The 'Green Wall of Mt Albert'

CARLY TAWHIAO
Last updated 05:00 03/09/2010
GREEN
GREEN WALL: Auckland city councillor Graeme Easte commissioned Grey Lynn cartoonist Barry Linton to produce an artist’s impression of how a green wall at the Mt Albert railway station might look.
STATION
CURRENT VIEW: The Mt Albert station’s platform towards the rear of New North Rd’s commercial buildings.

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An Auckland city councillor has his green fingers on the pulse when it comes to enhancing the Mt Albert rail station.

Graeme Easte is proposing a station upgrade by applying "green wall technology", a system that enables plants to grow directly on a built structure.

Mr Easte has come up with some concept plans to support his proposal and is seeking endorsement for the idea.

"After spending two hours there two weeks ago collecting for Amnesty International, I thought: `What a hole'. The environment is overshadowed by the run-down rear walls of the shops along New North Rd which are likely to remain that way quite possibly for decades," he says.

"So I started to think of ways to brighten the place up and quickly latched on to the idea of introducing some serious greenery down the eastern boundary to bring a bit of colour and life into a dreary environment that could persist for years to come."

Mr Easte says to build a seven-metre-long by three-metre-high wall opposite the station's seated area would cost about $50,000.

"I have been talking with KiwiRail, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority and Natural Habitats about the feasibility of the concept for Mt Albert, and ongoing maintenance is likely to be modest. The wall would be irrigated from the top and any excess water could be collected and recirculated or allowed to seep into the ground."

Natural Habitats manager Pete de Jager says the green wall phenomenon in architecture and design has become popular since botanist Patrick Blanc covered Paris' national museum wall with plants in 1988.

"Apart from the aesthetics, engineers like them because they reduce the opportunity for graffiti, provide noise baffling, and also improve air quality. Stormwater run-off can also be used to irrigate the structure."

Examples of Natural Habitat's established walls can be found at its head office in Ellerslie as well as in the Department Store in Takapuna. Walls are also being prepared for Britomart's east building as well as the new $65 million Novotel Hotel being developed at Auckland airport.

KiwiRail public affairs manager Jenni Austin says because both freight and passenger trains run through the network and overhead wires are needed for electrification, it would have to be sure there was enough separation between the green wall to not cause any safety issues.

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"It is an interesting idea, but there are potentially some technical and funding issues around this proposal that would need to be looked at closely. Our interest would be to ensure any structure built in the rail corridor did not impact in any way on rail operations or create any potential safety risks either for the public or those who maintain the corridor and the structure and we would work through these with ARTA, which manages the station.

"Having said all that, KiwiRail acknowledges that the appearance of the rail corridor in parts of Auckland is not to the standard that we would like and the Mt Albert area is to be the next project out of the blocks."

ARTA communication manager Sharon Hunter says although no specific date has been set for the station upgrade it is on the "high priority list" and is expected to occur next year following the Baldwin Ave upgrade which began last month.

She says a view on Mr Easte's proposal has not been formed yet but security and safety of passengers is the most important issue.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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