Updates: Stop the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square in downtown Auckland

Closed Cause page created in the Environment category by Auckland Architectural Association for "expert witnesses and legal counsel retained for environment court hearing"

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  • We lost the square - but made small gains     08 November 2016

    The Environment Court has upheld the QE Square Road Stop, and declined the objections of Auckland Architectural Association. Parties are now finalising the conditions for Plan Modification 79. This means the way is now clear for Auckland Council to sell all of QE Square to Precinct Properties. Which is sad for Auckland. With the clarity of hindsight there was a strong case to argue for retention of the sunny side of QE Square, and the sale of just the dark side. However it was a difficult David and Goliath contest. Among the hard won gains for Auckland:

    * the east-west laneway will be 6 metres wide (and not 5 metres as originally applied for)

    * Auckland Council will consider the needs of CBD and passenger transport pedestrians differently and more thoroughly after this battle.

    Thank you for your support.

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  • Hearing highlights (1)     25 July 2016
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    With over 50 briefs of evidence, highly experienced and motivated legal counsel, the senior environment court judge (Newhook) and three very experienced commissioners (Dunlop, Kernohan and Wilkinson), it's to be expected that in a 5 days hearing there was drama, excitement and discovery.

    While we wait the decision over the next few, I'd like to share with you some of the key moments - one or more of which might influence the final decision.

    For me, one of the new pieces of information that came out was the sheer volume and variety of pedestrian movements there are across Queen Elizabeth Square. I guess you'd expect that. It was built as a pedestrian mall after all.

    The data emerged in the work of Garth Falconer, done for Auckland Council a couple of years ago, in his Reset Study of downtown public spaces. The picture with this update is from page 13 of that study. Largely ignored by many until the hearing.

    Why it's important is that a major plank in Council's case (arguing that QE Square was a poorly performing space etc), was that the pedestrian desire line for people in the area was North/South, and that most of that was on the west side of Lower Queen Street. What the Reset Study indicates is that the pedestrian movements East/West (across QE Square) are in the same range as the North/South movements (11,000 to 15,000 pedestrian movements on average/day).

    Also, if you look closely at the picture, you'll see a figure of 4,185 by the yellow dot which marks the QE Square doorway into the Downtown Shopping Centre. That figure is for ENTRY movements/day on average only (they don't count exits). The other doorways show similar ENTRY statistics.

    Needless to say, these shoppers or day-trippers must at some point exit the shopping centre, meaning about the same number probably leave as enter the various doors. Upshot is most of the ped movements across QES are probably to and from the shopping centre. Others will be entering and leaving the Zurich Tower, some will be coming and going to the Zurich Cafe. And these movements won't all be in a straight line from the railway station. Some will come from the ferry for example.

    Short point is this: pedestrian movements across QES are from all quarters of the compass now, (ie before demolition commenced), and in future, with the bus station in Lower Albert, 4000 new workers in the new tower, and a shiny new downtown shopping centre, there will be more of these East West movements. Following different desire lines and pedestrian pathways across QE Square.

    The problem this presents for what Council and Precinct want with developing QE Square, is that ALL of these East West movements will have to be squeezed into a single, narrow East West laneway. For many pedestrians this will be an inconvenient walking route. Another good reason to keep QE Square as a public open space.

    All good stuff. And grist to the mill.

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  • Extracts: Day 1, 2 and 3 of the Hearing     21 July 2016
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    An update on the court hearing after 3 days - but not of peace, love and music!

    Auckland Council and Precinct Properties have really thrown the book at this. As witnesses take the stand to be cross examined, Counsel ask them to take one of several full lever arch binders, turn to a tab, and refer to a page number. I think the highest so far is 1,900 and something.

    Day 1

    The hearing started with the gentle but insistent tones of Paddy McNamara acting for Auckland Council and Auckland Transport. His focus was to set out the functions of Queen Elizabeth Square (just the section up for sale) and to argue that these functions could be better provided elsewhere - notably on the proposed waterfront spaces. Appropriately he also allocated time to exploring the Road Stop and Plan Change. He concentrated on criticising Queen Elizabeth Square by itself rather than considering it PLUS Lower Queen Street spaces combined.

    Judge Newhook was immediately interested in the certianty of funding for the proposed alternative waterfront spaces, noting that Council resolutions can readily be overturned.

    Tim Watts formally head of Auckland Council's built environment team was up after lunch. As author of many of the reports and council agenda papers he has been central to the process for the past few years. Commissioner Kernohan jumped in here questioning whether this would be a like-for-like process. Kernohan suggested QE Square was a civic place, central, and relating to the CPO building. He suggested that you can't replace one with the other.

    One of the interesting points that came out of the cross examination was when McNamara asked Tim Watts to read from sections of the Urban Reset report that was prepared for Auckland Council in 2014 by Garth Falconer. He read from its account of pedestrian movements. This was new information to me.

    Interestingly, Auckland Council experts generally argue that the desire line for pedestrians is North South along Lower Queen Street, and that hardly anyone ventures into QE Square at all. However, the forgotten page 13 in the 2014 Urban Reset report indicates that East/West ped movements across QE Square are in the same range (11,000 - 15,000/day) as those North/South along the west edge of Lower Queen Street. This fact flatly contradicts the popular myth that QE Square is rarely used. Many mix and mingle on the way. Or sit and chill. Eat a sandwich. Also of interest, the Urban Reset report contains the Colliers door count data for people entering the downtown shopping centre off QE Square. The figure reported is 4,125/day on average (2013). Clearly Colliers are mainly interested in how many people actually ENTER the downtown shopping centre (DSC). But of course they have to leave as well. The evidence in front of the court includes Collier door entry counts for the 3 doors. Entry figures about the same for all three - with more entering from Custom Street. It appears that the combined entry and exit ped movements in and out of the DSC from and into QE Square account for most of the 11,000 (minimum) total ped movements across QE Square/day that are reported in the Urban Reset study.

    So far the court has not considered how those numbers would change with: a Bus Interchange on Lower Albert; some new activation fronting onto QE Square; the upgraded shopping centre; and a new office tower that will accommodate thousands of new office workers - most of whom will arrive by public transport for work. All this indicates that QE Square will be a thriving pedestrian mall.

    Enough of that.

    Day 2 was another busy day. Highlights including more evidence about the proposed waterfront spaces, what they are for, who will fund them (Council or AT), whether they are consented or not (not) and how likely they are to be delivered. More on that another day. It seemed to me that the proposed spaces - to be built by Auckland Transport - would be there to support expanded ferry services and new berthage. All necessary - but hardly compensation for downtown public space. More on Day 2 another day.

    Day 3 was notable for the submissions from Derek Nolan for Precinct Properties. Typically aggressive and combative he dismissed Graeme Scott's proposed outcomes for Queen Square as "fantastical"....

    I quote from Graeme's evidence here:

    There is a need to provide a major, high quality civic space in the downtown area that can accommodate a wide variety of public uses. To be an Auckland-wide facility, and to be memorable in the minds of most Aucklanders, it needs the scale, enclosure and shape of a major square. Queen Square provides the opportunity to re-create such a space. It has the size, the location, the heritage buildings as framing elements and a major

    new development along its western to enable its development as a great public space for our city.

    I foresee a future urban square in front of the Britomart Transport Centre that accommodates a wide variety of public activities in various areas within its perimeter, where these different areas are demarcated by excellent paving, planting and furniture design such as we have seen elsewhere in the city in the last decade, with hugely active frontages around Zurich House and the new downtown development, and where the south face of the HSBC building becomes a positive attractor – a giant light show incorporating advertising and art perhaps.

    You'd think that a city aspiring to be the most liveable would view this sort of idea as worthwhile and worth delivering for its citizens. Well. Selling public open space doesn't suggest Council has much enthusiasm with that idea. More on that another day. The hearing has been extremely valuable and valued. Your continuing support is much appreciated.

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  • The evidence mounts     13 July 2016
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    It's Wednesday and the hearing begins on Monday. Judge Newhook will be sitting with 3 commissioners because it's deemed a particularly important matter.

    You'd certainly think so if the tonnage of evidence is any indication. The 22 experts originally chosen by Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and Precinct Properties have already been swelled. Opening evidence runs to about a ream of paper. They've thrown the book at it. Then AAA's neat and tidy team of 6 experts put forward their evidence.

    On Friday we got the rebuttal. Another mountain of evidence. About half a ream I'd say. It's a pile of reading for us preparing submissions. Keeping focussed. Imagine what it's like for the Court!

    Which brings me to the picture. This diagram accompanies Precinct's consented application for the Downtown redevelopment. It leaves QE Square as public open space. The diagram still shows the bus shelter - but that's gone to Lower Albert Street.

    The consented redevelopment includes a North South and an East West laneway that enter the revamped square in the South/East corner (where the Zurich building facade adjoins the shopping centre facade).

    Looks good. Leaves QE Square to integrate with Lower Queen Street to form the combined civic square that it was designed to be more than 40 years ago. This time with its urban design difficulties largely addressed.

    Surely, 12,000 square metres of retail here is enough already, without taking QE Square for another 6,000 square metres.

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  • Downtown Square emerges from demolition     22 June 2016
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    A couple of weeks ago the bus shelters that have restricted views and divided Auckland's main downtown square, were demolished. Buses have moved to Lower Albert Street.

    This picture was taken from the Ferry Building. You can begin to see again the extent of the big downtown public open space that Auckland had from the mid 1970's. Yes - it hasn't worked that well with the shopping centre retail all facing inward - steadfastly ignoring the square.

    Redevelopment accompanying the CRL tunnel, and Precinct's above ground development can change all that - and contribute to making this a grand welcoming space - telling the story of Auckland's waterfront downtown history - and becoming a place filled with people and interest.

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  • QE Square - How it was before 2000     22 June 2016
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    Auckland's downtown used to be the subject of a proud postcard. This shows how the whole square looked before it was turned temporarily into a bus interchange. Now - with the buses moved to Lower Albert Street - this is the square Auckland can have again. A grand downtown square for commuters and pedestrians and gatherings, with a recessed and sheltered part where kids can play and visitors can watch the world go by. With a few nice cafes close by.

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  • QE Square - What happens If it's not saved     21 June 2016
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    If Queen Elizabeth Square is sold to Precinct Properties, it will become a private retail development, fronting Lower Queen Street to a height of 19 metres.

    The effect of this is illustrated in these before and after images*. The loss of public open space opportunity that exists today, and which was obtained in exchange for the close of Little Queen Street and Lower Sturdee Street in the 1970's, would be lost forever.

    * the bulk and location graphics may be approximate but they are reasonably accurate. The proposed building would align with Zurich Tower - as shown - and front to the red paved edge of QE Square. The proposed building stops at the amenity yard outside the HSBC building which is setback from the Zurich building.

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  • $6,435.00 donated
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This cause page was created on 20 Jun 2016 and closed at 00:00 NZST (UTC +12:00) on 22 Aug 2016.

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