Is Skypath a good idea?

19:52, Mar 14 2013

It's a subject of heated debate so what do Joseph Bergin and Richard Hills think should happen with the Skypath Project?

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By Joseph Bergin

I don't believe there is any real argument that current options for crossing the Auckland Harbour are hopelessly inadequate. Skypath has attracted a large amount of public excitement with the snazzy concept designs and the idea of being able to essentially walk-on-water. But for me this project is exciting for another reason.

Ordinarily I would be the last one to promote spending on large projects such as this which bare the price tag of almost $28million of ratepayers money for the volumes of people proposed. However, the beauty of this proposed bridge is that it will have no impact on the rates themselves. This is because of a fantastic 'Public Infrastructure Partnership' (PIP) and proposed toll, which means that those who gain the benefit will pay the cost and all the finance provided by Morrison & Co, underwritten by the Council.

To me, this is only fair. When the Harbour Bridge first opened, there was a toll, and taxes that pay the maintenance of roads are collected from road user charges and petrol taxes. A walkway of this nature simply must have a pay-as-you-go component to it, and despite what some politicians in Auckland are saying, a purely rates based model would be beyond the pale.

In the interest of exploring this issue fully though, it is certainly worthwhile to consider the wider implications of such a successful partnership proposal. It's well known that there was a public-private partnership in the Northern Gateway toll road which was delivered ahead of time and below budget with no risk assumed by taxpayers. But there is a list a mile long of project the Council (or in fact Councils throughout the country) would love to borrow money in order to establish and if this focus was applied to them, Local Government and our communities stand only to gain.

Constantly I am reminded that rates are for many people an exceedingly untenable expense. Various different complaints I received go from calling it a 'living' tax to a 'we're coming to get your children' tax. Therefore, new and smart ways of funding major infrastructure and facilities builds should be welcome with open arms, whether that be arts/sporting/community facilities or new harbour crossings and public transport projects.

Skypath represents more than just a symbolic uniting of the two halves of Auckland, it is a bridge to the future of public infrastructure funding solutions, to which I say "bring it on".

But hey, what do I know?

» Joseph Bergin is a born and raised Shore boy and the youngest elected member of the Auckland Council. Sitting on the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board, he has a history of working with grassroots youth not-for-profits on the Shore.

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By Richard Hills

The concept of the SkyPath (www.skypath.org.nz) is exciting; it looks like we will finally have the option of walking and cycling over the Auckland Harbour Bridge in the not too distant future. As long as the creators get the entry and exit points right and ramp up the consultation with our community and the people the most affected I can't see how this could be anything but a great success for transport, tourism and the health and well-being of people in our area and Auckland as a whole.

In a major city like ours it seems crazy to have such a significant transport connection with no option of walking or cycling. Our residents in Kaipatiki and across the Shore have no option but to drive or take public transport to the city for work or pleasure.  Tourists must wonder what's wrong with us; I know a few who just assumed you could walk across and have been disappointed when told otherwise.  Thousands of supporters of all ages took the bold move of crossing the bridge in the getacross protest in 2009 to mark 50 years of not being able to walk or ride over our bridge. Which I believe was a catalyst in the increased support for this project.

The project and plans for a pathway under the bridge has reached a point where it can now be acted on.

Unfortunately current financial constraints and support means it will not go ahead without some sort of tolling, but it looks as though with a HOP card using the bridge could be as little as $2.00 each way, which is of course a lot cheaper than using a car, bus or ferry and hopefully a very affordable and accessible option for all. The toll will be slightly higher for tourists and those using proposed viewing decks.

The residents I have spoken to who live under or close to the bridge in Northcote Point, are generally supportive, but still have many unanswered questions and concerns about the exit points and effect on their area, this is important to get right. Directly affected residents had the opportunity to ask many questions at meeting that was held with the project team and NZTA a few weeks ago; hopefully they will get more information to them soon. As a board we have supported this project with the condition close consultation continues with all affected residents and iwi.

I hope to see this project go ahead and give our residents the transport options they have been asking for. We must reduce our reliance on cars, this will help to unclog our roads and make more space for buses from areas of our community that can't access the walking and cycling route. Yes so far our questions haven't all been answered but I believe if the issues are addressed this will be a significant positive change in the way we live, commute and enjoy our city.

» Kaipatiki Local Board Member Richard Hills, born and bred in Glenfield, is responsible for the Youth, Community and Social Development and Events portfolios. He works part-time as a Community Health Worker, predominantly working with young people across wider Auckland.

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