The original creators of the SkyPath cycle and walkway over the Auckland Harbour Bridge have come up with a plan to avoid demolishing six homes for the project.
A small community of residents who live alongside the bridge are reeling over plans by the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to compulsorily acquire and demolish their homes for the shared path.
The six properties on Princes St overlooking the Waitemata Harbour have a combined value of $15 million, which partly explains the cost of the shared walking and cycleway over the bridge blowing out in cost from $67m to about $240m in less than two years.
The agency's plans came as a total shock to Carol and Rod Brown, who have lived at their 1880s villa with a rich history at Princes St for 35 years, and another Princes St resident Caryl Blanche, who said the money could be better spent elsewhere.
Now the organisation Get Across, formerly the SkyPath Trust, has come up with an alternative design that it says does not require the removal of the houses at Northcote Point.
NZTA purchased the design and intellectual property from the SkyPath Trust, which conceived the project 16 years ago and obtained consent for an earlier plan.
In a submission to the transport agency, which sought public feedback on its own plan, Get Across has produced a new design that takes the shared path under the bridge via a spiral ramp before the houses and resumes along the eastern side of the bridge past the houses.
"Our engineers have advised this is feasible after their review of NZTA's plan for Northcote Point," Get Across said in its submission.
The option is a variation to one option considered by the transport agency, but rejected in favour of the preferred option that runs past the houses.
The preferred option is called the "zig-zag" option and involves the pathway extending to Princes St via a 5.5m wide ramp on a 1:20 gradient along the eastern side of the bridge and the purchase of the six houses.
Get Across chairwoman Christine Rose said the original SkyPath consent did not involve demolishing houses and the submission showed there are other ways of dealing with the new design.
"We encourage NZTA to look at options that don't require the removal of those houses," said Rose, saying the organisation's proposals address the technical challenges without the social and economic cost of removing the houses.
She said Get Across was looking forward to the project providing high quality walking and cycling across the harbour bridge and continuing to Esmonde Rd at Takapuna.
The project, costing about $240m for SkyPath and $120m for the extension to Esmonde Rd, is part of a $6.8 billion package of transport projects announced by the Government in February, of which $3.5b will be spent in Auckland.
The Browns said the Get Across plan looks feasible but did not have the expertise to say if it was doable.
"Unfortunately this new plan would mean that every single user would pass through underneath the bridge, which would be a dramatic change to our current amenity and raise a lot of issues we fought against when then trust was seeking resource consent."
The Browns said with goodwill from the agency some of those issues could be mitigated but believe they simply want the land for their preferred option and will go to any lengths to get it.
Transport Agency Senior Manager Project Delivery Andrew Thackwray said there were 1194 online and email submissions received during last month's public consultation on the route and ramp design.
"In fairness to all those who gave their time to contribute ideas and views, it would not be appropriate to single out a single submission for comment at this time," said Thackwray.
He said the project team is analysing the feedback, will form their responses and publish a report. The team has also published a report on six options considered for the Princes St ramp.
The options included Waka Kotahi's preferred pathway design and it is now finalising and documenting the preferred design before lodging Notices of Requirement and resource consent applications in mid-2020, Thackwray said.