April 2020 Newsletter

  • Northern Pathway – ‘Have your say’ – by 19 April
  • Water quality projects – recap and update
  • Leys Institute – make your view known
  • Unitary plan change 26
  • Submission on CCOs
  • Wynyard Quarter/the America’s Cup – What’s going on

Dear members,

What a different Easter this is. The SMBA committee hopes that you and yours are healthy and well and managing to adapt and cope with the current restrictions brought about by Covid19.

This newsletter will bring you up-to-date with the more prosaic matters within our loved St Mary’s Bay. In particular, we encourage you to ‘Have your say’ on the Northern Pathway proposal just circulated by NZ Transport Agency.

Northern Pathway (formerly SkyPath)

In the past week you will have received a brochure from NZ Transport Agency alerting the community to the opportunity to ‘Have your say’ on re-vamped proposals for a walking and cycling path between Albany and central Auckland – now referred to officially as the Northern Pathway. The closest section of the pathway (to St Marys Bay) is a section from Akoranga to Westhaven which includes what was formerly known as SkyPath (over the harbour bridge).

SMBA supports, in principle, the concept of a pedestrian/cyclist connection between the Auckland Isthmus and Northcote Point. However, we have long had concerns relating to the detail around how this connection will impact on the existing, over-loaded bridge. (NZTA shared some of our concerns about SkyPath, and this proposal for a Northern Pathway is its response).

SMBA has also been arguing for another central Auckland harbour crossing, which could both relieve the load on the harbour bridge (and consequent risk to Auckland of a bridge failure) and potentially free up capacity for a suitable pedestrian/cyclist pathway. We understand that NZTA largely accepted our arguments on this and has taken initial steps towards building a further crossing (designating the route and appointing engineers to develop a detailed design).

Regrettably the present Northern Pathway proposal appears to have been developed in isolation from and without consideration of potential options offered by the 2nd central Auckland crossing.

SMBA believes that both these aspects of the pathway debate (issues specific to the proposed Akoranga to Westhaven section and potential options arising out of a 2nd crossing) are legitimate matters on which you can and should have a say. This can be done online through the Northern Pathway website: www.nzta.govt.nz/Northern-Pathway

Matters on which you might like to comment include:

  • Health and safety:
    • How will users be managed? – old and young pedestrians as well as dogs and scooters will compete with fast moving cyclists moving in both directions (in our view this will be a problem with NZTA’s proposed pathway width of 5 metres).
    • How will the open walkway protect walkers and cyclists against high winds?
    • What security measures will put in place to 2prevent ‘jumpers’?
    • What toilet and other facilities will be made available to users of the pathway and where will these be sited?
  • Managing traffic: How will potential congestion at the Westhaven start to the path be managed? Tourists and more remote users will bus or car to Curran Street extension and/or to Westhaven itself. The NZTA proposal has no detail on how this will be managed without adversely impacting on boaties using the marina, pedestrians and cyclists using the water-front walkways, and local residents whose streets will be used by pathway users for parking.
  • Making best use of public money: This Northern Pathway proposal is estimated to cost $340m. What consideration has been given to options available as part of a 2nd central Auckland harbour crossing (for example, creating a pathway on part of the existing bridge, freed up by traffic diverting to the second crossing). Should this be explored as part of making another crossing a top infra-structure priority for the Government?

Remember – you must make your submission by Sunday 19 April 2020.

Water quality projects – recap and update 

As you will recall, Council (Healthy Waters) was granted a resource consent in 2018 to build a large drainage tunnel through the foot of St Mary’s Bay. As reported at the AGM late last year, SMBA and others appealed that consent. The St Mary’s Bay Association (and others), guided by expert advice, negotiated revised conditions for the consent with Healthy Waters. Once those were agreed, the appeals were withdrawn. The Environment Court recorded that settlement in a consent order made on 25 November 2019.

As is frequently the case, this outcome was a compromise by both sides. The Association, adopting the expert advice, decided that it was unlikely to succeed on its preferred options (having the project dropped or the route changed). So it concentrated instead on negotiating changes to the conditions of the resource consent to minimise risks to properties and adverse effects on the environment.

The changes to the conditions for the tunnel project will work hand in glove with the agreement reached earlier in 2019 to separate the existing combined wastewater and stormwater system in St Mary’s Bay and Herne Bay. Together the two projects will mean that in almost all weather only stormwater will be discharged into the harbour. This will bring about a very substantial improvement to water quality in St Mary’s Bay/Westhaven and the Herne Bay beaches. The commitment to separate was formalised in an agreement signed in November 2019.

The key changes to the original design are:

  • The level of the tunnel is being lowered. Importantly, this will minimise instability concerns for properties above, and will allow above ground structures in reserve areas to be reduced or removed. The pump station at Pt Erin will be landscaped to surrounding ground level and there will no longer be any above-ground structures in the grassed area at St Mary’s Park;
  • Odour control poles planned for London Street have been removed and odour control/air vent poles in St Mary’s Park and Pt Erin Park will be relocated to minimise visual effects;
  • The pump station in Pt Erin Park is to be altered to prevent build-up of water in the tunnel (which will no longer be used for medium/long-term storage);
  • An old stormwater pipe running down from Hackett Street, under properties in lower St Mary’s Road, is to be re-lined to avoid risk of leakage and erosion under properties; and
  • The head of the outfall pipe into the harbour is being modified to improve dispersal of stormwater and any overflows of wastewater.

In addition to these design changes, various conditions provide improved checks on compliance with the conditions. As part of this, a monitoring group (the St Mary’s Bay Project Liaison Group or SMB-PLG), comprising representatives of all key stakeholders, has been established. This will allow community oversight of the project throughout the construction period. It is too early to say whether we will need to re-engage our expert on any of the design matters, or any other experts for that matter, but we will keep the fighting fund in place until it is clear that we no longer have a need for it.

Work on the tunnel got underway in January. Not unsurprisingly there were some early teething troubles, but these were worked through and solutions were found. These included getting transport management plans in place, particularly in the confined spaces in lower St Mary’s road. After an initial set-up period in December/January, construction work commenced in January. The first steps were to excavate large chambers in Pt Erin Park and St Mary’s Park, to allow for the tunnelling machine to be put in place. This work was almost complete when the Covid19 crisis intervened, and the sites were shut down as New Zealand went into lockdown. The sites have been secured (which has included back-filling the chamber at St Mary’s Park). We will learn through the SMB-PLG when construction is to resume.

The same applies to a separate but related project being undertaken in Hackett Street. This involves construction of a replacement inspection chamber for the intersection of wastewater and stormwater pipes at that point. Hackett Street was closed to through traffic in January to allow this work to take place. As a result of Covid19 that site has also been shut down, and locals will have to cope with these temporary arrangements for longer than expected. This includes the Shelly Beach Rd end of Hackett being open to two-way traffic for residents on that side of the Hackett St closure, for the duration of the closure. We will be asking Watercare to keep residents informed about a likely re-opening date (this won’t be known until after construction is permitted to start again).

In the meantime, design work is continuing, with community members of the SMB-PLG playing a part. Dilapidation surveys of properties potentially affected by construction of the tunnel have been undertaken. The SMBA is not party to those surveys, other than in a very general sense through reports to the SMB-PLG. Please let us know if you own one of the affected properties and have any questions over progress of those surveys.

We will let members know when construction is due to start again following easing of lockdown restrictions. We hope to be able to report at that time on progress on separation. We have been told by Watercare that design work is not yet complete. We have been promised a report on the programme for separation in St Mary’s Bay before the end of April.

Save the Leys: How to help

Following the completion of a seismic assessment, which found structural issues that make the buildings unsafe, the Leys Institute was closed by Council abruptly on 20th December.

On February 26 more than 150 banner-carrying protesters gathered outside the Leys Institute and called on Waitemata Local Board chair Richard Northey to champion the residents’ desire to return the closed library to its former use, after appropriate seismic upgrading.

The Leys Institute and Gymnasium, founded by William Leys and his brother Thomson, was opened in 1905. Conditions relating to the building were expressed in a deed of trust. In 1964 control of this Edwardian Baroque building was transferred to Auckland City Council and subsequently this category 1 heritage building has fallen below acceptable seismic standards.

The newly formed Friends of the Leys Institute, the St Mary’s Bay Association, the Freemans Bay Residents Association and other community groups and individuals all expressed their views in submissions last month to the Waitemata Local Board three-year plan and the Auckland Council annual budget.

We must keep that momentum going! We all want this historic building returned to us as a local library and general community facility, after upgrading to meet earthquake standards.

The St Mary’s Bay Association is currently working with the Friends of the Leys Institute to have the various reports on the building’s stability reviewed by an independent seismologist.

At its June business meeting the Waitemata Local Board will consider various council reports on how best to restore the building for public use. We will be asking the Local Board to provide for public consultation at this point. Any decision by the local board requires approval by Auckland Council, which controls the budget.

How can you help in the fight to save this historic building?

  • Join the Friends of the Leys Institute. Contact institute co-ordinator Helen Geary heleng@maxnet.co.nz
  • Write letters to the Ponsonby News. This will keep our concerns before the public and the WLB and council. The News is very supportive of efforts to save the Leys. Send letters to: martin@ponsonbynews.co.nz Note: COVID-19 restrictions prevent publication in hard copy, but the Ponsonby News April edition has been published online. Pages 6,16 and 23 all have information on the Leys.
  • Attend the Waitemata Local Board meeting on May 19 (date may be altered, check the WLB website) to support submissions from the SMBA and Friends of the Leys Institute.
  • Check out the Friends of the Leys Institute Facebook page (Note: this is not the Leys Institute Library Ponsonby)

Unitary Plan change 26

Auckland Council is proposing changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan to clarify that where there are corresponding provisions (including activities and standards) in the Special Character Areas Overlay and in the underlying zone, the provision in the Special Character Areas Overlay will prevail over the corresponding provision in the underlying zone.

The council is also seeking to refine some of the standards within the Special Character Areas Overlay, including height in relation to boundary, yards, paved areas and fences.

The SMBA has called for a minimum distance between adjoining properties to allow enough space for building maintenance such as repairs and painting.

In a submission on Unitary Plan proposed plan change 26 the association has requested that consent to an infringement of the side yard standard must require a minimum of 1200m between properties on adjacent sites, regardless of the location of the site boundary.

The SMBA also submitted that the rules relating to fences and walls should continue to retain the term “and other structures” because structures other than fences and walls may adversely affect the amenities of neighbouring properties.

A hearing was to have been held at the end of this month to consider the proposed changes. That hearing has been abandoned due to Covid19, and will not be re-scheduled until the lockdown ends.

For further information read the Auckland Council’s Plan Modification 26 here:


Watercare must remain a CCO

The St Mary’s Bay Association was one of 21 community organisations in the Stop Auckland Sewage Overflows Coalition (SASOC) which recently made a submission to Auckland Council on a review of Council Controlled Organisations.

SASOC’s main objective is to improve the wastewater and stormwater infrastructure in the Auckland isthmus so that these waters are released into the environment only after appropriate treatment. Members are all situated in the central Auckland isthmus. SMBA chair David Abbott and Herne Bay Residents’ Association co-chair Dirk Hudig are co-convenors of SASOC.

As a member of SASOC, SMBA endorses SASOC’s view that CCO Watercare should continue to control delivery of potable water and the collection of wastewater as a discrete and transparent cost centre (rather than return these functions to Council).

A key point underlying the submission is that the Auckland Council family must be more responsiveness to community concerns. In SASOC’s experience Watercare’s senior management has been more receptive and responsive to community wishes than council’s senior officers. This is in terms of both listening to concerns and willingness to explore alternatives.

SASOC also stated that Watercare’s financial planning had been far more transparent than council’s and, until recently (when the targeted water rate was introduced for stormwater) more certain of delivering planned funding than council.

Note: Currently, Watercare is responsible for wastewater and potable water; Auckland Council is responsible for stormwater capture and discharge.

Wynyard Quarter – what’s going on?

If you’re out for a walk around Wynyard Quarter you may be wondering what all the (currently stalled) construction is about.

The area is being prepared for the America’s Cup in early 2022 and projects include: superyacht pontoons on the Hobson Wharf extension; wavebreaks; the new Sealink site; America’s Cup syndicate structures on Wynyard Point; extension of the stormwater outfall pipeline from the end of Daldy St to the end of Wynyard Point; extension of Silo Park north of the staircase gantry structure in the former bulk storage terminals site.

America’s Cup – event update (as at March 25)

Both the Cagliari and Portsmouth America’s Cup world series events have been cancelled, however the dates for the Auckland America’s Cup world series events remain unchanged, with no plans to postpone or cancel.

Adopting the PM’s words, stay safe, be kind.

David Abbott
12 April 2020

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