Heather du Plessis-Allan Drive •

Viv Beck: Retailers furious with Auckland Council for messing up Queen Street

Heather du Plessis-Allan Drive

Auckland Council and Auckland Transport are in the dog box amid claims they have messed up Queen St while businesses are trying to get back on their feet after lockdown.
Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck is hopping mad with senior bureaucrats for breaking promises and having an agenda that "reeks of a pre-determined outcome".
Her anger stems from the council and Auckland Transport pressing ahead with the "Access for Everyone" pilot that involves taking out bus lanes and reducing Queen St to one lane in each direction to make it more pedestrian friendly.
This has resulted in buses sharing the single lane with cars and taking longer to go up and down Queen St.
Beck accused the bureaucrats of jumping the gun on a process for the future of Queen St, leaving businesses to live with a mess outside their shops and offices.
Overnight, said Beck, the council placed concrete dividers on Queen St between Customs St and Shortland St, including one at the Fort St intersection.
"They are aware this intersection is already causing issues in the shared space and they have not answered our question as to how they have come to close it without any discussion with surrounding businesses," she said.
Council's chief of strategy Megan Tyler defended the actions of the council and Auckland Transport, saying the result will be "a very real change for the better".
Tyler said the temporary emergency works on Queen St using orange cones, later replaced by white plastic sticks, for physical distance during alert Level 3, are an opportunity to quickly and efficiently test and refine work as part of a co-design process.
It meant the council could gain immediate feedback without the cost of moving emergency structures and having to reinstate them again, she said.
Tyler cited the example of the concrete safety separators between Customs St and Shortland St that have upset Beck.
Beck said AT promised the emergency works would be removed at the end of Level 2 but this decision was overridden by council without any discussion with businesses.
She said "Access for Everyone" is an innovative idea to make the city centre better for people while ensuring traffic can still get about, but it needs to be done well.
"We are flabbergasted that the council is pressing on with the emergency works in the knowledge that businesses on the street have some significant concerns," Beck said in a Herald article today.
"These concerns relate to the poor quality and unappealing look, safety issues, the impact of closing Fort St.
"I'm sure businesses in nearby Albert St would have some advice for their neighbours in Queen St about trust, respect and delivery after protracted pleas for better management of construction, mess and access during the building of the City Rail Link," said Beck.
Tyler said, weather permitting, the expanded pedestrian area created during the Covid-19 works will be painted to make it clearer to pedestrians that the area is theirs to use.
"Covid-19 has placed huge pressures on business, the council and the country. But this is one small opportunity that will allow us to make a very real change for the better," Tyler said.
- text by Bernard Orsman, NZ Herald
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