Auckland transport politicians are backing a proposal to recreate beaches lost to North Shore's Shoal Bay when the harbour bridge was built in the 1950s.
They will ask the Government's Transport Agency to consider the proposal - which also includes a pedestrian and cycling path between the bridge and Takapuna - in plans for a new harbour crossing costing up to $5 billion.
Although a new bridge or road and rail tunnels are unlikely to be built for 20 years, Auckland Council's transport committee wants the agency to investigate shorter-term enhancements to Shoal Bay such as restoring the coastline beside the Northern Motorway around Sulphur Beach or building a bridge over Esmonde Rd to Barrys Pt Rd in Takapuna.
That follows a joint approach to the committee from the Kaipatiki and Devonport-Takapuna local boards, with Garth Falconer of Reset Urban Design, who has worked on a number of coastal restoration projects.
Mr Falconer told the committee his plan, expected to cost "less than 1 per cent" of a new harbour crossing, would reopen public access to more than 4km of coastline and improve the ecology of Shoal Bay, such as through the construction of offshore nesting for birds.
He said the Northern Motorway approach to the harbour bridge had been built amid extensive modifications to Shoal Bay, including the loss of two major beaches which existed until 1956 - Sulphur Beach and City of Cork Beach.
Early proposals for another bridge or tunnels lacked any mitigation plans, and involved even greater reclamation of the harbour "which will have serious impacts on the shoreline and ecology, and further distance the public from the coastline".
The 30-year Auckland Plan was, meanwhile, earmarking Takapuna for development into a major metropolitan area, even though it was poorly linked to the central city.
Kaipatiki Local Board chairwoman Lindsay Waugh said the stretch between the bridge and Esmonde Rd offered the best view of Auckland and the proposal provided an opportunity to enhance the region's walking and cycling network while finally redressing the loss of the pre-1950s shoreline.
Her Devonport-Takapuna board counterpart, Chris Darby, said the impact on the shoreline was never assessed before Aucklanders "were alienated about 60 years ago from this place" - but times had changed.
"Now we're in an entirely different age where we do not ignore ecological values, let alone public access," he said.
Committee chairman Mike Lee described the proposal as "a very exciting concept" and Maungakiekie-Tamaki councillor Richard Northey said the Transport Agency could have a similar obligation at Shoal Bay as at Onehunga, where it's contributing $18 million to a $28 million coastline mitigation for widening the Southwestern Motorway and duplicating its Manukau Harbour road crossing.