Northern Pathway (formerly SkyPath)

A project, formerly known as SkyPath, for walking and cycling over the harbour bridge has been taken over by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and greatly extended. Now officially referred to as the Northern Pathway, it will run between Albany and central Auckland. The closest section of the pathway to St Marys Bay, from Akoranga over the harbour bridge to Westhaven includes the former SkyPath route.

SkyPath was a private project under the auspices of the Auckland Harbour Bridge Pathway Trust. The Wellington-based Public Infrastructure Partnership Fund (the PIP Fund) had agreed to fund the project, and Auckland Council confirmed its commitment to July 2016, agreeing to underwrite the project.

This $360 million section of the Northern Pathway project has been allocated funding as part of the Government’s $6.8 billion investment in the New Zealand Upgrade Programme for infrastructure projects across the country. Subject to the consenting/approvals process, construction is expected to begin in early 2021 and take around two and a half years.

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 concerns 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 prevent ‘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?

In April 2020 the SMBA put these concerns before NZTA as part of a public consultation.