If a harbour bridge cycleway is such a great idea, the company proposing it should be willing to carry the risk.

With my rates going up again to pay for Mayor Brown's visions, I'm a little nervous about being stuck with funding the cycling lobby's cross-harbour vision as well.

The SkyPath is being trumpeted as a public-private partnership in which warm cuddly investment company Morrison and Co will fork out $33.5 million for the clip-on harbour bridge cycle-walkway.

Then, all heart, after 25 years, it will hand ownership over to the Auckland Council.

What is worrying is the small print. In it, the bankers want Auckland Council to agree that if too few Aucklanders roll on their lycra and puff and heave back and forth across the bridge at up to $9 a return trip, the ratepayers will bail out the bankers.


Councillors are awaiting a business case before making any commitments.

Before that comes a resource consent hearing starting on June 2.

Not that the lack of a business case has stopped Mr Brown from enthusing.

In February he told the Greater East Tamaki Business Association: "The SkyPath will be Auckland's first public private partnership (PPP) and will eventually enable a great vision - a cycle and walking path stretching from St Heliers to Devonport.

"This will act as a real game changer for building pedestrian and cycleways around our city. This is a chance to cut our teeth on PPPs and show that we can deliver real value for money and better outcomes for ratepayers".

He added that after the SkyPath would come "the Central Rail Link, better waste management and other major transport projects", all, it seems, using the public private partnership model pioneered with SkyPath.

I'm willing to help fund the CRL, even if no train line goes anywhere near my home. It's part of an integrated transport plan that will improve public transport and reduce congestion city-wide.

But the thought of being left to bail out what Morrison and Co calls its "flagship fund", Infratil - which, as the owner of New Zealand Bus, already receives an annual public subsidy of more than $60 million on its Auckland operations - would make me very grumpy.

Either SkyPath is commercially sound, in which case Infratil should take the risk, or the bankers and promoters should be upfront and admit it will need public funding and join the long queue of those seeking ratepayer handouts.

The promoters claim huge public support, pointing to 11,395 submissions in favour versus 159 against.

But on the NZ Planning Institute website, the Green lobby group Generation Zero is praised for organising 10,000 online submissions from "people from 42 countries, using pre-filled" forms.

You wonder how many of these worldwide supporters will be among the 781,384 users estimated for Year 1. We're told the majority of users will be tourists or recreational trippers - up to 5000 on busy summer weekends.

The promoters seem undecided on ticket prices, variously proposing between $4 and $6 for a return trip for Hop card users and $6 to $9 for casual users.

Five years ago, the promoters were pushing a similar project with another business partner, property developer Hopper Developments.

This involved a $16 million tolled cycleway under the bridge, catering for 600 to 1500 cyclists a day.

Two years before, the cyclists were lobbying for a clip-on, which they claimed would attract 10,000 bike and walking trips a day.

Neither came to anything.

This time the cyclists seem to be sniffing victory, which isn't surprising. They've become one of those minorities that politicians fear to ignore. For all I know the mayor has already formed a cyclist advisory panel.

They've certainly infiltrated Auckland Transport. The latest AT board papers claim Aucklanders made 902,343 cycle trips last year, and that since 2010, "automatic counters" reported a 23.8 per cent increase in people travelling by bike.

We're supposed to believe one in four of us owns a bike, and "60 per cent of Aucklanders would cycle if separated cycle facilities were installed".

Over the next three years, AT and NZ Transport Agency have plans, as yet only partly funded, for $207 million worth of dedicated cycle paths for Auckland.

I suggest we call the cyclists' bluff, and see how many of those 60 per cent come out and use these new bikeways before we take a punt on the SkyPath.