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Council backs citizens’ rail and road interests

MEDIA RELEASE

July 18, 2002

Council backs citizens’ rail and road interests

The Auckland City Council has gone on the front foot to protect the interests of its citizens in both road and rail with clear messages for two of its transport partners - Transit New Zealand and ARTNL.

On the rail front, the council’s transport committee has passed resolutions that reject consultants’ proposals to close some suburban railway stations and “mothball” others.

The committee was responding to a report recommending the closure or mothballing of Baldwin, Kingsland and Remuera stations based on a decision for fewer stations on the Western and Isthmus lines. The report also recommended closing Meadowbank station in favour of a new station at St John’s, which council staff advise is not workable.

The committee passed a resolution noting “Auckland City believes increased passenger access via stations within the city should take precedence priority over minor improvements in trip duration.”

The chairman of the transport committee, Councillor Greg McKeown says that while closing some stations might speed up travel times, this has to be balanced with the need to provide good public access to rail stations for its residents.

“Auckland City is making a major multi-million dollar contribution to this new rail system over and above other councils, and if there are passenger transport and economic benefits for the whole region, then they should fall on Auckland City and its residents as much as anyone else,” says Councillor McKeown.

He says while there is a need for ARTNL, which is 58% owned by Auckland City, to be managing the region’s transport infrastructure in the most efficient manner, equally the interests of future rail commuters had to be considered.

ARTNL, Auckland Regional Transport Network Ltd, is a company formed by six of the region’s seven local authorities to own, develop and manage the region’s transport infrastructure including railway stations, the region’s rail corridors and ferry wharves and terminals.

“I have had a clear steer from Kingsland residents, for instance, that they look forward to an improved rail service, and Auckland City expects to see that happen”.

The council also rejects the permanent closure of the Westfield and Southdown stations, and recommends “mothballing”, but only after community consultation and it wants to retain options for these stations given the industrial redevelopment opportunities.

“The council is interested to take more than a transport view - land use, transport and economic development are all inter-related, and suggesting the permanent closure of the Westfield and Southdown stations is quite off the mark”, he says.

The principles of planning integration and community involvement were echoed in the committee’s response to Transit’s plans for state highways within Auckland City’s boundaries.

- In considering three projects, Harbour Bridge to City, SH20 Avondale extension, and SH20 Mangere Bridge, the Auckland City transport committee suggested greater commitment to practical mitigation methods for noise and negative visual effects of motorways

- supported the inclusion of options recommended by the community in further stages in the case of work at Mangere Bridge

- expressed serious concerns regarding possible community disruption and loss of open spaces, and

- called for a more clear statement of future passenger transport development options within the transport corridors.

“Auckland City is right behind getting these projects completed, and in fact finds proposed completion dates of 2015 for some of these projects as quite unacceptable”, says Councillor McKeown.

“However, it may be that doing a better job from the outset will help us get these important projects completed earlier,” says Councillor McKeown.

“Incorporating future passenger transport plans, for both rail and buses, would provide some assurance to many concerned Aucklanders that we have a better plan in mind than just building more roads. We certainly do, and we should make that clear at every opportunity.”

He says public consultation documents might also include more specific information of modern methods for protecting communities from the increased noise and negative visual effects associated with motorways. Screening and planting can provide much of the community protection required, certainly to a point improved well beyond what has been implemented to date.

“Rather than spend $150 million on a tunnel, for example, communities may be interested to see $5 million spent on practical at-grade mitigation and a significant sum spent on community infrastructure - such as parks and reserves, “says Councillor McKeown.

“These are alternative investments the government agencies could fund when developing motorways through urban environments which could result in a win for all parties.”

The committee asked Transit to prioritise progress on the scheme assessment and assessment of environmental effects for the Mangere Bridge section of State Highway 20 and for Transit to be aware of local community concerns regarding its proposal and that “local viewpoints and the regional needs be weighted in a balanced manner.”

In relation to the State Highway 20 Avondale extension, the committee supported the need for Transit and Auckland City to work closely together to ensure the incorporation of land-use, passenger transport and community development issues into the project. It also supported the need to establish a preferred option as early as possible to remove community uncertainty.

Councillor McKeown says the third Transit project - the Harbour Bridge to City project - was of major concern to Auckland City’s inner-city residents, but it also had lessons for every community where Transit intends to build a highway.

The Harbour Bridge to City project is designed to increase the capacity and efficiency of traffic between the harbour bridge and Wellington St in the city by providing additional traffic lanes on the existing motorway, re-alignment of access ramps and incorporating bus priority measures.

Transit has had several consultation meetings with the public and key stakeholders, but there is a feeling it will choose the cheapest option, irrespective of public concerns.

Councillor McKeown says residents are concerned about the effects of noise, vehicle emissions and visual pollution from new motorways and motorway extensions across Victoria Park.

“We’re not into cosmetic, once-over-lightly answers. Auckland City wants comprehensive solutions that take into account the wants and needs of our communities and Transit might find it has more widespread and faster public acceptance of their projects by communities on whom they are intruding, if it is able to more readily incorporate the communities wishes.”

Councillor McKeown says while his committee has to advocate for the best possible outcomes for the city’s residents, he acknowledges there is a good working relationship between the council and Transit at both an officer and governance level.

“We’re getting more done than in the past, integrating more of the planning, and taking the important issues on,” he says.

ENDS


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