Not long after COVID hit and we emerged from our first lock down, the Government set up a fund to support tactical urbanism projects that trialed concepts aimed at increasing our public realm and encouraging active modes in slow-traffic neighborhoods. People had enjoyed their experience of walking and cycling and this change in need was reflected across the world. The fund was called the Innovating Streets for People Pilot Fund. Projects from across the country were put forward because the offer of a 90% funding to investment ratio from NZTA meant that for every dollar Council spent, NZTA would put $9 up.
Projects were submitted, and I too put forward an ‘Al Fresco Fridays’ concept that would see the main streets of Milford, Takapuna and Devonport closed off on a Friday so restaurants could spill out each night and we could dine beneath the stars in a socially distanced way.
The only project that did get selected in our neck of the woods was one submitted by Eke Panuku on Northcroft & Huron Streets. The project intent was to work with the community to co-design a temporary pilot that created a greater public realm, actively slowed traffic, and made the entry to Takapuna town centre from the Toka Puia carpark more welcome and less of a cold, soulless, windblown corridor.
In November and December 2020 Eke Panuku conducted community engagement with local residents, businesses and the Business Association. People discussed the need for pedestrian safety, slower vehicle speeds, wider and more even footpaths, a sense of connection to the town centre and more places to sit. This engagement has informed what is there today.
What is there today is temporary and many people have expressed their distaste for the brightly colored spots, the loss of carparking, and the concern for money spent on creating what we see. I understand all these concerns and also support the Business Association in their desire to see more parking reinstated. However, it’s important to remember that what is there is not permanent, and rather the feedback Panuku are asking for is intended to inform what will be there in the future. Do we want wider footpaths, more street trees, a more interesting and energizing street design? Or was it perfect just the way it was?
If you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to take a look and give your feedback online. There’s certainly no right or wrong feedback, but there is definitely constructive and destructive feedback, so click here to have your say.
Elected member of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board for the 2019-2022 Election Term.