabites Porter and Partners that prepared the Lambton Harbour Combined Scheme for that area.

Other cities have made bigger changes. Make Auckland's CBD Waterfront a liveable place.

Auckland CBD & Waterfront Regeneration

It is appropriate that Auckland Council is managing a design process for the Quay Street area. One that recognises there a number of interconnecting and inter-relating projects. One that will be public.

This posting has been prepared to inform the need to design and implement an effective institutional process and structure that can reliably deliver designs, visions and projects that will make up the regenerated and transformed Auckland downtown CBD (projects include: Quay Street; QE Square; Queens Wharf; The Seawall; Ferry Terminal(s); Bus Interchange(s); CRL; connecting transport infrastructure).

These projects are the trigger for major urban regeneration of downtown/waterfront Auckland.

Section A serves as an introduction to this posting, and reports on various UK regeneration models, and compares them with what is happening in Auckland, and what model is being pursued by its different agencies (leading to potential for conflict, and need for change).
Section B reports on findings about how regeneration needs to be managed over the 10 to 20 years in can take. This looks at agency culture, management style and ways of working that contribute or detract from regeneration success. It raises questions about what needs to happen in Auckland to build an effective partnership.
Section C reports on the relationship between sustainability and regeneration, and how the ideas and objectives of sustainability can be used to lever regeneration policies and strategies.
And there's a biref conclusion.

A.    Urban Regeneration (Urban Regeneration in the UK, Tallon)

What has happened in Auckland following the transfer into new ownership (Ngati-whatua and Council) of redundant Ports land and wharves, rail-sidings, and the central railway station, follows a similar pattern to the urban regeneration transformations that have been re-shaping UK, USA and European cities following de-industrialisation, containerisation and subsequent globalisation forces.  The literature explicitly acknowledges that regeneration patterns in OECD countries around the world more or less follow that same set of patterns, and experience the same problems.

First comes the creation of a new CBD fringe of development opportunities, then comes a sequence of regeneration projects. In the UK these have been implemented in different periods according to three models:
1)    Urban Renewal in the 1970’s was public sector driven and mainly concerned with large scale redevelopment of inner city slum areas;
2)    Urban Regeneration in the 1980’s focussed on economic growth and property development, and used public funds to lever in largely undirected market investment (exemplified by London Docklands);
3)    Urban Regeneration in the 2000’s seeks to combine private and public sectors in partnerships to achieve regeneration but with an emphasis on sustainability and community inclusion
In Auckland CBD we are mainly proceeding in accordance with model 2 under Auckland Council’s ‘One Plan’ direction, and on the waterfront at Wynyard, we are proceeding with a mix of models 2 and 3. There are different priority emphases evident between Auckland's public agencies.
Turok (2005) identifies three distinctive features of modern urban regeneration:
1)    It is intended to change the nature of a place and in the process to involve the community and other actors with a stake in its future;
2)    It embraces multiple objectives and activities that cut across the main functional responsibilities of local government and its agencies;
3)    It usually  involves some form of partnership working amongst different stakeholders, although the form of partnership can vary.
I would observe that these three features generally define and describe the behaviour and function of Waterfront Auckland today, but do not describe the behaviour and function of Auckland Transport.
In terms of the nature of modern urban regeneration actions and activities, Roberts (2000) describes it as:
1)    An interventionist activity;
2)    An activity that straddles the public, private and voluntary and community sectors;
3)    An activity that is likely to experience considerable changes in its institutional structures over time in response to changing economic, social, environmental and political circumstances;
4)    A means of mobilising collective effort and providing the basis for the negotiation of appropriate solutions;
5)    A means of determining policies and actions designed to improve the condition of urban areas and developing institutional structures necessary to support the preparation of specific proposals.
Again, we see that these actions and activities describe the former Sea+City organisation transforming into the current Waterfront Development Agency and evolving to manage the particular challenges presented by urban regeneration. But they do not describe Auckland Transport which has not adapted to the changing environment. It is still deeply enmeshed in industrial thinking.

Waterfront Auckland models the Post Industrial.

By the late 2000’s, internationally, three approaches to urban regeneration have become apparent. Each is related to different policy approaches and emphasis, and can be summarised as coming under: urban renaissance;  social inclusion and economic competitiveness umbrellas:
1)    The Urban Renaissance agenda (subsumed now within the idea of ‘sustainable communities’) is concerned with physical and environmental conditions, linked with brownfield redevelopments and issues surrounding greenfield development. It promotes high quality urban design, mixed use environments and sustainable cities.
2)    The Social Inclusion agenda is focussed more on social conditions within deprived neighbourhoods, and encourages the development of social cohesion, social capital, and community participation to bring about the regeneration of community and neighbourhood.
3)    The Economic Competitiveness agenda is concerned with improving economic performance and employment by increasing output, productivity and innovation.
It could be argued that agenda 3 is the prime objective of Auckland Council (though its supports the compact city elements of agenda 1), while agenda 1 is the prime objective of Waterfront Auckland (though it is interested in the employment and innovation elements of agenda 3).

B.    Management of Regeneration (Management of Regeneration: Choices, Challenges and Dilemmas by Diamond and Liddle)

The preface in this text emphasises the fact that experience with regeneration projects and initiatives has led to a blurring of relationships and boundaries between state, market and civil society. It states that multi-agency partnerships are seen as the norm, and that the managers of regeneration have to work within this new framework and make sense of new forms of governance. It emphasises that old forms of hierarchy and organisational forms embedded in old structures are no longer appropriate for the dynamic of regeneration.
It talks about how managers of regeneration need to engage in ‘partnership mapping’ – to aid understanding of the complex web of social, political and personal natures of networks that the work is enmeshed with. And that managers of regeneration themselves are involved in transforming received understanding of local government networks.
This book echoes the sentiment expressed earlier, that regeneration activities are associated with changes in institutional forms to better engage with the needs. It states that “…emerging forms of local governance are not fixed… themselves are the sites of struggle and contest over how power over decisions is to be exercised…”
I would observe that we are seeing this contest now with CCIG (City Centre Integration Group), and who does what, and who decides what. We see it also in the evolution of HED into CCIG, and in the transformation of Sea+City into WDA.

The preface introduces the point that managers of regeneration find themselves negotiating  and liaising with range of local networks and groups, and find that “….all these groups share a common set of assumptions that they will each seek to shape the regeneration project in their definition of what is needed and how it is to be delivered….”

Further, that managers of regeneration “…will be seeking to create the space where they can do their own work, and another space for where consensus can be achieved….”

The preface ends with the point that the challenges of regeneration: “…can lead to a capacity gap – or generational gap – where the skills developed over past 20 years of old style local government are no longer appropriate…..”

B1. Context Setting

This is a brief analysis of what made regeneration initiatives succeed or fail. Key learnings include:
·    a very real problem for managers of regeneration and residents is to develop a shared picture of what the neighbourhood could be like over a 10 – 20 year time frame…
·    suggests there is a need to understand how a renewal or regeneration program represents a break with the past…
·    reasons for regeneration failure include: resistance from professionals; lack of an analysis of power; lack of community participation
Much of the UK context material is about ‘partnership’ with local communities and with stakeholders. What works. I note here that we haven’t even got there yet with CBD stuff (QE Square for example), we are still figuring how to engage with family (AT, AC, WDA), let alone organisations like Heart of the City, the Local Board. Regeneration strategies deployed in the UK and the USA lately include:
1)    The redevelopment of the inner core to make it attractive for investment and innovation;
2)    The depoliticization of service delivery through separation of their activities from local government (eg CCO’s etc)
3)    The promotion of the partnership model;
4)    And emphasis on managerialism instead of local politics.
The text notes that in this context the place and role of local community groups was marginalised.  This appears to be the area of change and shift now, as local communities form their own networks and alliances to act as a political counter-point to the regeneration managerialists. They argue for example (Clarke, 2004) for the need to reclaim the public realm. It is a development in regeneration for a role of civic society in decision-making processes.

B2. New skills & competencies
This is about the new skills that managers of regeneration need to have/adopt. “…not only are they taking on roles as community champions or leading change processes, but the increased need to work in partnership with communities or partners beyond their own organisational boundaries, and stimulate cultural changes, have implications on how they perceive their roles…”

This area is also about the significance of leadership in engaging stakeholders, and the: “….messy and ambiguous settings lead managers to attempt to make sense and develop some order and clarity…”. Best practice in the modern public sector environment now demands:
1)    Citizen involvement
2)    Greater democratization
3)    The need to build capacities and improve quality and performance
4)    A requirement for skills mixes located in different people at different times
5)    An understanding that no one organisation or person possesses all the skills and competencies to undertake activities
6)    Effective performance by regeneration managers, who synthesise past experiences, skills, knowledge, behaviours and competencies within organisational, but increasingly in cross-boundary, settings
The most significant take-away from this chapter is that regeneration demands a different way of thinking and behaving from public officials, and that they also need to respond and change in a dynamic and changing environment. Emphasis is placed on the need for organisational and managerial behaviours that “learn”, and that “public learning” requires a systematic approach to:
1)    Involve the whole system, develop a shared understanding of current realities and collective vision for the future;
2)    Develop questions on gaps between current and desired state, in order to agree publicly with stakeholders on the way ahead;
3)    Develop a climate or culture in the parts of their own organisations to gain commitment and combat coercion;
4)    Challenge  rhetoric of competition with collaboration and partnership;
5)    Place a high value on learning in human resource processes and performance and appraisal;
6)    Develop and value a learning ethos, discourage action fixated behaviours;
7)    Reinforce learning, discourage competition and short-term target setting, and incorporate into pay and reward systems.
B3.  Partnerships
The central claim for partnership working is the belief that it ensures greater coordination of existing provision and that it facilitates a sharing of knowledge between different agencies, which allows them to have a greater positive impact than they would if they worked separately. There is a further claim, suggesting that partnership working has the potential to change the working policies or culture both within and between participating agencies – this claim starts from the premise that such change is necessary. In addition, because the nature of regeneration activities is multi-faceted and a mix of social, economic and environmental – making the mix a so-called wicked problem – it goes beyond the capacity of any one agency and therefore partnerships are seen as the most effective way of addressing it/them.

There are ideas about necessary pre-conditions for effective partnership working. These are seen as key for a partnership:
1)    To set out clearly their aims and objectives;
2)    To establish shared criteria;
3)    To identify agreed mechanisms to review and monitor their work;
4)    To think through mechanisms for securing trust between agencies;
5)    To reflect upon ways of delegated tasks to specific groups/agencies;
6)    To address the issue of which staff (and why) will be involved.
There are also views about the factors which can be influential for a successful working partnership:
1)    Commitment to the concept at senior, middle management and operation levels as a prerequisite;
2)    Clarity of roles and powers;
3)    Clearly defined short-term aims;
4)    Embedded changes in working practices;
5)    Independent ‘broker’ to co-ordinate different agencies;
6)    Successful co-ordination at operational level.
Where these factors exist, then inter-agency working can:
1)    Lead to agencies being less reactive to local context;
2)    Focus resources available more clearly;
3)    Lead to changes in the management of partner organisations.
And that when these factors are present, and partnership agencies are responding and developing to the new environment, then partnership working has the potential to:
1)    Ensure greater co-ordinations between agencies;
2)    Facilitate the sharing of knowledge between agencies;
3)    Change the working practices and culture of agencies;
4)    Target resources more effectively;
5)    Address the multi-faceted problems inherent in regeneration.
However, experience suggests that none of the above may be practically possible to achieve if partner agencies don’t see the need for change, don’t reflect on practices that can change to make partnership more effective, and in short remain fixed in old ways of undertaking activities. Because of this risk, it is suggested that before seeking to engage agencies in joint work and recognising the benefits of such an approach, it is helpful to make the case for change within the different agencies/professional interest groups engaged in regeneration initiatives. UK experience indicates that the attractiveness of partnership working has often failed to grasp the complexities involved in the process of the management of change. Rather than suggest existing arrangements will lead to failure, it is more constructive to think about ways of enhancing individual agency capacities to engage in self-reflection and continuous learning. This approach recognises the need to acknowledge the presence of an organisational ‘culture’ in agencies which may inhibit changes in working practice and thinking, and risk the effectiveness of the partnership.

The text suggest a number of ways of doing this:
1)    Using external facilitators to help identify barriers to change;
2)    Bringing in ‘critical friends’ for points of reference;
3)    Activity using the skills and expertise of evaluators to help influence strategic and operational management;
4)    Reducing the levels of decision making;
5)    Supporting and promoting the role of local managers;
6)    Enhancing the role and status of supervision;
7)    Promoting and supporting decision-making at a local or team level;
8)    Deliberately setting out a policy and practice of staff development through external secondment and training.

This is a reminder: if we do what we've always done, we'll get what we've always got. And that ain't the best.

C.    Sustainability and Regeneration (Citing Tallon)

The urban regeneration agenda linked to sustainable development includes areas such as housing, communities, governance, climate change, energy consumption, economics, construction, design, health, land-use planning, natural resources and environmental limits, waste, transport, education and young people. Sustainable development principles are increasingly apparent at neighbourhood, local, regional, national and international levels, and especially focus now on cities.

A generally accepted set of requirements (12) of sustainable communities which resonates with the urban regeneration agenda is:
1)    A flourishing local economy to provide jobs and wealth;
2)    Strong leadership to respond positively to change;
3)    Effective engagement and participation by local people, groups and businesses, especially in the planning, design and long-term stewardship of their community, and an active voluntary and community sector;
4)    A safe and healthy local environment with well-designed public and green space;
5)    Sufficient size, scale and density, and the right layout to support basic amenities in the neighbourhood and minimise the use of resources (including land);
6)    Good public transport and other transport infrastructure both within the community and linking it to urban and regional centres;
7)    Buildings – both individually and collectively – that can meet different needs over time and that minimise use of resources;
8)    A well-integrated mix of decent homes of different types and tenures to support a range of household sizes, ages and incomes;
9)    Good quality local public services, including education and training opportunities, health care and community facilities, especially for leisure;
10)    A diverse, vibrant and creative local culture, encouraging pride in the community and cohesion within it;
11)    A ‘sense of place’;
12)    Links with the wider regional, national and international community.
The emphasis within most urban regeneration policies has tended to be on economic rather than environmental or social regeneration (see earlier). However, the promotion of inner city living since the 1990’s (later here in Auckland) to meet environmental and social ‘sustainability’  aims, as well as supporting economic regeneration, has been a key strand of urban regeneration policies, and indicates how the two dimensions of regeneration and sustainability are closely interrelated.
When assessing the effects of regeneration it is increasingly common practice to measure ‘sustainability’ because of the links that exist between regeneration and sustainability.  Experts now suggest an approach to assessment that specifically includes the environmental sustainability of the scheme alongside aspects such as financial viability, and the contribution to economic regeneration, community spirit and social cohesion.

 The Sustainable Development Commission (Europe) in the first action point of a 2003 report, indicated that sustainable development principles should be at the heart of regeneration policy and practice. Thus, although energy efficiency measures are at the forefront of thinking, social, economic and environmental impacts are all emphasised.

Conclusion



This will be brief. It is good to proceed with a design oriented investigation into Quay Street and environs. But it is not sufficient. Auckland has a bad track record of preparing public visions that capture the public interest and imagination, and then failing miserably in the delivery of that vision. Public good, public amenity, public space quality falls through the cracks in implementation. Private interests win. Public interests lose. That has been Auckland's CBD and Waterfront history for too long. There are changes in this pattern that are visible at Wynyard Quarter.

Institutional attitude change is needed throughout Auckland local government.

Whither Now Local Government?

Centrally driven growth OR Locally planned development?

State policy settings in New Zealand have emphasized national economic growth rather than local economic development since the 2007 Global Financial Crisis. Headline examples of this strategy include regulatory support for massive increases in irrigation and dairy farming, for mining, and for red-tape-free redevelopment of Auckland’s built fabric.

Territorial authorities have been made pawns in this game by local government legislation changes that drive institutional changes locally and ensure consistency with central government’s short-term emphasis. But there is a growing risk that the baby of good local government will be thrown out in reform bathwater.

I explore some of these recent reforms in this article, including the Auckland Supercity reform and its Unitary Plan. But first, because this is an election year, I start by canvassing the local government policies published by the main parties.
Labour says that it will:

·    Restore the four well-beings – the cornerstone of the Local Government Act 2002 - and the powers of general competence.
·    Establish a Central & Local Government Cooperation Unit dedicated to the development, promotion, monitoring and sustaining of partnership.
·    Restore the right of citizens to have the final say by way of a referendum on whether their Council is included in any proposed amalgamation.
The Green Party says that it will:
·    Reinstate the four wellbeings (social, environmental, cultural and economic) into the purpose of local government as originally specified in the 2002 Local Government Act.
·    Retain the power of general competence conferred to local government in the 2002 Local Government Act.
·    Develop national policy statements and national environmental standards under the Resource Management Act to provide better policy guidance to local government, promote national consistency and help reduce plan preparation costs.
·    Identify ways to guarantee greater protection and independence for local government within New Zealand's legal and constitutional framework.

More similarities than differences, but very different from National's policy. 

The National Party’s local government policy was the subject of PM John Key’s speech to the Local Government conference in July this year. He reminded delegates:
 “Our changes to the RMA will tackle housing affordability by freeing-up land supply…”,
National’s overall approach is summed up by this remark: “…we’ll be crowd-sourcing ways to reduce the rules and regulations that stop people doing sensible things with their own properties…”,
and by his announcement that his incoming government would: “…establish a Central Government and Local Government review group known as the Rules Reduction Taskforce….  will listen to local concerns and find opportunities to reduce and improve local regulation…. will root out local regulation that could be improved.”

The central point of this speech is the clarion call to: “reduce the rules and regulations that stop people doing sensible things with their own properties.” This is a classic plea and appeal to the idea of common sense.

But the longer I live the more I see - and the more I understand that common sense is not at all common.

Economics and Land Regulation

The right of individuals to control their property has long been recognised, but that autonomy is counterbalanced by the fact that property use sometimes must be regulated for the common good. The common method of land use control in New Zealand is zoning, which allows local government to divide territory into districts or zones where particular uses or activities are permitted or prohibited. Zoning, which became common in the early 20th century, is the foundation of the modern local system of land use control.

Any decision to regulate, not to regulate, to regulate less, has an economic effect. There are winners and there are losers. Regulation can increase property values, and it can decrease property values.

If Auckland's residential development market was operating as a truly free market, then it would typically be argued by economists that no local government intervention or regulation would be required. The basic presumption is that market processes work best to allocate scarce resources (eg land) in the most efficient way.

But that when competition is imperfect, the consequent “market failures” can and must be corrected by local government (or central government). Market failure is the standard justification for local government action in welfare economics. Economists generally use the term market failure to describe a situation in which the invisible hand (Adam Smith's "invisible hand of the market") fails to allocate resources in a socially desirable manner, so as to maximize aggregate economic well-being (another phrase for “common good”). Market failure arises when economic agents face incentives that are distorted leading to economic outcomes that are bad from society’s point of view.

So let’s look at National’s policy emphasis on freeing up land supply as a preferred intervention. It wants local government to release more greenfield land for urban development. It says that this is to address the issue of housing affordability. But is that the only reason?

According to a recent OECD study of 78 OECD metropolitan regions, Auckland had the third highest average annual population growth rate. And Auckland had one of the highest proportions of its population comprised of overseas-born residents, just behind Toronto and Vancouver. Auckland’s exploding population – from immigration and from internal migration - is the real pressure for greenfield development.

But this is not only a concern and policy priority for central government. Auckland Council has adopted a Spatial Plan named “The Auckland Plan” whose central economic target is: “to increase annual average real GDP growth from 3% p.a. in the last decade to 5% p.a. for the next 30 years…”.

That’s a huge increase.

Auckland Council is a Creature of Central Government

There have been many institutional and legislation changes since the GFC that affect the role of local government in New Zealand. The most significant of these was the amalgamation of Auckland’s local bodies into Auckland Council which was required to prepare a Spatial Plan. Legislation states that the plan:
79 (4) (a) must recognise and describe Auckland's role in New Zealand;
Which is not something local government had been required by statute to think about much before.

After all we’re Jafa’s aren’t we?

The spatial plan has adopted a target of 5% GDP growth for Auckland (recognising Auckland’s role in delivering Central Government’s economic strategy), that is largely to be achieved through high population growth and associated building development. It is a target that is to be delivered and implemented by other tools under council’s control including the Proposed Unitary Plan.

Ambitious growth targets like these that might not be a problem for existing residents if they didn’t have to suffer the consequences, or to subsidise the costs of that growth. But just as the deterioration of New Zealand’s rivers is apparently accepted as the cost of growth in dairy production, deteriorating urban neighbourhood amenity and increased rates to subsidise growth infrastructure will be a consequence for citizens of Auckland Council’s urban growth plans.

While I appreciate the concerns about amalgamation that are expressed in Green and Labour Party policies, I read nothing in there to alleviate the mess that Auckland has been legislatively levered into.

Getting Auckland out of the Mess

In 2006 McKinlay Douglas Limited undertook a major project for Local Government New Zealand. It advised:
“An extensive review of the experience of local government amalgamation, whether sector wide as with recent New Zealand, English, Australian State and Canadian provincial experience, or focused on individual authorities as with Halifax, is at best equivocal on the proposition that amalgamation will produce benefits in terms of reduced costs and/or improved services. The reasons include the normally unanticipated but common impacts of factors such as alignment of salary scales, incompatibility of systems or the need to upscale, staff morale, and the disturbance associated with major organisational change.”

How prescient. Auckland media is awash with reports about salaries, systems change costs, further organisational change costs etc.

The mess for existing residents includes dealing with the fallout from Council’s growth policies. By fallout I mean that the common good will be reduced. This is because Auckland Council’s Central Government inspired policies for more greenfield sprawl (to accommodate high population growth) will themselves cause market failure for at least two reasons:
1.      Infrastructure Subsidy Market Failure

When a new housing development is built, roads and sewers must be constructed, and facilities such as schools, parks, and community facilities. The market failure arises because, under current financing arrangements (which will be exacerbated by central government proposals to reduce development levies), the infrastructure-related developer levy burden on new homeowners will be less than the actual infrastructure costs they generate. The rest of the cost is shared among all of the city’s residents rather than charged directly to those who require the new infrastructure. And developers pocket higher profits. Thus, by undercharging new homeowners for the infrastructure costs they generate, the current Auckland Council plan to subsidise growth related infrastructure will inevitably incentivise more urban sprawl.

2.    Excessive Road Commuting Market Failure

Commuters incur substantial costs, which include the out-of-pocket expenses of vehicle operation as well as the “time cost” of commuting. Together, these out-of-pocket and time costs represent the “private cost” of commuting, the cost that the commuter himself bears. And when the commuter drives on congested roadways to get to work, another cost is generated above and beyond the private cost. This cost is due to the extra congestion caused by the commuter’s presence on the road - which everyone else has to "pay". We face this problem in Auckland now. Some traffic could be diverted to off-peak hours (like heavy freight), when roads are less congested. Some car commuters would switch to public transport if it met their needs. The problem with these solutions is that they encourage people to commute long distances, the solutions effectively say "what you're doing's OK", and unless there are congestion charges or some sort of toll, road users never have to face the true costs of excessive road use leading directly to market failure, and indirectly to more urban sprawl.

To finish - some numbers. Auckland’s Proposed Unitary Plan generated 93,600 primary submission points. These have generated a further 400,000 secondary submission points. With all the good will and competence in the world, how will the independent commissioners manage the process?

Thousands of submissions have come from residents and individual property owners concerned at what might happen to their asset. They are worrying about what they might lose, if someone is permitted (by the Unitary Plan) to do “sensible things” next door. This worry is human. But it is not taken account of in Auckland’s Unitary Plan. This assumes all that’s needed is a few rule changes and the market will sort things out. There is no implementation strategy, master plan, structure plan or any other process available for whole communities to be able to have a say and a role in how their community develops and changes, and what infrastructure will be needed.

Christchurch is an exemplar. Maybe it took a real earthquake (rather than a political one), but in that city Master Plans for whole communities are being carefully used with communities and residents and commercial property owners to redevelop, intensify and regenerate mixed use urban landscapes in Lyttleton, Sydenham, Linwood Village, Ferry Road, Sumner Village, New Brighton and Edgeware Village.

There the emphasis is on local development rather than economic growth.

That’s what is needed in Auckland.

That’s the local governance we need.