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Liberty Belle: The Motorway That Ends In A Paddock

Deborah Coddington's Liberty Belle

The Motorway That Ends In A Paddock

Last Christmas holidays I sat in the car fuming, stuck for over two hours in the blazing hot sun along with about 2000 other motorists in the Orewa traffic jam that is fast becoming intolerable. When I got home (finally) I put out a press release suggesting the next time someone finds themselves in that most exasperating of situations, they should whip down the line of cars with a petition to dump the Resource Management Act. I reckoned they'd fill pages with signatures in no time.

Well one of my colleagues, Dr Muriel Newman, arguably the most industrious MP in Parliament, has done just that. Well, not exactly that, but she's organised a petition to complete the final stage of the Alpurt motorway. You can read about it on the ACT website – http://www.act.org.nz.

This disaster has become known as the motorway that ends in a paddock. We're now told the final stage; through to Puhoi and away from the long-suffering Orewa residents' front and back gardens may not be built until 2010. At a public meeting of some 250 locals in May, Transit New Zealand confirmed the angry crowd's worst fears - the $160 million project would not be finished, as hoped, by December 2003.

As Rodney Mayor John Law said, "There are no excuses. When I came in here two years ago, Alpurt was ready to go. No one in Rodney is against this being built." So how can democracy go so wrong? In summer, I'm told, residents are driven so crazy by the constant stream of stop-start traffic past their gates that some have had to be physically restrained from setting up roadblocks.

That, of course, would do nobody any good. But when the quality of life for which people have paid good money is irrevocably, consistently, and unnecessarily overturned, they start getting irrational. These people have been cheated of their property rights. The Resource Management Act, which never once mentions private property in its hundreds of clauses, is being used to stop the motorway to protect some fish. The RMA is stripping value from the properties of people who thought they'd invested in an upmarket beach town, and now find they're living beside a moving (if you're lucky) hell. The so-called rights of fish come before people's rights to pursue property and happiness.

Fish? Well, connected with this motorway there's another lady who's also very diligent and clever - Dr Wendy Pond. She is one of the main reasons why this motorway is delayed, but she doesn't live in Orewa, Rodney, or Northland. Dr Wendy Pond lives in the Coromandel. But that doesn't stop her doing what she thinks best for the Rodney area. Distance is no barrier to this saviour of pond-life. She's secretary of Manu Waiata - a Restoration and Protection Society in Rodney - and she's involved in an organisation called Orewa Landcare.

I'd love to know how many people in Rodney and Northland these organisations represent. I suspect few. I'm also suspicious of the fact they were founded about the same time the motorway was being planned. Pond (the person, not the one with fish in it) is also a board member of the New Zealand Native Freshwater Fish Society.

In 2000 Wendy Pond, who remember lives in the Coromandel, lodged a resource consent appeal against the Orewa motorway extension and from that point on the process went pear-shaped. The appeal took time; Alpurt lost funding and slipped down the Auckland regional roading priority list. Added to the problems are the political persuasions of members of the Transit Board, who won't be bending over backwards to favour centre-right MPs.

But that's the beauty of the RMA, its supporters claim. It means you can be a bored and boring old nobody from, say, Invercargill and if you happen to be reading your fish 'n' chips wrapper and spot an application for a resource consent in, say, Dargaville, you can amuse yourself by objecting. What do property rights in Dargaville have to do with someone in Invercargill, you ask? Nothing.

This is the same mentality that, in the 1999 election, saw the bien pensants in Auckland sitting down at kauri tables in their rimu-lined kitchens, writing letters to editors condemning Jenny Shipley for allowing sustainable beech logging by Timberlands in the West Coast of the South Island. They didn't actually want to go to the West Coast and talk to committed environmentalists like Kit Richards (who later lost his job for sending a private email criticising Labour for annulling the West Coast Accord). Lord no, trees everywhere, nowhere to get a good latte, not to mention the sandflies. Much easier to scare people with out-of-date photographs of clear-felling (only practised now on Maori land in Southland) and pretend this is what sustainable logging does to the landscape.

It's the same attitude that saw Steve Applegath fined $20,000 by the Auckland Regional Council for turning a muddy bog on a five hectare farmlet into a lovely duckpond, which led to a comment by a councillor proclaiming she would not tolerate wanton destruction of urban vegetation.

We've got this all wrong. The best protection of the environment is private ownership. One only needs look at the former communist bloc countries to see what nationalising the land does for its destruction. Closer to home, take a drive through the state housing areas of Glen Innes, or the 'new' state houses in Papatoetoe, and see what state ownership means. Broken fences, car cemeteries on front lawns, graffiti - but Sky decoders and 4WD (even a BMW in Henderson) vehicles in the driveways. I suspect if someone from the government started smashing up these people's cars, they'd quickly learn what protection of property rights means.

I think it's time the good people of Rodney, Northland and Auckland to take the Peter Finch approach, from the movie 'Network', and yell, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Then they should sign Muriel's petition, and campaign to repeal the Resource Management Act, which allows people like Dr Wendy Pond to condemn them to summers of suffering.

Yours in liberty
Deborah Coddington

Liberty Belle is a column from Deborah Coddington, Member of Parliament for ACT New Zealand.

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