26 Feb 2019

SkyPath plan mired in row over whether designers should be paid for intellectual property rights

7:38 am on 26 February 2019

The project director of Auckland's proposed SkyPath says the New Zealand Transport Agency will not pay up for intellectual property rights, and has now shut down communication with the original designers.

A graphic showing the entrance to the proposed walkway.

A graphic showing the entrance to the proposed walkway. Photo: Copyright © 2011 - 2014 Generation Zero Incorporated.

The SkyPath has been in the making for a decade - a proposal that places a pedestrian and cycle path alongside the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Funding for the project has been approved, although a date for completion has not been set.

SkyPath Trust, which designed the proposed pathway, is in a battle to have the agency pay up for the intellectual property rights it owns.

Trust project director Bevan Woodward said he has been trying for a year to get an agreement signed for the rights to the design.

"We've been very clear right from the word go that to acquire our intellectual property comes at a cost of $1.6 million plus GST, and that's what we require to pay the consultants who worked on SkyPath for so many years, on a deferred fees basis."

SkyPath told the agency about the cost of the project's intellectual property rights in February last year.

The trust had meet with the agency to share project information as recently as October, and was told an agreement over the intellectual property rights would be in place by Christmas.

Reluctantly, the trust accepted a proposal to get a quarter of the payment up front, and the rest when a detailed business case was signed off.

However, the date for sorting the agreement keeps getting pushed back, and still is not in place.

Mr Woodward said communication with the agency has now dried up, because it's forcing everything through it's official correspondence unit.

"It's been very, very hard dealing with the NZTA," Mr Woodward said.

"We are concerned as to how well the NZTA is functioning as an organisation. There seems to be a high level of micromanagement, for what, in the schemes of things, is not a major expense for them.

"This is a project which has already been approved to be advanced by the NZTA board, and the government of course has said that this is the year of delivery, and we think we need to get on with it."

The agency has started working with an architect on the SkyPath design, but the trust has asked the architect to cease work immediately, until the intellectual property issue is resolved.

The NZTA has told the SkyPath Trust there was not an issue, as it was only using design information that was available in the public domain.

Mr Woodward said it was flawed for the NZTA to think publicly available material has no intellectual property rights.

Now, he said he feared the whole project could fall over.

Campaign for Better Transport's Jodi Johnston said the project had "run into a few snags and maybe it's gone into the too hard basket.

"It's taken about 10 years now to get the design off the ground," he said.

"It's an excellent design, we'd just love to see the problems between the NZTA, the trust and whoever else resolved as soon as possible so they can just get on and build the SkyPath."

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said she wanted to speak with Transport Agency officials before discussing the SkyPath.

The Transport Agency said it was looking at a number of design options for the shared pathway.

Spokesperson Brett Gliddon said the agency needed to do more work before it would know the right design to take forward.

"We want to get it right the first time, including the right width so more people can use it without restrictions, as well as the best materials to build the structure," he said.

The agency's statement did not address the SkyPath Trust's concerns about intellectual property, or about its communication with the trust.

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