6 May 2021

Bid for injunction to stop council's lower Queen Street upgrade fails

8:38 pm on 6 May 2021

A group of Queen Street landlords and businesses has lost its bid to stop further temporary work to make Auckland's main commercial street more pedestrian-friendly.

A quiet Queen Street in central Auckland on Friday 13/11/20.

Businesses want the council to settle on plans to improve Queen Street and "do it once and do it right". (file pic) Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

The Save Queen Street Society (SQSS) is seeking a judicial review of the Auckland Council's decision-making around a pilot programme to test pedestrian upgrades.

As part of that, it sought an interim injunction to stop some of the planned improvements to lower Queen Street, which would mean the replacement of some of the emergency works put in after last year's Covid-19 lockdown with higher-quality temporary options.

Both sides appeared in the High Court at Auckland yesterday, and in a decision released late this afternoon, Justice Venning dismissed SQSS's bid for an injunction.

In court, SQSS lawyer Sam Lowery said the group did not oppose the goal of making the street better for pedestrians.

However, the ongoing pilot programme was harming businesses in an already tough year in the aftermath of Covid-19, he said.

The council appeared to be experimenting with temporary measures to see what may or may not work and businesses had not been told how long that might go on for, Lowery said.

"The society's position is if Auckland's main commercial street is to undergo fundamental change, do it once and do it right."

There were more empty shop fronts than ever and foot traffic was down 40 percent or more, Lowery said.

"Businesses are struggling to stay afloat.

"Council doesn't seem to take any real issue... that emergency works have made life harder in a very tough year."

The emergency works had also caused problems with space for buses to stop and for couriers to make deliveries, Lowery said.

Temporary changes proposed by the council on lower Queen Street were only cosmetic and did not resolve those issues, he said.

Businesses had waited for a year to see how the pilot would play out, but they had now had enough, Lowery said.

"The street is a mess, it looks like a construction site, foot traffic has declined, store fronts are empty."

Auckland Council's lawyer Padraig McNamara said the upgrades were a big improvement on the status quo.

The new works would provide a point of comparison, and a better base for feedback and consultation and "the whole point of the pilot is to test things and then adjust in response to feedback", McNamara said.

In a statement this afternoon, Auckland Council said today's decision meant it could now proceed with the upgrades on Queen Street between Shortland Street and Customs Street, as planned and on schedule.

The substantive judicial review will be heard in the High Court at Auckland in July.

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