Aucklands spectacular cycleway between Glen Innes and Tamaki Drive making good progress

In one of the last remaining urban forests in Auckland, once earmarked for a motorway, an off-road pathway for people on foot and bikes is under construction.

The 3km pathway follows the eastern railway line along the Pourewa Valley, with Kepa Bush Reserve on one side and Tahapa Reserve and Purewa Cemetery on the other.

Nearly 20 years ago, former Auckland City Mayor John Banks had a vision of building an eastern motorway through the valley and crossing Hobson Bay to the city.

Residents revolted and stopped the motorway. Today, it’s a different story. There’s real enthusiasm and excitement for Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai (the path of land and sea), the 7km shared path weaving through the eastern suburbs from Glen Innes to the upgraded Tāmaki Drive cycleway.

“It will be a buzz for Auckland. It is going to be spectacular. It’s safe, it’s off-road, it has fabulous water views and really lovely views of nature that people have connected with through Covid,” says Bike Auckland’s outgoing chair Barb Cuthbert.

Bike Tamaki Drive’s Su Nicholson says the cycleway will be a lot of fun for cyclists when its finished, saying with progress to date “it’s looking great”.

The $80 million project is being delivered in four sections, says Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s national infrastructure delivery manager Mark Kinvig.

The first section, a concrete shared path between Merton Rd in Glen Innes and St Johns Rd, opened in December 2016 at a cost of $6m.

Section three, the next to open, was an 800m boardwalk crossing Ōrākei Basin, which involved widening the existing boardwalk to 4.5m, installing a new skid resistant surface and a new balustrade with handrail lighting. It was completed in 2019 at a cost of $7.4m.

Kinvig says the two-year construction programme for section two, a 3km route connecting Kohimarama Rd and Ōrākei Basin, is well underway, with a bridge crossing the railway line and boardwalks part of the joint effort between Waka Kotahi and Auckland Transport (AT).

Three separate boardwalks are being built along the route, a large one running through Pourewa Valley and two smaller sections in Tahapa Reserve east and west.

The focus over the next few months is to complete the concrete path, lighting and ecological restoration, including sourcing about 13,000 native plants from the Ngāti Whatua Ōrākei nursery.

“We are working closely with Auckland Council and AT to complete local connections at Tahapa Reserve and John Rymer Place with the aim to open that part of the path for community access,” says Kinvig.

Cuthbert says section two will be spectacular, featuring the bridge and part of a bridle path used by early pioneers going up to St Johns. Storyboards will exaplin more about this little-known part of Auckland’s past.

“But it will only be really stunningly beautiful when people can make the connection all the way to Tāmaki Drive,” she said.

Despite challenges caused by Covid, the $35m section two is on track to open in mid-2022.

That just leaves section four, linking Ōrākei Basin to Tāmaki Drive and the waterfront at an estimated cost of $32m.

This section is still in the consenting and construction planning phase but will include an 820m long elevated boardwalk with views of Hobson Bay, fossil beds in the coastal area at low tide and Waitemata Harbour.

There will be a rest area with seating and carved pou (cultural markers) developed with mana whenua and artist Graham Tipene. The pou will have back-lighting and interpretive information.

Kinvig says some work where sections three and four connect is likely in the New Year.

The timeline to complete section four will depend on how long it takes to get resource consent and any conditions imposed, but construction work is estimated at 14 months.

Nicholson, one of the administrators with Bike Tamaki Drive, is concerned about the cycleway’s connection at Tamaki Drive, saying the current plan for cyclists to stop at a pedestrian crossing, hop off their bikes and walk across the road will create a bottleneck and safety issues.

Bike Tamaki Drive wants a shared walking and cycling path reinstated on the southern side of Tamaki Drive towards the city as far as Stanley St, which Nicholson said was removed when Auckland Transport widened Ngapipi Bridge.

Once the path is completed, possibly in 2023, Cuthbert says it will become the next best thing to crossing the Waitemata Harbour -“the crown in the throne” – which remains a sore point among cyclists following the cancellation of the controversial bike bridge in October and slow progress on alternatives.

“People will be coming to Auckland to bike it, there is no doubt about it,” she said.

Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai will link to a shared path from Glen Innes to Botany, with plans to extend it all the way to the airport.

Transport Minister Michael Wood says some of the money from the cancelled cycle bridge will go towards a missing piece in the jigsaw – a 1.9km shared path between Glen Innes and Panmure railway station.

The station is the starting point of the $1.4 billion Eastern Busway with a shared path along the route to Pakuranga and Ti Rakau Drive to Botany.

The end goal is a 38km “eastern orbital” shared path from the city centre and the airport.

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