Unanimous vote for SkyPath

By Amelia Wade

SkyPath has passed another hurdle and will be financed by a private company while users will pay to use it.

After more than five hours of submissions from six groups, intense questioning, an update from the SkyPath team and debate, an Auckland Council committee this afternoon unanimously voted for the public private partnership.

Private firm H.R.L. Morrison & Co's Public Infrastructure Partnership Fund's (the PIP Fund) will finance the shared cycling and walking path over the Harbour Bridge and users will pay a small fee per trip.

After 25 years, ownership will be handed to the city and in return the council will underwrite the revenues.

The unanimous vote was the last step in the political process, besides it being added to the Annual Plan.

Before the decision was made Mayor Len Brown said the SkyPath would unite Auckland because "we can walk and cycle towards each other".

It would also allow people "the chance to see one of the greatest views on the planet".
Councillor Cameron Brewer, who has been outspoken in his criticisms of the project, said the evidence presented today showed exposure to the council and ratepayers had been minimised "as ever could be expected".

Councillor George Wood continued to oppose it because it currently was "not satisfactory for the people of Northcote Point", his constituents.

He questioned why they couldn't buy houses in the area so the SeaPath cycleway from Takapuna could not connect to the link over the bridge to ease the load on the local roads.

"If we just plough ahead as it is I think it's an unsatisfactory situation that we're leaving to the people of Northcote Point."

SkyPath submitters

• Kevin Clarke of the Northcote Residents Association opened the session and questioned the building and operating costs which were redacted from SkyPath's business case because of commercial sensitivity.

He said tourist patronage figures were likely to rival the London Eye and the "world famous" Milford Sound and questioned where all the tour buses were going to park.

Clarke questioned the operating costs given the crowd numbers would need "hundreds" of wardens.

"It hasn't a prayer."

• Niko Elsen of Generation Zero, which set up an online submission form during the resource consent process last year, accused Clarke of nimbyism and said the support for the project was overwhelming.

People saw it as "life-changing" and vital to Auckland's future, Elsen said.
Generation Zero also surveyed submitters who used their form and the majority said they would walk or cycle to SkyPath, not drive, and so wouldn't clog the community local roads at either end.

• Bike Auckland's Barbara Cuthbert used the pink Light Path as an example of how a little investment - $2 million - could have such a positive impact on the city and showed Aucklanders' passion for cycling.

The SkyPath would connect a vital link in the city's cycle network and the NZTA's SeaPath shared cycleway showed the agency's commitment to the crossing.

"All paths lead to SkyPath."

• Private resident of Northcote, Jeremy Richards, questioned what would happen in an emergency, given it was just a foot wider than an AirBus180 and many times longer.
During questioning after his submission, Richards asked what would happen with so many pedestrians, cyclists, tourists and people in wheelchairs.

"While SkyPath looks like the magic bullet it just didn't because the business case doesn't stack up ... I think there are other options and think you should explore them before committing."

• Kaipataki local board member Richard Hills said while he appreciated people had genuine concerns about parking and privacy, those had been addressed and mitigated through design changes and permits.

They should also be taken in the context of the overwhelming demand for the project.
Of the 11,500 submissions, just one per cent opposed.

Hills said supporters would also be willing to pay because they accepted it that was the only way to "finally" get it built.

- NZ Herald

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