If you’ve ever gone for a walk through the CBD, you’ll have seen the orange cones and slender steel scaffolding which clutter the streets like litter. Auckland’s ch-ch-changing – but why, and to what? Craccum summarises some of the developments we can expect in the next few years.
City Rail Link Summary
Underneath Auckland’s city centre exists the construction of the City Rail Link, an ambitious project that’s been met with criticism and internal issues alike.
The project was signed and authorized by the Crown and the Auckland City Council to begin construction in September 2016, and is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2024. Shortly after the project was authorised, City Rail Link Limited (CRLL) was created to oversee the project, operating independently of Auckland Transport. Original estimates cite a cost of $2.4bn for the project. The rail system will be 3.45km in length and connect the Auckland city center with the preexisting Western line at Mt Eden via the Britomart Transport Center.
But what actually is the purpose of this giant underground thingy and what problem does it solve? Basically, as it stands, trains from all over Auckland arrive at the city’s central station, Britomart. The issue is that Britomart is essentially a dead-end, so when trains arrive, they have to reverse back to their destinations awkwardly, as other trains await their turn to do the same. The City Rail Link solves this problem by creating a loop around the city so that trains no longer have to stop and reverse, but instead continue their way around the city after arriving at Britomart.
As knowledge of the project grew, advocates and naysayers made their opinions known. CRLL CEO Sean Sweeney spoke of the pragmatic benefits of the project, professing that it “will encourage people to leave their cars at home, easing the pressure on the roads for those who need to use them.” Others, however, believe that the money spent on the project would be better utilized on roads, or building a new superhighway as a way of improving Auckland’s traffic issues.
As with all projects of a colossal undertaking, the City Rail Link has had its share of hiccups. In 2016, underestimation of costs caused a blow out of $500m, with some fearing it may climb up to $1bn. Politician Phil Goff expressed his disappointment, saying “New Zealand taxpayers and Auckland ratepayers are owed an explanation for why local and central agencies may have underestimated the costs”.
Auckland Harbour Bridge’s SkyPath could start construction as soon as next year according to NZTA. If you haven’t heard of the proposed SkyPath, you’ll be glad to hear a walk- and cycle-way is set to be built on the Harbour Bridge.
The original concept of the SkyPath was dreamt up by the SkyPath Trust, a charitable trust whose aim is “to have a world class walking and cycling facility on the [Auckland Harbour Bridge],” and through partnership with the Government, the project seems to be quickly picking up speed.
“SkyPath is a transformational project that will give Aucklanders the freedom to walk and cycle from the Shore to the city, all while taking in an amazing view,” Transport Minister Phil Twyford envisions. Whilst declining to give a completion date, the Government agreed to fully fund and build the $67 million undertaking last August. This project is part of their $390 million walking and cycling investment package in the 2018/21 National Land Transport Programme.
Placing a date on the SkyPath’s completion would just be “making life more difficult for all the people working on the project,” says Twyford. However, he assures we can expect the construction to begin “in the next few years.” He also calmed fears of a toll on the SkyPath, saying “I do not expect there’ll be a cost”.
Cycling in Auckland is growing significantly, and Auckland’s mayor Phil Goff thinks “by building the most obvious gap in the walk and cycleway network, there will be a huge incentive for more people to use active modes of transportation in the place of our reliance on cars.”
So here’s hoping the SkyPath will be moving forward in the next few years, placing Auckland’s pristine Waitemata Harbour on display like never before, and reducing the traffic volume on the motorway like it so desperately needs.
Speedway Western Springs
Imagine a sweltering summer evening in Western Springs, a lakeside park that qualified as West Auckland in the late 1800s. Eels flash from beneath the water; ducks and geese mob tourists who stop to feed them, pursuing them down concrete paths and over yellowing grass like ravenous, feathered dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. An eight-year-old careens past on a bike, narrowly missing you. Nearby, a lion roars.
If you’re in the vicinity of Western Springs on a Saturday night though, don’t be surprised to hear a different noise: the unrivalled drone of car engines. Racing, revving, car engines have flavoured the neighbourhood air from November to March since 1929.
This is the Western Springs Speedway, where the cars are small and the pile-ups are not. Concrete steps ring the track like a petroleum-fuelled amphitheatre. No one sits on the bends in the track. Like how ocean rips conceal themselves in still waters, sitting on an empty corner seems like a good idea – until the first cars spray you with needles of projectile mud, and you learn better.
The Speedway has received a new lease on life: the 15th of March was due to be the club’s last meeting, after Regional Facilities Auckland chose not to renew the lease for Springs Promotion’s speedway racing. But, following a petition on change.org that ran up over 35,000 signatures in protest, the lease has been temporarily extended for another 12 months. Plans to move the Speedway from its historic venue of 90 years to Colin Dale Park in South Auckland are still underway. The plan is to construct a cricket stadium (seating at least 18,000 people) in its place – a bold three kilometers from the existing Eden Park. In the meantime, the lease extension has granted a temporary reprieve – it gives time for the new venue to be converted into a befitting race-ground, or further protests for the Speedway to be held in Western Springs, next to the park and Auckland Zoo.
In November, the revving engines will return. In the far distance, they can be mistaken for the Tardis, which makes Speedway justifiably better than a cricket pitch any time of the year.
Botany Town Centre Building Development
One of the most iconic places in East Auckland is now going to be even better. Botany Town Centre, originally opened in 2001, will soon be developing and making further expansions to the growing shopping town centre. The floor area is increasing from just over 58,000 square meters to 62,700 square meters.
AMP have announced that they will be investing $78 million into the expansion project, bringing in more international retailers as well as national retailers to create a premium shopping experience for Aucklanders. This upgrade is expected to attract more growth to the area, aligning with the already growing number of residents in Flat Bush.
The Botany Town Centre development project will be overseen by AMP Capital Shopping Centre, the specialist retail division, that currently has over A$10 billion assets under management.
These new changes include more shops, leisure, entertainment, and (of course) more food and beverages. These retailers include Swedish fashion retailer H&M, Australian beauty Mecca Maxima, Starbucks, Gong Cha, Decjuba, Platypus Shoes, Postie +, The Cosmetic Clinic and Stewart Dawsons.
The first area under development is the row of shops that have closed down between New World and the fountains leading into the food court. It will be upgraded into ‘Garden Lane’ that allows a botanical and floral environment, with a sunroof to create a more welcoming and bright ambience.
A ‘Market Square’, just in front of New World supermarket, will be filled with food trucks, kiosks and other food stations as well as an event space. There will be a skylight and a sunshade in the entrance towards the Market Square, with an automatic door that helps to control the temperature inside.
The Pavilion, formerly named ‘The Conservatory’, will also be upgraded, and will soon welcome Auckland’s third H&M clothing retail store. There will also be approximately 63 new car parks within this vicinity.
The investment into the building development for Botany Town Centre will bring more confidence to the centre, provide a more valuable shopping experience for customers, and create a more lively and welcoming environment for shoppers.
The architectural design will see a unique, floral-inspired aesthetic that provides a weather-proof shelter to increase the quality of the experience and lifestyle of shoppers in East Auckland.
The target for completion is expected to be by the end of May 2019, according to AMP.