AM hosts clash in debate over Green Party proposal to make Queen St in Auckland car-free

  • 14/06/2022

Two AM hosts clashed in a debate on Tuesday over a proposal to make Queen Street in Auckland car-free. 

It comes after Greens Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick, in partnership with the City Centre Residents’ Group, launched a petition calling for cars to be removed from the inner city street. 

"Imagine Queen Street lined with local eateries and small businesses, filled with green space and street furniture, sculpture, play areas, street markets and public art aplenty to explore with friends, whānau and co-workers alike," Swarbrick said on Tuesday. 

At the time of publishing, 316 people had signed the petition. 

The petition sparked a heated debate among the AM hosts on Tuesday morning with Ryan Bridge suggesting the proposal was unnecessary. 

"This idea from the Greens to have just pedestrians and the thing is, what problem is it solving," Bridge said. 

"Whoever woke up in the morning and said I would love to go down to the city this morning but it's not pedestrian-only." 

But fellow AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green disagreed, saying the CBD needs to be somewhere people want to go. 

"What they [the local residents] need is a heartbeat, something going on like events for people to come in and go to those shops, otherwise no one is going to those shops," she said. 

Chan-Green said the idea is about building an atmosphere on one of Auckland's main streets. 

"It's not about the pedestrian lane. It's the fact a pedestrian lane will give you the opportunity to hold events there La Rambla in Barcelona, where they have big things going on so people might actually want to go there," she said. 

But Bridge was quick to criticise that idea.

"I'm sorry, I'm sick of this. We are not a European city with little cobblestone streets, we never will be."

Chan-Green responded by saying: "We are not because we don't give it the opportunity to have fun."

Swarbrick said a similar model had been implemented on Sydney's George Street with "great success". 

“If Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland wants to be the world’s most Liveable City, we need the city centre to reflect the needs of people on the ground.," she said. 

 “When you prioritise people, you also prioritise their exploration and interaction with small businesses that may otherwise be bypassed.

 “It’s a fools’ game to think we can return to pre-COVID working trends. It’s time to evolve. Our neighbourhood is so much more than a CBD - it is a city centre and we deserve an environment that celebrates, embraces and reflects that."

Swarbrick said by focusing on pedestrians, it would make the street much more enjoyable for the community.

"Our neighbourhood is so much more than a CBD - it is a city centre and we deserve an environment that celebrates, embraces and reflects that," she said.

"We've got enough plans, enough vision. We've had enough disruption and enough unsatisfactory compromise. It's time to commit and do it properly."

Watch the full debate above.