City Vision’s Waitematā Local Board members Alex Bonham, Anahera Rawiri and Richard Northey report back on 2023.

This year has been hard in many ways – floods, cost of living – and council has pivoted to address them all. However, behind the headlines, there have been a number of great things happening. Here are some highlights.

Amazing communities 

Neighbours were the first responders in January and have continued to rally around those who have been deeply traumatised by the floods. City Vision has supported people hit and advocated for a change in the approach in how we manage stormwater in the city. We have led community meetings and called for the local and central government funding package to help people leave the most vulnerable sites and get on with their lives. We also strongly support strategies to reduce risk in the future through infrastructure investment,  establishing blue-green corridors (including in Grey Lynn) and restricting building in the wrong place.  (City Vision’s October webinar on Storm Recovery and Climate Resilience )

A new chapter for Leys and Studio One Toi Tū

The shutting of the Leys Institute, then Studio One Toi Tū left a hole in Ponsonby life. Since then, Studio One has been seismically strengthened, restored, reopened, and offering art classes again. Designs to restore the Leys library and gym have been developed with the community,  and construction is due to start next year.  However, we are legally obliged to do seismic strengthening and rely on the governing body funding this aspect to progress the whole project.

Ponsonby Park

Mid last year the Waitematā Local Board directed staff to get on with turning 254 Ponsonby Road into a garden/civic space using the funds we had. Two months ago, designs for the space were signed off. The plan incorporates seating, shelter, plantings, power for events, attractive lighting, trees and a well-drained lawn. Construction starts early next year. Thanks to everyone who has helped make this happen, including the initial donor of the resources that fund the project: it has been a great team effort!

Festivals old and new

After so many event cancellations in recent years it was brilliant to enjoy the new Italian-inspired Play Festival over Easter weekend. The sun was shining and 5000 people, young and old came out to enjoy games from myriad cultures. Just last month the Parnell Rose Festival was a delight, going back to its roots, celebrating roses, gardens and gardening, with lots of seedlings given away. In November it was wonderful to enjoy Grey Lynn Park Festival at last (this time with two soundstages, stalls and tent talks) and the Franklin Road Christmas Lights lit up from 1 December until Christmas Eve.

Making it easier to get around

The Great North Road and Meola Road upgrades are underway despite the baffling opposition of some members of C&R and not before time. Meola Road is sinking, water utilities underneath need improving, and both roads need to be resurfaced and made safer for the many hundreds of students walking and cycling to school. The Community Vision for Great North Road wanted trees, shade, cycleways, safe crossings, plantings and lively shops and these are on their way. There are some great cafes and businesses on the ridge that would appreciate support through the works. (An addiction to coffee and a hankering for style can be good for the community). Also, thanks to City Vision support, the local board will make getting around easier and safer in Ponsonby Road, the Domain, Parnell and outside St Mary’s College.

The semi-permanent redesign of Queen Street is now complete and it is a pleasure to walk down. Thanks to the city centre targeted rate-funded improvements, downtown is buzzing. The strengthened sea wall and the ferry basin on the waterfront in front of Commercial Bay has improved resilience as well as the vitality of the area.  The area behind the Waitematā station at Britomart is getting a full upgrade.  Galway St reopened this year and construction on Tyler St and the East side station plaza follow next year.

There is more focus now on the area around Aotea Square. To echo Mark Twain, the reports of midtown’s death are greatly exaggerated (in fact foot traffic is surging) but the area is undergoing some surgery to unclog the arteries for longterm health! Under construction is a world-class new train station on Wellesley Street (Waihorotiu) that will serve the Aotea Centre, Civic, Art Gallery, Library and universities. While they are digging up the road, water utilities are also being upgraded.

City Vision strongly supports a greener, more pedestrian-focused city centre with sufficient servicing and loading facilities for local businesses. The changes to the streetscape will start to be seen in 2024 and most done by the end of 2025.  If anyone wants to transform the old Sky World building into something beautiful, accessible and extraordinary that would be brilliant . . .

The underpass at Myers Park is now complete and gives a hint of what is to come. Improvements include new plantings, ramps, steps, a boardwalk and stunning interactive artwork from Graham Tipene.

Parks and Playgrounds

Gladstone Park playground has been renewed, as has the playground at the Point Erin pools. Grey Lynn’s senior playground, Basque Park, and Heard Park are in the planning stages and are the next cabs on the rank. Visitors to Parnell station can take the new underpass that opens this month, to access the recently completed footpath to Lower Domain Drive and then on to the Auckland Domain Wintergardens, which opened its doors again back in March following a prize-winning (and on budget) restoration.  City Vision has ensured the investment in new Domain pathways goes ahead.

We are planting more trees and support river and stream restoration to improve biodiversity and ecosystem health and create lovely recreational spaces for all to enjoy.

Youth Voice

A deliberative democracy pilot was held in Waitemata to help decision-making around provision of community facilities for youth. The overriding theme was that some physical spaces (as well as programmes) are needed, particularly in Newmarket, but that also there is so much good stuff going on that people don’t know about. We are looking at how we can fill in the gaps.

In our goal to create all-age-friendly cities we are delighted that Auckland Council has a play champion looking for opportunities to cultivate play and delight in children (and adults) beyond the playground and into natural areas and town centres.

Reducing Waste

City Vision is hugely supportive of the food scraps roll out that has already diverted 9 million kilos of food scraps from landfill. We are listening to apartment dwellers on how the scheme may be expanded into multi-unit developments. The Waiōrea Resource Recovery Centre has opened on Great North Road – this has been a huge collaborative effort over many years and a cause for celebration. They run lots of events as well as providing a place to pass items on for resale or recycling.

Planning ahead

All the local boards have adopted their local board plans that will hold for the next three years. The City Vision team put a considerable amount of work into finalising the Waitematā Local Board plan following public consultation. Priorities for City Vision include maintaining great community facilities and programmes, ensuring transport choice and road safety (particularly around schools), attractive and vibrant town centres, and prudent financial management and we support working with business associations to leverage great placemaking outcomes off CRL and Auckland Transport works. Sure, Aucklanders want to get moving but Auckland’s city fringe centres are not simply road corridors, they are destinations, awesome destinations, in themselves.

Please do get in touch with your local City Vision reps for any assistance or information on local issues. We are Alexandra Bonham ([email protected]), Richard Northey ([email protected]), and Anahera Rawiri ([email protected])  in Waitematā or you can contact Councillor Julie Fairey on [email protected] or text directly on 0279113030.