A planned march across Auckland Harbour Bridge to demand action on the proposed SkyPath walkway and cycleway has been slammed as “unlawful and unsafe”.
The protest, organised for next Sunday, will see supporters attempt to march from the Curran Street on-ramp in central Auckland to the top of the harbour bridge and back.
SkyPath Trust project director Bevan Woodworth said protesters would only cross the bridge if police could provide safe access, but did not rule out acts of civil disobedience.
“NZTA can allocate the western clip-on for the demonstration, whilst motorists use the remaining six motorway lanes,” he said.
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“SkyPath’s Resource Consent expires in 2021. We are getting very close to the point that SkyPath’s construction will not start in time. We want Minister Twyford to tell NZTA to get on with it.”
But NZTA general manager of system design and delivery, Brett Gliddon, said the law specifically prohibited pedestrian access to motorways.
“This means that any walking or cycling over the Harbour Bridge would be unlawful and would become a police matter,” he said.
“The transport agency is concerned that any march across the bridge would be potentially unsafe for those taking part and is working with police to ensure that public safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists is maintained as well as keeping the bridge open to traffic.”
Gliddon said NZTA had not received any request from the SkyPath Trust to manage traffic and safety next Saturday.
“A special approval from NZTA, along with an appropriate traffic management plan, would be required for any walking or cycling including a protest,” he said.
“We have provided the SkyPath Trust with information about how to apply for approval but to date no formal application has been received.”
A row over SkyPath design rights between the SkyPath Trust and NZTA delayed construction on the project earlier this year.
This led to former NZTA chair Michael Stiassny launching an independent inquiry into the agency’s dealings with the Trust.
Gliddon said the inquiry had been completed and delivered to the NZTA Board but there was “no word yet” on a response.
The SkyPath Trust has advocated for a cycleway and walkway across the harbour bridge for the past decade and claims it is owed $1.6 million for creating the concept design.
Woodworth said NZTA was “arrogantly blocking” SkyPath’s delivery.
“Since December 2018, NZTA has refused to talk or meet with us. NZTA now claims they do not know the SkyPath design that they helped develop, have approved and supported through the publicly notified resource consenting process,” he said.
“NZTA’s new management is blocking SkyPath so we need to show them Aucklanders really want SkyPath.”
However, Giddon said the agency had not been given full access to the SkyPath Trust’s designs for the project.
“The transport agency has not been able to assess the option because the SkyPath Trust has not provided detailed information about the option or access to the consultants who designed it,” he said.
Gliddon said NZTA was in the process of reviewing several designs to “ensure the right decision is made”.
“This is a very important project for Auckland and we’re committed to progressing it,” he said.
Gliddon said the earliest construction could start on the walkway and cycleway over the Auckland Harbour Bridge was late 2020.
In 2009, over 5000 Aucklanders walked and cycled across the bridge to demand action on the SkyPath after police provided safe access.
Next Sunday’s march is expected to start at 9.30am.