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Work in lockdown tones down ‘Willy Wonka’ streets

Flagstaff Team

Colour change… Takapuna hairdresser Hayley Williams is one of many salon owners with customers desperate to visit when lockdown rules allow. Those returning to her Huron St business will notice some changes to these controversial road markings which council agency Panuku has decided to tone down.

Night shifts have hastened work to scale back Takapuna’s ‘dotty’ streets, described by one survey responder as looking like “either the Wiggles or Willy Wonka designed it”.

Since the rethink was announced at the end of September, after public feedback was assessed, the Panuku project team has backtracked on a lot of the installations made mid-year.

This includes removing road art and picnic tables, reducing footpath painting in front of the Sentinel Plaza and reducing the stripes on the planter boxes on Northcroft St.

Among the reversals – expected to cost about $50,000 – five parallel car parks will be returned on Huron St.

The chief executive of the Takapuna Beach Business Asssociation, Terence Harpur, said he was pleased Panuku (Auckland Council’s property arm) had listened. “The changes were far greater than what suited those streets.”

The Panuku project was part of a nationwide Innovating Streets programme by Waka Kotahi (New Zealand Transport Agency), which is aimed at making streets “safer and more liveable spaces”.

Initial moves removed car parks on Huron and Northcroft Sts and added a shelter, planter boxes and road decoration, all in blue and orange themes.

Local businesses were upset at the loss of parking, fearing customers would be deterred from making quick stops at their small outlets.

Hairdresser Hayley Williams called the work “circus-like”. Orange dots on the road in front of her Huron St salon have now been removed.

Loud and clear… Some Takapuna locals objected to the blue-and- white striped and orange paint scheme chosen by Panuku. Many of the coloured road dots (as seen on the first photo) have now been removed.

More than 400 submissions were received in a public consultation on the project. Responses included concerns that the road painting was confusing and a continuous undercover pedestrian shelter was needed rather than just at one spot. Concerns were also raised about the number and speed of buses on the street and the importance of safe crossing points.

Responders in support of the changes said it made the area more pedestrian-friendly and suggested Panuku “go crazy here, it’s cool”.

Panuku said the latest changes would enable it to “test and monitor a few new design options while we are moving through Covid alert levels”.

Work was scheduled to take two weeks from 28 September. It would be completed on Huron and Northcroft Sts in night shifts.

A new pedestrian refuge island would be installed on Lake Rd. This would be done in the daytime to prevent disruption to residents at night, a spokesperson said.

“This work is not expected to interrupt the traffic flow, nor will buses be affected.”

But Devonport-Takapuna Local Board member Jan O’Connor questioned the positioning of the island, saying it might be another traffic impediment to bus drivers turning out onto Lake Rd in a busy area.

The cost of changes had been factored into the original budget, the spokesperson said, with the idea always having been that it could be adjusted. The cost was likely to be about $50,000.

“It’s an estimate for now and could change should there be delays to the programme due to factors outside our control.”

Members of the public are still being asked to provide feedback as Panuku develops a long-term solution.

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