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Auckland's Major Projects Miss The Mark

Auckland communities are getting a raw deal from the regions' big investment projects because of a failure to include effective support to the communities and businesses affected says Mark Thomas.

“In communities from Mt Albert to Albert Street, business owners and residents have been badly affected by the big transport and urban improvement projects.”

The former mayoral candidate is standing for Auckland Council in the renamed Albert-Eden- Puketāpapa ward alongside incumbent councillor Chris Fletcher.

Thomas says what are called construction mitigation strategies (CMSs) are regularly used in overseas cities, particular in the US, to provide technical assistance, marketing strategies and incentives. But they play little part in Auckland's current big project plans and this needs to change.

On a recent visit to New York attending an event sponsored by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Thomas discussed this approach with US city leaders.

"In Salt Lake city, contractor incentives for their first light rail line were used. An appointed community coordination team of affected residents and businesses team had an incentive fund of up to $US200,000 per quarter to reward contractors who were most successfully managed the negative impacts. Additionally, parking areas at existing apartment buildings were reconfigured to help absorb street parking being removed."

"In Portland, Oregon the transit agency funded business continuity planning and marketing assistance for business impacted by a significant transport project. As a result, only one of one hundred and fifty existing businesses failed as a direct-result of construction related disruptions."

"San Diego developed a new shuttle bus system to better cope with the reduction in parking caused by a big waterfront construction project. It was so popular it was expanded through a private partnership."

The best cities establish task forces of those affected to deal with the unexpected consequences of the construction. The North Central Taskforce in Dallas, compromising a cross-section of people impacted, studied customer impacts during the design and construction phase of a motorway renovation. As a result they were able to get the transit agency to make changes to improve the project while it was underway.

“Best practice urban construction activity now includes these plans to manage the negative costs on businesses and communities of big investment projects. These are real costs, but Auckland's major projects largely ignore them."

Micro-loans and business support grants are also provided by some cities. Thomas said Auckland council should work with private funders to provide this kind of assistance, but should not provide business loans itself.

Thomas said Mt Albert businesses had up to a 50% reduction turnover during their village upgrade which finished last year. The former business association Chair Catherine Goodwin said businesses in the area had been duped and Auckland Transport's commitment to an impressive upgrade was not honoured."

"These business have had no follow-up with Auckland Transport since the village upgrade and this is unacceptable. They should have been part of a post-project review to assesses what went well and what went badly. I am writing to Chief Executive Shane Ellison to ask his staff to meet with the business association to undertake this.

"Auckland needs significant ongoing investment to relieve our congestion and improve urban amenity, but this can’t come at the expense of people's economic livelihood. If elected to Auckland Council, I will insist construction mitigation strategies become part of Auckland's major project planning."

Ends

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