Back in October 2019, in my column, I wrote that if anything happened to our Harbour Bridge it would be catastrophic and there is still not a word from central or local government about a second harbour crossing. These works should be happening now when the cost of money is so cheap; in fact it has never been so cheap with interest rates being so low. All that is ever done is talk, with new concepts brought out every so often, but nothing happens. Now, look what happened back in September when a truck with a container hit one of the metal struts. I always thought that the damage would be caused by a ship hitting one of the concrete caissons, but no, it took a 20 foot container to cripple our city for a week.
Also, about the Harbour Bridge, from what I have heard from my man at the coal face, the current consultant for the Skypath construction has been replaced, and another consultant has been employed. Also I have heard that the proposed design has gone back to the drawing board; they have finally realised the gradient proposed is too steep and if they try and flatten the gradient that will limit the height of yacht masts going under the bridge. I wonder how many millions of dollars has been spent so far on this proposed Skypath, and do we think we will ever see this come to fruition? This is not productive spending, there are better things to spend our money on at present.
While we are on about the Harbour Bridge, let’s go back to the road access on the northern approaches to the bridge. I have been saying for a long time now that the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) should be looking at these roads closely as there will be a perfect storm one morning where there will be a king tide and a strong easterly breeze, and this will cause flooding along that stretch of motorway. Imagine the chaos that will cause, culminating in damage to vehicles by salt water.
Still on the subject of our beloved harbour, I see that Auckland Transport is proposing to axe the ferry service at Stanley Bay to Auckland. This is after they spent tens of thousands of dollars upgrading Stanley Bay Wharf. The reason given is that resources have to be put into Hobsonville ferries. Surely to God these people at AT should have seen that tens of thousands of people are living and going to be living in Hobsonville due to the expansion of that area, and maybe, planned another ferry to cater for them.
The Stanley Bay ferry has been running for years and years. Most of the people who use that ferry are able to walk to the wharf, as there is very little parking around that area. With the proposed axing of this service, those commuters will now need to drive to Devonport, and we all know what parking is like there.
I’ll go back now to August 2014, when we were told by an Auckland Transport representative that the Northcote safe cycle route proposed from Smales Farm to Northcote Point Road would cost $4m and of that $400,000 was allocated for the Northcote Road crossing of the SH1 motorway. This bicycle crossing was to be a simple clip-on addition to the existing road bridge. When I heard this I laughed at his estimates and replied that $400,000 wouldn’t meet one month’s traffic management. From 2014 to 2017 the estimate for this proposed Safe Cycleway ballooned out to $17.5m and actual build costs exceeding $22m, but wait for it, that doesn’t include the Northcote Road bridge. This is an NZTA project so Auckland Transport can throw their hands in the air, and shout “Not Us”! However it is an integral part of any cost benefit analysis that is needed to make the system work. Actual use of the cycleway even during L3 lockdown was abysmal at best. The economic report was in my opinion at best fraudulent and without accountability.
I can understand why a budget of $400,000 for a bikeway across SH1 and Northcote Road would have blown out to many millions, as I have been watching the construction of this bikeway for many months now. I have noticed the piling on the eastern and western side of the motorway is some 30m deep with a 1m diameter reinforced concrete pile. This is overkill to say the least. It should hold a couple of mountain bikes at the best, I guess.
And here is what I am looking forward to – America’s Cup Christmas regattas off Devonport in December, the Louis Vuitton racing in January and February, and America’s Cup in March. There is a proposed start time of 4pm for two races per afternoon, off Devonport. Lake Road will be fun. Just imagine the numbers of people trying to get into and then out of Devonport to watch the races. What I have heard is that Auckland Transport are planning to let people park in Takapuna and then shuttle them down to Devonport. I have also heard that they are planning to triple the numbers of parking wardens to ticket people parking for more than three hours – they have to pay for the shuttles after all. Something to look forward to! Happy Christmas looming up. What a year it has been.