Independent investigation into the handling of SkyPath

We’ve been in correspondence with NZTA’s Chair Michael Stiassny this week.  Unfortunately we had to tell him that he’d been badly misinformed by his staff. Yesterday he ordered an independent investigation into NZTA’s handling of SkyPath:

“I have received correspondence from the Skypath Trust today (March 7) which includes statements which contradict my understanding of the NZTA’s previous dealings with the Trust. I am deeply concerned with this situation and I have ordered an independent investigation to establish the facts once and for all.”

After 10 years of planning, we hope that this will be the breakthrough for SkyPath to finally be delivered.  Our goal is for Aucklanders to be walking and cycling across their Bridge by 2021. 

We are hopeful that the investigation will clear the air on SkyPath and resolve the current impasse on NZTA’s use of SkyPath Trust’s intellectual property. Hear the Radio NZ interview.

Government’s intervention welcomed…

Yesterday afternoon Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter advised:

A shared walking and cycling path across Auckland Harbour Bridge is a very important project for Auckland, it’s a priority for this Government and we are committed to delivering it. I urge both parties to get back round the table to work out a mutually beneficial solution.

We welcome the opportunity to find that “mutually beneficial solution” so that Aucklanders can be walking and cycling across their Harbour Bridge in 2021.

We’ve asked NZTA whether they are willing to meet and invited Auckland Council (as owners of SkyPath’s resource consent) to also attend. More details available in this Radio NZ story.

We’re confident SkyPath’s construction will commence next year

As reported by Radio NZ, NZTA has demanded SkyPath’s intellectual property without any compensation. SkyPath Trust owes $1.6M to its 12 consultants who have over the last decade developed the SkyPath design in colloration with NZTA, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, Panuku Auckland, Mana whenua and other key stakeholders.

Thankfully the report by Radion NZ includes this free legal advice on whether NZTA should be paying for the intellectual property they want from SkyPath Trust…

Intellectual property lawyer Clive Elliott QC said it was reasonable for the Transport Agency to want to kick the tyres of the trust’s design documents – but there were limits.

“If we are talking about a specific design then clearly the Transport Agency can’t use that design without the trust’s consent, and if that’s what they’re seeking to do, they’ve got to pay for it,” Mr Elliott said.

We remain confident that NZTA will come back to the table and we will be able to agree upon the payment terms for NZTA to acquire the rights to use SkyPath Trust’s intellectual property and project information. This will enable NZTA to start construction of SkyPath next year.

Calling on Minister Twyford to stop NZTA delaying SkyPath

NZTA’s surprise announcement of wanting to revisit the design options is a disingenuous ploy to derail SkyPath.  NZTA knows that changing the design at this late stage requires going back and reopening SkyPath’s resource consent application. This would risk years of delay as the NRA would take it to the Environment Court again.

NZTA have been involved in every step of the SkyPath design and consenting process (sometimes reluctantly, sometimes helpfully). This included reviews of the design options, construction materials and widths of the shared path to identify the optimal solution. NZTA then supported Auckland Council’s application for resource consent of the final design for SkyPath.

With SkyPath’s consent obtained, the Government asked NZTA to deliver SkyPath and has provided the funding. It is unnecessary and unacceptable for NZTA to now want to revisit the design.

Until recently, SkyPath was progress well:

  • NZTA was committed to delivering SkyPath per the conditions of the resource consent
  • NZTA’s consultants, engineers Beca and architects Monk McKenzie, had reviewed SkyPath and identified no key issues
  • NZTA was preparing to commission SkyPath Trust’s design team to assist in its detailed business case and
  • NZTA was in discussion with SkyPath Trust to acquire the project’s intellectual property.

Then it all ground to a halt and we learnt that NZTA wants to go back in time and revisit the design options.

Hence we are calling on Minister Twyford to get NZTA focused on the delivery of SkyPath.

SkyPath progressing on all fronts

SkyPath Trust is excited at the progress being made to deliver SkyPath.

Project Director Bevan Woodward says “With the pending transfer of ownership of SkyPath’s Intellectual Property and project knowledge from SkyPath Trust to NZTA, we are pleased to see NZTA’s urgency in progressing its Detailed Business Case for SkyPath’s delivery.  We fully support NZTA’s objective to deliver SkyPath per the consent conditions determined by the Court of Appeal.

With the sale of the Intellectual Property and project knowledge to NZTA, the Trust will be able to pay the deferred fees owed to SkyPath’s design team.  These consultants have worked over the last decade, often under challenging circumstances without payment, to make SkyPath a viable project –  a transformational project that is now consented, funded and ready for NZTA to deliver.

Without the remarkable commitment and perseverance of our consultants, there would be no SkyPath project today.  We look forward to seeing them finally paid!

And NZTA’s progress on the walking and cycling link between SeaPath and Takapuna, known as ‘SeaPath’, is also pleasing. NZTA’s Detailed Business Case for SeaPath’s delivery is being put forward for approval at NZTA’s December 2018 board meeting.”

With the pending transition of SkyPath’s ownership to NZTA, the Trust is looking at new goals to improve walking and cycling in New Zealand.  A key focus is safe speeds, for example: urban speed limits of 30 km/h and on rural roads 80 km/h or less.

Woodward says “We must reduce road fatalities whilst improving safety for active transport users. Safer speed limits are the single most effective and easily adopted intervention to achieve this. This is an exciting challenge on which we are working to get NZTA on board.”