Saturday, August 27, 2016

Northcote Point Residents SkyPath Appeal crushed by Council-funded blackmail

Residents’ concerns crushed by Council-funded blackmail

Northcote Residents have withdrawn their Environment Court appeal against SkyPath, which they consider to be a financial, functional and environmental failure. They also consider that SkyPath is unlikely to ever be implemented and that its blatantly obvious safety hazards alone, should have prevented it from seeing the light of day in the first place.

Although Council tells itself that SkyPath is merely a $33M project, its real costs are set to deliver yet another Council blowout, this time set to amount to hundreds of millions. In turn, Auckland’s ratepayers are now unwittingly set to pay for that blowout, via Council’s underwrite for SkyPath. To approve the underwrite, Council acted illegally and violated its statutory obligations, in the emphatic opinion of a legal specialist in the area of government regulation, Dr. Grant Hewison. 

SkyPath is funded via a PPP arrangement. Every failed PPP arrangement world wide, exactly replicates Council’s PPP arrangement for SkyPath namely - SkyPath’s claimed patronage is pumped through the roof, patronage shortfalls are underwritten by Council and the funders interest charges are about double the rate at which the underwriter (Council) could borrow finance. The PPP funder must be delighted. SkyPath can lose as much money as it likes, while the PPP funder gains its full interest charges, management charges and debt repayment. A picture-perfect PPP plunder (PPPPPP).

That goes some way to explaining why some Auckland ratepayers such as Northcote Point residents, faced rate increases this year that were 60 times the rate of the country’s residual inflation rate. We’d be better off living in a banana republic, than continuing to rely upon this Council’s fiscal literacy.
Council has aggressively supported the development’s comprehensive violation of its own regulations regarding zoning, parking, amenity, pathway design, emergency egress, emergency management and public safety. The extent to which SkyPath violates those regulations would be a joke, were the consequences not as grim as they are. Violations of public safety provisions alone, are certain to cause many serious injuries and worse. Aggressively promoting a patently hazardous facility is not quite in line with delivering “one of the World’s most liveable cities”. Particularly if SkyPath turns some living customers into half-dead customers or worse.

SkyPath’s is primarily a commercial tourism and leisure facility, since that’s what 87.5% of its customers are projected to be. Council’s regulations sensibly do not permit any large-scaled commercial developments in residential areas such as Northcote Point, yet that is where Council wishes to locate SkyPath’s North Shore landing. Council claims that SkyPath’s patronage, will “conservatively” amount to 13,000 - 20,000 visitors at the end of Northcote’s cul-de-sac peninsula suburb, every summer weekend day. Eden Park’s averaged attendance ranges from 13,000 - 18,000, depending on what is happening in any given year. The effects of these perpetually huge crowds are “not more than minor”, say Council’s and the Applicant’s so-called “experts”.

The Northcote Residents Association (NRA) withdrew from its appeal under severe duress. The Council-funded and underwritten Applicant, threatened to claim costs against it “to the maximum extent possible”, in the event that NRA lost the appeal. Those costs would likely amount to many millions - the amount both Government and Auckland Council have provided in support of this purportedly private commercial development. The developer has previously claimed it doesn’t have enough money to pay for postage, but that has not stopped it from threatening rightly concerned residents with multi-million dollar claims of costs that Auckland Council has already fully underwritten.

Nobody yet knows if SkyPath’s implementation will ever be possible. That is so, because before SkyPath can be implemented, it needs NZTA’s approval. If that approval is ever granted, that can’t happen for another year according to NZTA. For obvious common-sense reasons and for reasons we are advised are duly backed by case law, resource consent hearings are not supposed to start until such basics have been resolved. They are not, yet the appeal hearing is proceeding regardless.

Another issue that calls SkyPath’s viability into doubt, arises from recent discussions with the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). Information provided by NZTA states the Auckland Harbour Bridge “will allow for ....walking and cycling facilities” and, “four lanes on the existing Bridge, will become redundant” when the next Harbour crossing is installed and that, “the Bridge’s box girders need strengthening to accommodate SkyPath” and that “further strengthening of the Bridge’s box girders is not physically possible, except at connection points”.

The SkyPath function could occupy less than two of the four redundant lanes freed up when the next Harbour crossing is implemented, without adding additional stresses to the Bridge and without decreasing its usable life, as SkyPath will. That could be achieved at virtually no cost and far better than SkyPath, since cyclists and pedestrians would be safely separated and would access the facility without causing any neighbourhood any detriment. SkyPath’s genuinely huge costs, amenity detriment and safety hazards are wholly unnecessary, since the Next Harbour Crossing solves all the problems SkyPath does not, never could and never will.

Since NRA’s supporters have always supported the idea of walking and cycling from one side of the harbour to the other, we say, “bring on the Next Harbour Crossing so we can all enjoy cycling or walking across the Harbour Bridge, but in a way that works functionally, financially and environmentally”.

Too logical? Too workable? Too environmentally friendly? Too cost effective? Apparently. Maybe the consenting authorities need a pile of serious injuries to awaken them to the responsibilities they are paid for, even if they don’t care less about SkyPath’s fundamental and glaringly obvious environmental, cost, funding and design problems.

Kevin Clarke

Chair, Northcote Residents Association Inc. SkyPath Appeal Committee 

No comments:

Post a Comment