Queen St stakeholders, Auckland Council meeting may prevent High Court action

A snap meeting this afternoon between Queen St stakeholders and Auckland Council looks like it may resolve upcoming High Court legal action over pedestrianisation works on the CBD’s largest street.

On Wednesday, the Save the Queen Street incorporated society served Auckland Council and Auckland Transport with judicial review proceedings to stop an ongoing Queen St pedestrian trial they argue is illegal and has caused “significant economic harm”.

The society is applying for an injunction to halt a new $1.1 million “makeover” to the existing Queen St barriers beginning May 10 they argue is unlawful.

However, today the Save the Queen Street society released a statement suggesting the first High Court date set for next Wednesday, May 5, may not be necessary.

“Save the Queen Street Society Incorporated, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport had a productive meeting this afternoon and are working together to reach a resolution,” a Save the Queen Street spokesperson said.

It is understood the Save the Queen Street committee members are hopeful a resolution with Auckland Council and AT will be reached on Monday or Tuesday next week.

The Save the Queen Street society is made up of 13 committee members including property owners and business figures who sit at the executive level of companies worth billions of dollars – including Hallensteins Glasson fashion chain and property investor Andrew Krukziener.

A statement from an Auckland Council spokesperson confirmed the meeting took place but was not so explicitly positive that a resolution over the impending High Court action would be found.

“Auckland Council and Auckland Transport met with representatives from Save the Queen Street Society today and we have listened to their concerns. We are continuing to work with them to find a solution,” the council statement said.

A statement from the National Road Carriers union today also declared the Queen St $1.1m makeover changes would be unsafe for freight and courier deliveries to downtown retail and office businesses.

National Road Carriers Association spokesman Chris Carr said delivery vehicles not being able to park on the side of Queen St they were delivering to between Shortland St and Customs St was hazardous.

Carr argued drivers would have to cross the busy street with their deliveries, sometimes multiple trolley loads.

“That section of Queen St has two shopping plazas and a hotel and these proposed changes will mean that part of Queen St will have just one loading zone available at the peak courier delivery time of 7am to 10am.

“What is not clear from AT’s consultation is that the ends of the loading bays are to be angled so the current bays that fit three vans will in future only fit two vans.

“This will inevitably create delivery vehicle snarl-ups and delivery drivers will be forced to find alternatives like double parking or pavement parking – or stop servicing those businesses.”

Brewing legal action over pedestrian barriers

The legal proceedings also have the support of about 80 small businesses and Uber, taxi and delivery drivers who object to the ongoing disruption to Queen St.

The once grandest shopping strip in the country has been reduced to two lanes by “plastic sticks” and bollards since April 2020.

The pylons were originally erected as Covid-19 social distancing barriers the council decided to keep as a means of fast-tracking a Queen St pedestrianisation trial.

In the High Court memorandum served to Auckland Council and Auckland Transport (AT), Save the Queen Street barrister Sam Lowery opens with the statement “Auckland’s main street is a disgrace”.

“For the last year, Queen St has resembled a construction site, cluttered with low-quality, temporary road furniture including hit sticks, concrete bollards, road cones and multi-coloured road markings.

“The effect on Queen St has been profound. Foot traffic has dropped by almost half.
Retailers have experienced a significant drop in revenue. There are more empty storefronts in Queen St than at any time in living memory. Auckland’s ‘Golden Mile’ is a shambles.”

On Wednesday, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff finally commented directly on the brewing Queen St legal action but last night told the Herald an injunction would delay the council’s $1.1m makeover of the street.

“It’s ironic that an injunction would mean that we are unable to put the high-quality improvements in place to replace the temporary measures that those bringing the action were so opposed to,” Goff said on Wednesday.

“It is unfortunate for the many Aucklanders and businesses who want to see Queen St improved for pedestrians, that this work may be delayed until these legal proceedings are dealt with.”

The Save the Queen Street judicial review argues the installation of new Queen St “makeover” works are unlawful and build upon the already unlawful installation of the original Covid-19 plastic pylons in 2020.

Installing new temporary Queen St works “will create ‘facts on the ground’ that may undermine the opportunity for open-minded consultation” for the permanent future of the street, the society argues.

The Save the Queen Street society ultimately wants the pedestrian barriers totally pulled out until a higher-quality solution can be provided than the $1.1m boardwalks, seating and native plants upgrades proposed on April 16.

Among the legal proceedings served to Auckland Council are affidavits from small business owners and Auckland central business association, Heart of the City (HOTC), chief executive Viv Beck.

Beck says she repeatedly expressed concern to Auckland Mayor Goff and AT chief executive Shane Ellison over the Queen St Covid-19 barriers during 2020, but was ignored.

She says more than 80 per cent of HOTC member responses oppose the Covid-19 barriers and there was “no consultation” bythe council when it decided to retain them as a pedestrian pilot in June, 2020.

Lindsay Sweeney has owned Mint drycleaners on Queen St since 2014 and said in her affidavit insufficient space for quick customer pick-ups and increased overheads from delayed delivery drop-offs had significantly contributed to their 30 per cent drop in revenue from this time last year.

“I think the way the council is managing traffic around the CBD is appalling. They act without any regard for businesses who operate in the area,” Sweeney said.

Align Chiropractic owner Dr Brian Kelly says in his affidavit the Queen St barriers are “a serious safety hazard for all road users – drivers and pedestrians alike. I am sure that this will soon be the cause of a serious or fatal accident”.

Property investor Andrew Krukziener has ownership stakes in three Queen St buildings and says there have never so many empty stores in his lifetime – estimating about 26 per cent of storefronts are unoccupied.

Krukziener said in his affidavit the Covid-19 works were “exacerbating the economic challenges faced by Queen St businesses” and they want a return to how the street was in 2019.

Save the Queen Street has 295 official members and more than 1000 people support the cause on their Facebook page created in early April.

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