Bridge’s SkyPath gets ‘yes’ vote
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.