Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions:

1.         Why not wait until the next harbour crossing?

It is uncertain whether the next harbour crossing will enable future walking and cycling access. NZTA have advised that they would need to monitor traffic volumes after the next harbour crossing, a road tunnel, has been implemented before deciding whether to allocate traffic lanes on the AHB to allow walking & cycling. Given that the priority will be to allocate two existing traffic lanes on the AHB to dedicated bus lanes, there is a distinct possibility that walking and cycling will not be provided for.

SkyPath has the advantage of being a feasible, self-funding solution over a future uncertain possibility. This is why NZTA, in 2012*, adopted SkyPath as their preferred option for providing walking and cycling across the Waitemata harbour.

2.         Won’t the next harbour crossing make SkyPath redundant?

No, the next harbour crossing is planned to be a road tunnel so any walking and cycling must be provided on the existing AHB. If NZTA did decide to close an AHB traffic lane for walking and cycling, then a cycle lane would be provided on the western clip-on and SkyPath would become pedestrians-only (same configuration as Sydney Harbour Bridge).

The ability to continue using SkyPath as a pedestrian facility will save NZTA approximately $25 million (see 3 below).

3.         Won’t the next harbour crossing enable walking and cycling on the existing Auckland Harbour Bridge for much less cost?

No it won’t. NZTA’s consultants recommended in 2010 that to enable walking and cycling on AHB after the road tunnel is built would require an extension to the eastern clip-on of 1.2 metres**.

The cost of this 1.2 metre extension to the eastern clip-on plus barriers for both clip-ons is estimated at approximately $25 million, comparable to the cost of SkyPath (excluding the special effects night lighting, observation decks and mobility landings).

4.         What other advantages does SkyPath have?

SkyPath is planned to be accessible for wheelchair users through the innovative use of composite materials to provide mobility landings (NZTA’s option would prohibit wheelchair users).

SkyPath is below the traffic deck, so there is less noise for users and motorists’ views are not impeded by pathway barriers.

SkyPath can be built now (it doesn’t need to wait until after the next harbour crossing) and it is fully compatible with the next harbour crossing.

SkyPath’s landings at Northcote Point are less obtrusive that those planned by NZTA because SkyPath is already under the traffic deck.  SkyPath also has the advantage of providing observation platforms and special effect night lighting.

5.         Have the residents of Northcote and St Marys Bay been consulted?

Yes, the SkyPath Trust has done extensive consultation with residents starting in 2011. This has included a number of meetings and ongoing dialogue with the Northcote Residents Association, St Marys Bay Association and Westhaven Marina Users Association.

6.         Why does SkyPath Trust support a Government funded SkyPath as opposed to a Public Private Partnership (PPP)?

  1. It doesn’t work as a PPP. Downer Construction advised that SkyPath is too small and unique to work as a PPP when they withdrew from the SkyPath PPP consortium in February. The estimated cost of SkyPath as a PPP is $248 million over 25 years. SkyPath’s construction by traditional procurement is circa $40 million (excluding localised strengthening costs for the Auckland Harbour Bridge).
  2. It will provide greater traffic congestion relief. SkyPath’s effect on the Auckland Harbour Bridge is to add an extra lane of peak hour traffic capacity. Tolling SkyPath will reduce the number of users and therefore its effectiveness.
  3. It will provide a greater reduction in greenhouse gases. With the Government’s commitment to the Paris Accord on Climate Change, it would be contrary to toll Aucklanders who are choosing to walk and cycle.
  4. State Highway projects are fully funded by Government. NZTA’s ‘SeaPath’, the shared path from SkyPath to Takapuna is to be fully funded by Government, SkyPath deserves the same funding approach.
  5. SkyPath is too important to be a PPP test case. SkyPath is the most critical gap in Auckland region’s walking and cycling network, however Auckland Council’s Investment Office has been given responsibility for SkyPath and they only want to do SkyPath as a PPP. This is because they need a project to experiment as a PPP which they hope could be the solution to Council’s future funding deficient.

7.         Won’t it be dangerous mixing pedestrians and cyclists?

The design and operation of SkyPath will reduce the speed differential between cyclists and pedestrians and encourage a ‘share with care’ environment. The mobility landings are effective traffic calming devices helping to reduce speed by cyclists on the 3 degree slope. In addition there will be on-site security personnel and CCTV cameras to enforce a speed limit of 15km/h for cyclists.

8.         Will it be crowded at either end?

SkyPath trip numbers are expected to range from about 1,000 on week days to 13,000 per day on the busiest summer weekends which coincide with a cruise ship in port. On the busiest days the numbers of users are expected to be spread over the day and peak at about 28 people minute. Most activity will occur on the southern side as tourists are likely to make a ‘top and back’ trip. To enable people to easily disperse, SkyPath’s landings on each side have multiple access points:

Southern side: Westhaven Promenade, Curran St, Shelly Beach Road and Westhaven Drive

Northern side: NZTA’s northern walking and cycling link to Takapuna, Northcote Point ferry, and Princes St.

9.         Where will everyone park?

SkyPath users will be encouraged to not use private motor vehicles to access the pathway, and instead make use of existing walking, cycling and public transport facilities. Recreational users in particular are encouraged to start at the Southern Landing, which is easier to access with these modes. However those that do choose to drive will be directed to use public parking buildings in Takapuna or the City Centre (less than 3km away); then walk, cycle or use public transport to get to SkyPath. New walking and cycling connections for each side of the bridge are proposed that will further improve access to SkyPath.  Additionally to protect the residential amenity of surrounding residential streets, Skypath will work with AT on a proposed tailored residential parking schemes to discourage SkyPath users from parking in these streets.

The new walking & cycling connections for each side of the bridge and public transport service improvements will further enhance sustainable access to SkyPath.

10.       What hours will SkyPath be open?

6 am to 10 pm each day. Initially, SkyPath was planned to be open 24 hours over the weekends however, after consultation with the local residents we have reduced the hours of operation.

11.       How much will it cost to use SkyPath?

Users with a HOP card users will have free access, whilst those without a HOP card (eg: visitors to Auckland) will pay a fee.  This enables the operating costs of SkyPath to be covered whilst providing a user management system to control the maximum number of concurrent user numbers.

12:       How many people are likely to visit SkyPath?

An independent study approved by Auckland Council has provided the following estimates for annual visitors to SkyPath, including commuters, tourists, and recreational users:

Year 1: 781,384 trips
Year 5: 1.2 million trips

13.   What is being done to address the concerns of local residents?

Concerns Mitigation
Residents’ privacy at Northcote Point Redesign of landings to direct SkyPath users away from residential homes.Screening where needed to ensure privacy and reduce any noise of SkyPath users.
Traffic and parking SkyPath is a link in a dedicated pathway between the CBD and Takapuna.  As the catalyst for improved walking and cycling facilities, SkyPath will help reduce traffic in Auckland.There is provision for bus and ferry services to drop off and pick up SkyPath users, but no car parking (as this could encourage more traffic).  Existing car parking will be protected by implementing residents-only parking in local streets as deemed appropriate by AT and parking restrictions at business/marina areas.Bus stops and drop-off/pick-up can be accommodated at the ferry terminal, Northcote Point, and at Westhaven, west of the Auckland Harbour Bridge (AHB).
Anti-social behaviour On-site security personnel, CCTV & PA system to address anti-social behaviour.Reduced hours of operation (6:30 am to 10 pm). Stakeholders’ liaison group to monitor and address issues.Currently there is a degree of anti-social behaviour occurring under the AHB at Stokes Point. We expect with the implementation of SkyPath and its on-site security to resolve such issues.
Detrimental to heritage Extensive consultation to understand how SkyPath can enhance each landing area which are currently vacant sites regarded as dark and foreboding spaces by Iwi.Artists have been engaged to assist with landings design and will be working with iwi representatives as part of the next design stage.
Lack of connecting walking and cycling paths NZTA is provide a high quality direct walking and cycling facility called “SeaPath” to Takapuna.  Upgrade the existing path to Northcote Point ferry and bus stop on Queen Street.Integration with the new Westhaven Promenade, Curran St and Shelly Beach Road footpaths.
User safety SkyPath’s gradient is only 3 degrees, which is regarded as “easy” by the NZ Cycle Trail guidelines.  SkyPath includes mobility breaks for disabled users which also act as traffic calming measures for cyclists. Reviewed by fire service, accessible by Westhaven Security personnel on foot, bicycle or golf carts.
Marina conflicts Redesign of Westhaven landing to the west of the AHB to avoid marina conflict. Integrated with Westhaven promenade.

14.       What happens in the event of a fire or other emergency?

The design of SkyPath has been reviewed by emergency services to ensure it meets the appropriate regulations. In the event of a fire there is always two exit routes, in addition the fire service will have emergency access from above.

15.       What’s the maximum number of users and estimated time to transit through?

The maximum number of concurrent users on SkyPath will be determined by either the overall loadings on the bridge or the health and safety considerations of SkyPath. With the move to the lightweight composite construction for SkyPath, our engineers advise that the health and safety considerations, for the foreseeable future, will set the limit for the maximum number of concurrent users.

We believe that the transit time will depend largely on the purpose of the trip eg: commuter, recreational user and tourists.  A cyclist could take 5 minutes, whilst a tourist may stop at the observation decks and take up to hour or so.

16.       How are people managed from creating pinch points at the observation decks?

The observation decks are two metres wider to allow people to enjoy the experience of SkyPath without impeding the flow of users.

17.       What will be on the wall?

We are yet to determine the design for the wall panels at the observation decks. This will be completed as part of the detailed design stage.

18.       What will SkyPath’s privacy walls for the Northern landing be made of, and how will sound of users be mitigated?

It is proposed that the SkyPath will be enclosed as it passes under the bridge and lands at Northcote Point onto Princes Street adjacent to Stokes Point reserve. This section of the SkyPath will be formed with the rib beams on both sides and enclosed with a woven metal mesh to reduce possible noise and light issues with the adjacent properties. This will be a semi permeable material as, given the background noise of the motorway, it is not expected that pedestrians and cyclists using SkyPath will create noise disturbance to the neighbouring residents.

19.       What is the timeframe for SkyPath?

SkyPath has been in hiatus since resource consent was granted late last year. The proposed PPP to deliver SkyPath fell over in February when consortium partner Downer Construction advised SkyPath was too small and unique to work as a PPP.

Government commitment of investment would mean we can get on with the delivery SkyPath (without the proposed PPP’s 25 years of tolling SkyPath users and revenue underwrite by Auckland ratepayers).

20.      Who were the designers of the SkyPath design approved for resource consent and what was the design approach?

The design of SkyPath requires the expertise of a number of disciplines and it is being carried out by a collaboration of some of New Zealand’s leading designers through a workshop process and with reviews by the NZTA, Auckland Council Planning team, the Urban Design Panel and Pānuku  Development Auckland’s Technical Advisory Group.

Whilst traversing SkyPath, our focus is on giving users a high quality experience of the unique vistas.  Hence the design provides observation decks and includes mobility landings to ensure accessibility whilst reducing excessive speed by cyclists.

The design approach of the SkyPath whilst on the Harbour Bridge is based on a very simple and restrained treatment that respects the form of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, promotes a safe and open air experience.  It maintains an uncluttered shared space of 4 metres width with additional 2 metre extensions for six observation decks at the structural piers. This approach is supported by key factors such as NZTA’s preference, build-ability, long-term maintenance, loadings, and the limited ability to see the design of SkyPath on the harbour bridge (unless one is in a helicopter nearby).

At either end of bridge, where SkyPath leaves the bridge structure and meets the ground, is when people can engage and can experience the external design elements of SkyPath. Hence the design is more expressive of the particular site of Te Onewa/Northcote Point and Westhaven/Point Erin. At these respective sites the team is assisted with artists and mana whenua designers.

The SkyPath uses the leading marine technology composite material which is light and very strong in the form a series of U beams that clip onto the underside of the eastern edge of the bridge with composite foam core deck. Horizontal composite rods are spaced out across the enclosure to allow viewing and maintaining safety.

The SkyPath design team is:

Project director – Bevan Woodward, SkyPath Trust

Design lead and coordinator – Garth Falconer, Reset Urban Design

Project Engineer – Roger Twinane, Aireys Consultants

Transport Engineer – Max Robitzsch, Traffic Design Group

Composite engineering –Tony Stanton, Gurit

Composite construction- Core Builders – Tim Smyth and Susan Lake

Planning – Richard Blakey

Lighting design – Richard Bracebridge, Lightworks

North landing artists – Caroline Robinson and Rueben Kirkwood (Ngai Tai and Kawerau O Maki)

Southern landing artists – Martin Leung-Wai and Katz Mahi (Ngati Whatua)

 

References:

* For more information refer AWHC Network Plan – Walking & Cycling, Pg E10

**Recommended option 3, , AWHC Network Plan – Walking & Cycling, Pg E9.