Opinion: urban design in the Papanui area

sbtp-profile-pic-thumbnail-512.jpgThe Council Service Centre in Papanui now provides postal services, following NZ Post’s closure of their branch on Main North Road. Last year the Langdons Quarter expansion at Northlands opened, along with new office and retail developments further up Langdons Road. Feedback on these changes has been overwhelmingly positive on Think Papanui, but an unintended consequence is the impact on pedestrian and vehicle movements at the busy Restell St / Langdons Rd / Sisson Dr intersection – an area with narrow footpaths, limited sightlines, and adjacent school, mall, and other commercial activity. Crossing the road at this intersection can be dicey for pedestrians, and of course the risk increases for children or those with limited sight or mobility.

An increase in pedestrian and vehicle movements raises another issue – is this just a space to pass through, or does it need to accommodate other needs? As a mixing space between all the different activities in the area, if there was a pedestrian-friendly open space this could be Papanui’s ‘town square’. Unfortunately there is no such open space, and in recent years the experience of some users hasn’t always been positive.

 

Intersection 2a

A bench seat outside the library was removed some years ago, and then a ‘mosquito’ device transmitting an unpleasant high-pitched noise was installed to deter young people from sitting on the Library steps. This of course caused discomfort not just to those who were ‘loitering’ but also to every infant and child passing or entering the Library – my own children found it uncomfortable to even be driven past the building. The mosquito was turned off in 2016 after hitting the headlines, but I note that it hasn’t actually been removed – could it be turned on again in response to conflicting and increasing demands on the limited space in the area?

Last year Council staff undertook an audit of road user trends in the area – no report or proposals appear to have been tabled yet but it is good to know that some thinking may already be underway.

What’s the solution? Firstly, all of us who drive in the area need to ensure we are acting with maximum care and courtesy. Second, it would be a great statement of inclusiveness and hospitality for the Library to deinstall the mosquito device. Third, there is a need for serious thinking by Council, with input from the mall, school, and other stakeholders, on a more human-centred design for the area. Local businesses are already paying rates and development contributions – could some show goodwill by making a financial contribution towards an upgrade of the area?

[Update 1 July 2019: the Council is proposing a Papanui 30 km/hr speed zone in the area discussed in this article. The proposal is open for feedback from 1st July 2019 – 22nd July 2019. Click through for details: https://ccc.govt.nz/the-council/consultations-and-submissions/haveyoursay/show/250]

Think Papanui can be found at facebook.com/ThinkPapanui and www.thinkpapanui.nz