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Rawene car park

Auckland Council started $9m project to stabilise land six weeks before landslide

The huge Rawene car park slip could create a dam endangering the iconic Chelsea heritage park below it, council engineers say.

At a local board meeting on Wednesday, Auckland Council’s geotech lead Ross Roberts said they were monitoring the situation “carefully” as there was a risk of the landslide causing a dam.

“The real problem we are considering is that there will be a load of silt coming down,” he said.

Member Lindsay Waugh asked: “On a worst-case scenario could it take out the bank above the lower lake/cooling pond?”

Roberts said he had visited the Chelsea Estate Heritage Park below the slip and the worst-case scenario was “highly unlikely” as any flooding from a dam establishing and breaching would result in over-land flow rather than underground erosion.

“It would spread out and be a bit of a mess on the surface,” Roberts said.

“I might hold you to that one,” Waugh said.

Six weeks before the landslide swallowed the back end of the Auckland City car park, Auckland Council began an “essential” $9-million project to strengthen unstable land below that leads to the Chelsea Heritage Estate.

Auckland Council said, in an email dated August 15, that the Chelsea Heritage Estate stormwater project was to renew the aging and damaged stormwater pipes to reduce the risk of collapse and blockage.

In a prescient email, project spokeswoman Liz Kirschberg said: “Surface runoff from the Huka Road and Rawene Road stormwater drain flows over the former landfill and may cause slope instability during large rain events.”

Construction began at the end of August 2017 and was planned to end December 2018.

Local board chairwoman Danielle Grant said in August, the stormwater improvements to Chelsea Estate Heritage Park should see the land stabilised, the water quality improved and an overall improvement to the main walking tracks in the construction area.

The stormwater project is on-going but engineers are now “monitoring the situation” at the slip-site above.

Article by Laine Moger
Published 20 October 2017 > The North Shore Times – stuff.co.nz

Categories
Rawene car park

Q & A: Auckland Council and Auckland Transport discuss Rawene Rd slip

Top AT and Council staff maintain local development had nothing to do with the massive Rawene car park slip last week.

Here is a selected transcript from the Kaipatiki Local Board (LB) meeting on Wednesday night.

They were questioning AT Senior Communications Advisor Nahri Salim, Auckland Council’s Geotechnical & Geological Practice Lead Ross Roberts, Head of Infrastructure Programmes, Haydn Read; and AT Snr. Investigation and Design Engineer Duncan Miller.

How can experts maintain that the pile driving conducted by the adjacent construction worker did not contribute to the slip?

Lindsay Waugh (LB): So was there no consideration, to your knowledge, of the vibrations from the pile driving travelling along the fill to cause the slip? It would seem to be a sensible assumption?

Roberts: No, vibration from soil drilling are insignificant. My experience of other sites, is that the sort of vibrations that you get from that are insignificant. What you get from trucks going along the road create more vibrations.

John Gillon (LB): I’ve heard from a lot of people that every time the piles were driven they could feel those vibrations all around the area, so I find it very curious that there are less vibrations from that than a truck going past.

Roberts: It is difficult to prove, what triggered the slip, almost impossible. This is following a period of very heavy rain.

Gillon (LB): We are looking to confirm that there will be a review to consider all the circumstances that resulted in the car park slip. Who will be doing that review and will it include looking at whether the vibrations had anything to do with the slip, or anything else?

Miller: Whoever does the review, they will be professional services who will be independent and funded jointly by AT and Auckland Council.

What will the review cover?

Anne-Elise Smithson (LB): What are the technical aspects of this review and can you clarify if the review will consider that vibrations contributed to the slip?

Roberts: A scope hasn’t been written for the review yet. When it comes to actually looking at what caused the slip, we can ask consultants to assess whether vibrations had any impact. I would give it it my 99 per cent confidence they it will come back with a “probably not, but we can’t prove it”.

Smithson (LB): But surely it’s not too much to ask to have that included?

Robert: We will ask that question. I don’t think we will get a good answer out of it.

Salim: The point we want to make, the investigation will not preclude any reason. In the same vein, we will not try and encourage the consultants to focus on any one reason over another than the other. This will be a fair review.

Was preventing the slip possible?

Adrian Tyler (LB): I wonder if this carpark had a higher profile some engineering work might have happened rather than just fences going around it. Could you not have done some engineering work to protect the asset?

Ross: To have put in engineering works would have taken number of months. The slip was very deep. There were no signs early enough for the slip to have been prevented.

John Gillon (LB): But AT have been monitoring the site for 12 months?

Roberts: There have been a lot of small cracks but there are lots of car parks with small cracks in them. The cracks weren’t big enough to trigger a detailed engineering response. When it came to the point where it was that serious to trigger that response – it was too late.

Salim: There was no indication that a slip was imminent.

Will Chelsea Heritage Park be affected?

Lindsay Waugh (LB): Has there been any investigation of the slip into the stormwater works in Chelsea Heritage Park?

Roberts: I’ve been down there myself – there is no immediate impact. The real problem we are considering is that there will be a load of silt coming down. There is also the risk of the landslide causing a dam. So we are monitoring that carefully.

Waugh (LB): On a worst-case scenario could it take out the bank above the lower lake/cooling pond? It’s all precarious land so is there a risk of a knock-on effect?

Roberts: It is highly unlikely, any flooding from a dam establishing and breaching would result in overland flow and it would just spread out and be a bit of a mess on the surface.

Can AT reverse the lease of the carparks?

Richard Hills (Ward councillor): The board was never supportive of the leasing of the car parks. However, we were told they were necessary for safety reasons. Now, we can see there are port-a-coms and everything on those car parks, which means the parks are not being used for the original purpose. If it was a private property next door, you wouldn’t be able to do that. I think that would be the best way to get a positive outcome in the short term to release these car parks back to Birkenhead shoppers.

Salim: Auckland Transport is looking into this.

Are there health and safety concerns for the surrounding buildings?

Danielle Grant (LB): I would like a sense of assurance for the surrounding staff of Mokoia Rd shops, Mokoia Ridge Apartments, and the other building sites on Rawene Rd .

Roberts: It looks pretty convincingly like the fill does not extend further than it has. The risk to those shops is completely unchanged. However, we are investigating this to give residents more confidence and more assurance

Categories
Rawene car park

Birkenhead slip will not affect town centre updates, local board says

The $3-million construction plan to upgrade an Auckland town centre will go ahead on schedule, despite pleas from business owners asking for a deferral.

Birkenhead Town Centre Association chairman Pete Taylor said given the recent Rawene car park slip in Birkenhead, it was “inappropriate” for the upgrade to proceed in January. He requested it be delayed for 12 months.

Taylor said the upgrade would create yet more strain on an already significant shortfall of car parking in Birkenhead, which would lead to a further decline in revenue business owners.

Local businesses have been “traumatised” by recent events, he said.

The car parking situation in Birkenhead has always been strained, but recent events in Rawene Rd car park have exacerbated the situation, he said.

First, 25 public car parks were leased to private developers and then a further 50 car parks were lost due to the landslide – 26 physically lost and the rest cordoned off.

For example, the centre’s usually lucrative Heritage Week had no increase in business revenue this year, he said.

Taylor requested the 25 leased car parks be given back to the public as a matter of urgency, suggesting a park-and-ride shuttle.

“We want to get the workers cars out of Birkenhead. A shuttle bus system would work and try to encourage people to come into Birkenhead,” Taylor said.

Auckland Transport’s Haydn Read, senior investigation and design engineer, said deferring the upgrade would risk the highly-likely loss of capital funding.

Local board member Paula Gillon said the fact the slip is a natural disaster should be taken into consideration for holding the money over for the next 12 months.

However, local board member Kay McIntyre said financially, if the upgrade is deferred the money will be lost.

“They are not going to worry about the fact that it’s a slip – it’s a car park.

“At the end of the day we have to make our city work.”

“Do it this year or it’s gone,” McIntyre said.

The Birkenhead upgrade saw the Kaimataara ō Wai Manawa completed last September.

Stage one, worth $2,782,452, tackles Rawene Road carpark, the Western Gateway, Mokoia Rd bus stop extension and Le Roys Bush track gateway.

Stage two will be the upgrade of Highbury corner, worth $1,585,000.

Upgrades go out for tender next week.

Article by Laine Moger
Published 19 October 2017 > The North Shore Times – stuff.co.nz

Categories
Current Issues Rawene car park

Cracks under a north Auckland carpark first noticed in August

Residents near a newly-formed slip in an Auckland carpark say they are disappointed it took so long to be taken seriously.

The back half of Birkenhead’s public Rawene Car Park slipped down a gorge on Sunday night and has continued to slip since.

Claire Balfour, the chairwoman of the body corporate of the nearby Mokoia Apartments, said residents were concerned about the significant drop in the car park when it first appeared almost three weeks ago but it seemed impossible to get the full attention of council or Auckland Transport.

From a crack to a landslide

She said the asphalt had originally been poured onto unstable land without a retaining wall and was “an accident waiting to happen”.

While the residents now have an AT liaison, Balfour said they felt they hadn’t been paid much attention till the slip occurred.

“We’re disappointed it’s taken so long, we had to be persistent,” she said.

“We’re just trying to get some assurance that when [the apartments] were built, the people did their jobs properly and built on good foundations.”

Brett Norris, a worker in nearby Rawene Chambers, agreed with Balfours’ remarks and said the selling point for his business was the large car park next door.

But now, from a Birkenhead trading perspective, there were 40 fewer car parks.

We aren’t going to get those back,” Norris said.

Other locals have shared their upset and concern regarding the economic impact Rawene car park’s issues have had on local businesses.

Auckland Transport has defended its management of the gaping hole that has appeared where a north Auckland carpark used to be.

AT’s Chief Infrastructure Officer Greg Edmonds said the Rawene car park in Auckland’s Birkenhead had washed away into the gorge below it following the “pretty significant rains” over the last 12 months.

Edmonds said AT had been monitoring the site for 12 months and it took appropriate action whe the crack appeared, closing part of the carpark and fencing it of for public safety.

He again rejected that vibrations from a near-by development may have played a part saying the “initial view” was that it was more due to the fact it was built in the 1960s on “uncontrolled fill”.

He said the slip was a natural process and the only thing to do was wait and see where the slipping would end and where the solid ground was.

The rear section of the car park was cordoned off by Auckland Transport for safety reasons on September 20, following the subsidence of an already-existing crack.

Now, parts of that cordon lay in the ditch below the car park, alongside large slabs of tarmac with the white car park lines still visible on them.

Local workers who have been observing the situation say it was “ludicrous” that drilling that “shook” nearby buildings, would not cause issues with the car park.

Birkenhead worker Brett Norris said he had been in Birkenhead for 30 years.

“I knew if there was significant shaking it would compromise it [the car park],” he said.

Locla MP Jonathan Coleman said the slip was “a major local issue which is of extreme concern to local residents and businesses”.

He said there needed to be a “medium to long term solution so business is not affected”.

Coleman said he was organising a meeting on Wednesday for AT to inform residents and businesses of what was going on.

Optometrist Tony Craddock asked: “But what happens now? Are we going to have a massive hole in Birkenhead?”

Geotech engineer Bryce Schou said that in principle, it was possible to remediate the area and a slip of that size.

“I can’t speak for Birkenhead specifically, but there are various ways and means to combat what made the slip in the first place, and carry out work to put things right,” Schou said.

However it would come down to a case of costs versus benefits, he said.

AT said in a media release on Tuesday that parking has been restricted in Rawene Rd car park in Birkenhead.

It said the car park had slipped away after heavy rain over recent months.

AT says it was actively monitoring the slip and it has had an engineering geologist on site.

There was no immediate danger but a large area of the car park had been cordoned off. Members of the public must not enter the cordoned off area, AT said.

Article by Laine Moger
Published 10 October 2017 The North Shore Times – stuff.co.nz

Categories
Current Issues Rawene car park

Part of public car park on Auckland’s North Shore slips away

First it was a crack, now the whole back half of a North Shore carpark has slipped away.

The rear section of Rawene car park in Auckland’s Birkenhead was closed off by Auckland Transport for safety reasons on September 20, following the subsidence of an already existing crack.

Fewer than three weeks later, the crack has become a slip.

The manager of a nearby business, who did not want to be named, said the subsidence had got progressively worse.

“Once a crack occurs and it starts raining all the water goes in there and makes it weak.”

He said he couldn’t see the problem being fixed any time soon.

Auckland Transport’s Mark Hannan said investigations were still underway and staff were “actively monitoring the slip”.

He said there was “no danger to the public” but was asking people to respect the cordon.

“We have an engineering geologist on site today to assess and provide recommendations,” Hannan said.

“Engineers are working to determine the stability of the fill and whether we need to cordon off further areas of the car park.”

Hannan had previously denied the cause of the crack was linked to adjacent construction work by private developers Chelsea Bay due to the fact the car park was built on an embankment of landfill.

However, nearby residents weren’t convinced, saying the construction work was so loud it shook neighbouring building Rawene Chambers, and that the car park had been fine until construction took place.

Mokoia Ridge resident David Corlett said he was concerned that Auckland Council has underestimated the impact of pile-driving on unstable land.

The Chelsea Bay developers and Auckland Transport had been contacted for more comment.

Kaipatiki Local Board deputy chairman John Gillon said he had also contacted AT.

SINKHOLE OPENS IN ROAD

Meanwhile, in south Auckland a huge hole has opened up in a rural road.

A section of Kingseat Rd had been closed on Monday afternoon, police said.

The affected area was between Glenbrook and Pearson roads near the village of Patumahoe.

“The road will be closed … for the foreseeable future as engineers assess the hole, which is approximately 2m x 2m in size,” police said.

“Motorists are asked to use the diversion in place via Pearson Rd.”

The hole had formed due to recent rainfall, police said.

GNS Science said natural sinkholes generally form in terrain which is underlain by soluble rocks, such as limestones and chalks.

Water moving through the rocks slowly dissolves them, creating underground holes which are visible when the ground above them subsides.

Sinkholes can also appear when loose soil and silt is eroded by underground water.

They can also be caused by human error, such as incorrect design of a tunnel or mineshaft.

The cause of a sinkhole, such as a broken pipe or design flaw, needs to be addressed before the sinkhole can be repaired, GNS Science said.

Article by Zizi Sparks And Laine Moger
Published North Shore Times – stuff.co.nz October 9 2017

Categories
Rawene car park

Subsidence in Auckland car park worsens

Cracks are growing at an Auckland car park that has already been closed because of subsidence.

The rear section of Birkenhead’s Rawene car park was closed off by Auckland Transport for safety reasons on September 20, following the subsidence of an already existing crack.

A comparison between photographs taken on September 25 and October 7 suggests the slip has only got worse in the space of 12 days.

Auckland Transport’s Mark Hannan said geo-tech and engineering investigations are still underway and said there is “no danger to the public”.

The difference between the two subsidence levels is almost at waist height, and the crack in the car park has now stretched into the neighbouring hillside.

Hannan has previously denied the cause of the crack was linked to adjacent construction work by private developers Chelsea Bay due to the fact the car park was built on an embankment of landfill.

However, nearby residents aren’t convinced, saying the construction work is so loud it shakes neighbouring building Rawene Chambers, and that the car park has been fine until construction took place.

Mokoia Ridge resident David Corlett said he is concerned that Auckland Council has underestimated the impact of pile-driving on unstable land, especially as construction is about to begin on the Chelsea Bay site.

“In 2010 council declined an application to build Botanical Gardens in Rawene Reserve, the number one reason being unstable land,” he said.

A civil engineer confirmed there would have been a geotechnical report for the construction site, but there was no need to conduct a report for the car park next to the site.

Article by Laine Moger
Published 07 October 2017 > The North Shore Times _ stuff.co.nz

Categories
Media Coverage Rawene car park

AT gives 25 public car parks to private developers

Drivers are outraged at Auckland Transport’s decision to give a private developer exclusive access to 25 public car parks from an already strained car park on the North Shore.

Despite a significant shortage of car parking in the Birkenhead community, Auckland Transport (AT) has allowed private developers, Chelsea Bay, the use of 25 public car parks for up to 18 months, reducing the capacity of Rawene car park.

Rawene car park has always been a bit narrow and in high demand, but a Neighbourly.co.nz poll has unearthed a plethora of unhappy locals.

Michelle Pratt, who is a manager of a Birkenhead business, is outraged that AT has done this to the local community and has called the incident “abhorrent”.

“How dare they take car parks away from the local library and from local businesses,” Pratt said.

“Auckland Transport has now seriously compromised business and community viability.”

AT media manager Mark Hannan said the developers approached AT for the use of the car parks, while the construction of a 60 unit building for 19-21 Rawene Rd was ongoing.

Hannan confirms that AT arranged the leasing of these spaces to developers, after consultation with the Kaipatiki Local board, as a “safety buffer” between the worksite and the car park.

“We referred the request to the local board, after some questions and answers Auckland Transport granted permission for some parks at Rawene Car Park to be leased as a health and safety buffer.”

However, Pratt said she also has doubts about the safety aspect.

There are many examples of large scale developments all across Auckland who do not have the luxury of having a car park beside them and they manage fine, Pratt said.

“‘Occupied for health and safety is a poor excuse for not managing their own site.”

Kaipatiki Local Board member Lindsay Waugh raised her concerns about the removal of 35 car parks in February.

“I do not see that local businesses should bear the cost of this [the construction workers] convenience,” Waugh said in her report.

The Rawene Rd developers did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

** Auckland Transport’s Mark Hannan has apologised for any confusion around his original statement that stated Kaipatiki Local Board granted permission for the carparks to be used.

Article by Laine Moger
Published 03 August 2017 > The North Shore Times – stuff.co.nz

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Highbury Shopping Centre Media Coverage Transport Issues

Seven car parks are worth more than $1 million say business owners on Auckland’s North Shore

Business owners in Auckland’s North Shore would rather turn away Birkenhead’s $1 million upgrade, than lose seven car parks.

Kaipatiki Local Board voted on a design for the Birkenhead’s Highbury Corner upgrades at the April 19 board meeting.

The contentious plans to upgrade the area around the main roundabout, will shave seven car parks from the main street’s shops.

Birkenhead Town Centre Association chairman Pete Taylor said this result is really disappointing and concerning.

The association’s research found each main street car park is worth $3000, per week, to local businesses, and removing them would cost more than $1 million a year, Taylor said.

“We are talking around a million dollars in pure income per annum being taking out of the town centre’s revenue, for pedestrians and beautification, and I think that’s shocking,” Taylor said at the meeting.

“The members would rather the money was spent elsewhere, than to invest in something that will have a negative impact to local businesses,” he said.

Highbury Corner is where Birkenhead Ave, Hinemoa Street and Mokoia Rd meet at a roundabout.

Upgrades to Birkenhead’s Highbury Corner, follows on from the 129 parking space expansion to Rawene car park, and the building of lookout, Kaimataara o wai manawa.

North Shore Councillor Richard Hills said major community consultation was undertaken in the planning of these upgrades and showed 60 per cent of the public submissions were in favour of the upgrade plans.

Taylor said the objection against losing carparks has been consistent from the businesses from the start.

“In a survey conducted by the association, 54 out of 56 businesses say they don’t want any upgrades,” he said.

Taylor said that the design ignored expert advice and will damage the livelihood of businesses in the area.

Local board member Paula Gillon said she is “struggling” to see how this upgrade will be detrimental to businesses, with the amount of people it will encourage.

However, Taylor said the revenue lost can not be replaced by wide footpaths and trees alone.

“The extra parking added to Rawene car parks are not the issue here, as the businesses are concerned about main street car parks only,” he said.

Local board member Ann Hartley said the accusation that people won’t walk 100 metres from Rawene car park to the main centre is “nonsense”.

“Birkenhead does not have a parking problem,” she said.

“This is just a mess.”

OPTION ONE DESIGN

At the centre of a heated debate around the upgrades to North Shore’s Highbury Corner, stands a pine tree.

Alongside a loss of carparks, fears around pedestrian safety have also been raised.

Also, the decision to redesign the upgrade to include the tree has reignited the longstanding debate, between those who wish to keep the tree and those who don’t.

Option one, will increase public open space and seating areas, as well as introduce a new decked area at Highbury Corner.

Local board member Lindsay Waugh said the amount of effort the board had spent on keeping the tree is a “travesty of urban design”.

Equally concerned is Birkenhead Town Centre Association chairman Pete Taylor, who said that he is as worried about losing the seven car parks as he is pedestrian safety.

“The plans shows encouraging people to hop across the roundabout in an increasingly busy intersection,” Taylor said.

“I wonder when organisation members become liable for such decisions.”

Local Board chairwoman Danielle Grant said option one will deliver the main street its “much needed” facelift.

“These projects have been a significant part of the board’s focus for the past four years,” Grant said.

Option one will now go to tender and work is expected to start in June.

The final design vote was so contentious, members Ann Hartley and Lindsay Waugh abstained from voting.

Article by Laine Moger
Published 24 April 2017 > The North Shore Times – stuff.co.nz

Categories
Current Issues Media Coverage Transport Issues

Car parks proposed Onewa Road – bound end of Lake Road

Short-term car parking will replace 300 metres of transit lane if a new proposal for Northcote’s Lake Rd goes ahead.

Auckland Transport is gauging the views of residents and schools at the Onewa Rd-bound end of Lake Rd on removing most of the T3 transit lane.

The council-controlled organisation says schools and residents have little short-term parking for dropoffs and pickups.

In its place, 10- minute parking would be allowed, with 100 metres of T3 transit lane connecting commuters to Onewa Rd remaining.

“Drivers are currently pursuing various routes to drop off children at local schools and being affected by and affecting commuter traffic, particularly in the morning peak,” a letter sent to affected residents says.

Consultation ends on April 26.

Credits

Written by: Jess Etheridge
Published: Auckland Now / North Shore Times – 16 April 2013

Categories
Media Coverage Transport Issues

Auckland’s great divide call for a new crossing

Former mayor says community groups are being kept in the dark about a proposal which follows at least six studies since 1986 and doubt about the longevity of the existing harbour bridge.

North Shore leaders will this year ramp up calls for a new Waitemata Harbour traffic crossing, even though the Transport Agency does not believe one will be needed before 2030.

Although the agency expects to update an application to protect a preferred route for tunnels under the harbour towards the end of the year, Auckland Council member and former North Shore mayor George Wood fears complacency setting in.

He says community groups such as the Northcote Residents Association want to be involved in planning for a new crossing but are being kept in the dark about a proposal which follows at least six studies since 1986 and doubt about the longevity of the existing harbour bridge.

Transport Agency regional director Stephen Town says that although a “notice of requirement” application for a tunnels route east of the bridge was lodged in 2009, his organisation decided to let it lie while the Super City was setting up.

“We agreed we would wait for the [30-year] Auckland Plan to be finished before we updated the notice of requirement,” he told the Herald.

“What we said was, we would go with the preference expressed in the Auckland Plan, and then seek guidance from the Government about the update.”

Now that the council had published the plan, with a preference for road tunnels instead of a new bridge to be built between 2021 and 2030 and “future-proofed” with room to carry trains as well, the agency was free to move ahead with route protection between Spaghetti Junction in central Auckland and Esmonde Rd in Takapuna.

It was likely to provide new information to the council late this year, including a discussion of environmental issues, with an aim of opening its application to public submissions “sometime in 2014”.

Although average daily traffic volumes across the harbour bridge declined by about 5 per cent between 2007 and 2011 to about 157,000 vehicles after the establishment of the Northern Busway, they rebounded by 7 per cent last year to almost 168,000 in November.

Mr Wood believes completion of the Victoria Park motorway tunnel in March is encouraging more commuters to get back in their cars after previously using the busway to beat congestion.

Having recently spent $86 million strengthening the bridge’s two clip-on structures, the agency is focused mainly on its ability to cope with increasing freight loads.

Mr Town said that with careful management, there was no reason why the 54-year-old bridge could not last for another 100 years. But he said the “critical path” for bridge loads was heavy vehicles travelling on the northbound clip-on lanes, for which forecasts indicated a new crossing would be needed by 2030.

Even so, the agency did not want to build the new crossing too early, for cost reasons.

“It’s expensive, so getting the timing right is the thing,” he said.

The agency in early 2011 estimated the cost of a pair of road tunnels at $5.3 billion compared with $3.9 billion for a new bridge, and the Auckland Plan cites a figure of $5.8 billion to include future provision for trains.

Mr Town acknowledged that technological advances were likely to reduce tunnelling costs, while those for a new bridge were unlikely to fall markedly.

But he said “one of the big unknowns” was what the completion in 2017 of the western ring route with its connection to the Upper Harbour Bridge at Greenhithe would do for heavy traffic movements.

“It will provide a genuine heavy traffic option – between 2017 and 2021 we will be looking really closely at travel patterns.”

Mr Wood said Auckland’s northern sector was due for a resurgence of development, for which a new crossing was needed urgently, regardless of the western route’s appeal as a bypass for some long-distance traffic.

“I’m just amazed it has started drifting in the way it has,” he said of the crossing debate. “I have a real concern – the upper part of Auckland would be paralysed if anything happened to the harbour bridge.”

Austerity’ bridge underestimated traffic demand

Plans for an Auckland harbour bridge were first hatched in 1860 by members of the farming community on the North Shore, then a sleepy backwater.

Engineer Fred Bell designed a drawbridge on floating pontoons, but the plans were deemed too expensive.

In 1928 another proposal was put forward, but it was 20 years later that pressure for new development space finally saw the Auckland Harbour Bridge Authority established.

In April 1954, after fierce lobbying, a loan of £5,002,000 (about $245 million in today’s terms) was approved.

That produced the “austerity” bridge, with plans for a pedestrian walkway and a fifth traffic lane dropped.

During construction the decision was made to ban cyclists from the bridge, resulting in a protest from the New Zealand Amateur Cycling Association.

Workmen within a pressurised steel chamber excavating the seafloor for the bridge’s caissons had to be “compressed” and “decompressed” so as to not get the bends.

A warning was issued to Auckland police and the public to treat suspected drunks with caution as they might actually be a worker with decompression sickness.

One motorist, stopped by who he thought was a drunk, refused to take the worker to the specialist medical unit at Westhaven. The bridge took four years to complete and was opened on May 30, 1959.

But by the early 1960s it became apparent that the bridge could not handle the amount of traffic needed.

Traffic flow was far above the royal commission’s prediction the bridge would be carrying three million vehicles annually by 1965, with the volume exceeding 10 million that year.

A Japanese company won the tender to add two lanes on either side, and the added lanes became known as the “Nippon clip-ons”, which were opened in 1969.

-Nicholas Jones

Credits

Written by: Mathew Dearnaley
Photo/s by: Brett Phibbs
Published by: The New Zealand Herald – 23 Jan 2013