High Court action dropped against Auckland Council over Queen St pedestrianisation

An unprecedented High Court action against Auckland Council over the pedestrianisation works on Queen St has been dropped after a settlement was reached with aggrieved landlords and small businesses.

The Save the Queen Street Society (SQSS), which on April 28 sued Auckland Council, claim they have “saved” the street after a reduction in the construction timeline and immediate removal of the plastic sticks that have littered the street since April 2020.

Prior to a revised council timeline last week, the temporary Queen St barriers south of Shortland St would not have been removed until December 2021 – instead of the new mid-July deadline.

However a statement from an Auckland Council spokesperson claimed: “SQSS have not significantly influenced our construction dates” and would not comment on the High Court action being paused.

“The original completion of the improvement works along Queen St was first anticipated to be the end of 2022,” the council statement said.

“Now that we know more about working on the street in the first section, we can better plan construction timeframes for the rest of our work, and believe we will finish the project by June 2022.”

However, despite claiming the Queen St Pilot would always be finished by 2022, a High Court affidavit from Auckland Council director of infrastructure Barry Potter on May 4 contradicts this.

Potter says the “semi-permanent” Queen St pilot was set to last 24 to 36 months from its introduction in June 2020, and development of the long-term permanent changes would be “more than five years”.

On Monday night, SQSS paused its High Court proceeding against Auckland Council and Auckland Transport which they say had already cost them $500,000.

The group had been set to return to the High Court in July, after a failed interim injunction to stop the ongoing Queen St “makeover” works had failed on May 6.

A statement from SQSS said “while pursuing the court proceeding” they “continued to have productive discussions with council.

“Following that, council made its announcement on June 15, 2021, they have agreed to remove the unsightly emergency works,” the statement went.

“SQSS has, as a result, paused legal proceedings, subject to council confirming the designations of the reinstated loading areas.”

On June 15, Auckland Council released a statement outlining a new timeline for the next three stages of the Queen St transformation – which will now end in June 2022.

The council release did not mention the new council timeline being a result of any negotiation with stakeholders such as SQSS.

Most significantly, from June to July, 2021, Auckland Council will remove “all remaining emergency works barriers and most of the extended bus platforms. Two of the bus platforms will be retained”.

Such a short time frame for their removal had not been clarified until last week.

Property investor Andrew Krukziener, who was one of 12 committee members of SQSS, said confirming an immediate removal of the Covid-19 emergency pylons and bollards was always the desired outcome.

“I went into this to ensure a great outcome for the people who work and live in Queen St. So I’m extremely happy that we have achieved what we set out to. Council have recognised the works they left in the street were ugly and detrimental to the street and that nobody wanted them. As a result they have agreed to take them out,” Krukziener said.

“But what is outrageous is that the Society had to bring litigation and mobilise a whole group of people for Council to realise that what they did was so wrong.

“But what is terrible is that we had to spend half a million dollars and nine months and a whole group of people for them to realise that what they did was revolting and stupid.Part of me is outraged that we had to do this.”

Councillor Chris Darby, who has overseen much of the Queen St pedestrianisation pilot, said Auckland Council was “keeping to the plan” on the overall concept.

“The design of the plan has been changed to a small degree – not significantly,” Darby said.

“But it’s the changes in the design and the implementation due to further feedback from city centre residents group, city centre advisory board, and the SQSS. We’re required to treat with a number of parties, not any one party.”

In August and November, 2021, and March, 2022, there will be more public engagement on the design concepts for the pedestrianisation of different blocks, or “zones”, moving south from Shortland St.

A $1.1m “makeover”, announced in April, consisting of boardwalks, seating and native plants is currently replacing the Covid-19 barriers from Customs St to Shortland St.

The new timeline released last week by Auckland Council applies to the rest of Queen St – in particular the immediate removal of all the remaining plastic sticks heading south from Shortland St.

The SQSS is made up of 12 committee members including property owners and business figures who sit at the executive level of companies worth billions of dollars – including Hallenstein Glasson fashion chain and Auckland central business association Heart of the City.

The society was seeking a judicial review in the High Court that argued the installation of the original Covid-19 plastic pylons in June 2020 were unlawful and did not obtain sufficient consultation before installation.

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