Saturday, February 14, 2015

Observations: Auckland Development Ctte Meeting 12 Feb

There was a lot going on at the Auckland Development Committee meeting on Thursday 12th Feb. (By the way - this pic wasn't taken at the time - - just here for illustrative purposes).

This blog contains my big picture view of where Council is going with: Downtown development; Queens Wharf; Central wharves strategy; and Ports Expansion. These matters were all dealt with at this meeting - but in separate, seemingly ad hoc items.

The blog also contains my more detailed observations of three interesting moments (out of many).

First of all, I generally think it's a good idea to make a double cruise ship terminal on Captain Cook Wharf lengthened by about 100 metres, in order to free up Queens Wharf so it can genuinely become a people's wharf, and to better provide for cruise ships in Auckland. However, until this is funded, and until a discussion is had about why POAL shouldn't run that facility (after all POAL pockets berthage fees, and doesn't POWL run Wellington's cruise ship terminal?). I am also persuaded by landscape architects of the significance of the Queen Street through and onto to Queens Wharf alignment as a design driver for downtown development. However that should not be at the expense of public space options which are threatened, for example, with the loss of Queen Elizabeth Square, and nor should we be blind to the loss of public open space in Lower Queen Street that is envisaged with buses circulating around Endean Building and Mercure Building and hence onto Lower Queen Street and with a fast frequent light rail service that is now being considered.

However, given Auckland's history of promising all sorts of public benefits to smooth the way for private developments, I am increasingly concerned that history may be repeating itself right now. Call me cynical maybe, but I could not help but see Thursday's meeting as being primarily about getting the Precinct Development and CRL enabling works underway. A significant log-jam in that project is Queen Elizabeth Square and Auckland Council's need to compensate Precinct properties for the loss of carparks in its high rise project that will be caused by the Central Rail Link (CRL) Tunnel passing directly beneath. The price oif compensation has never been revealed but it appears to be around $25,000,000 to $30,000,000. The freehold sale price of QE Square has also not been revealed - understandeable as a commercial transaction - but it has been estimated at around $60,000,000. A problem for Council is its variously stated commitments and obligations to provide commensurate public space nearby (though what "nearby" means is a challenge). Council would like to effectively trade QE Square away and get the CRL tunnel works underway, but it must also provide "commensurate" public space. Solving that conundrum is Council's priority.

I'm afraid I see all this talk of opening up Queens Wharf (to the public) and Captain Cook Wharf (mostly to cruise and sometimes to the public) as an unfunded and "jam tomorrow" trade for the loss of QE Square public space. Much the same promises were made when AHB built its headquarter building on Quay Street, and when POAL signed its lease deal for the Princes Wharf development. Promised public spaces and amenities never eventuated. It wasn't even "jam tomorrow" in those cases. And not to be outdone in all this the committee also had to deal with POAL with its plan to lengthen Bledisloe to enable it to accommodate Queen Elizabeth and other cruise ships, and its push for more reclamation. My take on the day is on 1ZB Larry Williams show (see slideshow version)....



and here on Stuff.

Now for the three moments:

There were some memorable Q&A sessions which really should be edited from the live webcast and presented as stand-alone clips. Cllr Wayne Walker was insistent and competent in asking Rick Walden of Centre Centre Integration (CCI) and Clive Fuhr of Auckland Council Property Ltd (ACPL) respectively about how Lower Queen Street would work as a public space without QE Square and with planned bus and light rail movements, and about whether Council would retain more control over how QE Square developed if it sold a leasehold interest and not a freehold interest. This latter question was a fascinating insight because it is widely known around the table that Waterfront Auckland has been able to achieve all sorts of environmental and social benefits from developers by virtue of leasehold arrangements. Cllr Walker persisted with Clive Fuhr, getting fobbed off and deflected, and finally asked Clive the perfect question: "Would Council have more control over what happened on QE Square land if it was a leasehold sale?" Clive would have known the answer. Instead he turned his head and said ,"I think Mr Watts an provide the asnwer to that." He was referring to Tim Watts who is an urban planner and urgan designer for Auckland Council. He is not a part of Council's Property CCO. The fact that Cllr Walker had to persist with this line of questioning, and the fact that those who know the facts will not state them in a meeting makes the meeting a farce.

The second memorable moment came when Cllr Chris Darby was handed a POAL Q&A paper which contained information about POAL's freshly and non-notified consents for B2 and B3 extensions to Bledisloe Wharf. He wanted to know how much Rick Walden knew about the POAL plans when Rick had responsibility for preparing the plans and options consideration for the Captain Cook cruise ship terminal extensions. Cllr Darby was first able to establish that what POAL was proposing would affect the ability of Captain Cook to handle crusie ships. Rick Walden was clearly uncomfortable about the questioning, but, like Clive tried to bat the questions away, rather than honestly answer them. Very bad public look. Finally Cllr Darby asked the hard question, "When did you know about POAL's consented plans to lengthen Beldisloe Wharf?" (Doesn't this sound like the sort of thing you might expect in court? How the hell has it got to this? Why are councillors being denied relevant information? How can they make good decisions when relevant history, facts etc are being kep from the?) At least Rick Walden answered this one. He said, if my memory serves me right, "I heard on Sunday night." Which was about 4 days before the meeting. This raises another question. How can the manager if city centre integration do his job if he's being kept in the dark about what other parts of the council "family" are doing and deciding? (Cllr Fletcher generously observed that "there was a glitch in the system" and went on to more honestly describe it as a "toxic environment").

The third memorable moment came from Cllr Brewer. He had sat stewing for hours in the earlier parts of the meeting. Saying little but becoming increasingly uncomfortable. Late in the day he made a number of observations which are important. One of these was to the effect that: "we talk about having a waterfront masterplan but we don't really. Instead we have a number of separate plans, and even when we did the waterfront masterplan the port was left out. That's clearly a problem..." and he also spoke about the port company itself, "....with all the money the port has been paid for land why isn't it paying for the lengthening of Captain Cook Wharf...?" His frustration was telling.

Good planning is about good argument nothing hidden. Bad planning resorts to pragmatism and power. That's what we are seeing here. Unless Council fixes itself, there will be a steady decline in public confidence, and necessary resort to the courts for resolution because recent Council decisions are not in compliance with either the Resource Management Act or the Local Government Act.

4 comments:

Ports of Auckland Ltd said...

Hi Joel
Interesting blog. The only quibble I’d have is with this comment: “Cllr Darby was first able to establish that what POAL was proposing would affect the ability of Captain Cook to handle crusie ships.”
No, it doesn’t. The whole idea is to remove Marsden so that we can use Cook East and Bledisloe West to their full potential. The basin will be wide enough to get two ships in. The extensions we are building on Bledisloe fit perfectly with the Central Wharves Strategy.

I also listened to your radio comments. I think someone’s been pulling your leg about logs and dairy powder! There are no logs from Northland coming through Auckland port. It might have happened at one time, but not for years. Fonterra used to have a mad arrangement with us where they would bring milk powder in by truck from the north, use one of our warehouses to pack it into containers and then rail it down to Tauranga for shipping! We’ve stopped that as it’s a waste of useful waterfront space – part of that warehouse has been demolished and is the site for Holcim’s new cement silo.

There have been some other comments about Bledisloe being extended for long cruise ships? That’s a useful benefit, but my no means the primary reason which is, as per our fact sheet, for car ships, multi-cargo ships and container overflow.

Cheers
Matt Ball
Ports of Auckland

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to those Councillors who exposed the strange goings on with the various branches of Council. Yes there should be a master plan - not a series of ad hoc plans. All Councillors should require this.

And as an aside, since when have ferries been totally disrupted as cruise ships arrive and leave. Cruise ships should be moved away from the ferry wharves ASAP to avoid people missing meetings and connections.

dantheperson said...

Surely the whole point of the City Centre Integration group is to have a masterplan for the whole downtown area?

larry mitchell said...

Joel do you have a comeback/comment on the letter N.Z Herald 23 Feb titled Plunder of harbour by Ports must stop?

The "nut" of this is the long term investment trading POAL has conducted reclaiming, then selling Auckland Harbour land.

The arrogance of POAL management "tactics of deception and bullying" refers also.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Observations: Auckland Development Ctte Meeting 12 Feb

There was a lot going on at the Auckland Development Committee meeting on Thursday 12th Feb. (By the way - this pic wasn't taken at the time - - just here for illustrative purposes).

This blog contains my big picture view of where Council is going with: Downtown development; Queens Wharf; Central wharves strategy; and Ports Expansion. These matters were all dealt with at this meeting - but in separate, seemingly ad hoc items.

The blog also contains my more detailed observations of three interesting moments (out of many).

First of all, I generally think it's a good idea to make a double cruise ship terminal on Captain Cook Wharf lengthened by about 100 metres, in order to free up Queens Wharf so it can genuinely become a people's wharf, and to better provide for cruise ships in Auckland. However, until this is funded, and until a discussion is had about why POAL shouldn't run that facility (after all POAL pockets berthage fees, and doesn't POWL run Wellington's cruise ship terminal?). I am also persuaded by landscape architects of the significance of the Queen Street through and onto to Queens Wharf alignment as a design driver for downtown development. However that should not be at the expense of public space options which are threatened, for example, with the loss of Queen Elizabeth Square, and nor should we be blind to the loss of public open space in Lower Queen Street that is envisaged with buses circulating around Endean Building and Mercure Building and hence onto Lower Queen Street and with a fast frequent light rail service that is now being considered.

However, given Auckland's history of promising all sorts of public benefits to smooth the way for private developments, I am increasingly concerned that history may be repeating itself right now. Call me cynical maybe, but I could not help but see Thursday's meeting as being primarily about getting the Precinct Development and CRL enabling works underway. A significant log-jam in that project is Queen Elizabeth Square and Auckland Council's need to compensate Precinct properties for the loss of carparks in its high rise project that will be caused by the Central Rail Link (CRL) Tunnel passing directly beneath. The price oif compensation has never been revealed but it appears to be around $25,000,000 to $30,000,000. The freehold sale price of QE Square has also not been revealed - understandeable as a commercial transaction - but it has been estimated at around $60,000,000. A problem for Council is its variously stated commitments and obligations to provide commensurate public space nearby (though what "nearby" means is a challenge). Council would like to effectively trade QE Square away and get the CRL tunnel works underway, but it must also provide "commensurate" public space. Solving that conundrum is Council's priority.

I'm afraid I see all this talk of opening up Queens Wharf (to the public) and Captain Cook Wharf (mostly to cruise and sometimes to the public) as an unfunded and "jam tomorrow" trade for the loss of QE Square public space. Much the same promises were made when AHB built its headquarter building on Quay Street, and when POAL signed its lease deal for the Princes Wharf development. Promised public spaces and amenities never eventuated. It wasn't even "jam tomorrow" in those cases. And not to be outdone in all this the committee also had to deal with POAL with its plan to lengthen Bledisloe to enable it to accommodate Queen Elizabeth and other cruise ships, and its push for more reclamation. My take on the day is on 1ZB Larry Williams show (see slideshow version)....



and here on Stuff.

Now for the three moments:

There were some memorable Q&A sessions which really should be edited from the live webcast and presented as stand-alone clips. Cllr Wayne Walker was insistent and competent in asking Rick Walden of Centre Centre Integration (CCI) and Clive Fuhr of Auckland Council Property Ltd (ACPL) respectively about how Lower Queen Street would work as a public space without QE Square and with planned bus and light rail movements, and about whether Council would retain more control over how QE Square developed if it sold a leasehold interest and not a freehold interest. This latter question was a fascinating insight because it is widely known around the table that Waterfront Auckland has been able to achieve all sorts of environmental and social benefits from developers by virtue of leasehold arrangements. Cllr Walker persisted with Clive Fuhr, getting fobbed off and deflected, and finally asked Clive the perfect question: "Would Council have more control over what happened on QE Square land if it was a leasehold sale?" Clive would have known the answer. Instead he turned his head and said ,"I think Mr Watts an provide the asnwer to that." He was referring to Tim Watts who is an urban planner and urgan designer for Auckland Council. He is not a part of Council's Property CCO. The fact that Cllr Walker had to persist with this line of questioning, and the fact that those who know the facts will not state them in a meeting makes the meeting a farce.

The second memorable moment came when Cllr Chris Darby was handed a POAL Q&A paper which contained information about POAL's freshly and non-notified consents for B2 and B3 extensions to Bledisloe Wharf. He wanted to know how much Rick Walden knew about the POAL plans when Rick had responsibility for preparing the plans and options consideration for the Captain Cook cruise ship terminal extensions. Cllr Darby was first able to establish that what POAL was proposing would affect the ability of Captain Cook to handle crusie ships. Rick Walden was clearly uncomfortable about the questioning, but, like Clive tried to bat the questions away, rather than honestly answer them. Very bad public look. Finally Cllr Darby asked the hard question, "When did you know about POAL's consented plans to lengthen Beldisloe Wharf?" (Doesn't this sound like the sort of thing you might expect in court? How the hell has it got to this? Why are councillors being denied relevant information? How can they make good decisions when relevant history, facts etc are being kep from the?) At least Rick Walden answered this one. He said, if my memory serves me right, "I heard on Sunday night." Which was about 4 days before the meeting. This raises another question. How can the manager if city centre integration do his job if he's being kept in the dark about what other parts of the council "family" are doing and deciding? (Cllr Fletcher generously observed that "there was a glitch in the system" and went on to more honestly describe it as a "toxic environment").

The third memorable moment came from Cllr Brewer. He had sat stewing for hours in the earlier parts of the meeting. Saying little but becoming increasingly uncomfortable. Late in the day he made a number of observations which are important. One of these was to the effect that: "we talk about having a waterfront masterplan but we don't really. Instead we have a number of separate plans, and even when we did the waterfront masterplan the port was left out. That's clearly a problem..." and he also spoke about the port company itself, "....with all the money the port has been paid for land why isn't it paying for the lengthening of Captain Cook Wharf...?" His frustration was telling.

Good planning is about good argument nothing hidden. Bad planning resorts to pragmatism and power. That's what we are seeing here. Unless Council fixes itself, there will be a steady decline in public confidence, and necessary resort to the courts for resolution because recent Council decisions are not in compliance with either the Resource Management Act or the Local Government Act.

4 comments:

Ports of Auckland Ltd said...

Hi Joel
Interesting blog. The only quibble I’d have is with this comment: “Cllr Darby was first able to establish that what POAL was proposing would affect the ability of Captain Cook to handle crusie ships.”
No, it doesn’t. The whole idea is to remove Marsden so that we can use Cook East and Bledisloe West to their full potential. The basin will be wide enough to get two ships in. The extensions we are building on Bledisloe fit perfectly with the Central Wharves Strategy.

I also listened to your radio comments. I think someone’s been pulling your leg about logs and dairy powder! There are no logs from Northland coming through Auckland port. It might have happened at one time, but not for years. Fonterra used to have a mad arrangement with us where they would bring milk powder in by truck from the north, use one of our warehouses to pack it into containers and then rail it down to Tauranga for shipping! We’ve stopped that as it’s a waste of useful waterfront space – part of that warehouse has been demolished and is the site for Holcim’s new cement silo.

There have been some other comments about Bledisloe being extended for long cruise ships? That’s a useful benefit, but my no means the primary reason which is, as per our fact sheet, for car ships, multi-cargo ships and container overflow.

Cheers
Matt Ball
Ports of Auckland

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to those Councillors who exposed the strange goings on with the various branches of Council. Yes there should be a master plan - not a series of ad hoc plans. All Councillors should require this.

And as an aside, since when have ferries been totally disrupted as cruise ships arrive and leave. Cruise ships should be moved away from the ferry wharves ASAP to avoid people missing meetings and connections.

dantheperson said...

Surely the whole point of the City Centre Integration group is to have a masterplan for the whole downtown area?

larry mitchell said...

Joel do you have a comeback/comment on the letter N.Z Herald 23 Feb titled Plunder of harbour by Ports must stop?

The "nut" of this is the long term investment trading POAL has conducted reclaiming, then selling Auckland Harbour land.

The arrogance of POAL management "tactics of deception and bullying" refers also.