Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

SkyPath battlers on collision course

Activists question residents’ association mandate for appeal.

In a suburb beneath the bridge, a battle has been raging over a path to allow people to use two legs instead of four wheels to cross the harbour.

As a region, Auckland overwhelmingly supported the SkyPath proposal and celebrated when the project was granted resource consent in July last year.

But three associations were not cheering - two based in the northern landing at Northcote Point and a third at the southern landing at Herne Bay - and appealed against the consent in the Environment Court.

With two groups from one neighbourhood opposing the project, as an outsider you would be forgiven for believing the Northcote Residents Association (NRA) and the Northcote Point Heritage Preservation Society represented the views of a community with genuine concerns about the project.

However, of the 382 submissions from Northcote, 29.8 per cent were opposed.

Former NRA executive committee member Mike Pearson said he joined the association when he saw the project was dividing the community. He wanted to be involved so they could establish what the main issues were.

But what he found was a small group on the executive committee who were allegedly unwilling to hear any positive arguments about the project and then used the association to serve their own purposes.

Mr Pearson and friend Henry Barfoot said they tried to survey the community so they could have a constructive conversation with the project's leaders but were blocked at every turn by that small group.

After they were found to be in favour of the SkyPath, Mr Pearson said they were seen as being proponents of SkyPath "who were there to undermine their position and were shut out".

"It's our opinion that the association doesn't reflect the true sentiment of the community. We certainly weren't out to decide whether an opinion should be one way or the other, but that we took an accurate measure of what the community was saying and represented that position, whatever it may be," Mr Pearson said.

Mr Barfoot said having multiple societies set up made "it seem like there's a grassroots movement against the SkyPath which is simply not the case".

The SkyPath was granted resource consent in July last year.
The SkyPath was granted resource consent in July last year.

Kaipataki Local Board transport lead Richard Hills said the feeling among the wider Northcote community was frustration at the group not asking them or fairly representing their opinion.

"The people who oppose it are totally in their rights to oppose it and are completely justified but to oppose it on behalf of the entire community when a lot of it supports it has been one of the issues," Mr Hills said.

NRA chairman Kevin Clarke said there were no longer any members in the association who supported the SkyPath because they had all left.

"Thank God for that. They provided nothing. They did nothing. They were there to destroy and they damn near achieved it. They didn't do anything positive. They didn't do anything constructive.

"They didn't do anything useful and they didn't do anything to engage their mind in any of the problems that were blatantly presented by SkyPath's hopelessly ill-resolved proposal."

Mr Clarke also did not agree with the local board's view that the community was actually in favour.

And when asked specifically about how many members had left over the actions taken by the NRA against the SkyPath, Mr Clarke said: "I don't want to go down this yibba-yabba path any more."

He later told the Herald the NRA's official position was: "NRA will not comment at this time regarding SkyPath, because the matter is before the Environment Court."

- NZ Herald

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