The Eye of the Fish

January 15, 2020

Our hopes for the 2020s

I’ve not done this before: I’m not a needy kind of Fish – but following on from the last post, where readers were proposing their hopes for the decade ahead, I thought that the Eye of the Fish should also do the same. So here goes. What have I got to say? Read on…

Rapid Public Transport

Needs to be sorted, NOW. This is the one decision which will set the path ahead for the future of our capital city. We’re a small city – do we want to stay that way or do we want to grow? If we stay as we are, we stagnate and we go mouldy. If we want to grow either a little or a lot, we need a strategy to build that growth around. We need LGWM to either act, or be disbanded for incompetence. Enough of the agonised prevarication. Enough of the consultation. Enough of the pissing about and wasting time, money and patience. GWRC and WCC: you’re meant to be leaders: so LEAD. If you can’t do the job, then get out of the way and I’ll do it myself. Do I have to do everything around here?

What needs to be done is to say: THIS is the route, and THIS is the method of Rapid Public Transport that we are going to go with. Make a decision. Make the right decision. Make it public. Commit to a timeframe. Start the design and planning now.

Cycle and Scooter Network

Needs to be linked up and made to work together, NOW. At long last, after the debacle of the Island Bay Cycle Way, where weak-minded politicos let themselves get side-lined by psychotic locals with a bee in their bonnet, at long last the city is making some progress over cycle ways. So far, as far as I can see, we have work on a route round the Bays – i.e. work on Oriental Bay, Little Karaka Bay, Balaena Bay, Kio Bay, Weka Bay etc, right round to Evans Bay and the route to Miramar. That’s great – but that’s only a route for one segment of our society. We need WCC to tackle the central city. We need the Law changed so that scooter users are legally allowed to use Cycle ways, and we need a safe route for all these lightweight two-wheeled vehicles to safely get through the central city. No use just doing the easy bits. We need the hard bits tackled too, and we need it to be a Network where all the parts are joined up. We all need to work together on this one.

Roading Network

This is the tricky one and will be controversial with some readers, but… The impasse at the Basin Reserve needs to be resolved. It is actually quite easy to solve, but it will take someone with balls of steel to pull it off. Levi Fisher is the cetacean for the job. I’ll set out exactly what the LGWM people need to do / are probably already planning to do. We need to strip the city back to its skeleton, the bare bones of a transport system. But this will be a separate post all in itself, coming up soon on another day.

Building upgrades

Our city sits directly over a serious earthquake faultline and we know we are overdue for “the big one”. We need to get serious about building upgrades in the capital and we need to start now. Do we want to end up a basket case like Christchurch? Presumably not. Do we want the Government to move all the Govt departments up to Auckland, or worse still, Hamilton? Hell No! Do we want the city buildings to survive, and presumably prosper? Yes? If so, then we need some action now.

The hard and simple truth is that many of our buildings are still significantly incapable of resisting an 8.0 earthquake, and we need to upgrade them. The even harder truth to swallow is that Govt needs to step in and help finance the solutions and to resolve the Insurance impasse. The basic bottom line is that we should be looking at Base Isolation for all new buildings, and also that the use of Base Isolation should be installed in all existing large buildings, wherever possible, to stop our buildings crashing down when the Big One comes.

Civic Centre and the Library

More transparency and openness around the issues need to happen, but decisions need to be made, NOW. Yes, we should undoubtedly keep the Library building, which should be strengthened and reopened, and contractors are already working on the old Town Hall to base isolate that, but there are other major buildings there as well that need decisions, NOW. Should we keep them? If so, announce a decision and start planning their work programme now. Should we demolish them instead? If so, announce a decision and start planning their replacement now. Don’t want to replace them? Then start planning for a Civic Square that is no longer Civic and is not even a Square any more. Leaving it half-arsed and half-closed off is not an option.

New Buildings

Our city needs a boost. For the last decade we have been in limbo, drifting aimlessly with the seismic tide, mere flotsam on the waves of Building Code change. For too long the focus has been on Auckland – that evil step-sister with a poisoned apple – a city that has destroyed its natural loveliness with a rat race of incessant motorway building and really crap buildings. Wellington is, as we all know, a far better city with great bones built around the great harbour of Tara. We need to lead the way for Wellington and for Aotearoa as well, with some vibrant new buildings and some exciting new architecture with some scintillatingly clever structural engineering, working together for a bright new future.

And that’s where our main readership comes into play. We need our best architects and engineers to step up and take the lead. We need super-strong, super-seismic-resistant, super-clever and super-sexy buildings to be built and to feature in our capital city. We need to start NOW.

Are you with me?

Coral C
15 - 01 - 20

In the new Arch NZ magazine, there is a farewell piece on Ludo Campbell-Reid, who has been Auckland’s “Design Champion” over the last 13 years. He’s widely credited with turning the city around, and his comments offer some guides for what Wellington now needs to do to at least catch up with Auckland – which to be honest is in a far better state than Wellington. He says:
“People forget how bad the city was not so long ago. We didn’t have double-decker buses five years ago. Shared spaces have been in since 2009. There were no separated cycle lanes. No new Auckland Art Gallery five or six years ago. Wynyard Quarter didn’t exist in 2009; eight years ago, it was just a windswept, post-industrial, concrete jungle with only the SeaLink to Waiheke and the fish market. Now, it’s one of the great urban design projects of the world.”

He also credits the Urban Design Panel as one of his greatest successes: “I have built an army of vocal, active, connected people who politicians listen to. Those people will look after Auckland going forward.”

And lastly, his comments on transport: “There was a lot of public criticism during the initiation of the shared space projects and it’s the same with the bike lanes, which are seen as a disruptive pain. So, it’s about how we build cycleways with the community; how we engage. Public transport is the key to unlocking the economic power of the city because there’s generally no more space for more roads in our city centres and private vehicles are the most inefficient way to move people.”

All wise words that we would be wise to take heed of.

15 - 01 - 20

Coral – thanks for your comment – and for alerting me to Ludo’s farewell. He’s been a natural leader for Auckland (rumour has it he modelled himself on me) and he will be missed – I hope they have a good replacement as it would be a shame for Auckland to give up now. His comments are a bit over-blown and self-aggrandising, but mostly true. Wynyard Quarter as “one of the great urban design projects of the world” ? No, i don’t think so, but it is nice and it’s a good place to start.

The Urban Design Panel idea they actually stole from Wellington, who had a good UDP under Gerald Blunt in the early 2000s. Bizarrely, Wellington seems to have lost its way on that front, with approximately 20 Urban group re-organisations in 20 years. What a shambles. In fact, given Wellington’s UDP screw up, we could say: “we have built a committee of non-vocal, inactive, disconnected people who nobody listens to. Those people will despair at Wellington and then move to Auckland, going forward, facing backwards, turning sideways.”

16 - 01 - 20

The inertia of LGWM has infected the council’s cycleway planning too,

In 2018 with a hiss and a roar the council put out 3 options for connecting Newtown to Island Bay.

we are now told
“Consultation for Newtown Connections will now happen in mid-2020. We were expecting to consult on a proposed package in late 2019 however it is important to wait for the consultation on a new city-wide Parking Policy to happen first, in early 2020.

Its just going round and round, and if LGWM is looking at light rail in that part of the world, its likely things will get delayed even more…