Bridge’s SkyPath gets ‘yes’ vote

Auckland City Harbour News - - OUT & ABOUT - MARIA SLADE AND SI­MON MAUDE

A walk­ing and cy­cling path across Auck­land’s har­bour bridge is a step closer af­ter city coun­cil­lors voted unan­i­mously to sup­port a means of pay­ing for it.

The politi­cians have agreed that the $33m SkyPath should be funded by a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship (PPP), with Auck­land Coun­cil un­der­writ­ing the pro­ject to an agreed level.

De­spite a 5-hour de­bate at the coun­cil’s Fi­nance and Per­for­mance Com­mit­tee meet­ing on July 20, coun­cil­lors voted as one in favour of the PPP.

A walk­ing and cy­cling route had been talked about since the bridge was built in the 1950s, Coun­cil­lor Chris Darby says.

‘‘It’s been wrung dry, but all the an­swers have been spat out ev­ery time,’’ he says. ’’The time has come.’’

Coun­cil­lor Mike Lee says SkyPath was ‘‘the City Rail Link for walk­ing and cy­cling’’.

How­ever SkyPath still has sig­nif­i­cant hur­dles to over­come.

Res­i­dents groups op­posed to the pro­ject are tak­ing it to the En­vi­ron­ment Court, with hear­ings due to be held later this year.

Un­der the terms of the PPP a toll will be charged to use SkyPath, and the coun­cil will un­der­write rev­enue from the toll up to an agreed level.

If tolls don’t meet fore­casts the coun­cil will pay out, but if they ex­ceed them the coun­cil will profit.

The group be­hind SkyPath, HRL Mor­ri­son and Co, will fi­nance, de­sign, build, main­tain and op­er­ate the path as a user pays fa­cil­ity for 25 years, when it will then re­vert to coun­cil own­er­ship.

At the mo­ment the coun­cil didn’t have any other op­tion for fund­ing a walk­ing and cy­cling path over the bridge, Coun­cil­lor Linda Cooper says.

SkyPath sup­port­ers in­sist there is great pub­lic de­mand for the pro­ject which would link up with ex­ist­ing and planned cy­cle routes.

Bike Auck­land’s Bar­bara Cuth­bert said Auck­lan­ders had started to em­brace cy­cling and wanted SkyPath’s miss­ing link.

‘‘It’s a non­sense to sug­gest NZTA won’t sup­port it, they have planned and are build­ing SeaPath (along the north­ern mo­tor­way from Taka­puna) to take you right to SkyPath.’’

Auck­land Coun­cil said pro­vi­sion would need to be made its An­nual Plan for 2017/18, and the Long-term Plan for 2018/28.

It is fore­cast SkyPath would have more than 8700 users on Satur­days.

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