Archive | Infrastructure

Self-drive, the catalyst for monumental transformation

I read a US newsletter at the weekend that looked at change resulting from self-driving electric cars, but not just about the vehicles themselves. In this commentary, I take the possibilities further.

My conclusion: Change is not going to happen overnight, but it will be rapid, it will change how you regard your personal convenience and it will wring fundamental changes in property use, and therefore in property ownership, tenancy, value, design.

While you work through the questions & issues below, keep in mind that common use of land-based self-driving electric vehicles might become historic almost before it becomes common.

First, the questions:

Will you own a car – or, in families, multiple cars?

Will you expect to drive to work, as you do now?

Where will you park?

Who will provide that parking?

How do you shop? Mostly, weekly at the supermarket?

Do you use your car for lazy storage?

Do you use storage, music up loud, door-to-door as your excuses for an aversion to public transport?

How might pricing of vehicle ownership, journeys & parking change, and how might public transport be transformed?

Why own for minimal use when you can summons a vehicle at will, to take you door-to-door if necessary?

Now go through some answers:

While you might maintain that you need your car, most decisions of that nature have never really been yours to make.

The people who created mass production of cars were able to do so based on pricing low enough for widespread ownership. But think back to New Zealand’s brief era of carless days, when your vehicle had to be off the road for a stipulated one day/week, which roughly coincided with the start of mass importing of second-hand cars from Japan. Suddenly, from the inconvenience of having to travel by public transport occasionally, New Zealand was awash with cheap cars. You could go where you wanted, whenever you wanted.

Except, it’s reached the point that you can’t quite go whenever you want, because congestion has reached such a level that your journey becomes much slower. In response you look at passengers passing you in the bus lane and ponder joining them, or you drive to work in the dark.

In Auckland, if you cross the harbour bridge in peak traffic, you can see maybe 10 people near you – one per vehicle, all forced by congestion to travel slowly.

Parking made harder

The era of Uber is upon us – and the suggestion is that the Uber will lose its driver too. Pricing will dictate whether you travel as a solitary occupant in a car, or multiple. Either way, you will be taken from your door to your ultimate destination, or perhaps to a conveyance which carries more people.

Your own car will sit in its garage, and soon you will figure you don’t need it. One reason will be that you can order up a vehicle to suit your travel purpose – if you have more luggage, a bigger vehicle; travelling to the supermarket you don’t need space, but travelling home you do. Or perhaps you do all that shopping onscreen, without going anywhere.

You may see those possibilities as pure & unlikely conjecture until you consider the next point: the decision won’t be yours.

The next stage in your decision on how to get to a fixed place of work will occur when your employer, or the building owner, decides you don’t need a parking space because self-drives & public transport eliminate the need. Parked cars which do nothing but sit, waiting for you to come back in 8 hours, are a very large expense. The building owner will convert that parking space to other uses, especially if it becomes harder to fill every space.

Then, the road maintenance equation

It occurs to you that your journey could be much faster because there’s less competition on the road… Except, who pays for that road’s existence & maintenance? The motorist, the local council & the Government do – the motorist via taxes & levies, the council via rates & perhaps fuel taxes & targeted rates, the Government via those taxes & levies.

If there are fewer users, or use is far more efficient courtesy of the self-drive & decline of private ownership, government & council will pursue ways to lower their costs. And when they discover less road surface is needed, or they can get away with providing less, they will reduce maintenance. Much like Auckland Council’s decision not to mow the berm outside your house anymore, authorities will see the way clear to trim road surfaces based on saving money – 4 lanes back to 2 and, within suburbs, 2 back to a single lane.

This can happen because there will be fewer parked cars, and eventually none, the self-drives will be able to negotiate a single lane, and.. well, you’ll have even more berm to mow. The road surface that remains will be a coarser, cheaper product next time it’s laid, the maintained suburban road surface can be shrunk, and arterials – even motorways – probably can too.

You’ll turn your garage over to storage, or another bedroom, or a games room or home office.

The city end of the equation

Your decision on how to travel will be driven by external imperatives – council maintenance costs, shifts in tax spending, reduced provision of parking. Many of the parking lots around the inner city have existed because of property development downturns. The bungy site on Victoria St, right in the heart of the city, is vacant because the 1987 property & sharemarket crashes killed development plans, and more recent plans there have been more grandiose than real.

Feeding on to Victoria St East, the exit from the council’s Victoria St parking building is briefly on to High St – which is a popular nominee as one of the streets for a council project to trial more car-free areas. The council’s Downtown parking building has been considered for a number of years as a high value development proposition. Changes such as those would be dramatic, but no longer whimsical once self-drive vehicles start to appear.

Now to city occupants, and then to fringe centres

Offices & apartments without parking provided will become the norm, and those old basement parking floors will lose that value. Owners will look to new uses in old buildings and design parking out of new buildings. In the old buildings that will be an interesting exercise, because in many of them the ceilings will be too low. It will take ingenuity to find economic solutions.

For the individual, you’ve lost your parking floor in the office building, and all the other parking floors & parking buildings are being converted. You will be forced to seek other travel options – bus & train for distance or, as we’re starting to see, bike or scooter for shorter journeys.

But not everybody works in a central city office or shop. Suburban work centres are likely to face the same pressures for change, and industrial precincts might too. Think, as a property owner, what you can do with the space occupied by 30 or 50 employees’ cars. Tenants, especially in outlying areas, pay low rent for parking. Building them out will provide a better return.

Other consequences

If you accept that these kinds of change are not just on their way sometime, but more likely imminent – perhaps within a decade – you can turn your mind to other consequences.

Fewer cars, fewer motor mechanics, a whole sector of insurance becomes redundant. Car sale yards & car loans will be history. Tradies will become lords of the road, but their costs will also rise through higher contributions for upkeep. Delivery vans will have a bigger role.

Just the change from oil to electric is a revolution in itself. The oil industry has held sway for a century, but its decline will be swift if battery-operated travel can prove efficient, practical & cheap. That will ring in momentous change in international affairs, in economic relationships, in degrees of political power. Revolutions in self-drive & public transport will force local change.

Real or unreal? We don’t know yet. What we do know is that if change like this is catapaulted into our lives, it pays to start thinking of options early.

Attribution: Comment.

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Councillors get confidential report on way forward as St Marys Bay sewage project heads to Environment Court

4 objections have been lodged with the Environment Court against Auckland Council’s plan to dig a giant drain under houses along the St Mary’s Bay ridge, aimed at improving stormwater & sewage flows into the Waitemata Harbour.

Above: An aerial image showing where the 1km drain would be constructed.

The council’s Healthy Waters general manager, Craig McIlroy, told the strategic procurement committee yesterday 2 community organisations & 2 individuals had lodged objections, and the council had asked the court to set up a mediation process.

In his report to the committee, Mr McIlroy said the aim was to have the drain working by the end of 2020, meeting a timeframe for a number of large infrastructure projects to be in place before the America’s Cup yachting event, meeting of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation, to meet in Auckland, Wellington & Christchurch) and biennial Te Matatini festival, all in 2021.

The project involves the construction of a new trunk sewer to capture current overflows and divert them to a new pump station at Point Erin. When the capacity of the pump station is exceeded, overflows will go to a new sea outfall from Point Erin to deeper moving water in the harbour.

The key ingredient of the $30 million-plus project is a 1km conveyance & storage pipeline (1.8m internal diameter, about 2500mᶟ capacity) extending from New St to Pt Erin Park, underground & beneath residential properties, recreation areas & road reserve, with an invert depth ranging between 5m and up to 22m deep. (Check the 14 November story link below for further details of the project proposal).

The St Marys Bay & Point Erin improvement project went to a hearing by independent commissioners in November. They approved it on 9 November, but objectors were then heard by the council’s regulatory committee a week later. The committee deliberated in private, didn’t issue a decision in a minute but said the decision would be made public within a week.

Although that didn’t appear to have happened, committee chair Cllr Linda Cooper told me the committee had confirmed the commissioners’ decision. The project was back before the strategic procurement committee yesterday – starting in public then going to the confidential section of the agenda for discussion of financial implications, risks & mitigations arising from procurement of the project and next steps for procurement.

Mr McIlroy outlined the present situation in his report to the procurement committee: “At present, a combined sewer network carrying both stormwater & wastewater services about 15,000 households in central Auckland, including St Marys Bay. The network is very close to capacity and combined sewer overflows are frequent, with increasing public concern regarding these and pressure to reduce them.

“The St Marys Bay area experiences high frequencies of wastewater overflows from mainly 3 engineered overflow points. A further 2 discharge onto Masefield Beach.

“The St Marys Bay & Masefield Beach water quality improvement project has been designed to resolve these issues. It is the first major project to be funded through the council’s new water quality targeted rate and forms part of the broader western isthmus water quality improvement programme.”

Mr McIlroy said that, through undertaking this project, “further improvements to the combined network can take place without continued contamination of these beaches. This is important as the full suite of proposed solutions will take some time to implement.”

He said the regulatory committee had noted in its deliberations that “they do not think there is a causal link between the works & ‘cliff instability due to the depth at which the pipeline will be installed, the construction methodology, monitoring & the technology used.’”

Earlier story:
14 November 2018: Tank to solve western isthmus overflows approved, round 2 begins Friday

Attribution: Council committee meeting, agenda, hearing documents.

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Private car’s days as symbol of power coming to an end

Never mind those petty rules of staying in your lane, indicating to change, obeying the traffic lights, feeding parking meters, accommodating your vehicle in an approved parking garage. No matter how beat up, or that it’s a polished company vehicle thrust into your care to proclaim your high status. Your car is a symbol of your independence & superiority.

Or, in downtown Auckland, it was.

In March, Auckland Council’s Auckland Development Office will file a report recommending trials to pedestrianise nominated streets in the central business district.

Queen St below Mayoral Drive is the primary candidate. High & Lorne Sts are among the smaller streets also likely to be high on the list.

Quay St would be reduced to 2 lanes, making it much more a pedestrian environment across from the wharves. Eastern suburbs traffic would be directed into the new traffic zones.

But before the trials, other preparation is needed. The development office wants traffic to be guided into zones, and not allowed to cross zones, and the office knows the pedestrians-only trials won’t work unless those preparations are in place.

Turning whole streets over to people on foot – plus bikes, prams, scooters, restricted visits by service vehicles and, in some streets, buses & trams – has been a venture too far for councillors for decades.

When Auckland City Council hired Ludo Campbell-Reid for the new role of urban design specialist in 2006 – coming from Tower Hamlets Council in London after earlier roles as chief executive of Urban Design London and in Cape Town – the notion of pedestrianising Queen St downhill from Mayoral Drive was getting, well, a foot into people’s thinking.

The city council turned down that idea, and also spurned pedestrianising a couple of blocks by a narrow margin. One change that did come, in 2007, was the introduction of bus lanes down Queen St. In addition, Lower Queen St between Customs & Quay Sts, and a couple of side streets – the lower end of Swanson St and Vulcan Lane – had their vehicle access ended.

But Mr Campbell-Reid switched from full-on pedestrianisation for major thoroughfares to the introduction of shared spaces, carried out in Elliot St, part of Fort St, and most recently in O’Connell St.

Meanwhile, gridlock took over, made worse over the last 2 years by the streetworks for the city rail link on Albert, Customs & Victoria Sts. People have watched – I think in awe, certainly not scowling – as they’ve waited at traffic lights and been able to observe the tunnelling below them.

And slowly the tide has turned. By the end of 2021, all going well, those tunnels are going to transport hundreds of passengers every 10 minutes or so into 3 central stations – people who have left the status symbol, the car, at home, or don’t even have one there.

The council development office, which Mr Campbell-Reid heads, can rely on those waves of passengers to lift support for locking cars out of the dominance they’ve long had in the city centre.

Those traffic trials are the biggest changes in the review of the city centre masterplan, approved in 2012, this time combined with the waterfront plan as the City Centre Masterplan 2040.

Proposed digital presentation of the new masterplan will allow for rolling reviews.

Auckland Council’s planning committee agreed unanimously yesterday to the development office’s proposals:

  • Digitisation in time to inform the council’s 2021-31 long-term plan
  • Rolling updates rather than 6-yearly updates
  • New content for public consultation & committee approval by July 2019
  • Maori outcomes
  • Grafton Gully boulevard
  • Access for everyone – the friendlier name for pedestrianisation
  • Trials & tactical urbanism initiatives to test & for consultation
  • Trial an “open streets” initiative in the city centre and work with interested local boards to trial it in other centres

Cllr Richard Hills summed it up: “At the Victoria-Queen St intersection at lunchtime, we’ve got 4500 people crossing & 500 cars. We’ve halved the number of cars coming down Queen St already, from 21,000 to 10,000. We have 7000 bikes/day coming into the city. That’s [the equivalent of] a whole lane from Silverdale.”

Link:
Committee agenda item 9, City centre masterplan 2040   

Earlier story:
12 January 2006: Auckland hires London urban design specialist Campbell-Reid

Attribution: Council committee meeting & agenda.

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City rail link engineering company collapses 6 weeks after signing interim underground systems contract

The Australian company which won the interim joint-venture contract in October to deliver the Auckland city rail link’s underground rail systems, RCR Tomlinson Ltd, went into administration on Wednesday.

This comes 6 weeks after the project’s overall joint venture partners, Auckland Council & the Government through City Rail Link Ltd, announced the C7 interim contract for the underground systems as an important milestone.

This interim contract was to be followed by RCR Tomlinson & its partner, WSP-Opus, working with CRL, Auckland Transport & KiwiRail to formulate the full project alliance agreement, which was expected to be awarded by May 2019.

WSP-Opus is the working name for Opus International Consultants Ltd, which Canadian property services consultancy WSP Global Inc bought last December.

The project includes the provision of track, track slab, overhead line, signalling, control systems, trackside auxiliaries, control room fitout & building works.

RCR Tomlinson pointed to its precarious state in August

Trading in RCR Tomlinson’s shares was halted on 12 November at the company’s request, and further suspended 2 days later pending an earnings upgrade & consequences for its funding.

On Monday, a group of shareholders filed a class action proceeding in the New South Wales Supreme Court.

One director, David Robinson, a career engineer at McConnell Dowell who finished his 37 years there in 2015 as managing director & chief executive and was appointed to the RTR Tomlinson board on 1 March, wasn’t aware of the company’s dire predicament – he spent $A9900 to add 11,000 shares on 31 October to the 30,000 he already held.

RCR Tomlinson completed an underwritten $A100 million capital-raising on 28 September.

However, interim chief executive Bruce James said in Wednesday night’s announcement the company had been unable to secure additional funding and had appointed McGrathNicol Restructuring as voluntary administrators. The first creditors’ meeting is expected to be on Monday 3 December.

The company’s annual report, issued in August, showed its order book was down from $A1.36 billion in 2017 to $A1 billion, it had $A2 billion of revenue from continuing operations but reported a statutory loss of $A16.1 million ($A25.7 million profit in 2017), an underlying ebit loss of $A4.2 million ($A41.2 million profit in 2017).

It attributed much of its $A735 million increase in sales to the progress of a number of largescale solar farms, but also attributed the ebit loss to cost overruns on 2 of those projects, Daydream & Hayman. That resulted in cumulative writedowns of $A57 million from the original tendered margin.

The company said in its annual report issued on 28 August: “A large proportion of the writedowns were only recently identified. This was due to the onsite procedures adopted by a limited number of site personnel, which had the effect of circumventing RCR’s standard processes & project level systems relating to procurement commitments.”

Links: RCR Tomlinson
City Rail Link

Earlier story:
10 December 2017: WSP takeover of Opus down to the washup

Attribution: RCR Tomlinson, CRL release, ASX statements.

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3-way partnership to fund infrastructure for next big subdivision at Wainui

Government support for infrastructure funding ahead of the next big residential development between the Hibiscus Coast & Kumeu is recognition that Auckland Council doesn’t have the capacity to provide the works immediately, for recovery over the longer term.

Image above: Housing developed over the last 5 years below the Millwater Parkway.

Through the immigration explosion of the last 5 years, the council’s debt has risen to be a wafer short of its limit, although the same issues of infrastructure funding have been staring politicians in the face for 2 decades.

The last government chose major roads as its best option for infrastructure funding, and watched on as former mayor Len Brown told Wellington the Auckland council would go it alone in starting the city rail link. The Government later joined in, to become a full partner.

Offroad transport is the greatest apparent need to defuse the congestion steadily bringing Auckland to a more widespread standstill, at all times of the day. But, as the net inflow of migrants into the region remains above 30,000/year, a change in how subdivision preliminary works are funded was equally imperative.

3-way partnership, outlay recouped through targeted rates

Housing & Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford.

The answer from Housing & Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford came on Wednesday, when he & Auckland mayor Phil Goff announced a 3-way partnership to fund $91 million of roading & wastewater infrastructure to support the building of 9000 homes at Wainui, immediately west of the Millwater subdivision rapidly being built out between Silverdale, Orewa & State Highway 1 40km north-east of downtown Auckland.

Along with the council & Government entity Crown Infrastructure Partners Ltd, the Government special purpose vehicle (SPV) will have Fulton Hogan Land Development Ltd as the third partner.

Mr Twyford said the Milldale project (an extension beyond Millwater, which began in 2007 with Fulton Hogan as one of the partners) “demonstrates an approach to funding that allows private investment in new infrastructure, with the debt sitting on a balance sheet that is neither the council’s nor the Government’s.

“The Milldale project is an example of the innovative new approaches to financing infrastructure that the Government is developing through the urban growth agenda. This funding model can be used in other high growth areas affected by the housing crisis to help more houses to be built more quickly.

“This could include private investment in infrastructure, funded by a charge on the properties that benefit from the infrastructure.

“This new infrastructure funding model will result in a large number of homes being built much sooner than otherwise would have been the case.

“One of the major roadblocks to our towns & cities growing is the lack of ready access to finance for the infrastructure that allows for new urban growth, for greenfields or brownfields developments.”

Mr Goff said addressing the shortage & unaffordability of houses was a priority: “We’ve zoned much more land for housing, but we need the infrastructure before we can build on it. Using Crown Infrastructure Partners to fund that infrastructure enables us to build roads, water & wastewater services without overburdening the council with debt and exceeding our debt:revenue ratio.

“We can build more homes sooner and tackle the housing crisis quicker than would otherwise have been possible.

“This project enables nearly 4000 new dwellings in Milldale, and the infrastructure can support another 5000 dwellings in the surrounding areas as well. It’s a big step towards meeting Auckland’s housing needs.”

Fulton Hogan Land Development has already started work on Milldale.

Crown Infrastructure Partners has secured long-term fixed-rate debt from the Accident Compensation Corp, and the special purpose vehicle will provide $48.9 million towards the infrastructure, with the Crown contributing less than $4 million.

The council contribution will total $33.5 million.

The SPV funding will be repaid over time, partly by Fulton Hogan Land Development and partly by section owners as an ‘infrastructure payment’ collected as a targeted rate through council rates bills.

Mr Twyford said: “This new model of infrastructure financing means that long-term debt can be raised through the SPV to enable the building of largescale infrastructure, which is needed to step up the rate houses are being built at, and to assist councils which are nearing their debt limits.

“The Milldale development will be a modern, contained urban development with green spaces & parks, a town centre, cycleways & walkways, and potentially education facilities, and will be connected to the northern busway.

The infrastructure includes a new arterial road & bridge connecting Wainui Rd to the State Highway 1 interchange & Dairy Flat Highway at Silverdale, intersection upgrades, a roading extension & bridge to the Highgate Parkway business precinct on the eastern side of the motorway, and wastewater tunnels.

Construction of the wastewater tunnel has started, and the first residential sections will be released in the early new year.

Mr Twyford said the infrastructure funding & financing pillar of the Government’s urban growth agenda would enable responsive infrastructure provision & appropriate cost allocation, including the use of project financing & access to financial capital.

Through this agenda, he said the Government aimed to reform infrastructure funding & financing by:

  • providing a broader range of tools & mechanisms  to enable net beneficial bulk & distribution infrastructure to be funded
  • rebalancing development risk from local authorities to the development sector, and
  • making long-term debt finance available to developers willing to take on the commercial risk, with the debt serviced by revenue from the new properties in a development.

Link: Millwater & Milldale website

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Tank to solve western isthmus overflows approved, round 2 begins Friday

Objectors to a stormwater & sewage holding tank to be built under expensive houses along the St Marys Bay ridge overlooking the Westhaven marina had their complaints rejected by a hearing panel last Friday, but a council committee will be back to hear them again this Friday.

Auckland Council’s regulatory committee has called a special meeting to hear objections, and to rule on them in a confidential session the same day.

As with the original hearing decision, the recommendation before the committee is to proceed with the project.

At stake is a $30 million-plus project designed to reduce – close to zero – the frequency of sewage spills into the Waitemata Harbour.

At stake from the property owners’ points of view are:

  • Loss of property value through potential development restriction
  • Extreme, unavoidable stench through vents
  • Concerns about cliff stability
  • Construction impacts, including the fear that the foundations of old houses along the route will be disturbed, and

On top of those questions is the issue of separation of storm- & wastewater – required of property owners in this area for the last 20 years when renovating, altering or redeveloping their properties, only to become mixed again at the gate.

Mr Hill commented on separation in the panel decision: “While we might accept the sincerity of the applicant’s (the council’s) assurance that this proposal is a stepping stone to that eventual outcome, the political history of this issue, as amply demonstrated by the submitters, gives no such assurance.”

Against the council desire to move forward with this project now, submitters also suggested further review, including alternatives, benefits & costs, ought to be undertaken.

However, Mr Hill said the panel had no lawful basis for requiring the application to be suspended for further analysis.

The objective of healthy waters

Auckland Council renamed & refocused its stormwater department, calling it the Healthy Waters department (Wai Ora – Healthy Waterways), in a bid to – at long last – rid the western isthmus in particular of the extremely frequent overflows arising when a deluge of rain hits the dual-purpose sewage & stormwater drains.

For years, local body politicians have fallen short of meeting the dirty-water challenge, limiting the budget and thereby ensuring the certainty of continuing spills by not separating sewage from stormwater.

But councils are now required to abide by the 2014 national policy statement for freshwater management in full by the end of 2025.

In Auckland, the Western Isthmus Water Quality Improvement Work Programme is the largest workstream funded through the targeted rate. Its aim is to progressively reduce overflows into the Waitemata Harbour from hundreds of events to 6 or fewer/outfall/year.

Auckland Council figured, at the end of 2015, it couldn’t meet the national policy statement conditions then, and set about establishing programmes last year so it could meet the policy.

Analysing the watersheds

The council has divided Auckland into 10 watersheds, where water drains to a stream, or ultimately to the harbour or open sea, and has drawn up this staged approach:

  1. Mapping the current state & key issues for each watershed
  2. Determining how to achieve the objectives & consulting the community, and
  3. Developing action plans to meet objectives, limits & targets set in collaboration with key stakeholders.

According to the outline on the council website, the third of those stages should be reached by 2020.

The hearing on the St Marys Bay project was held in September, with a final day in late October, and the hearing panel issued its decision on Friday 9 November. The panel was chaired by David Hill with panellists Mark Farnsworth, Dr Sharon De Luca & Nigel Mark-Brown.

Part of the wider western isthmus programme

The project is part of the wider St Marys Bay improvement programme which aims to improve water quality within St Marys Bay. It’s also part of the western isthmus water quality improvement programme for the wider combined sewer network catchment area, and it’s been designed to integrate with all potential long-term options to improve the network without constraining finalisation of a preferred solution.

It involves reconfiguring the Healthy Waters stormwater network, which is also used by the council-controlled Watercare Services Ltd as a means of safely conveying overflow discharges from 5 engineered overflow points in the combined sewer network, returning these overflows back into Watercare’s branch 5 sewer for treatment at the Mangere wastewater treatment plant when there is capacity.

Any residual combined sewer overflow would be discharged into the Waitemata Harbour via a new, longer marine pipeline that will replace the existing failed outfall at Masefield Beach, which would be removed.

The reconfigured network would enable combined sewer overflows to be captured & stored within the pipeline and returned to the sewer when it has capacity, for subsequent treatment at Mangere. As Mr Hill noted in the hearing decision: “This will significantly reduce the number of combined sewer overflows occurring from approximately an average of 206/year (into St Marys Bay & Masefield Beach) to approximately an average of 20/year. In addition, the replacement outfall will extend further into the Waitemata Harbour, such that when overflows do occur during larger rainfall events this will enable better dilution & dispersion.”

Additional information provided at the hearing indicated that the Masefield Beach outfall “currently discharges combined sewer overflows onto Masefield Beach approximately an average of 107 overflows/year”; and that the expected results would reduce the estimated current average annual overflow discharge volume from this part of the network to the harbour from 101,800mᶟ to 35,000mᶟ, and the proportionate contribution from domestic wastewater in those volumes from 18,300mᶟ to 700mᶟ”.

The project requires:

  • a 1km conveyance & storage pipeline (1.8m internal diameter, about 2500mᶟ capacity) extending from New St to Pt Erin Park, underground & beneath residential properties, recreation areas & road reserve, with an invert depth ranging between 5m and up to 22m deep
  • weir structures, pump stations & odour control units in Pt Erin Park & St Marys Rd Park
  • 4 (subsequently reduced to 3) air exchange poles, 8-10m high, within the road reserve on New St & London St
  • construction of shafts in Pt Erin Park (8m deep), St Marys Rd Park (9m diameter by 8m deep) and the New St/London St intersection (5m diameter by 24m deep)
  • a new 750mm internal diameter gravity pipeline along Sarsfield & Curran Sts connecting engineered overflow points 194 & 196 directly to the Pt Erin Park pump station
  • installation of a new 500m long by 150mm internal diameter rising main between Pt Erin Park & Sarsfield St, connecting to Watercare’s branch 5 sewer
  • connections to the new conveyance & storage pipeline from 5 engineered overflow points (points 194 & 196 (Sarsfield St), 172 (London St), 180 (Hackett St) & 1020 (New St)) – with point 180 remaining operational
  • construction of a new 450m by 1.4m internal diameter marine outfall pipeline with diffusers in the coastal management area off Masefield Beach, and
  • removal of the existing failed Masefield Beach 300mm outfall pipeline.

The panel concluded that, while separation is referred to, this would not be a wastewater facility because the volumes of wastewater overflow would be low.

The panel also concluded that the air discharge from the storage tank (distinct from a pipeline where the contents are continuously flushed away) would pass the required odour standard.

Experienced civil engineer Ross Thurlow proffered an alternative to eliminate the tunnelled detention tank & above-ground ventilation poles & electrically driven ventilators. But the panel concluded that his option of an odour ventilation pipe inside an enlarged pipe tunnel with discharge at Pt Erin would require too long a tunnel and would not be viable.

On the issue of land settlement once the tunnel has been put in place, the predicted settlement effects were very low ad the panel accepted that any adverse effects would be detected early to allow appropriate mitigation measures to be put in place.

The panel also accepted that neither the shaft nor tunnel construction would cause groundwater changes that would adversely affect cliff stability. Overall, on stability, the panel said: “We find the investigations sufficiently detailed to allow reasonable predictions of settlement & stability effects. These can & will be further managed through consent conditions, including implementation of a groundwater & settlement monitoring & contingency plan and a construction noise & vibration plan to measure actual behaviours of the ground in terms of groundwater levels, vibration & settlement that will allow early detection and, if necessary, implementation of mitigation measures should the works cause unexpected effects that could affect existing buildings, utilities & roads, or cliff stability.”

The final paragraph of the decision sums up the resource management issues: “While the proposed development does not achieve the outcome sought by many submitters specific to the network discharges management solution advanced in the application, it is a significant improvement over the existing coastal marine discharge situation and, we were assured, is not the end of the matter as far as council (Healthy Waters) is concerned. We have accepted that assurance and, in that context, agree that it represents an appropriate sustainable management response to the identified problem and ‘promotes’ the purpose & principles of part 2 of the Resource Management Act.”

The next round, on Friday, takes the council into more complicated territory, away from the project itself and into the realm of values.

Links:
9 November 2018: Hearing decision
Hearing documents
Auckland Council, Looking after our waterways
Regulatory committee agenda, 16 November 2018
7, Objections to St Marys Bay & Masefield Beach improvement project
Recommendation
Maps showing project overview & objectors’ properties
Options analysis for location of new infrastructure
Examples of formal notices sent to residents under the Local Government Act 2002
Copies of all objections received
Record of communications
Engineering assessments & review of development controls for each property
C1, Deliberations on objections to St Mary’s Bay & Masefield Beach improvement project (in confidential agenda)

Attribution: Hearing documents & decision, committee agenda.

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Council committee ignores point of waterfront stadium request: agreement to test feasibility

Proponents of a stadium on the Auckland waterfront laid out their plans for Auckland Council’s planning committee yesterday, including a long question-&-answer session.

Image above: The model showing the proposed stadium, on display during the consortium’s presentation.

It was an information session, mainly explaining the process the Auckland Waterfront Consortium wants to go through over the next 3 years, not a request for assistance or prelude to a consent process.

But there was a request, as legal representative Mike Sage outlined at the outset: “We’re here today to request the council to enter into an agreement with the consortium & the Crown to test the feasibility of the consortium’s proposal that Bledisloe Wharf & the basin between Bledisloe & Queen’s Wharves should be transformed into a breathtakingly & beautiful precinct.”

That request was sidelined during the following 90 minutes. After the committee asked its many questions, committee chair Chris Darby linked the proposal to other propositions & the overall need to masterplan that area of the waterfront, thanked the consortium members and they were on their way.

The consortium’s waterfront map.

How the council might meet the feasibility test request – or whether the Government had already agreed to participate – wasn’t discussed.

Like other major infrastructure proposals, such as a ports alliance & moving the port out of town, this one could easily drift out to sea unless the council is prodded more firmly.

Shortly before the session ended, Cllr Ross Clow protested that Cllr Darby appeared to be presupposing the consortium’s proposal would proceed: “What about Eden Park Trust Board coming with their presentation – we do a business case on the status quo?” he asked.

Cllr Darby said the council could integrate some of the ideas being tossed around when it begins its review of the city waterfront masterplan, which at the moment doesn’t include this section of the waterfront: “I’m actually saying there does need to be a plan of our waterfront,” he responded.

“There is a stadium study [withheld from Radio NZ for 5 months, and then released with large sections blacked out] that identifies a preferred location to be then tested against the incumbent, which is Eden Park. That work is clearly identified as work yet to be done.”

Cllr Darby said the council could consider “over the coming weeks” whether it wanted to embark on examining a masterplan for the waterfront right along to the Pt Erin baths.

The Bledisloe precinct & Eden Park redevelopment proposal

In tandem, the proposal for a 50,000-seat stadium sunk to the sea floor at the end of Bledisloe Wharf, with the ability to expand to 65,000 seats, would be combined with redevelopment of the hallowed Eden Park to build an estimated 2500 apartments.

The wharf itself would have an estimated 2500 apartments built on it, plus retail, hospitality, hotels, commercial space & public space.

The proponents presenting yesterday:
Dave Wigmore (The Property Strategists Ltd, overall)
Mike Sage (Simpson Grierson, legal & overall picture)
Richard Goldie (Peddle Thorp, architecture)

  • I’ll post committee questions in a second stadium item later today.

Links:
Livestream of committee agenda item
12 October 2018: Archimedia masterplan proposal for ports area
18 May 2018, Radio NZ on PWC downtown stadium feasibility report: No conclusion on downtown Auckland stadium in $1m report

Earlier story:
19 October 2018: Consortium releases waterfront stadium proposal details

Attribution: Council committee meeting.

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Fulton Hogan drops Huntly quarry from Stevenson purchase, Commerce Commission happy

The Commerce Commission has closed its investigation into roading & infrastructure construction company Fulton Hogan Ltd’s acquisition of Stevenson Group Ltd’s construction materials business, saying its concerns with the transaction have been addressed.

Fulton Hogan agreed to buy Stevenson’s construction materials business in May, intending to take full ownership of Stevenson’s 2 quarries & 4 concrete plants, transport, laboratory services and associated plant & equipment.

Fulton Hogan didn’t seek clearance under the commission’s merger regime, and the commission opened an investigation in June, primarily due to concerns the acquisition could reduce competition for the production & supply of aggregates (granular rocks, gravel or sand typically used in roading & construction) in Auckland & North Waikato. Fulton Hogan & Stevenson both own & operate quarries in Auckland & Huntly.

Commission deputy chair Sue Begg said yesterday Fulton Hogan had since agreed not to acquire Stevenson’s Huntly quarry as part of the transaction and it had now been formally excluded from the purchase.

“The decision to remove the Huntly quarry from the transaction addresses our concerns in this case. We are satisfied that Fulton Hogan’s purchase of Stevenson’s Auckland quarry assets is unlikely to substantially lessen competition, given the presence of other competitors in this market, and we have now closed our investigation.”

Stevenson’s focus has shifted to the development of its Drury quarry & land across to Auckland’s Southern Motorway, where it had 361ha of rural & quarry land rezoned in 2013 for a mix of industrial & business development.

Since then, Kiwi Property Group Ltd has bought 51ha at Drury to create a town centre, and Karaka & Drury Ltd (Charles Ma) has begun work on 2 residential developments at Drury, the first for 68ha and the second for 85ha, set to yield about 2700 homes plus a village centre.

Link:
Commerce Commission case register

Earlier stories:
15 June 2018: Commission opens investigation into Fulton Hogan’s Stevenson acquisition
31 October 2016: Work starts on 3 striking special housing area projects
24 August 2016: Work set to start after fast approval for Auranga special housing area at Drury
30 August 2013: Drury South industrial area plan change & MUL extension approved
10 September 2017: Second round for Auranga precinct confirms Drury as major growth centre

Attribution: Commission & Fulton Hogan releases.

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Ameti busway plans release brings Pakuranga Plaza transformation back

Pakuranga Plaza owner GYP Properties Pte Ltd said at the weekend release of revised proposed plans for the Auckland-Manukau eastern transport initiative (Ameti) eastern busway means the company can finalise its own designs for redevelopment of the Plaza & its 4ha site.

Image above: Pakuranga Plaza when Westfield owned it.

GYP Properties, a subsidiary of Singaporean listed company Global Yellow Pages Ltd, bought Pakuranga Plaza, which sits at the junction of Pakuranga & Reeves Rds & Ti Rakau Drive, from Ladstone Holdings Ltd for $96 million in October 2014.

The listed company’s shareholders approved the diversification of the company’s core business to property investment, development & management in May 2015.

Mr Tan said: “We have been working on the Plaza redevelopment since we acquired the property, but until we had the final alignments with roading, and the bus interchange location & access points were locked down, it has not been possible to conclude our own designs.

“Masterplans incorporating significant residential & retail buildings together with commercial, accommodation & entertainment activities will be further developed over the coming months. They will be released once the resource consent process, currently anticipated to be sometime in 2019, is underway. However, we are pleased to confirm our 3 anchor tenants.”

Mr Tan said Countdown had confirmed, Farmers had renewed its leases and The

Warehouse tenure runs through to 2035.

“We look forward to participating in this transformation project from Plaza to town centre, and on delivering quality housing options with modern retail facilities that focus on services, entertainment and food & beverage, with strong linkages to community amenities.”

He said GYP Properties would engage with key stakeholder groups & the Howick Local Board over the next few months while its plans evolve.

Links:
Auckland Transport, Ameti project
Ameti eastern busway
3 September 2018: Designation approved for next stage of Ameti eastern busway
Pakuranga Plaza website

Earlier stories:
2 October 2015: 15-year plan to transform Pakuranga Plaza takes shape
17 October 2014: Stanley Tan buys Pakuranga Plaza

Attribution: Company release.

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A milestone for the city rail link project, and a start on the next major section

The 2-year task of reinstating Albert St began last week while, over at Britomart, excavation for the city rail link tunnel can now proceed at full speed.

Image above: Work underway on the tunnel at the intersection of Albert & Customs St West.

The first is an obvious milestone in the development of the rail tunnel under Auckland’s downtown business area because, for most of the time the project has been underway, pedestrians have been able to peer down.

Britomart is far more complicated, requiring the railway station building – the city’s former chief post office – to be jacked up to enable excavation for the tunnel that will cross under Lower Queen St, under the Commercial Bay tower under construction on the former Downtown shopping centre site, around under Albert St & up to Karangahape Rd and on to Mt Eden station.

The Albert St tunnel project in September 2017 (my photo above) and (below) in September 2018.

The Government-Auckland Council company in charge of the rail project, City Rail Link Ltd, in its latest newsletter out last Thursday, counts some major steps forward:

  • Albert St reinstatement starts
  • Excavation under the Albert/Customs St intersection paves the way for construction of the tunnel box sections that will eventually link the Albert St trench to the rail tunnels being built under the neighbouring Commercial Bay development
  • The Britomart load transfer is complete and tunnel excavation can proceed.

City Rail Link chief executive Sean Sweeney said backfilling of the trench which runs directly beneath Albert St will eventuate in the roadway being reinstated & returned to road users by late 2020.

Backfilling with 50,000m³ of materials – a mixture of crushed concrete, crushed rock, sand & flowable fill – will take until mid-2019 to complete.

The work is being completed by Connectus – the McConnell Dowell Constructors Ltd & Downer EDI Ltd joint venture delivering the city rail link C2 contract.

Under the Customs/Albert St intersection, excavations have reached the halfway mark in preparation for building a key section of rail link tunnel box.

The twin underground tunnels being built under Albert St will connect at that point with those that have been built under the adjacent Commercial Bay development site.

Excavation is also continuing with the installation of supports for the trench walls and the removal of an old stormwater pump chamber. Construction of the tunnel structure under the intersection is expected to start this year, with a full connection being made to Commercial Bay by mid-2019.

On the C1 contract in Queen St, Downer & Soletanche Bachy JV completed the weight transfer of the 106-year-old category 1-listed ex-post office heritage building onto a series of underpinning frames, which will protect it from damage while rail link infrastructure is built underneath.

The City Rail Link website is full of images & more detail on the project.

2 time-lapse videos on the link’s website show a 6-month sequence of the city rail link tunnel box being built underneath Albert St. One camera faces south, and the other faces northern Albert St (downhill).

Links:
Albert St milestone
Video: Latest look inside the Albert St trenches
Britomart tunnel excavation is go

Attribution: Company release.

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