Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bad news for Waterview – here comes a motorway!

In Unison, May 14, 2009

A motorway that will run behind Unitec will stop criminals from South Auckland coming to rob Mt Albert, says National MP Melissa Lee.

This controversial statement was made last Wednesday at Unitec, where candidates for the up-coming Mt Albert by-election debated the proposed Waterview Connection; the final plan for it was released last week.

The Waterview Connection will complete Auckland's Western Ring Route and will be 60 percent underground with two tunnels and two motorways. It will go underneath Great North Road until it meets Blockhouse Bay Road where there will be a short stretch of motorway. It will then dip back underground before rising again after New North Road.

The Waterview Connection will mean 360 houses in the Waterview and Mt Albert area will be demolished. At the meeting, Ms Lee tried to tell the raucous audience about the benefits of the motorway.

While she “really feels” for the people who will be losing their homes for the motorway to be built, she says it needs to be finished. Ms Lee told the audience that people drive through Mount Albert from South Auckland to get to West Auckland.

The motorway could divert some of that traffic - and the criminals - away from the Mount Albert streets. This call was met with much booing from the crowd. ACT was the only other party at the forum that supports the motorway, but candidate John Boscawen presented an alternative route that he says would lessen the impact on the community. When Labour was in power, it had begun plans of a tunnel in the area, but this plan was rejected last week in favour of the motorway-tunnel plan. Labour candidate for the Mt Albert seat David Shearer, says Labour’s tunnel plan is the best option, and he will keep fighting for it.

The tunnel would have preserved the community he says, “but today we had the awful reality the 360 people will lose their homes, we will have a six lane motorway that will go right through the middle of the community.”

I believe we should be standing up for the communities instead of bulldozing their lives away.”

Mr Shearer felt the area was being targeted because it is poor. "If this motorway was being built for Paritai Drive or Remuera, we wouldn't be having this meeting."

He says the motorway will devalue property and be “a complete disaster”. Mr Shearer called for better public transport, which was met with huge applause from the audience. Green candidate and co-leader Russell Norman also called for better public transport as he is totally opposed to the “stupid motorway”.

He says that all around the world people are moving away from motorways, and National’s current plan is a “dinosaur approach” that does not take into account climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and the cost of borrowing the money to build it.

“Motorways do not work,” he says. The motorway will be congested from the moment it opens up because motorways attract more traffic, he says. He vowed to stand by Waterview residents who want to fight the motorway, and called for the need for “civil disobedience” to stop it from being built.

Julian Pistorius from the Libertarianz Party, which believe in the free market, seemed out of his depth at the forum, sticking to the same line that people should not listen to the politicians over this issue; instead they should leave it up to the free market. “No government has the right to violate property rights of people,” he says.

“This does not have to be rammed through by the force of government.” The audience were able to ask questions of the candidates, many of which were heated statements about the effect the motorway will have on the community, directed at Ms Lee. One irate Waterview resident said the government was “clogging up our beautiful city with goddamn motorways, Waterview is surrounded three ways by a marine reserve…we want public transport and rail.” While Ms Lee agrees there needs to be better public transport, she says there has to be roads, like the motorway, for the buses to go on. Work on the project is due to start in 2011 and should be completed within four years. It is estimated the route will cost approximately $1.4 billion.