Auckland Transport has defended its waterfront Quay St changes, saying next week's works should have been no surprise because the scheme has been talked about for six years.

The development was described earlier this week as a "nightmare" for businesses located in the area.

Read more:
'Nightmare' on Quay St: legal action planned to challenge works

Eric van Essen, AT's downtown delivery manager, said he wanted to work with people in the area but the council-controlled entity had already been in extensive discussions with businesses, locals and affected parties and had even changed its plans based on their feedback.

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Cars will be severely restricted on Quay St in this waterfront council plan.
Cars will be severely restricted on Quay St in this waterfront council plan.

"We met with Princes Wharf businesses and residents last week to talk about the specifics of the traffic plan which has been amended based on their feedback," van Essen said.

He was responding to criticism and talk of legal action from Princes Wharf Shed 23 residents committee chairman David Ramsay and Princes Wharf-based businessman financier Martyn Reesby.

Ramsay said businesses and Princes Wharf residents were particularly concerned that from December 27 to January 6, Quay St would be "effectively closed off" between Britomart and the bottom of Hobson St.

Access would only be given to service and delivery vehicles and people who lived or worked in the area would have to prove that, Ramsay said.

In the longer term, traffic would be throttled back to one traffic lane in each east-west direction and one bus lane, Ramsay said, which would create significant congestion and difficulties for businesses and residents.

But van Essen said although last week's meeting had taken place, AT would meet those in the area again if necessary.

"Auckland Transport has offered to meet with the Princes Wharf Group to discuss their issues with any potential disruption from works over the holiday period arising from the downtown development project," he said.

"We are committed to working with local residents and businesses to understand and deal with any worries they have.

David Ramsay, Shed 23 Princes Wharf residents' committee chairman. Photo/Doug Sherring
David Ramsay, Shed 23 Princes Wharf residents' committee chairman. Photo/Doug Sherring

A meeting is understood to have taken place between lawyers representing the council and opponents but the outcome of that is unknown. Questions about that have been put to AT and Ramsay.

Auckland Council has long planned to cut Quay St's four lanes back to two but residents and businesses in the area say this will create problems in the already-congested zone where thousands of cruise ship passengers throng.

van Essen indicated next Thursday's initial works should have come as no surprise to anyone in the area because the scheme had been discussed for six years.

"The vision of transforming Downtown Auckland into a people-oriented place with reduced general vehicle lanes have been made public since the release of the City Centre Master Plan in 2012," van Essen said.

Plans for Quay St, making it more people-friendly according to the council.
Plans for Quay St, making it more people-friendly according to the council.

Extensive community consultation had already been undertaken.

"We have been talking to Quay Street businesses, residents, organisations and affected parties about the Downtown Programme over the past year. In November, we also began a public information campaign to create greater awareness around the programme and its intended outcome," van Essen said.

Lawyer Sarah Watson of Duncan Cotterill, representing the Princes Wharf group, wrote to the council on December 14, asking for public notification of the Quay St works which were less than minor.

Watson said affected parties were:

• Residents of 300 apartments, whose access to homes would be severely affected;

• Owners and operators of at least 16 bars and restaurants who stand to lose significant business during the critical period over the holiday time, again due to lack of access.

• Owners and operators of offices and shops on the wharf "whose businesses will be significantly affected by lack of access";

• the Hilton Hotel's guests who would be "seriously inconvenienced".

• Wilson Parking which runs the large business on the wharf "as it is understood access to this facility will not be available during this project";

• Thousands of passengers who arrive and depart on cruise liners and who embark and disembark.

Watson said Quay St's traffic situation was "already chaotic when cruise liners were boarding or disembarking and any reduction of access to the wharf will only exacerbate the situation."

Watson said the group "have been advised that anyone wishing to access the wharf will be questioned at a cordon regarding their reason for requiring access. Clearly, this will require those who have a need to access the wharf to wait in a long queue of traffic while the occupants of vehicles are questioned and it is determined whether their access is necessary."

The group was concerned that the effects of the proposal to do works on Quay St in December and January "have not bee adequately assessed by the applicant." Notification of the application would allow people to provide feedback and the effects of the works to be fully considered and solutions explored, Watson wrote.