The East-West Link’s primary role is to ease traffic congestion in area which long ago was made the backside of the Auckland isthmus.
Image above: NZTA’s East-West Link perspective last year.
Out the back, away from the glistening Waitemata Harbour, Auckland had its first industrial heartland. The city abattoir at Westfield and the Southdown freezing works nearby towards Mt Wellington were both sited on the Mangere Inlet, a tidal corner of the Manukau Harbour. The railway workshops were nearby at Otahuhu.
Workers lived in nearby suburbs, and many still do. Swing into the 1980s and the advent of Japanese car imports, and cheaper personal transport meant workers could live further afield.
But the old industries died or moved out – one by one the railway workshops around the whole country died, the meatworks beside the harbour closed and were replaced by cleaner industries, or by warehousing.
But freight still clogs that industrial heartland of Penrose through Onehunga to the west, across Mt Wellington to the east.
I went to a presentation in Onehunga last week on the East-West Link, where various participating experts said their piece and the public were invited to add their views and ask questions. A turnout of about 250 was impressive, points were made politely although there was plainly frustration at the long time coming to any solution and the general impression that the transport engineers’ solution will not be the one the community wants.
The presentation evening was called by the Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board and most of the presentations were about place. In those circumstances, NZ Transport Agency principal transport planner Scott Wickman was never likely to win a popularity contest.
There are 2 sides to this project and they don’t mix, or haven’t yet. Under the normal rules of New Zealand planning combat, one side will win and the other side will remain forever disgruntled. The tendency is for authority to win by riding roughshod over less resourced opponents, though defeat of the Basin Reserve flyover project in Wellington shows it’s not always one-sided.
On my occasional dips into the subject of the backside of Auckland, there is always a clear focus which excludes other views – not just alternatives, but all other perspectives. The starting point is to improve access for freight, both in & out. Oh, that’s also the finishing point.
It seems, to me, that this is the perfectly wrong starting point. First, you need to ask why these businesses are where they are, and then, is that the best place for them to be?
At Onehunga, the community is used to being pushed around, so many of its representatives are used to looking at proposals from different angles to see where they might fit in.
After my first 2 questions comes a big batch of related questions relating to freight:
How & where should freight arrive/depart Auckland?
How should it be dispersed?
That leads to questions about where industry should be, how people should get to work, whether the inner Manukau Harbour should have houses along its edge just like many other spots around its shoreline do…
And it leads to the roles of the 2 ports, on the Waitemata and the Manukau, plus the airport at Mangere. The map below shows current transport infrastructure projects around Auckland, including East-West, and key access modes. The important aspects are the links between them – and how they fit into community aspirations.
But back to Onehunga and the proposed new freight route through it. The NZ Transport Agency lodged its application for 2 notices of requirement & 23 resource consents with the Environmental Protection Authority on 16 December, and the authority accepted the application as complete on 22 December.
The next step is for the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Conservation to direct whether the proposal is nationally significant and whether to refer it to a board of inquiry, the Environment Court or Auckland Council for consideration & a decision.
Mr Wickman told the Onehunga community on Thursday the transport agency had anticipated that the Environmental Protection Authority would work on a timetable of receiving submissions late this month into early March and, assuming a green light following a mid-year hearing, the agency could start construction next year for completion in 2022-23.
I’ll come back this week with some of the detail from last week’s presentations, followed by more detail ideas on access, property impacts – and where the freight & community aspirations can fit together.
Attribution: Presentations, NZTA, EPA.