A $2.6 million upgrade to an 800m-long Auckland walking track has been labelled an exorbitant waste of money.
The concrete upgrade to the Patuone Reserve walkway, which runs beside an ecologically sensitive mangrove swamp in Takapuna, was approved by the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board on August 20.
While all six members of the local board agreed the degrading quality of the limestone chip Patuone walkway was "becoming a hazard and health and safety issue", the size and cost of the upgrade has irritated many in the community.
Local board chairman George Wood used his casting vote to approve a widened 2.5m concrete path from Esmonde Rd to Auburn Reserve that incorporates "cycling provisions".
Board member Grant Gillon was one of three who abstained from voting on the Auckland Council proposal, saying it was an expensive option that could be destructive to the "beautiful" estuary environment.
"It does need upgrading. The stairs are unsafe, the existing boardwalk there, a lot of that's broken, rotten and unsafe," Gillon conceded.
"What it doesn't need is to be ramped up as a race track. It's just nuts. We get people saying if you do cycling it's more sustainable and that's true, but putting 800 metres of 2.5-metre concrete is not sustainable in anyone's language, especially along the side of an estuary.
"I was very surprised to have this rammed through after we'd had a lot of discussion."
Wood, however, said the Patuone upgrade would be a compromise between a track that was already used by cyclists and pedestrians.
"We would be cutting our nose off to spite our face if we were driven by I think a small group in the community who don't respect the policies of council to provide for recreational cycling, as well as walking through area of Patuone Reserve," he said.
Wood argued the $2.6m council estimate was justified to properly upgrade the track, and to "procrastinate" over spending the council's renewals budget for Devonport-Takapuna could mean it would be redistributed to other local boards.
"That incline down from Auburn reserve is quite a precarious construction location and that's going to cost quite a bit to build the thing properly," Wood said.
"This is going to be an area where there's huge residential intensification, and it's happening now, and those people are going to want to recreate."
Of the $2.6m price tag, Auckland Transport and Auckland Council capital funds are contributing $1.5m.
The Devonport-Takapuna Local Board is fronting the remaining $1m out of its budget.
A submission in opposition to the Patuone upgrade from the Bayswater Environment Action Committee (BEAC) argued the track upgrade would "require the removal of an unspecified number of trees" and that concrete was a surface that "contributes to run off" and is "unsuitable for a conservation area".
BEAC's Trish Deans said the $2.6m walkway quote was an "excessive amount", and argued a substantially longer walkway along Rotorua's Lake Okareka wetlands spanning 2km, and including 184m of boardwalk, was built for under $200,000.
Gillon, likewise, argued repaving the Patuone track in a mix of clay, gravel, and granite dust - known as "hoggin" - would be more environmentally sensitive and cheaper.
"The concrete is really only important to commuting cyclists, it's not important to stroll along with a dog," Gillon said.
"And hoggin is a heck of a lot cheaper than laying all that concrete and digging out the side of the estuary. It's a huge construction job."
"Hoggin gets down into the drain pipes and blocks them up and next thing there's no drainage. When it rains the water just gets over the grass and it gets very muddy and plugs up," he said.
Construction on the concrete Patuone walkway is set to start in 2020.