Updated: Sep 17
The long, sad story of the Kerikeri CBD bypass (ring road)
The idea of bypassing Kerikeri’s CBD Main Street, linking Butler Road to Homestead Road and onto Clark Road via Augusta Place has a long history. In 1986 the consultants Beca Carter reported to the Bay of Islands County in the “Kerikeri Concept Plan”, that provision of a bypass in the central area was an issue of particular significance and discussed a pedestrian precinct in the Main Street. In 1989 the FNDC was formed and commissioned the Kerikeri 2000 Structure Plan to plan for Kerikeri which reviewed 12 previous Kerikeri planning reports by various consultants since 1986, none of which had been given effect. The Beca Carter bypass advice was confirmed, among others, by the 1995 Traffic Planning Consultants traffic report and the 1998 FARNAC detailed plan for the town centre. The bypass was included in the 2000 Kerikeri Structure Plan at an estimated cost of $915,000. Unfortunately, the 2000 Structure Plan also sank without trace.
In 2006 traffic congestion caused Council to introduce a temporary one-way system with all one-way traffic passing through the Main Street from Homestead Rd to Fairway Drive. Properties purchased earlier by Council for the ring road (CBD bypass) had been sold but were bought back starting in 2006.
The 2007 Kerikeri/Waipapa Structure Plan
Following the controversy about the unnotified Butler Centre and an associated 8 level apartment building development along Butler Road in 2003 (the 12-metre height limit having mysteriously disappeared from the District Plan), Vision Kerikeri was formed and strongly advocated planning for Kerikeri – an old refrain. The Council responded with the 2007 Kerikeri/Waipapa Structure Plan, adopted in September 2007. This plan had considerable community input and was a high-level plan to provide an integrated and sustainable response to a number of planning pressures.
The 2007 Structure Plan, among many objectives, provided for a “Precinct Plan for growth direction” around the centre of town. A precinct plan is the “blueprint” for local development and investment in this case our CBD, and how to build on the existing character of an area and define how it will look and function in the future. It considers a sense of vitality and vibrancy and a pedestrian friendly Main Street and retail area with reduced “through traffic” movement, prioritising of pedestrians and their connection to place, urban site planning and development. So that the Main Street could be developed it gave high priority to the new ring road (bypass) around the Kerikeri town centre. It did also propose that the CBD bypass would extend much further to run parallel to Kerikeri road and link with the Heritage bypass bridge. However, infrastructure, financial and land use planning to realise the Structure Plan was never undertaken by successive Councils.
Another decade of inaction (2007 to 2017)
• Since 2007 a 2-way bypass (ring road) around the CBD has been advocated by Vision Kerikeri in all submissions to most annual plans and in presentations to LTP plan reviews.
• The 2007 Annual Plan (Page 20) included the ring road at an estimate of $500,000.
• The 2010 Annual Plan programmed $1.472M between 2010 and 2013 and Council agreed to continue to purchase necessary land.
• In 2013 a report on the bypass to Council included detailed, peer reviewed costings of about $2.6M. At this stage preliminary design and geotechnical investigations had not been undertaken.
• The 2015-2025 Long Term Plan programmed $2.121M expenditure between 2022 and 2025.
• In 2016, as the 2007 Structure Plan was seemingly ignored, Vision Kerikeri held a public meeting attended by 3 Councillors to revive it, with a focus on the CBD ring road.
• By Dec 2017 it was clear that the Structure Plan had drifted into oblivion and Vision Kerikeri wrote formally to FNDC requesting “the inclusion of a CBD ring road (second main street) for central Kerikeri in the Long Term Plan as a high priority”. Our letter included the following points:
• “This expensive plan with considerable community input has been largely ignored. That has been the history of all attempts to plan in Kerikeri”.
• “Development has been linear spreading along Kerikeri Road. Much of Kerikeri has evolved in an ad hoc, unplanned way and we were unready for a population surge from say 1996 to 2006 and much subdivision under our permissive District Plan has taken place without necessary infrastructure”.
• “While traffic growth had not increased at the expected rate in the structure plan and from 2008 to 2013 was rather static, traffic volumes from simple daily experience, have now increased with population expansion. The rolls of the medical practices in Kerikeri-Waipapa are apparently 16,500 patients which is illustrative of demand for services in Kerikeri”.
• “There is now considerable building and population increase and our infrastructure is again not ready for it. Now is the time to invest in improving Kerikeri’s traffic circulation as well as a necessary precondition to planning our town centre”.
The 2018-2028 Long Term Plan
The draft 2018-2028 Long Term Plan did programme roading for Kerikeri including the CBD bypass although it was planned for very late in the programme. Vision Kerikeri made a comprehensive presentation about population growth, roading in Kerikeri and the need for a two-way bypass. It included the diagram below so that there could be no confusion about what we were advocating. It also proposed considering transferring the Main Street targeted rate of $9, which was about to end, If LTA funding was not available .
However, Council determined that no roading should be considered for Kerikeri without a Strategic Plan for all Far North roads. So yet another report and delay despite demonstrable population growth and amply documented purpose. Auckland consultants were engaged. Without consideration of the long-standing pedestrian precinct, the study essentially viewed the bypass as part of a roading network rather than as an urban design and well-being issue which could stand alone and yet be part of any future network improvement. The community input firmly expressed at focus groups by Vision Kerikeri, Our Kerikeri, The Ratepayers Association and other Kerikeri participants was ignored, yet again.
Diagram of Vision Kerikeri’s proposed CBD ring road (CBD bypass)
The 2021 Long Term Plan review
Three years on, in June 2021, Council considered the next 3 years of the LTP for the whole district and again programmed any Kerikeri roading, including for the CBD bypass, to be beyond the next 3 years of the programme. In frustration Councillor Smith moved as follows:
Vision Kerikeri and Our Kerikeri response to the LTP review in 2021
As a result of this Council LTP review and decision, a joint letter in June 2021 from Vision Kerikeri and Our Kerikeri to the FNDC Chief Executive included “It appears to us, consistently over time, that Council either does not accept or does not understand that the bypass is a precondition for planning the CBD Main Street, in accordance with international, well established best practice. Council, which accepted the Structure Plan in 2007, has since never attempted to plan for this Precinct Plan, or alternatively, to inform the public that it does not accept it. It has been made clear by Vision Kerikeri and Our Kerikeri [which has had] public consultation with 1200 people, that this is the public goal”.
We proposed that the way forward would be to “appoint a consulting civil engineer to undertake geo-technical studies, design, identify any issues to be resolved, and update the project cost. Consulting fees to the developed design stage in the 2013 Council report were estimated at $211,000. How the project might be funded can then be considered. It might be by targeted rates, general rates, borrowing or some combination, since it appears unlikely that NZTA will fund the project”. Finally, we requested that this communication be acknowledged. It was not!
Submission to the Strategic Planning Committee
In October 2021 the Chairperson of the FNDC Strategic Planning Committee, Councillor Rachael Smith, invited Vision Kerikeri, Our Kerikeri and the Kerikeri Ratepayers Association to make a presentation to an agenda item about a review of the 2007 Structure Plan. Vision Kerikeri focused on the bypass and used the same diagram (above) to ensure that the goal was understood. Our Kerikeri reiterated this and focussed on some wider planning issues as did the Kerikeri Ratepayers Association. We were pleased that at last the Structure Plan was to be reviewed and believed that some positive traction had been made.
Council staff report to Infrastructure Committee re options for the CBD bypass in accordance with the Council resolution
However our optimism was fleeting because only one month later, in November 2021, a lengthy report was presented to the FNDC Infrastructure Committee, responding to the Council resolution of June 2021. The Council staff report was deficient in several ways. It reported that the bypass would cost at least $20M although this amount was obviously for a much larger 3-stage bypass from Aranga Road to the Heritage bypass bridge as illustrated in the map in the staff report (see the map below). We do not dispute the figure of 20M for this full project - it could easily cost that with land acquisition and road formation etc.
However we have not asked for this much larger project, only for Stage 1 a short road of about 500 metres, with about 250m already formed and operational. The required properties are already owned by Council (except possibly for some marginal strips). In 2013 it was estimated to cost $2.6M (which of course will have increased meanwhile) but this estimate for Stage 1 (the CBD bypass) was not updated in the report, and alternative means of funding it, apart from via N.Z.T.A, were not provided to the Committee. The report also failed to mention, as part of a wider road network for Kerikeri, a proposed route to the west across a green field site to SH10 about which Council had recently been briefed by a developer. In short the staff report did not comply with the Council resolution for options to deliver the Kerikeri Central Business bypass within the first three years of the 2021-31 Long Term Plan. The Infrastructure Committee was not provided with relevant facts for an informed decision.
Councillor Ann Court, strongly supported by Councillor Rachel Smith, made a vigorous case for the bypass and both voted against accepting the inadequate report, but to no avail. The majority of the Infrastructure Committee accepted the report which implies that nothing can be done within the three year review of the LTP.
Councillor Court has said elsewhere that sometimes Xmas arrives with unexpected gifts e.g. 3 roundabouts at Waipapa, Kawakawa and SH1/SH 11 junction and other Far North projects which were ready when the Provincial Growth Fund appeared through the forward planning of Far North Holdings, but we have only the 2013 concept plan for the Kerikeri bypass Stage 1 and no developed design or working drawings after many years of discussion.
Statements in the Far North 2100 Plan
The recent Far North 2100 Plan (p.25-26) states the following:
• Putting well-being of communities & people first
• Develop or enhance social connectivity wellbeing measures
• Take stock of plans and strategies …. of community groups
• Develop and implement a place making policy… well-being principles are central to spatial placemaking plans
• Apply the placemaking policy to spatial plans
The National Policy Statement on Urban Development promotes more efficient and liveable urban forms and providing health benefits. Clearly these principles have not been guiding FNDC’s actions which tend to see the CBD bypass in terms only of a roading network and fail to comprehend that it is about community well-being.
The next steps in Jan-Feb 2022
Following the flawed staff report to the Infrastructure committee we have expressed dismay and frustration at the apparent lack of understanding or willingness by staff and some Councillors. In the new year a meeting is planned with the Chairperson of the Infrastructure committee, with the eastern ward Councillors and other community groups present, to discuss the issue and we hope to reach a positive resolution.
In February the community will also be consulted on spatial planning for Kerikeri.
Conclusion: is the FNDC structure appropriate for addressing the community’s needs?
The proposed steps in Jan-Feb are viewed as positive, however in the absence of a satisfactory outcome (i.e. more shelved reports and more delay) we would need to ask some serious questions about FNDC’s role in looking after the needs of communities in the Far North:
The continued failure to address CBD traffic issues, despite concerns expressed consistently for 35 years since 1986 by the community and confirmed by numbers of consultants and reports, and by Vision Kerikeri since 2007, risks the loss of public confidence in the Council, as already apparent in Kerikeri.
It is increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that the organisational structure and/or senior management of FNDC seems incapable or unwilling to plan for Kerikeri and address the problems arising from growth.
It’s time to consider whether dividing the Council into three entities, based upon the three wards, might provide much better outcomes for each ward.