Coming to a street near you? Not cars, if North Shore councillor Chris Darby and others championing car-free spaces have their way.

Darby, Auckland Council's planning committee chairman, wants a programme of temporary street closures — known as "Open Streets" — introduced across the city.

Mayor Phil Goff and finance and performance committee acting chairwoman Desley Simpson this month wrote to Auckland Transport, as part of the council transport arm's 2018-2021 statement of intent process, that "the development of an open streets events programme in conjunction with council parent" was on councillors' minds.

Darby said Auckland Transport was in the early stages of developing a toolkit for communities to create "open street-esque initiatives".


"My idea for Open Streets Auckland is that it is community-generated and council-facilitated."

Auckland Transport walking, cycling and road safety manager Kathryn King said an Open Streets policy with the council would be further developed in the next few months.

"Open streets events are very popular internationally and many cities close streets to traffic for people to walk, cycle and hold events on a regular basis."

Auckland Transport held a successful open streets event on Karangahape Rd in 2016.

"We hope to support communities to open their streets to people in the future."

Goff also backed the initiative.

"I've lived in cities which close off streets for market days and recreation purposes and I'd like to see Auckland explore those options. Doing that sort of thing on selected streets would be great for Auckland."

Closing Auckland streets for pedestrian-friendly events should be
Closing Auckland streets for pedestrian-friendly events should be "community-generated and council-facilitated", councillor Chris Darby says. File photo / Greg Bowker

Darby, who, like Goff, spoke in favour of pedestrianising part of Queen St in a Herald report this month, said cities were changing.


"And we've got to change with them."

A new ferry terminal and a completed city rail link and modern trams in the next decade, along with the existing bus network, meant there would be "no excuse [in future] to be as car-dependent as we are today".

"We considered roads and streets to be for cars. The time has come [for that to change] and Aucklanders are ready for that in the city centre ... and there are other parts of the Auckland community getting excited about this.

"It might be a car-free day, it could be a number of open streets on one particular day. Brussels and Paris did it last week. It's been done in Buenos Aires ... in Vancouver they have street hockey. We could have a game of cricket on Queen St. Imagine that?"

Organising one-off closures, such as Devonport's Clarence St for the GLOW Light installation event, was onerous.

"We want to make it more accessible. I think we'll have Aucklanders falling in love with their open streets."

Devonport Business Association organised the closure of Clarence St for the last two GLOW events.

Association board member Ken Davis said the cost of closing the street for 12 hours in 2016 included a $2500 fee to Auckland Transport. A health and safety plan was also required.

The following year the street was closed for an "easier to organise" four hours.

"However despite its success and shorter format the street closure and compliance costs are still about $1900."

Closing Auckland streets for pedestrian-friendly events is
Closing Auckland streets for pedestrian-friendly events is "excessively bureaucratic and costly", Devonport Business Association board member Ken Davis says. File photo / Doug Sherring

Melbourne had been temporarily closing Little Collins St and Flinders Lane on weekdays for 30 years, but the current process to do so in Auckland was "cumbersome, excessively bureaucratic and costly, and denies spontaneity", Davis said.

"We would consider running a series of regular weekend open streets, especially in summer, in Clarence St or elsewhere in Devonport, with live music, street games, street art and activities to attract visitors, but the cost and bureaucracy is prohibitive."

Darby said, if an open street programme was developed, he hoped long term decisions could be made about whether some closures should be regular or even permanent.

A "movement plan" could address businesses with freight or delivery needs, he said.

AA spokesman Barney Irvine said they were "pretty comfortable" with the idea of temporary street closures, as long as they weren't too disruptive.

"These sorts of things are a nice way for people to connect with their community and their city, and have a bit of fun."

Permanent street closures were a "much stickier proposition".

"So we'll be very interested to see what the council has in mind, as plans take shape."