Plan For Historic Parnell Train Station Gathers Steam


The Parnell community committee and Parnell Inc are winning converts for a plan to get a “destination” Parnell train stop and for the station to be a tourist attraction, incorporating the present Mainline steam building as the centrepoint.

It’s a wonderful well-thought out concept, that got members of the Auckland Regional Council’s Transport and Urban Development Committee excited when the group made a presentation the other afternoon.

The idea is to develop KiwiRail land at Cheshire Street into a destination in its own right, centred around re-development of the magnificent carriage works building and highlighting the rich heritage of the Waipapa Stream valley. The plan also incorporates the old Newmarket Station building and signal house.

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Architects Stevens Lawson's vision

ARTA originally planned for a station at Carlaw Park. Cheshire St would give people easier access to the Museum, Parnell village, AUT and the University and the surrounding land is big enough to be developed further for things such as tourist event, learning quarter, quality housing for seniors or hi-tech incubator businesses.

Debbie Harkness, manager of Creative Quarter, Parnell Inc, which is leading the charge, says the ARC chair, Mike Lee, told them that the development proposed would enhance the experience of visitors to Auckland. He urged the committee to make progress on creating the Parnell Station before the ARC goes out of business in a year’s time saying it was an important station.

Mr Lee hopes that a report requested on the Parnell community’s proposal will enable the ARC to establish a position on the proposed Parnell station by year end, and that funding can be secured to progress the vision.

Ms Harkness says ACT MP Rodney Hide, Auckland City Council transport committee chairman Ken Baguley and the Hobson Community Board have also so far shown support.

Funding for a Parnell station was not included in the money allowed by the government for Project Dart and rail projects recently.

redfernThe inspiration for the Parnell concept is Australian architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer’s award-winning CarriageWorks performing arts centre in Sydney’s Redfern (left).

I was lucky enough to spend a day in there and it’s quite jaw-dropping. The transformed large space has theatre spaces, warehouse spaces and is brilliant for hire for company presentations and gatherings.

It made me realise once again how rare it is in Auckland to take an old historic building and turn it into something that preserves its history but feels quite modern. Britomart managed to achieve that but as I noted last week, in looking at the new St Patrick’s Square makeover, the usual solution is to demolish an old heritage building or carry through only a facade that’s inappropriately placed on a new glass tower monster.

INSIDE: The Sydney space gives an idea of inside a new station

INSIDE: The Sydney space gives an idea of inside a new station

The Parnell plan would also make progress on a couple of problems in the area. It would give attention to the criminally neglected Waipapa Stream valley, which many Aucklanders have probably never heard about nor could identify its location, even though Western line rail travellers see it out of the window when they pass the Mainline building. The Domain is also disconnected from Parnell.

Parnell is New Zealand’s oldest suburb and the Domain, the country’s oldest park. The Mainline Steam building is on original Domain land (as was Carlaw Park). So the station would act as a gateway to the Domain.

A excellent thought from the Parnell committee is for the station to have minimal car parking to encourage people to use public transport.mainline2-jpg  071

The ARC committee resolved:

  • That the deputation from the Parnell community be received with thanks.
  • That a report be brought back to the Transport and Urban Development Committee to enable the council to establish a position on the proposed Parnell Train station at Cheshire Street.
  • That the committee notes the points raised in the Parnell community’s presentation and refers them to officers to report back to the committee in December.
The old station in Parnell turned into student housing

The old station in Parnell turned into student housing

Auckland City still lists Carlaw Park in planning for a Parnell stop but hopefully a city development committee meeting next month will consider including the new idea in its 10 year plan.

The old Parnell station is now sadly unloved

The old Parnell station is now sadly unloved

ARTA estimates that a Parnell station would be the fourth busiest in Auckland after Newmarket, Britomart and Manukau.




  1. Thanks for the great coverage. We’re all very excited that our vision is gaining traction across the relevant authorities.

    Backing our vision, ARTA has come back to us with new plans for siting the future Parnell station midway between the Mainline Steam carriage works building and their original Carlaw Park site, and another adjacent to the carriage works.

    We’re looking forward to hearing further good news from ARC by year end.

    Our presentation to ARC is available online at


  2. Jeremy Harris says:

    The site at the bottom of the hill by the strand has much better access to the Uni and therefore gets my nod…

  3. Hi Jeremy

    The station we have in mind isn’t only for students, as ARTA’s first plan locating the station at lower Heather Street was. Having the station at the Cheshire Street location would serve a wider audience including people who visit and work in Parnell shopping/business area and Domain and Museum visitors - and that’s not including all the people who will come to the fantastic environment we want this destination station to be!

    That said, we also think the station at this location is well situated for the Learning Quarter too: rather than dropping students into that congested intersection of The Strand, Stanley Street, Beach Road, Parnell Rise, from where students have to trek up Altern Road - we’re proposing that students cross Stanley Street above the ASB Tennis Centre and get safely (and scenically) to the Learning Quarter via the Grafton Road motorway overpass. Besides - that delivers students to where much of the University of Auckland’s lecture theatres are AND is more convenient for AUT students.

    Another thing to bear in mind here: at the most it makes for about another 100 metres of walking, siting the station at Cheshire Street, and that’s for a young fit bunch of students!

  4. jarbury says:

    A few thoughts:

    1) The Cheshire St site seems quite unsuitable for students. It is quite hidden away from the university and I think would actually be further from the University Library than Britomart is at the moment.

    2) If a Parnell station wasn’t to serve the uni, then I would say its usage is probably going to be fairly limited along similar lines to other stations like Orakei, Meadowbank, Mt Eden and so forth. That’s generally around 1000 boardings a day. A university station could get five times that amount.

    3) I do think doing something with the sheds is a fantastic idea. I just don’t know whether it’s necessary to have a railway station operating there.

    4) Safety. The Cheshire site is quite isolated at the bottom of a valley. Not exactly the safest place to jump on a train at 9pm.

  5. jarbury says:

    One last thing - the lower site does require a pedestrian bridge over Stanley Street. But that’s achievable.

  6. Mike Mellor says:

    One point: the building currently used by Mainline Steam is not (and never has been) a “carriage works”. It was opened in 1956 as a depot to service diesel locomotives and railcars.

    That’s quite a different function - so “diesel depot”, please, not “carriage works”!

  7. Ian says:

    The proposals for a Parnell Railway station cover 3 different areas of Auckland city and there is no ideal site to suit all 3.

    First is the University students who want a station around Carlaw park north of the present Parnell Depot.

    The second group is the one who want a station for Mainstreet Parnell which could be well served by a station around the depot site, but that has the downside of a very steep walk up to the main street (being a regular MLS volunteer I know that walk very well).

    The third group want a station with better access to the Museum and Domain, which would be best served by a station inside the Parnell Tunnel.

    My solution would be a regular bus service running between Newmarket and Britomart via the Museum, Parnell and the Universitys.

    And I am all for keeping the Depot buildings and one possible use for them (since they already have track inside and yards outside) would be to utilize part of the building as a Auckland railway museum in conjunction with Kiwirail and Mainline Steam, GVR and Motat. The various organizations could provide different locomotive and rolling stock to be displayed along with information about the area and the railway in the area.


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