However my direct approach to appointed commissioners was not appreciated, so instead I sought, under the Official Information Act, the information that was provided by Super City officers to commissioners, so they could make their "notify-or-non-notify" decision. That information has come, and I had the opportunity to look at it today.
The LA4 part of that information reviews the visual and amenity effects of the change to the designation. That review contains these pictures, which give you an idea of what the lay of the land is like in the area of the Cheshire Street option.
As you can see it's fairly deserted in this gully.....
Looking south (picture to the left here) you can just make out the tunnel in the distance.
Looking East (left of picture) you can see that the line is elevated above the surrounding land which is why the track will have to be lowered by up to 1.75 metres. According to the documents 17,000 cubic metres of earthworks will be required, which is one reason why the project will need to take about 2,500 square metres of the Domain in order to build retaining walls and such like, and to accommodate the necessary realignment of the track (away from the Domain) in order to accommodate the proposed railway platforms.
This image looks North from the same point, ie downhill toward Carlaw Park and the Parnell Overbridge....
This image from Google Earth shows the Super City's preferred option at Cheshire Street. You can see again how squeezed into the gully this option is. In the background you just make out the museum - which will be about a kilometre walk away, uphill, probably quite a nice walk through the bush.
The information provided to commissioners is voluminous in terms of the effects on bush, archaeology, heritage, views and such things should the designation change go ahead. But there is almost no information in terms of the effects of what the designation change will permit - which is that a railway station built at that location will almost certainly preclude the construction of any other more useful station being built in the vicinity.
The information states clearly the statutory context. Which is s.181 of the RMA. This allows a requiring authority to make an application to a territorial authority to alter a designation. (ie: this provides for the Super City to apply to itself to change its own designation.)
Critically, s.181(3)(a)(i) states:
(3) A territorial authority may at any time alter a designation in its district plan if - (a) the alteration - (i) involves no more than a minor change to the effects on the environment associated with the use or proposed use of land...concerned; or....
This is the nub. One effect of the proposed use of the land (a railway station at Cheshire Street), will be that other options for the Parnell Station will be precluded. That is clearly a very significant effect on the Auckland environment.
Though that effect is not explicitly identified in any of the documents that were provided to Commissioners by Super City officers.
The information provided to commissioners by Super City, includes The Tonkin and Taylor Report entitled: Minor Alteration to the Designation: Parnell Enabling Works and dated November 2011.
This report does have a short section headed: "Consideration of Alternatives" which refers to the three options illustrated at the start of this posting. This section states of the Parnell Bridge Option:
The bridge would require modification in order to accommodate the station platforms, and significant track lowering towards Parnell Rail tunnel to achieve the appropriate gradient. However, this location would provide direct connection to Downtown Auckland, the Carlaw Park development and the University of Auckland and AUT.The Parnell Bridge Option location is illustrated in the Google Earth image shown. You can see how well this location would serve Vector Arena and all of the land uses that are currently developing in the vicinity. This area has the development and transit oriented development potential of a Newmarket.
However the "Assessment of Effects on the Environment" section of the Tonkin & Taylor report makes no mention at all of the negative and precluding effects of building the Parnell Station at Cheshire Street - instead of the Parnell Overbridge option preferred by Auckland City Council and Auckland Regional Council officers. Instead the report describes the Parnell Overbridge option as "not feasible". Tell that to the engineers who rebuilt the Newmarket Viaduct.
It is time that this charade was brought to an end. Before it destroys the credibility of the Council and Auckland's railway network.
And as an end-note, here's a picture of the Parnell Overbridge. Quite a classic structure with its stone pillars. Crying out for a sensitive heritage station on top.
There's hundreds of them round the world. A good place to put a station - doesn't take up land. It's in the airspace, and can be central to the city.
Here's a simple example in China. So you can see it's not rocket science. Highly feasible in fact.
And if it's a heritage finish that is needed - to match the existing character of the Parnell Overbridge - here's a heritage railway station in Berlin. There may even be a way of incorporating the old Newmarket station building into an overhead station on the Parnell Overbridge. Now wouldn't that be a world-class win-win.