SkyPath gets ‘yes’ vote from councillors
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.
The design for SkyPath sees a tube-like structure suspended beneath the harbour bridge.