The sad story of Kerikeri’s main street problem 1931 to 2020
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
Projects the likes of Te Hononga, which creates a community hub and town square in Kawakawa are close to completion and a Kaitaia Town Centre Revitalisation project has been put forward as part of a funding application for spade ready projects under Crown Infrastructure Funding as part of our governments economic recovery plan. FNDC’s application seeks investment upward of $300 million dollars spread over a variety of projects region wide. We hope for the benefit of our districts economic recovery that council is successful in their application.
But we ask why here in Kerikeri we are yet to reclaim our town centre?
When will investment in our infrastructure and urban planning be prioritised?
How long will it take for our CBD bypass to be considered spade ready?
This certainly gives the impression Kerikeri's needs are being denied, we continue to work with our local councillors to ensure the urgency of our needs are acknowledged and infrastructure prioritised.
In 1931, in the infant village of Kerikeri, a scheme for the commercial centre of Kerikeri was proposed “with a plan to use a triangular development between Kerikeri Road and Cobham Road. To implement this, Hobson Avenue was put through. In spite of all the planning, the township developed with a kind of haphazard spontaneity and like many other disadvantaged small towns, with through traffic passing along the main street”. (source KK Heritage of Dreams, Nancy Pickmere, P121)
That is the problem we are still trying to resolve 90 years later but instead of a few Bedford lorries trundling through the middle of town, today we have thousands of vehicles, numerous pedestrians, some the vulnerable elderly, and a growing number of cyclists.
We have failed, for years to get a bypass to take traffic out of the Main Street and failed yet again in 2018 when all Kerikeri roads, including the bypass, were taken out of the 3 year plan based on the perception held elsewhere, that that the Eastern Ward always receives preferential treatment and Kerikeri receives too much.
Council commissioned in lieu, an Integrated Transport Plan and hired consultants. Progress in the study to date has been unimpressive with out of town consultants showing obvious lack of empathy and knowledge of the reality in terms of community impact. Contrary to the strong advocacy of VKK, Our Kerikeri and others at two consultation meetings, the CBD bypass was ranked No 35 under the Road Networks category in the draft ITP Programme Plan of 12 February and was not ranked at all under the safety category.
The CBD bypass may have a low ranking as a network roading project, but it is primarily about urban design, liveability and safety. It is forced to perform as part of a network because Kerikeri has developed around a single road without a grid road network. Many cars merely wishing to cross Kerikeri pass the through the CBD. This appears to have fallen on deaf ears and does not seem to have been understood.
Kerikeri CBD Bypass is an essential precondition to the making of a thriving town center. A main street, dominated by cars is contrary to contemporary urban design practice and impedes the liveability. What should be a place for community connection and socialisation is functioning as a vehicular thoroughfare, this has a negative impact on both local business and social outcomes. It is essential that our CBD become more pedestrian friendly, It’s importance to our people has been confirmed during the recent public consultation by “Our Kerikeri”.
The CBD bypass holds a significant safety component. Pedestrians particularly infirm elderly, find crossing of streets in the Kerikeri CBD difficult due to the dominance of vehicular traffic. There are very few inner cities or towns in the world which prioritise in this way. There is only one pedestrian crossing and 21% of the population is over the age of 65 compared to 14% nationally. This project is not listed or ranked under ‘Safety projects’. A pedestrian crossing on the main thoroughfare out of town and on a one-way system causes gridlock and only exacerbates the dominance of private vehicles.
The consultation at the ITP briefing on February 18th was lamentable. More than 200 projects had to be ranked in 25 minutes. The criteria for determining the scores in various categories were not described, are not understood, are not transparent and have not been provided following requests and give an impression of secrecy. The CBD bypass obtained a large negative score for implementation, environmental and social wellbeing which we find ludicrous. It is not difficult to implement, most property is Council owned, and social well-being is enhanced by reducing the threat to safety. A planned urban environment which is designed for purpose enhances environmental well-being by improving walkability and creating opportunities for alternative modes of transport such as cycling to take hold. Local business’ particularly retail, food and beverage outlets also look to make significant gains, according to data and feedback gathered from examples of projects completed in other urban locations.
The process, no doubt expensive, is starting to look like a predetermined defeat for the CBD bypass. There seems to be a certain deafness by the consultants and by Council officers which is a continuation of our past experience.
We have been ignored too long but there is little confidence within the present FNDC structure that our community has been or will be heard.
We are working hard along with Our Kerikeri and our local councillors to drive the necessity of this infrastructure home. We are attempting to push council to access funding for Tactical Urbanisation projects through the Innovating Streets Fund. To enable short term projects to gather feedback, test and drive change.