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Seapath and Naturepath

At the opening of the Grafton Gully cycleway on 6 September 2014, John Key gave his support to Skypath across the bridge linking to cycleways on the North Shore. (Recording available at http://transportblog.co.nz/2014/09/06/grafton-gully-opening/).  The proposed route north of Skypath has been labelled "Seapath" by the trust promoting the Skypath project. North Shore Forest and Bird have come up with a proposal that they have titled "Naturepath".  With the elections coming up, all parties are promoting the importance of cycling facilities and of encouraging people out of their cars.

However, the name is not important. 
The issue is what is best for the community and for wider Auckland.

This article backgrounds the history of the alternative projects and the priorities that should be given to the various projects. 

The alternative options

As outlined below, a number of options have been proposed over the last 30 years.
The two key alternatives are whether priority should be given to construction on the east or west side of the motorway:

(1) A cycle/walkway along the eastern edge of the motorway from Northcote Point to Esmonde Road giving access to proposed restoration of the sea shore
(2) A cycle/walkway from Northcote Point to Akoranga Drive along the western side of the motorway giving access to existing natural heritage features and with multiple linkage points for the local community - click here for the Naturepath brochure and here for another web page about NaturePath which talks more about the birds of Shoal Bay:  http://naturepathnorthshore.blogspot.co.nz/

While both options may be valid in the longer term, there are unlikely to be funds to build both in the near future.   

The pros and cons of the two options 

 Question 
..........................  
 Western option 
............................................................... 
 Eastern option ......................................................................
 Commuting    Gives multiple entry and exit points for Northcote people and connection to AUT, Hato Petera, Akoranga Bus station and the Onewa Road and Esmonde Road shared cycleways.  Appears geared to Takapuna residents. Connection to Northcote is over Exmouth pedestrian bridge - is this likely to attract commuters?
 Recreational      cycling  Provides links to the Onepoto Basin cycling facilities, AUT and the sports grounds on Northcote Road (netball, rugby, cricket) and via Esmonde Road to Devonport Greenway Links to Devonport Greenway
 Walking Provides multiple entry and exit points; walkers can cross the Exmouth Road footbridge to view shore birds Limited entry points. 
 Cultural Would link to Awataha Marae Nil
 Educational Would allow tourists and school parties to explore geology of tuff craters Arguably school groups could study bird life - but this is possible currently. 
 Ecology  Impacts limited but more manageable over life of project.  Requires expert assessment.
 Flora Connects to Tuff Crater native bush restoration Nil
 Bird life Would not impact the abundant shore birds in Shoal Bay including the rare dotterel Serious risks would arise to bird life if dogs and other pets have access to the area. The existing rat control programme would be undermined if visitors dropped food scraps along the walkway. Dogs would need to be totally excluded. 
 Sea life Not known Not known
 ViewsViews available from the Exmouth Road overbridge and from the Northcote Dinghy locker area. Views across the bay at low tide from sea level may not merit high priority? If barriers were created to dampen motorway noise, they would interfere with views from further back. 
 Swimming It is difficult to see the benefits of creating swimming beaches in shallow water. Beach restoration would be best addressed at the old "Gold Hole" and by the dinghy lockers - which would be accessible from the western proposal While restoration sounds worthwhile, how many people would choose to swim in shallow water beside a noisy motorway with Takapuna beaches so close by?
 Impact on Northcote Point If Skypath goes ahead, this route could encourage tourists away from Northcote Point by encouraging them to see the route as extending well beyond the Harbour Bridge itself    Might encourage parking down by the old toll plaza?
  Costs Would involve less hard landscaping. Local people are already volunteering in the Tuff Crater bush restoration project.  This enthusiasm could make construction of the western option easier to progress.  Hard landscaping required for 4 kms
 Its attractiveness for visitors would depend on whether the restoration work could actually create attractive swimming beaches in a shallow tidal bay.
 Housing density A complex of cycle/walkways including the Lake Road safe cycling route, the proposed Northcote Greenway and the Naturepath route would create a network of commuting and recreational cycleways to support the intensification proposed in the Northcote special housing area while mitigating congestion on Lake Road and Onewa Road.  The Reset proposal envisages "a more dense residential area next to Shoal Bay" - it is not clear what is implied here.  If the proposal envisages that the costs of beach restoration would be paid for from intensified residential accommodation along the shoreline, this requires extensive cons    ultation with local people on both sides of Shoal Bay.
 Harbour tunnel See Environmental-effects-of-an-additional-waitemata-harbour-crossing/#comments   See Environmental-effects-of-an-additional-waitemata-harbour-crossing/#comments 

At this stage, our conclusion is that the case for a cycle/walkway on the western side of the motorway is clearly the top priority at the present time.
However we would welcome alternative points of view, factual data, photographs, etc.

Click here for photos and notes on a proposed bridge from Stafford Park to the Wave Bridge at the bottom of Onewa Road.

If you would like to contribute to this analysis and discussion, please add your thoughts to our Facebook page. Please note - we aim to keep the discussion constructive and fair. Any abusive or offensive comments will be discouraged. 

We would be happy if the western route were still called Seapath - the name isn't important - it's the benefits to the community and the environment which really matter.  If the eastern option is chose as the first priority, the benefits in our view will be limited. If the western option is implemented now there will be multiple immediate benefits for the local community.  We hope that NZTA which is currently employing Mr Falconer and the Reset company to do the investigation will come up on the side of the western route - unless they can produce evidence that the eastern route is more beneficial to the community.


FOOTNOTE:

We suggest that there would be considerable attractions to Auckland as a whole to foster the shore birds of Shoal Bay as a unique feature of Auckland.   While not as spectacular as whales, seals or flamingoes, if you take the time to view the breeding area from the top of the Exmouth Road footbridge, Auckland has on its doorstep a natural wildlife feature that should be a feature of school educational programmes as well as an important niche tourist attraction - along with the native bush reserves of Kaipatiki and the history and culture of the local iwi. The Kaipatiki Local Board should grasp this opportunity to develop the western side walking and cycling route. 

BACKGROUND:

The following notes focus on access north of the Harbour Bridge and involvement by local people. For details of access across the bridge, see http://caa.org.nz/key-projects/auckland-harbour-bridge/ 

1950s:
The northern approach roads for the Auckland Harbour Bridge saw the eastern foreshore of Northcote covered by a motorway with a toll plaza over Sulphur Beach and an interchange at the bottom of Onewa Road.  The plaza, interchange and motorway have been widened over succeeding years. Northcote residents lost their swimming beach. The yacht club was moved out and eventually amalgamated with the Birkenhead club. 

1980s:
Back in 1982, the Auckland Bicycle Association and PATH were lobbying the Auckland Harbour Bridge Authority, the Auckland Regional Authority's Bicycle Planning Committee and other organisations for access across the harbour bridge and for improved access alongside the northern motorway. One of the things PATH argued then was that the important issue was not the number of people who walked or cycled over the bridge, but the fact that a lack of access across the bridge inhibited people from using cycling as a primary transport choice.

The AHBA and the ARA ran two trial shuttles in the early 1980s.  Neither really worked and they deterred all but a few cyclists. These facilities left from the Northcote Toll Plaza and attracted considerable interest - but the schedule of waiting till the shuttle turned up was a real turn off.  The ARA sponsored another cycle van and trailer from Takapuna some years later - but it got caught up in the traffic and couldn't keep to schedule.  At one point, following a motion advanced by Councillor John Strevens, a motion to open the left lane on Sunday afternoons was lost by the chairman's casting vote. This picture shows the western lane opened for pedestrians and cyclists when Birkenhead Transport services were closed by a strike. 

2004:
Auckland businessman and multisport athlete Graeme Knowles yesterday presented a 5813 signature petition to Parliament's transport and industrial relations committee calling for study into a cycleway and walkway across the Auckland Harbour Bridge . Transport Minister Pete Hodgson told committee chairman Mark Gosche in a letter that because of the interest from local people he had asked Transit to consider the issue and advise him on options. The Labour MP for Northcote, Ann Hartley, supported Mr Knowles' petition (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ and http://caa.org.nz/).

August 2011:
In August 2011, Bevan Woodward writing on behalf of GetAcross.org.nz proposed three routes from Northcote to Takapuna in a PDF titled "Cycle routes from Northcote Point (AHB Pathway access) to Takapuna". These three routes all proposed access along Queen St on Northcote Point to Onewa Road. The first two proposed the route to Takapuna via College and Akoranga Drive (one going via Lake Road and the other via Onepoto Basin).  The third route went from Onepoto via Heath Reserve and the footbridge, then proposed a route along the east side of the motorway to Esmonde Road.   It noted the difficulties of Heath Avenue.

The Walk-Bike-Ride-Kaipatiki submission to the Kaipatiki Local Board argued for network focussed on Northcote and the suburbs to the west of SH1:  "... a network of cycling routes from Northcote Wharf and northwards to connect with the Akoranga Bus Station and via the The Northcote Road sports precinct through the Fred Thomas reserve up the Wairau Valley to Totara Vale and beyond" and "The Te Raki Pae Whenua walkway/cycle route from the Northcote greenway in central Northcote and including a track along the rear of Northcote Intermediate, Onepoto Primary and Hato Petera to connect across to Smiths Bush, the down via the Esplanade Reserve through Awataha Marae and AUT then to Tuff Crater"

Various other options were discussed in 2011 and 2012 between Cycle Action and WBRK. All the proposals battled with a way to achieve a safe, pleasant crossing over Onewa Road. 

2012:
Garth Falconer of Reset Urban Design Limited proposed restoring the inner harbour area along the west side of Shoal Bay - see http://www.nzherald.co.nz/.
Mr Falconer presented his proposal to the Devonport-Takapuna and the Kaipatiki Local Boards.  To the best of our knowledge no residents groups have been consulted.  The key points of the Restoring Shoal Bay waterfront proposal were:

* Pedestrian and cycle link from Takapuna to central Auckland
* Rebuild Sulphur Beach and City of Cork Beach.
* Protect shell banks bird habitat and create a habitat at Onewa interchange.
* Enhance and extend native vegetation.
* Investigate a more dense residential area next to Shoal Bay.
* Improve pedestrian links between public open space.


2013:
Richard Hursthouse, Chair of the North Shore branch of Forest and Bird, presented a concept that addressed the key weakness in all the previous plans for cycling routes northwards from Northcote Point - namely the Onewa Road traffic volumes - with a proposal later named "NaturePath".  
The key new features of this proposal included 
  • the concept of a walkway from Stafford Park in Northcote across the mangroves and under Onewa Road.
  • a renewed call for a bridge across the mouth of Tuff Crater (which local people had been proposing since 2010 and earlier)
2014:
NZTA has employed Reset Urban Design to investigate a Seapath route northwards from Northcote Point.

2016:
NZTA publishes a discussion paper on 3 possible routes, All of which have a coastal route north of the Heath Reserve overbridge.
See attachment below "Walk-Bike-Ride-Kaipatiki submission on NZTA Seapath consultation April 2016"


See the submission "Walk-Bike-Ride-Kaipatiki submission on NZTA Seapath consultation April 2016" attached below.