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Puhoi tunnel and new eco-viaduct is a great option

6 August 2004, Auckland

Puhoi tunnel and new eco-viaduct is a great option

Forest and Bird congratulated Transit today for deciding to modify the Puhoi extension of the Northern Motorway to include two significant new features that will vastly reduce its environmental impact.

Forest and Bird was responding to Transit's announcement that it will construct a tunnel under Johnsons Hill instead of making a 57 metre cut through the hillside, and will construct a second eco-viaduct (210-metre) over the Nukumea Stream.

"The plans for the crossing of the Waiwera estuary included a huge viaduct and a deep cut in the bush-covered Johnsons hill", said Forest and Bird's Northern Conservation Officer, David Pattemore, "this would have destroyed what is now a vital corridor of vegetation between the coast and inland Puhoi".

"Since North Island robins were introduced to Wenderholm Regional Park, the birds have been moving around the area, following the corridor of bush up the Waiwera estuary", said Mr. Pattemore, "the presence of a large cut and busy lanes of motorway traffic would likely stop this movement, or prove fatal if they attempted to cross."

"The route also went through a significant area called RAP 21 (Recommended Area for Protection) which has some great regenerating Kauri forest and fantastic fernbird habitat," said Mr. Pattemore, "the new viaduct proposal will ensure that the fernbird can still move unrestricted and the stream will remain largely intact."

The decision comes as hearings are underway into the option of recouping costs through designating the route as a toll road. Transit has claimed these new environmental options are only possible with the new provisions for toll roads, but Forest and Bird disagrees.

"New Zealand's economy is based on the health of our natural environment", said Mr. Pattemore, "these new plans are simply the least that we should expect from large infrastructure developments in the 21st century".

"If it is possible to modify plans to obtain greater environmental protection, then it should be done", he said.

"There are substantial cost benefits from tunneling, and it is a longer-term solution", said Mr. Pattemore. "The tunnel option means that the viaduct crossing the Waiwera does not have to be nearly so high, which reduces the visual impact of the crossing."

"The high viaduct was only going to carry one lane either way, which would have limited how much it could be used," he said, "The tunnel option will allow four lanes straight away".

"This decision is a win-win situation, for both the environment and the motorway extension", said Mr. Pattemore.

"We hope that Transit will look at the rest of the Northern Motorway extension and other roading projects around the country and apply similar decision-making to preserve our unique natural environment," said Mr. Pattemore.


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