Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Council looks at how to pay for Bridge path

A new battle is about to erupt in the ongoing war over the SkyPath.

Tomorrow, the Auckland Council finance committee will vote on a funding arrangement for the shared path over the city's Harbour Bridge.

The preferred option is a public private partnership (PPP), which would mean a private company pays to build, operate and maintain the SkyPath.

The project would be user-pays for 25 years before it is given to the city.

In return, Auckland Council would:

&bull: Underwrite actual revenues to a pre-agreed dollar amount and share profits above a specific threshold.

• Any cost overruns are the Public Infrastructure Partnership (PIP) Fund's responsibility.

Meanwhile, groups on both sides of the trenches are arming themselves for the meeting, to be held in the Auckland Town Hall.

Pro-SkyPath group Generation Zero has called on the 11,000 people who made submissions on its resource consent last year through its online submission form to lobby their councillor and tell them why they want the path.

In an email yesterday, the group said if the finance committee did not agree to the funding, the thousands of submissions would have been "completely disregarded".

"The few councillors who are against SkyPath threaten to jeopardise the whole project. That's 11 years of hard work gone.

"They've recently been running a scare campaign saying that too many people will use the bridge, causing problems, and that also no one will use SkyPath, therefore it shouldn't be built. Their arguments have a clear logical fallacy, but that doesn't matter to them. They will stand at nothing to make sure SkyPath doesn't go ahead," the email said.

Generation Zero is presenting a submission to the committee but told its supporters their case would be stronger if they emailed their ward councillors and told them why they wanted the SkyPath.

The group said they "don't particularly agree that Aucklanders shouldn't have to pay to use the SkyPath" but it was the best way to get it built.

On the other side of the battleground, the anti-SkyPath groups have added legal opinion to their artillery.

The Northcote Residents Association (NRA) asked Ponsonby lawyer Dr Grant Hewison to write to committee chairwoman, Penny Webster, before tomorrow's meeting.

In the letter, Hewison said there was no provision in the Long Term Plan for the project so the council should not make a decision on its funding until it was included.

The NRA is still fighting SkyPath's resource consent in the Environment Court and is set to be heard in September before a hearing in October.

The association is crowd-funding for its legal battle through Givealittle and so far has raised more than $11,000 from 19 donors, 15 of whom were anonymous and some totalling up to $3000.

The business case estimated there would be 2141 trips a day on the SkyPath in its first year, increasing to up to almost 6000 in 20 years, from commuters, tourists and domestic visitors. Limits on patronage would be set for safety reasons.

It would also provide a "critical" missing cycling and walking link, increase visitor spending in the region as well as acting as an attraction and completing a 15km loop from the city to Devonport by bike or foot, the business case states.

What is the Skypath?

•A 4m walking and cycling shared path attached to the southbound clip-on of the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

•Includes five viewing platforms across the 1km structure.

•Open for 16 hours a day from 6am to 10pm.

•The landing points will be at Westhaven Marina and Northcote Pt.

•CCTV cameras will operate along the enclosed tube and security guards will be stationed at the landing points as well as roving guards.

•Users will pay a small fee

•In the first year, more than 781,000 people are expected to use it.

- NZ Herald

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