These are the slides and the full text from the presentation Jasmine Kovach gave today to the Infrastructure Committee of Auckland Council. You can download a pdf version here.
Mr Chairperson, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today regarding the East West Link.
My name is Jasmine Kovach and I am a proud resident of Otahuhu and a member of the Respect Our Community Campaign. My husband and I bought our first house in Otahuhu just over a year ago,intending it to be our family home where we could raise our two daughters. Having finally found an affordable house in a great neighbourhood in Auckland, we now learn that Auckland Transport plans to put a motorway through it.
The Respect Our Community Campaign has been set up by residents just like me, in response to the East West Link. We love our community and we want to see it thrive.We are all here for the long haul, not just property speculation. Our communities deserve more than a motorway through the middle of them.
We have been greatly assisted with this presentation by the Citizens Transport Coalition, and Donna Wynd has come to support us today.
It is clear that this proposal is expensive, destructive and cuts across other aims of the region’s transport policy. This presentation will focus on the destructive aspect of this project.
First, we would like to go on record as noting that Auckland Transport’s behaviour throughout this process has been disgraceful. Monday’s press release notwithstanding, no one from Auckland Transport has come to talk to anyone in the community about the East West Link apart from some presentations to the local board and some local businesses. The process so far has been akin to what one might expect to find in a third-world slum clearance, not a representative democracy.
The origins of the East-West link are somewhat obscure. The Auckland Plan draft document does not mention it, yet it appeared as the region’s number two transport priority in the Auckland Plan, having been tacked on to AMETI. It is of some concern that the undue haste with which this project is being pushed through suggests it has eclipsed the City Rail Link as the region’s first transport priority.
It appears the original aim of the East-West link was to deal with the freight and general traffic congestion around the intersection of Neilson and Church streets, and SH1, particularly during the afternoon peak.
The East-West link is about freight movements through the eastern part of Onehunga. As a general rule in traffic planning, place-based problems are solved by place-based solutions.
We are currently aware of four options that have been presented by Auckland Transport. Here is a map of Option 4. The big black line goes from SH20, through Mangere through Otahuhu to Highbrook. However, the red star shows where the actual problem is. I trust you will see that there is a disjunction here.
Reinforcing this is one of Auckland Transport’s own maps. This shows the bulk of freight movements are north-south, and highlights the congestion points on Church Street and around the Mt Wellington interchange. These are nowhere near Mangere or Otahuhu.
It has been estimated that Option 4 will require the demolition of about 500 houses in Mangere and Otahuhu. As at the last census it was calculated that these areas had an average of 5 residents per household.
A review of the latest census data shows that the census area units in Mangere and Otahuhu have increased by an average 200-400 residents, with a notable increase in Mangere East. In the absence of in-fill housing, we can probably safely assume an average of six residents per household.
In other words, this motorway is likely to displace about 3,000 people. This is in a city with a housing shortage. Many of these residents are in state houses or are renting so will get little to no assistance to find other accommodation.
Housing consents for South Auckland are lagging well behind population growth. In reality, many families will end up crowding into the houses that remain, with the significant health implications of that, compounded by the effects of having a motorway on one’s back doorstep.
Putting the East West Link through Mangere and Otahuhu also contravenes the Southern Initiative, which states that Aucklanders in this area can expect to have a good quality of life. Additionally, there is much rhetoric around Auckland being a ‘liveable city’. Plans like this suggest that this will only apply if you can afford to live in the right area.
Is there a better, and cheaper solution, more in keeping with the Treasury’s Better Business Model?
Very briefly, it would seem that an obvious first step would be a set of traffic lights on the corner of the Metroport and Neilson Street. We also agree that four-laning Neilson Street with a dedicated truck lane would help.
However, it seems the crucial link is a south-facing onramp onto SH1 from Church Street, and a matching north-facing offramp. There also remains the issue of Single Occupancy Vehicles , which are a major cause of congestion. What would get me off the road? Improved and affordable public transport that I can use easily with my children.Right now it’s cheaper for me to drive than it is to take a bus or a train,which I can’t say about other places in the world where I have lived.
We need safe cycling and walking routes so that people can get to work and to major amenities without having to get in their cars. Utilising our rail network to carry more freight, and other options such as trucking at night are worth serious investigation. None of these options involve the destruction of houses, or expensive bridges across an ecologically sensitive estuary.
The project, as it currently stands, is nothing more than a holiday highway for the residents of the Eastern suburbs, so they can check in five minutes earlier for a flight to the Gold Coast. We are going to bulldoze all these homes, and blow a billion dollars, for this? Let’s think again.
On behalf of the Respect Our Community Campaign, and my fellow residents of Mangere, Otahuhu and Wymondley, I thank you for your attention today.by