SkyPath gets ‘yes’ vote from coun­cil­lors

Central Leader - - HEALTH & BEAUTY - MARIA SLADE AND SI­MON MAUDE

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

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

De­spite a five-hour de­bate at the coun­cil’s Fi­nance and Per­for­mance Com­mit­tee meet­ing on July 20, in the end 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.

‘‘All the an­swers have been spat out ev­ery time,’’ he said. ’’The time has come.’’

Coun­cil­lor Mike Lee said SkyPath was ‘‘the City Rail Link for walk­ing and cy­cling’’, re­fer­ring to the city’s long awaited $2.5 bil­lion down­town rail pro­ject now un­der way’’.

How­ever SkyPath still has sig­nif­i­cant hur­dles to over­come.

Res­i­dents groups op­posed to the pro­ject are tak­ing it to the En­vi­ron­ment Court, hear­ings are 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 a meet­ing on July 20 a lawyer for op­po­si­tion group North- cote Res­i­dents As­so­ci­a­tion, Grant He­wit­son, said coun­cil had failed to meet its le­gal re­quire­ment to ‘‘ex­plic­itly in­clude’’ SkyPath in its Long Term Plan be­fore com­mit­ting to it.

‘‘You must amend your Long Term Plan to com­ply,’’ He­wit­son said.

‘‘You don’t know what the costs are and you don’t know what the rev­enue is.’’

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

In his per­sonal pre­sen­ta­tion, Northcote Point res­i­dent Jeremy Richards told the com­mit­tee the PPP was in ef­fect a ‘‘mas­sive sub­sidy’’ by Auck­land ratepay­ers ‘‘prop­ping up a flawed busi­ness case’’ de­pen­dent on out­side in­flu­ences.

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

SUP­PLIED

The de­sign for SkyPath sees a tube-like struc­ture sus­pended be­neath the har­bour bridge.

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