Monday, April 22, 2013

Movin' on up in Mangere

We went for a snoop around Mangere town centre over the weekend. Come on - rainy Saturday afternoon in Auckland? What else are ya gonna do? We've been meaning to do this for a while because the good citizens of Mangere may not realise it yet but they are at the epicentre of Auckland's transformation into the world's most liveable city. Well, nearly.

Mangere falls under the umbrella of the Auckland Council's Southern Initiative. OK, so the Southern Initiative has some problems like no budget to speak of and rapidly eroding credibility, but it's a key Council strategy so some money should find its way to Mangere eventually.

Then there's the rail corridor penciled in between the airport and Onehunga. Scheduled as it is to come after the Council's three 'mega-projects', this is unlikely to be built in mine and definitely not Spider's lifetime. According to Auckland Transport's blurb SMART (the South-west Multi-modal Airport Rapid Transit) project is considering (but not doing anything about, necessarily) roading improvements, improvements to public transport, better cycling provisions (Better?? You have to have some before you can make them better), and longer term provision of a dedicated rail connection. We thought we'd go and see how Mangere was going with its existing multi-modality.

Lastly and most amusingly, the Council has big plans for Mangere to become a tourism gateway. Seriously. According to the Mangere-Otahuhu Area Draft Plan:
The Māngere Gateway Programme seeks to transform and deliver integrated and sustainable benefits to social, cultural, environmental and economic wellbeing. Working collaboratively with tangata whenua, Auckland International Airport, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, and key local business, the programme aims to celebrate and share the culture and heritage of the region to deliver a flagship, internationally significant, visitor destination for Auckland.
An internationally significant visitor destination? This is an area better known for its cold damp housing and high rates of meningococcal meningitis.

Evidently Mangere is going nowhere but up. Just as well, probably. Here's how a tourism person might portray Mangere. This photo is looking down the old bridge towards leafy Mangere Bridge and Mangere mountain on a sunny day. This loveliness is on the wall of the McDonalds in Mangere town centre.

According to this Mangere is a "rainbow of cultures." I hope no one tells Sua William Sio.

The multi-modality starts. Before this post launches into a full-scale moan it needs to acknowledge the work of the former Manukau City's cycling planner. Badar Drive and some of the other main roads around Mangere do have cycle lanes and the sign below guides cyclists up onto the (widened) footpath so as to avoid the roundabouts. The cycling chappie did manage to achieve something, although it seems the pedestrian planner resigned in 1988 and was never replaced.

The cycle lane goes off the main road and through the bus layby. There were people waiting for the bus but in an hour or so of snooping around the town centre not a single bus was spotted.

Many towns and town centres have European-style pedestrian plazas. Like this, for example:

Here's Mangere's version. Something seems to be missing.

Going west along Badar Drive one comes to this intersection. Note the lack of any pedestrian amenities. This is a motorway offramp.

Across the intersection and a left turn back towards the town centre. It's not very touristy. The footpath goes to a bridge over the motorway and comes out a short distance from the back of the town centre. A path from the neighbouring streets goes across a field before joining up with the main footpath. This path is just loose metal which must be a real pain for anyone pushing/driving anything with small wheels, or wearing high shoes. It also doesn't drain very well.

The footpath runs alongside the motorway so a high stout fence is a necessity. But does it have to be this ugly?

When pedestrians are given indirect routes by traffic planners they inevitably find short-cuts. There's railway fences and other barriers all over Auckland with holes cut in them so as to facilitate easier access for pedestrians and cyclists. This is no different. Here people have created a path (actually a rut) in the bank which gives them a more direct route to the top of the footpath going to the bridge. Someone has cut a hole in the fence to enable access to the footpath. This is short cut is strictly for the able-bodied.

The bridge. Note the absence of lighting. In fact there is no lighting anywhere along the path.

Down the other side and here's another short cut carved out by pedestrians who use it to get to the footpath on the other side. I know this because I asked a group of youngsters who use it. 


Finally, back to the next great Auckland tourist gateway. What do we find when we've negotiated rocky paths and scrambled up banks to get there? A bank, an opportunity to gamble, an opportunity to purchase liquor and every junk food chain operating in the country. There's lots more places to purchase liquor and gamble, plus there's two supermarkets. But mostly there's junk food. Why would tourists want to come here to eat McDonalds/KFC/etc etc? They wouldn't. Especially if they were cycling or walking.


But there's lots of palm trees. Pacific islanders like palm trees, right? Urban design by stereotype. But at least the palm trees will provide an attractive backdrop to the new genuinely multi-modal, Southern Initiated tourism gateway of Mangere. The citizens of Mangere don't know how lucky they are.