Follow us on Twitter

NZTA/AT back down on East West Link – for now

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.

East-West Option 4

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.

32 comments to NZTA/AT back down on East West Link – for now

  • George

    This project, and the timetable that precludes any semblance of a planning process was forced on NZTA by the Minister. No doubt he has his political reasons. Auckland Transport has adopted it uncritically (in public anyway) and they now face significant community opposition.

    The political pressure to get this project started will still be strong. It has nothing to do with, Auckland, and everything to do with the desires of the Minister of Transport. Auckland Council is a little sceptical, and becoming more so.

    Respect Our Community Campaign is presenting at the Infrastructure Committee of AC at 1pm today, Council Chambers. I can’t be there, but all who can are invited to come and show support.

  • SF Lauren

    Care to elaborate on what they have backed down from? I was unaware they had selected an option as well.

    The secretive process sounds intetesting? Do you propose the designers and engineers do all their work in the town square for all to see?

    • Back-down as initially the plan was to only consult with the community in the middle of next year, after a decision on the option and the project had gone to cabinet to get funding approved which was targeted for April.

      • SF Lauren

        Looks to me like the local boards werent doing a good job at expressing the concerns of the community.

        In the end it still looks like business as usual to me for this sort of project. Normally you wouldnt go to consultation without having an idea of what you may do as you would need to mark the entire area as potential for purchase which would just get everyone in a mad panic concerned about their house rather than the project.

        • harminder

          if it was business as usual, the press release wouldn’t have included this line:
          “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.”

        • Starnius

          Also, before you go to do route planning, you agree on a strategic level that you need a route. That’s when the public discussion over such a huge project should START. The engineering actually should come later.

          This suddenly popped up at the last minute into the Auckland Plan, almost secretly, and then was again accelerated recently. The “what is the problem” question has never been asked publicly, and the “what shall we do about it” stage has skipped right to a “lets do some new roads” stage.

  • Ari

    Just diversionary tactics. They will probably still go for the cheapest option which is the ‘demolish all the state housing’ approach.

  • Bryce P

    And how.much has it cost to get to this point? Probably enough to build 30 or 40 km’s of cycle paths in Auckland.

  • Back down? Your comment “I somehow doubt it’s completely dead yet” indicates you think the project is being dropped or heading that way, but I don’t see any indication of that at all. I think you’ve misinterpreted the press release entirely.

    Anyway, the whole project just goes to show what happens when you develop industrial areas away from the railway, and get rid of the private sidings. By centralising the rail-road transhipment point in one place, you get hundreds of truck movements per day raditating from that one point to all the industrial areas.

    What they should do is invest in more rail transhipment points around Auckland. Instead of just Southdown, they should reopen Wiri, Tamaki and Henderson. They should also scrap plans that promote establishing industrial areas away from the railway lines, such as the proposed one for Westgate.

    • If they’re going to do more rail transshipment there needs to be significant investment in additional track, because with (at best) two tracks between most of the main cargo source/destination areas the impact of big, slow freight trains on increasingly-frequent fast passenger trains will be unacceptable. Unless, of course, we are going to subjugate people before the needs of freight, which is not out of the question, sadly.
      Me? Cynical? Never!

  • The back down was over their secrecy, but still their sincerity is in doubt.

    But absolutely right about about industry location. The incredibly stupid decision to site new commercial development in Highbrook is one driver of this. Or at least what is stupid about it is that it is an example of separated land use and transport planning. We will live to regret the neglect of the rail freight network for a near total reliance on road freight. Subsidised by private car users.

    In terms of the airport we are currently in the middle of spending 4 billion to connect that destination south, west and north via SH20, expressly to relieve SH1. To build a new link back to SH1 would simply put the pressure back there and make the SH20 investment less effective. This aspect of Option 4 is criminally stupid, no matter how tidy it looks on a map from Wellington or how well it suits courier companies that moved to Highbrook when this motorway was on nobodies plans. They can suck it up or move.

    But of course unlike Auckland in general they have been ‘consulted’ or rather this community shattering dumb plan is a gift to them.

    • Greg N

      Well Highbrook was approved before the Super City, by (drum roll please), yep, you guessed it in one -, the old Manukau Council, the most pro-road lobby group, which masqueraded as a council without a doubt.

      So yep, gotta lay that issue of lack of land use and transport planning right at their feet (but NZTA did assist them with the Highbrook interchange).

      As for courier companies moving to Highbrook making things worse – most of those courier companies there in Highbrook don’t put stuff on rail,
      Can’t think the last time I saw a CourierPost, PostHaste or NZ Couriers branded container – either on or off a rail wagon, any where in recent times.
      I see lots of these guys 18 wheeler line-haul trucks and vans everywhere – but they don’t (and won’t) use a railway line even if it went right into their sorting/storage sheds.

      In fact only Mainfreight seem to use rail like this and they have an intermodal road/rail terminal already near the Metroport..

      Do agree though that adding more links to SH1 when we are spending a bucket of $ already relieving SH1 of traffic is dumb, dumb dumb.

      • Of course couriers don’t do their deliveries by rail, not suggesting they can or should but rather that they don’t have to base their centralised sorting centre at Highbrook if it is so bad for road/air transport that they now are lobbying for Option 4 [which one I know is].

        Yes, indeed, it seems Manukau City were the worst planners of anything since Joseph Stalin. Perhaps being centred on a badly placed and failed example of planning gave them no model to work to… or could they only ever attract the deeply talentless to such a suboptimal place…? Are all now at AT, promoted and dreaming 1960s dreams?

      • Waspman

        Correction, Mainfreight, Mainstream, Peter Baker Transport, Linfox, Owens, Daily Freight and possibly Toll all have rail links in and around Otahuhu and Penrose. The number of firms using rail has grown a lot since KiwiRail came into being (as opposed to the bad old days of Transrail) and presented a can do – modern – willing – reliable service.

        • ErrolC

          Oddly enough, Toll, previous owners of the rail operations and co-located off Neilson St, make extensive use of rail. However not for their Parcels or courier operations – the timing and duration of available rail services aren’t suitable for courier requirements.

          • Max

            So? While parcel deliveries are highly visible, they make up, what – 10% or less of all road freight? Why let that drive us? If we deal better with the other 90%, there will be plenty of space left for the couriers to deliver the latest DVD from Amazon…

          • ErrolC

            So I was correcting some misconceptions about courier and rail operations, not attempting to justify any particular road project.

  • SF Lauren

    Does this mean we can submit our own proposals on what we would like to see before they start design?

    • Sorry Richard this is an argument for engineering to be subservient to strategy and philosophical approach. I know this is a departure to the process of the last 60 odd years but it is time for quantitive issues to be following qualitative ones again. For the dogs to be put back in the kennel.

      • SF Lauren

        Sorry patrick you made no sense. Care to say what you were trying to day?

        • Sailor Boy

          That we should look at the qualities that we want in the solution to a problemfirst, not decide the quantities (including locational quantities) first.

          • Anna

            Sailorboyyou may well have hit the nail on the head. nzta adpotion of the treasury business case approach comes Ithaca new accountability to be problem focused and open minded about solutions during early phases. The new charm offensive will be an attempt to beguile “community” that this is the case. In order to do this properly however, there needs to be a shared understanding of what the actual problems are. Something that has not as yet been genuinely discussed. A shared understanding of the scope of the problem based on a good and appropriate evidence base is needed. Only then can solutions start to be identified,initially at a high level, and then more refined option selection take place.

          • ‘and then more refined option selection take place’

            Which may not involve m’ways at all, or even any engineering. Pretty hard though when NZTA is largely a State Highway generating machine, under this government anyway. But you got my point. The approach with this badly handled project is that it has clearly been a solution looking for a problem, rather than the other way around.

        • Patrick Reynolds

          Richard your incomprehension proves my point. Exactly.

  • Anna

    This is no back down. It is an opportunity to retrench and give the appearance of undertaking a collaborative process. But take note, the word used by rick Walden is”consultation” .this is code for going thru the motions of asking you but really we will just tell you what we want to hear. We will shape the process and the discussions in a way that will convince you of the merits if the most expensive and least effective quasi “solution. We will convince the Minister and council and boards using overstated projections if demand and need that will become a self fulfilling prophecy. This is what happened in 1955 and we live with the consequences everyday. So will we let it happen again?

  • Andrew C

    With regards to couriers and rail, or even other businesses located near rail, there is an argument that rail services and timetables don’t suit. What if there were rail shuttles that could be be smaller electric trains that could handle these types of services?

    • ErrolC

      Even for inter-city depot-to-depot services, rail is cheaper, but slower (both in travel time & with network considerations) and less flexible than linehaul trucks. If it made sense for courier, it would be happening.

      • Can I repeat my issue with this courier company is not what mode they use but that they site their new centralised sorting centre somewhere that they now say needs a whole new motorway to work. And lets be clear this is a billion dollar subsidy that they are after. And remember that this government has shifted the burden of taxation paid into the NLTF from RUCs to FEDs. In otherwords, as they have done with electricity, it is the private consumer of roads cross-subsidising commercial users. Citizens fund business owners, for the greater good; ie trickle down. Yeah right.

Leave a Reply