An intriguing joint media release from NZTA and Auckland Transport emerged on Monday afternoon – highlighting a different approach to community consultation from the two transport agencies on the East West Link project going forward:
The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport are asking community groups to help the two organisations find the best transport solutions to better link an economically growing south-west and south-east Auckland.
Existing transport in this important area – which includes Auckland International Airport, Mangere, Otahuhu, Onehunga, Penrose and East Tamaki – is already inadequate and with projected job growth there will be increasing pressure to better manage that increasing demand.
“We know that there are community concerns about a potential motorway solution, but there are a number of ways in which we can meet that demand. We do not have a preferred option – motorway or otherwise. We are asking communities to work with us to find the best possible answer to an important issue that will affect jobs, the streets families live in, and the way people and freight can move safely around this area,” says the Transport Agency’s Highways Manager, Tommy Parker.
Auckland Transport Key Agency Initiatives Group Manager, Rick Walden, says working openly with the community is a priority.
“We wanted to better understand the transport needs of this area, which we had been doing through local boards and other key stakeholders, before we began wider consultation. We’ve sensed a growing concern in the communities about this approach and acknowledge that we should have engaged the wider community from the start. We’ve heard what people have to say and we are responding to that immediately. We want to begin a more collaborative approach to discussing the issues and how best to deal with them together,” Mr Walden says.
“We want to work through issues like better public transport, walking, cycling and roading infrastructure with those communities.”
To be honest, this is fairly unsurprising outcome given the significant community backlash against the incredibly secretive process that NZTA and AT have undertaken so far in advancing the East West Link. Although this secretive process only seemed to extend to the local community as I have heard that businesses in Highbrook – and likely other areas – had already been approached for their thoughts on the various plans.
As I’ve discussed in recent posts, “Option 4″ for the East West Link is an incredibly stupid, expensive and destructive project and it’s quite incredible that planning for it seemingly got so far down the track, despite the sustained opposition from the local board who were one of the only groups we know for certain that has been consulted with.
Option 4 isn’t the only bad option with Option 3 being quite destructive and likely very expensive.
Of course the media release was timed ahead of tomorrow’s first Infrastructure Committee meeting, where the Respect our Community Coalition who oppose the East West Link motorway will share their concerns with the Councillors. There’s also a report updating the Committee on the project, which surely gives the Councillors a great opportunity to share their concerns with the way Auckland Transport and NZTA have been advancing it over the past few months. Expect a few sparks to fly.
We’ve also proposed an alternative solution that would still provide many of the benefits of the East-West link but without needing to go to the great expense that is options 3 or 4.
While it’s obviously a good thing that NZTA and AT have recognised the errors of their ways in how they’ve advanced the project to date, I somehow doubt it’s completely dead yet. Once the road engineers get excited about a project, it takes a lot of effort to stop them.