Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Heritage Rules a lottery

I have been involved in Heritage issues for many years as it is one of my many passions. And of course there is the economic value of retaining and protecting heritage buildings and neighborhoods.
Who has not visited an old city, taken a heritage walk or been on a double decker bus somewhere and enjoyed and valued the experience?
I feel passionately that there has not been real consultation between the city council and affected residents. The proposed change has the potential to wipe out a significant area of our city heritage. The Spatial Plan for Auckland City will not offer the protection needed nor will it provide the planing needed to ensure we have a most livable city such as we enjoy now.
What has happened is this: there were large areas in Herne Bay, One Tree Hill and Mt Albert that were protected so we had blocks of beautiful houses. Then Mr Banks and his friends leaflet dropped these areas giving the residents the option of protecting their property or not. This was an exercise for individual home owners, not for the good of community at large. Some understood the issue, some did not, some were no doubt overseas and missed it completely. So now, instead of all the houses in Res 2 being protected there can be a street with ten identical houses and only one is protected. You can imagine what happens to house number ten when the other nine are demolished. The owners of house number 10 would also have to bear the huge cost of appealing any decision their neighbours made.
Only houses with a significant street appeal can be protected so if the Sistine Chapel was up a driveway it could be demolished.

Recently a house in Coronation Avenue, Epsom which the council had listed as worthy of protection was demolished because the owner appealed the decision in the Environment Court which found in his favour. All the affected neighbours have had to suffer something which would not happen in Res 1. This would not be allowed to happen in London or Jackson Hole in Wyoming.
I hope stories like this will generate a debate and a process for the development of our city.
Auckland is my adopted home and I'm proud to be an Aucklander

Please read the story below.

Heritage rules 'a lottery'

SCOTT MORGAN - Auckland City Harbour News
Last updated 05:00 30/06/2010

NO TO DEMOLITION: Heritage campaigner Gerry Hill, in Herne Bay, is concerned about rule changes that will allow the demolition of some pre-1940 heritage homes in suburbs around the city.

CRITICISM is being directed at rule changes that protect some of the city's heritage houses from demolition, but not others.
Ponsonby resident Gerry Hill isn't happy with a compromise reached by the Auckland City Council and the Environment Court that proposes only some pre-1940 heritage homes in residential zone two areas would need a resource consent before demolition.
Local areas zoned residential two include Herne Bay, Mt Albert, One Tree Hill and Epsom.
He says the selection criteria that decides which homes are protected are random at best.
"It's a lottery. There's no proper principle in it. It will pit neighbour against neighbour."
Mr Hill is supportive of plan change 163, introduced by the previous council in 2005, which meant all pre-1940 heritage homeowners in residential zones one and two had to apply for resource consent before they could demolish or remove their houses.
But an appeal to the Environment Court meant the council had to compromise, subsequently identifying 2942 homes out of 6773 across the city that require a resource consent before demolition or removal can occur.
Mr Hill, who runs a boutique hotel in Ponsonby, says the decision doesn't take into account that heritage buildings are fantastic tourist attractions, along with improving the visual appeal of Auckland's older streets.
"I take tourists on heritage walks through those areas. They're all old parts of the city people are proud of. They take photos and often they're of the old buildings."
Mr Hill is also concerned not enough has been done to let affected homeowners know what's going on, despite a council letterbox drop to each house and a marketing campaign.
"I believe that they should be doing a proper survey that could be pushed through the media.
"They could have had a series of community meetings."
Mr Hill believes the issue could snowball after the supercity election, with heritage properties in other parts of Auckland likely to be affected.
But mayor John Banks says he's happy with the solution, which has taken many months to work through.
"We've come up with what is an inspired compromise. They haven't been selected by politicians, they've been selected by the very best people to do this work."
While Mr Banks is supportive of the policy, he knows the selection criteria were never going to please everybody.
"It's never an exact science. It was always going to be slightly hit and miss."
Mr Banks says the council has done its best to inform affected parties of what's going on.
The council is seeking public consultation before the Environment Court makes its final decision.
Residents and the public have until July 9 to make submissions on the maps showing affected properties, but not on the selection criteria.
Maps of zone 2 areas can be viewed at www.aucklandcity.govt.nz, at the council's civic administration building in Greys Ave and at all Auckland city libraries.
Blanket protection remains for pre-1940s homes in zone 1 areas like Ponsonby, Grey Lynn and Mt Eden, though an appeal against the decision is ongoing.
Mr Hill is doing his own survey on people's understanding of and concerns about the rules. To contact him email grrhll@gmail.com.
He is happy to meet with concerned groups to explain the rules.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ride the B Lline

Mike Lee has been a strong advocate for a sustainable city for many years. Mike is currently the Chairperson of the Auckland Regional council and he has achieved much including a huge expansion in our net work of Regional Parks .
Improved rail services and bus lanes he has also been largely responsible for.
His proposal for B Line along Dominion is another example of Mr Lee' walking the talk'.
This proposition will get Auckland moving and ensure the viability of out main streets shopping and commercial centers.
We may even get a song about the B-line as hip as ride the A line is.
Mike is also a city council candidate for the Waitamata ward in the coming elections

Your story Friday 25 June about the B line proposal for bus traffic along Dominion Road may be the shot in the arm needed to get Auckland moving .Many people talk, but this proposal is walking the talk. Mike Lee, NZ Bus and others responsible should be congratulated. Trams used to get to Onehunga in sixteen minutes from Queen Street.

The B line system has the potential to produce such efficiency.

The Link bus and improved and more frequent train services to Newmarket are winners and also something we are proud to celebrate and to talk about.

There are issues that continue to plague and disrupt efficient transport in Auckland. If city councillors rode our busses, trains and ferries perhaps they will grasp the importance of our transport system and may become proactive.

.If we are to be a Supercity then we need to get transport working throughout the city. A rail link to the airport should also be expedited .

Abridged and published in the New Zealand Herald Monday 28 June 2008

Below is mike original article as published in the New Zealand Herald Friday 25 June

ARC chair and Waitemata and Gulf City Vision-endorsed candidate, Mike Lee, today slammed the Auckland City plan to allow cars into the bus lanes on Dominion Rd, calling it a retrograde step.

He said encouraging bus travel required lateral thinking and thinking outside the square. Launching ARTA’s b-line fast bus initiative, Mr Lee told the gathering that if Auckland City “really has a problem with bus lanes on the side of the road, then its time we gave serious thought to putting bus lanes down the middle of the road.

“This would, in one step remove the conflicts between buses and parking vehicles and vehicles pulling out of, or into, driveways.
“The safety of passengers would actually be enhanced by having traffic lights at each ‘super-stop’, allowing them to get from the side of the road to the platform where they wait for the bus. And the buses would be able to move faster. ”

b-line, launched today at Mt Eden War Memorial Hall, halfway down Dominion Road, as the Mutton Birds song goes, celebrates ARTA’s promotion to change the perception you have to wait forever for a bus so it’s easier to drive and aims to increase bus patronage during peak times.
The yellow branding of b-line for buses in Dominion Road and Mt Eden promote the fact buses weekdays from 7am to 7pm are never more than 15 minutes apart.

NZ Bus is introducing shortly new NZ-made buses along the Mt Eden route. NZ Bus CEO Bruce Emson said that while 15 minutes was the promise, the aim was closer to 5 minute frequencies.
The b-line service will later be developed along other routes such as Sandringham, New North and Great North Rds.
But the launch happens only a few weeks after Auckland City ignored city council officers’ recommendations and decided to allow T2 lanes – meaning Dominion Road bus lanes could also be used by cars with more than one occupant.
I put up video showing how difficult Dominion Road bus travel is already at peak time – and Auckland City transport committee chairman Ken Baguley has explained why the decision was made.

Mike Lee launches b-line

Mr Lee told today’s guests, which included Mr Baguley, that it was most unfortunate that at the very moment that Dominion Road has been chosen as the “flagship route” for bus improvements in Auckland, Auckland City Council is considering removing bus lanes, and allowing cars with just one passenger into the lanes.
“The mayor (John Banks) and the council needs to be in no doubt that this will be a retrograde step and inevitably lead to significant delays for bus users.
“The reason why Dominion Road is such a popular bus route is because catching the bus here to get into town is faster and more convenient than driving. Auckland City Council needs to understand that compromising the effectiveness of the Dominion Road bus lanes is in direct conflict with the ARTA B-Line initiative.
The chair said that Dominion Road’s public transport needs to be enhanced, not undermined.

“After all, transport experts believe that in the not too distant future this route is ideal for modern light-rail: which can absorb the planned increased future demand for public transport and at the same time encourage intensification and a quality urban environment along this key corridor.
“As a step towards this longer-term goal, we need to think laterally about how public transport can be improved along this route? So that this “B-Line” idea has a real sting in its tail, and Dominion Road gets to be known as the best bus route not only in Auckland – but the best bus route in New Zealand.

“By a real sting – I mean a bus service that can really move much more people – much more quickly. Like a railway with trains on rubber tyres.
“We need to remember that people are logical in their transport choices: They will choose what is fastest, cheapest, most reliable and most convenient. If we want more people to use public transport, then that is what we need to give them: a service that makes sense to use.

“In order to do that, we must make an intensive effort to tackle problems that are delaying buses. We need to take a “whole-of-route” approach to operational improvements including traffic signal timing changes; more effective signal pre-emption – in other words when the bus comes the lights turn green straight away – just as in the leading PT cities.

“We must tackle critical customer amenity and infrastructure issues – e.g. poor lighting at stops; substandard bus shelters; and the need to site bus stops where people actually are – not just because bus stops have always been located in a particular place.

“We need to think about off-board ticketing at the most heavily used stops to speed up boarding – or even do what Sydney does and have faster pre-pay bus routes.”

b-line bus brought special guests to the launch

Mr Lee said that with the recent focus on rail, it was easy to overlook that fact that nearly 80% of Auckland public transport trips are by bus. The b-line name was based on a very successful initiative in Vancouver which has been very successful..

Vancouver was a city that Auckland can learn a lot from: both cities have broadly similar populations though Vancouver has 2.1 million people while we have 1.4 m – however we do have similar densities, Auckland at 18.9 people per hectare and Vancouver 17 people per hectare. Both cities also have a similar percentage of jobs in the CBD: Auckland at 13.5% and Vancouver at 12.6%. Yet while Vancouver’s rail system is fairly limited, it has managed to achieve a 17% public transport modeshare of trips to work, while Auckland in comparison has only 7%.

The average Vancouverite takes 135 public transport trips per year, while the average Aucklander only takes 40.
“What has made Vancouver’s B-Line system effective, and will make Auckland’s B-Line equally effective is not so much flashy marketing but rigorous attention to the fundamentals:

* the buses must be attractive
* must operate on time
* must come frequently
* they must be able to travel fast along the corridor, people must be able to board quickly
* if necessary people must be able to transfer freely and conveniently to other buses or trains

“To this end it must be said ARTA is making great progress – following on from the signing of an integrated ticketing deal late last year- we look forward to the implementation of smart-card integrated ticketing in Auckland next year.”

Mike Lee: "A bus service that moves much more people, more quickly"

Mike Lee also made passing reference to the remaining big yet-to-be approved rail projects.

“I think its fair to say with the final government approval of the electrification project rail, the battle for rail in Auckland has been fought and won, apart from major projects like the CBD rail tunnel and rail to Auckland International Airport – which will need a political push.”

More photos of the b-line marketing from today’s launch here


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Campbell Free Kindergarten

I pay tribute to Western Bays City councillor, Graeme Easte who has doggedly pursued options to have this wonderful building kept in public ownership and also to find a partner who would use it the best possible way for Auckland.
Over the years a number of people including former Western Bays Community Board member and Freeman's Bay resident, Diane Percy, tattooist and Ponsonby businessman and one time mayoral candidate, Phil Mathias and his widow Sharon as well as this writer have produced ideas for retaining and using this building.
Built in 1910 and donated by John Logan Campbell it was the first kindergarten in New Zealand. For that reason alone it should have been maintained and put to community use.
Councillor Easte's successful negotiation has ensured this will happen. Future as well as current residents of Auckland will have a wonderful place to enjoy.

Below is a letter I wrote to and was published by the New Zealand Herald Tuesday June 2010

The restoration and upgrading of the Campbell Free Kindergarten is great news.

To make it a public hall is pragmatic. There is a great demand for affordable public halls in the city and being on the Link bus route and within walking distance of the city and Ponsonby will ensure its viability.

With the Rugby World Cup happening next year it could be used as a temporary Sporting museum which would be a wonderful asset to the city. It would also be good for marketing this restored gem to Aucklanders.

Long term it would be good to see some recognition to the Ponsonby Ponies Rugby League and the Grafton Cricket Clubs which have been associated with Victoria Park for many years. This building was actually their club rooms. In fact the first game of Rugby League in New Zealand was played on Victoria Park. This recognition could be accommodated in a public hall.

It would also be fitting to have some memorial to the founder of Auckland, John Logan Campbell who funded this kindergarten.

More so as we are within weeks of the birth of our super city we should honour and appreciate the people who founded the city and those who have made a contribution to Auckland

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ponsonby Divas

Published in Ponsonby news July 2010

Ponsonby Divas

Beverley Jean Morrison known to all as Beaver, was sadly lost to cancer on the 23rd May 2010. Beaver had been sick for some years, but like the diva she was, she soldiered on for as long as she could. A farewell was held in the Auckland Concert Chamber and her wake Sale St bar, where we celebrated her life friendship and talent.

Beaver’s musical experience started in the band Blerta in the early 1970’s and she became internationally known after performing in Ronnie Scott’s famous jazz club in London during the 1980’s. Ronnie had come to Ponsonby to check Beaver out and invited her to perform at his club. Her subsequent album was the jazz album of the year in 1988.
The re-release of Girl Talk is out and features Beaver, Lynn Lorkin Julie Mason and Candy Alderton- Conway, if you would like to have a bit of Beaver in your collection, this would be a fine choice.

Over a few beers at Beaver’s wake, many of us talked of ROCK ‘N’ ROLL PONSONBY. There was a time when rents were cheap a working wage was livable and could purchase rock n roll heaven and Ponsonby was Bohemia. It attracted writers, dancers, poets and playwrights and produced some bloody good footballers too! We also recalled many of the great musicians who both entertained us and partied with us. We talked of the long gone and much lamented Glue Pot as well as other good local watering holes and performance venues. Among the bands and singers that we talked about included Tommy Adderley, Tommy Ferguson, Dragon, Hello Sailor, DD Smash. Suburban Reptiles, Street Talk, Jive Bombers, Topp Twins, Tigerness, Supergroove and Che Fu. Talk also turned to the international acts like Lucinda Williams. Midnight Oil, Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger who dropped by to strum a guitar and sing a few songs.

Conversation came to the Divas; Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ponsonby has never been just about the blokes. Great singers who sang a diversity of musical genres such as Trudy Green, Truda Chadwick,Hattie st John, Lynn Lorkin and others who have lived the Ponsonby rock dreams.

Talk then switched to the 21st century divas who are doing the hard yards and are now enjoying commercial success. Three worthy of note are Anika Moa, Hollie Smith and Kirsten Morrell. All of them have CDs out which have been critically acclaimed

Anika Moa’s latest album is titled Love In Motion and she is on the road performing all over the country promoting her CD and drawing good reviews for her live performances
I had hoped to catch her at Galltos on Friday 4 June . However, if I didn't manage to get there , Im content in the knowledge that I have in my collection a really great album and know that come summer I will be able to catch her on tour.

Hollie Smith is a talented soul singer who has to date released four albums, the latest being Humour and the Misfortune of Others. This Diva has good musical genes with her father Paul being a well known Auckland Blues man, currently performing with his band The Gunsmiths. Hollie was unlucky enough to miss out on a Bluenote contract in America, largely because of the recession of 2008/09 which has racked havoc in the music industry. Hollie has bounced back with a great album which really highlights the soul quality of her voice. Hollie is also touring nationally and is a worthy distraction on any night of the week.

Rounding out this talented trio is Kirsten Morrell. Kirsten is a talented songwriter and singer and also a pretty good breakfast cook! The Great Ponsonby Art Hotel employed Kirsten in the mid 1990’s as a breakfast cook and have watched her musical career through her former band Goldenhorse. Her first solo album which is Ultraviolet has been well received and is selling well. Kirsten is also involved in the Fair trade movement. Recently at the Woman’s Bookshop she hosted an event in support Fair trade where she baked her own cakes and attracted support from the Ponsonby business community and the wider community .Among the speakers was Labour MP Jacinda Ardern also spoke on the fair-trade message
Kirsten is currently in the U.K. where she has among her performances one at the legendary Isle of Wight .

These three woman do more than carry a candle, they truly are the 21st century Divas of Ponsonby in their own right and have the potential to take NZ music to the world. Each have their own website, face book and You tube spaces so we can all keep up with their brilliant careers, and they are far more exciting and fresh than the Three Tenors.