Government Must Formally Scrap East West Link
24th November 2017
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Say Government Must Formally Scrap East West Link
Auckland iwi Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei are concerned the East West Link could one day go ahead, despite the current government cancelling the project.
Last week a draft ruling released by the independent board of inquiry approved resource consent for the East West Link.
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, Te Kawerau ā Maki and Makaurau Marae along with other community and conservation groups, such as The Onehunga Enhancement Society (TOES) and the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand, went to great expense and effort to stop the motorway during a gruelling three-month hearing before the Environmental Protection Authority.
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust spokesperson Ngarimu Blair says while the iwi welcomes the stated aim of the new government to scrap the project, this does not provide a sufficient degree of certainty and Transport Minister Phil Twyford needs to formally honour the government’s commitment to cancel the project completely.
“The Notices of Requirement and Resource Consents have a 15-year period for implementation, and will therefore outlast the current term of government. We want to ensure the East West Link as proposed never goes ahead, no matter who is in government at the time.
“We have written to Minister Twyford asking that the government direct the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to formally withdraw the Notices of Requirement and surrender the consents,” says Blair.
“This would avoid the danger of the current government’s intentions being undermined. We note in this regard that NZTA are currently proceeding with moves to implement the project as if nothing had changed post general election,” says Blair.
This view is shared by the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society. Environmental lawyer for the Society, Sally Gepp, is concerned that the decision to grant the consents and designations means that key policies in the brand-new Auckland Unitary Plan have been treated as little more than words on a page.
“Forest & Bird played an integral role in ensuring that the Unitary Plan provides for nature as well as people. We went to the High Court to change the Unitary Plan - and won - and as a result Auckland’s remaining biodiversity hotspots are protected in the Plan. This decision has rendered those protections meaningless,” says Gepp.
The iwi’s stance is also echoed by local advocacy group TOES, who particularly opposed the East West Link design at the Onehunga/Neilson Street Interchange end.
“There is no way to now ‘redesign’ the Onehunga/Neilson Street Interchange end of the East West Link within the designations and consents supported by the Board of Inquiry. Those designations and consents have to be scrapped,” says Chair of TOES, Jim Jackson.
Should the Government fail to act, a high court appeal process is the only direct course of action open to Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.
“We stand ready to follow this course. Needless to say, we would prefer not to have to go down this route when a simpler and more cost-effective solution could be achieved,” says Blair.
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei was one of many groups who opposed the East West Link on the grounds of its adverse environmental and cultural effects which it said would be enduring and significant.
“We look forward to having real input into the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) review and will contribute proactively on future sensible options for the Mangere Inlet and Onehunga area.
“There must be true collaboration amongst all the parties and not a short-sighted singular focus on road building as we’ve seen in recent years,” says Blair.
Jackson concurs and says any new approach to an East West connection will need to start again, taking learnings from the hearings, such as the Community Plan for the Onehunga end of the EWL that was promoted by TOES.