2023 – Project Auckland: Future Proofing

The rain just fell and fell and fell.

On January 27 alone, 245mm of rain fell across the Auckland region.

Auckland City was hit hardest during the province’s Anniversary holiday weekend as an atmospheric river caused widespread flooding and landslips resulting in some 650 homes now being red-stickered after Cyclone Gabrielle later added its own damage.

A report’s yet to emerge on how Auckland handled the emergency.

But lessons are already being learnt as our Project Auckland report discloses today in interviews with leading Auckland City councillors. Also infrastructure specialists with insights into what’s necessary to build more resilience, so that when future major weather events occur – as they will – the city is better prepared to withstand damage. That’s part of the Future Proofing Auckland story.

Of even greater significance is how our political and business leaders make the necessary investments to future proof Auckland by underwriting its growth and ensuring the city has adequate cost-effective and efficient infrastructure, particularly with our transport networks.

A long overdue second harbour crossing will be announced mid-year; the City Rail Link is making good progress and the Government is determined the Auckland Light Rail project will succeed.

Minister for Auckland Michael Wood has also suggested Ports of Auckland operations may move. Already, KiwiRail is figuring out the necessary next steps to ensure new rail corridors and inland ports are scoped so that more containers will be taken directly from the downtown port via rail meantime rather than clogging up the motorway.

Mayor Wayne Brown has put his “Fix Auckland” campaign sloganeering to one side and is seeking to get better use out of the city’s existing transport system before starting on the next mega-project.

In his Letter to Aucklanders included in today’s Herald report, Brown discloses he is seeking legislative change on key priorities for Auckland including an overhaul of the CCO (council-controlled organisation) model to “ensure democratic oversight and effective delivery of services”.

Expect to hear more on this in the Herald’s news pages in the coming days.

Confidence in Auckland’s future is also writ large in the decision by Auckland Airport to start work on a $2.2 billion new domestic terminal which with associated projects could reach $3.9 billion, making it one of New Zealand’s largest infrastructure projects.

Eke Panuku and Kainga Ora have shared more details of their place-making and housing plans.

These are just some of the projects included in our 2023 report.

The Committee for Auckland also reveals a plan to launch an annual benchmarking project called The State of the City in a partnership with Deloitte and Tataki Auckland Unlimited.

At a national level there are major challenges. A Government report published in 2020 identified 675,500 New Zealanders as living in areas already prone to flooding. It projected a further 72,065 were at risk if some of the most dramatic effects of sea level rise hit.

The concept of a managed retreat was socialised at infrastructure specialist gatherings by Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Three areas were said to face the most risk: South Dunedin, Westport and Tairawhiti Gisborne.

But January 27 followed by the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle on Northland and Hawke’s Bay will have changed that assessment.

There is a massive clean-up job ahead and lessons to be learnt.

We’ll take an in-depth look at some of these crunchy issues in the Herald’s upcoming Infrastructure Report which will be published on June 7 coinciding with the Building Nations summit which this year takes place in Christchurch. There will be much debate about the infrastructure options in front of the country, fuelled by the usual politicking in an election year. But plenty of substance, too.

Enjoy today’s report.

Fran O’Sullivan
Executive Editor
Project Auckland 

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