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Motorway & Rapid Transit Become Top Election Issue

Motorway & Rapid Transit Become Top Election Issues

Stopping the planned Eastern Motorway through Parnell, Hobson Bay and Orakei will depend on the results of this year’s local body elections. And Auckland deserves the sort of world-class integrated rapid transit system all other major international cities enjoy.

These are the two key messages of a powerful new political vehicle being launched tonight at the Jubilee Building in Newmarket by the Hobson Bay Residents’ Network Inc (HBRN) and STEM (Stop the Eastern Motorway Inc) to contest this year’s local body elections.

One of the main movers behind the new political vehicle – whose name and candidates will be announced tonight – is Christine Caughey, a Hobson Bay community and environmental advocate.

Christine Caughey says many residents of the Hobson Ward see the motorway as a done deal but in fact, she says, voters have the chance to stop the motorway and vote for rapid transit – rail, bus and ferries – as early as this year’s elections.

“We’ve looked at this carefully,” she says. “Everybody is against this motorway, including Transit New Zealand, except for tight majorities on the Auckland and Manukau city councils. If we win the three Auckland City Council seats in the Hobson Ward this October, there will be a majority against it. We’ll be able to put a stop to it at our first council meeting, and save Parnell, Hobson Bay and Orakei while we’re at it.”

The new political vehicle – which will include “Hobson” in its name – will strongly campaign against “motorway madness”. By this it means both the proposal to build the new motorway across Parnell, Hobson Bay and Orakei and the constant gridlock that all Aucklanders endure.

“The planned motorway would cost over $3 billion and would do irreversible environmental damage to an outstanding part of Auckland, destroying the heritage and way of life of this community,” says Richard Simpson, another to take a leading role in the new political vehicle. “But maybe, if you thought it would solve Auckland’s traffic woes, you might – at a stretch – have to support it. The problem is, it won’t do anything to solve the problems on our roads that are making Auckland such a difficult place to live and do business.”

Another driving force behind the new political vehicle is Greg Liggins. He’s carefully studied Auckland’s history of transport development and says it makes shattering reading.

“We all know that in the 1950s, Auckland built a four-lane Harbour Bridge – that simply wasn’t adequate – and forgot to include train tracks,” he says. “Then, in the 1960s, our city fathers decided against first-class rapid transit systems and opted for third-rate motorways instead. We’re all paying the price of that decision today. And now our Mayor and Council seem to be making the same mistake again. It’s incredible how history is repeating itself!”

Christine Caughey says Auckland is at the cross-roads. “In our lifetimes, we’ve seen Auckland emerge from being merely New Zealand’s largest city to a major city in the Asia Pacific region,” she says. “We now have to decide whether we are going to learn the lessons from Perth, Melbourne and Vancouver or make the mistakes of Seoul, Los Angeles and Seattle. Any international businessperson will tell you it’s easier to get around and do business in the bustle of Hong Kong than it is in our city of Auckland. That’s madness!”

The answer, according to the new political vehicle, is to make the decision, as a city, to invest in world-class rapid transit systems, as well as upgrading the existing roading network.

“We’re not against spending more to improve our roads,” says Christine Caughey. “Good progress has been made, for example, from Gillies Ave through to the CBD. But roads alone can never be the answer for a major international city. Roads alone may be the answer in, say, Timaru, but every major world city has a rapid transit system and Auckland has to ensure we invest in one. Forty years late is better than never. We won’t have another chance again. The elections starting next month are crucial – they’ll determine the shape of our city for the next 50 years.”

The new political vehicle will also protect Auckland’s heritage and promote its communities as major priorities. As well as transport issues, its policy platform will call for keeping parks such as Windmill Park in public ownership, the promotion of safe school bus networks, preventing further mega-malls in Newmarket and stopping the destruction of our community’s heritage.

The new party will be launched at 5:45 pm tonight (Wednesday) in the Main Hall of the Jubilee Building in Newmarket, and voters will receive information on its name and candidates shortly after that.

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