Auckland's proposed harbour bridge Skypath has been portrayed to a planning hearing as a critical missing link in the city's cycling and walking network.
The 1.4-kilometre pathway under the bridge's citybound clip-on will enhance the 56-year-old structure while offering Aucklanders and visitors a "pleasurable and aesthetic" experience, Skypath lawyer Daniel Minhinnick told planning commissioners at this morning's opening of the five-day resource consent hearing.
Mr Minhinnick said the $33.5 million project, promoted by a non-commercial trust backed by a private investment fund, was a rare example of a bottom-up, community-based infrastructure venture..
The level of support for the project, it's primary purpose to provide access across the harbour denied to cyclists and pedestrians until now, was unprecedented for such a major project.
Of more than 11,500 submissions received, only 168 opposed the project.
"For most other major projects, the majority of submissions lodged are generally in opposition," Mr Minhinnick said.
Much of the opposition is from Northcote Point residents concerned about potential breaches of privacy and the impact of extra traffic on their cul-de-sac neighbourhood and a local heritage group is also weighing in against the project.
Supporters include the youth organisation Generation Zero, through whose website many submissions were shepherded, Auckland Council's tourism arm, the Auckland District Health Board, the National Heart Foundation and the Automobile Association.
The Transport Agency, custodian of the bridge, is offering conditional support while intending to prescribe maximum numbers of people to be allowed on the pathway for structural safety reasons.
Mr Minhinnick said the project promoters were "acutely aware" of the sensitivities of Northcote Pt and had made a number of design modifications to the pathway's northern landing such as removing a proposal for a toilet block there.
He said the southern landing would be promoted as Skypath's official
starting point to minimise pressure on the Northcote end.
He expected some users to turn back before Northcote Point so they would only have to pay a one-way toll, which project director Bevan Woodward has indicated will likely be about $3.
Mr Minhinnick said that while charging users was not the preferred option, there was insufficient funding available for the project without that.
Auckland Council has yet to decide whether to partly underwrite the project in return for taking ownership of Skypath after 25 years.
The pathway has been designed as a covered lightweight carbon composite structure, four metres wide, broadening to 6m at five viewing platforms.
Although some submitters have safety concerns about cyclists and pedestrians occupying the same space, Mr Minhinnick said the project's traffic consultant was confident in "share with care" principles assisted by a bumpy gradient.
That is to be moderated by level platforms every 13m.
The hearing continues this afternoon and tomorrow at Auckland Town Hall before moving to the council's Takapuna service centre on Thursday.