Was this the good news story of the Auckland political year? The dispute at Mt Albert's Chamberlain Park has been resolved. It happened at the end of November, to little fanfare: golfers will keep the 18-hole public course, but it will be redesigned to make room for a community park with children's play area. The Meola stream will be restored and cycling and walkways will be established too.
How astonishing. There was so much anguish, so much fur flying in so many fierce debates, all the name calling, all the misinformation and official complaints, all of it flung both ways. But peace has broken out.
To recap: the Albert-Eden Local Board, dominated by the centre-left City Vision group, wanted to cut the golf course in half and build a range of other park facilities for public use. Save Chamberlain Park, a lobby group largely comprising golfers and supported by the centre-right C&R group, opposed the plan.
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The election proved the catalyst. The board chair lost his seat, City Vision lost its majority and, with the board now split 4:4, they had to find some way to agree. So they negotiated hard, for weeks, with help from council officials. They sought consensus and they found it was possible. Both sides say they are happy with the outcome.
It should happen more often. The governing body of Auckland Council, faced with many other land-use disputes (speedway at Western Springs, anyone?), please take note.
No such luck on Ōwairaka/Mt Albert, where some local residents have set up camp to protest the plan to cut down 345 exotic trees and replace them with thousands of natives. It's our land, says the Tūpuna Maunga Authority (TMA), representing the combined iwi of Tāmaki Makaurau. Yes, say the protesters, but you want to cut down trees.
The maunga is wāhi tapu, says TMA. It's a site of "immense spiritual, ancestral, cultural, customary, and historical significance" and they want to restore its "mauri (life force) and wairua (spiritual essence)". Yes, say the protesters, but you want to cut down trees.
We have consulted with arborists, environmentalists, Forest & Bird and the Tree Council and they all support our plan, says the TMA. Yes, say the protesters, but you want to cut down trees.
It's arguably the most revealing dispute of the year, although what it reveals is itself hotly disputed. The decision is now headed for judicial review, courtesy of an application filed by a protester. The TMA is independent of council, but part-funded and administratively supported by it.
No resolution just yet at Ihumātao, either. Despite the tribulation at Owairaka, Ihumātao is a more important land dispute - so important, it may yet help redefine us as a nation. Jacinda Ardern never turned up – a blot on a year of otherwise inspirational compassion – but her government and the council are now talking about how to buy the land. Ihumātao will be resolved, and possibly very well; Ōwairaka may well fester.
Auckland Transport (AT) built barely 10km of new cycleways this year, which is all it budgeted for, but next week they start another high-profile one: Victoria St West, from Beaumont St to Nelson St. There are several things to say about this.
One: Good, more cycle lanes on dangerous city roads. Two: Also good, this will connect with the Franklin Rd cycle lanes, thus extending the inner city network.
Three: This should help with the rest of the traffic. Victoria St from Halsey St to Nelson St has become, with no official notice, a bus terminal where buses frequently get in each other's way. Putting bike lanes through it provides the chance to organise those buses better, and slow the cars that speed downhill.
Anything else good? I'm not sure. Why not keep the cycleways going from Nelson St to Queen St, which is even more dangerous?
The answer is CRL construction, which has delayed all other plans, but that very precisely identifies the problem. AT, like the CRL company and the rest of council, sees construction as a disruptive problem, not as an opportunity.
AT is still making the same mistake on Quay St. Roadworks like these are their chance to help people change their expectations about driving in the central city, in ways that mean they don't have to miss out. But AT doesn't seem able to think like that.
On the positive side, AT took a bold step towards greater road safety this year, by introducing the new Speed Limits Bylaw, which will lower the speed limits on about 10 per cent of Auckland's roads.
But, um, what now? AT will phase in the slower speeds and there's no word yet on when that will start or how long it will take.
A4E also arrived, sort of. This is Access for Everyone, the big plan to remove "non-essential" vehicles from the central city, which is being run by the council's Auckland Design Office, not AT.
A4E is a fabulous plan, but trials were meant to start in March and the first, a good idea but a very little one, didn't happen until last month: a block of High St has had some car parks removed and the footpath widened.
You could definitely die wondering in this town, sometimes.
Meanwhile, hats off to Phil Twyford, embattled minister of transport, who has ended the year by announcing an unequivocal achievement on a long-standing issue that's been bothering a lot of Aucklanders.
The new motorway lanes at Papakura-Takanini and Westgate-Lincoln Rd are open! I'm just going to leave it there.
Actually, the Westgate-Lincoln Rd stretch comes complete with a new cycleway as well. You know what they say: If you want to build a bike lane, build a motorway first.
The council election was remarkable. Mayor Phil Goff romped home for a second term and retained his majority support around the council table. That seems like a clear endorsement of the programme for better public transport, more people-friendly town centres and a cleaner environment.
The way is now open for Goff to argue strongly to Government about how Auckland strengthens that programme with its share of the big new infrastructure spend. He has rightly told the PM the top priority should be supporting new housing developments, and pointed to the need to fast track the new northwest busway.
But Goff's full list suggests he wants most of the growth to happen on the outskirts of the city. That risks making existing problems worse.
Goff also continues to attack the proposal to move the port. He says the proposal to take it north, to Northport, amounts to theft of a council asset. In fact, the proposal suggests all the owners of the ports in the upper North Island should work out how to do it, to the advantage of all. That's not unreasonable.
More good news: the town-centre masterplans in Henderson and Takapuna have been awarded a 5 Green Star–Communities rating.
Auckland has many Green Star buildings but this is a first: a quality assurance award not for the buildings but for what happens around them. They're going to be "low carbon, resilient, vibrant, safe, fun places for people", says Tessa Meyer from Panuku, the council agency responsible.
The council declared a climate emergency this year, by unanimous vote, but there has not yet been much evidence they know what that means. This award, created by the Green Building Council of Australia and adapted by its New Zealand counterpart for use here, sets an independent, objective benchmark.
It's good, but not that good. While we have two suburbs with a Green Star–Communities rating, the land of coal and raging firestorms, aka Australia, has 45.
The gold standard is set by Sydney's Barangaroo, the newly developed inner-city area between Darling Harbour and the old wharves of Walsh Bay, around the corner from the harbour bridge. Massive mixed-use high rise, but also full of parks, recreation and community life, all with a deeply green use of resources.
Barangaroo offers a terrific model for any future plan for waterfront Auckland, should land become available at, oh, I don't know, the place we use to handle car imports and containers?