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The Gauntlet: Issue #1


Newsletter #1 – 22 September 2016


This is the first of our regular newsletters that aims to provide updates on our campaign to Fix Hill Street Now and review related issues. We’ve covered a lot of ground so far so this issue covers a myriad of things that we’ve been thinking about.


Throwing down The Gauntlet

The medieval Warkworth Castle was a venue for jousting, drivers through Warkworth run the gauntlet of local traffic, and transport officials run the gauntlet of frustrated drivers. A gauntlet is an armoured glove and Warkworth needs to punch above its weight. Fix Hill Street Now throws down The Gauntlet, challenging officials to work towards a solution.


Priorities

The purpose of our campaign is to ensure that fixing Hill Street is a priority for decision makers and engineers. The alternative is disruption and gridlock. By fixing Hill Street first creates flow-on benefits for other roading projects.


Let’s not forget that there are currently four major intersections on State Highway 1 within Warkworth’s urban boundary. The Western Collector, Matakana Link, and Tollway will increase this number to seven. Matakana Road will also have a new intersection to cater for the Matakana Link.


Regardless of the number of intersections and collectors to avoid Hill Street, Hill Street will remain the hub for the wider area with the most traffic by a huge margin.


Local Body Elections

Our team have attended the first two Meet the Candidates events at Omaha Beach Golf Club and Mahurangi East Community Centre in Snells Beach. By far the most debated issue was Hill Street.


All candidates agreed that something needs to be done. There were, however, different positions on what needs to be done.


Vic Crone was the only mayoral candidate who turned up to the Omaha meeting and sat in the back until the end.Although “Hill Street” dominated the debate, her only mention of a local issue was “Hill Road” in passing.


Off the Map

Rodney is the largest Auckland ward with the smallest population. Considering Warkworth is Auckland’s gateway to the north, no mayoral candidate has mentioned Warkworth or Rodney once in any press release, media coverage, or even on their website.


The Rodney electorate is also one of the safest National party majorities in the country. When Phil Goff was Labour leader during the last election, we couldn’t find one event he attended here. Now that he is running for mayor, it is no different.


Rodney MP Mark Mitchell is taking notice. So is local NZ First MP Tracey Martin and Northland MP Winston Peters.


If there is one thing that opens a National Government’s purse, it is the threat of Winston Peters. Minister of Transport and Tauranga MP Simon Bridges has invested billions into roading in his electorate to entrench his seat. Northland voters during a by-election, however, revolted to the miserly offerings of a few one lane bridge upgrades, reversing a huge National majority less than nine months after a general election.


We doubt it will come down to this. In Kumeu – where they have a problem with one of their intersections – a petition to their local Member of Parliament (Prime Minister John Key) resulted in NZTA resources allocated to finding a solution.


Remember, we aren’t asking for much. The money is already allocated. We are just asking for Hill Street to be given priority over other projects due to the effects of those other projects on Hill Street.


Under the Radar

There has been some cynicism about the timing of the Matakana Link funding and Elizabeth Street safety announcements. We’ve known about these plans for some time. The timing of their announcements in the days that voting papers were arriving in letterboxes narrowed the window for discussion. The media were rushed and naturally came to us for analysis. A completely avoidable situation.


The major difference between Matakana Link and Hill Street issues is that support for Matakana Link has been from a united group, land easy to acquire, the planning process simple, and a lot of work could be done behind closed doors. Zoning pushed through without hassle.


Hill Street and the Tollway has been anything but hassle free. For Hill Street, short term and low cost tweaks have been the result and long term solutions have been avoided like the ranting uncle at a family gathering.


Dispelling Myths

The saying “The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it” certainly applies to how politicians have treated Hill Street.


After the Omaha Beach event, it became clear to us how muddy the water was surrounding causes of and solutions to the gridlock at Hill Street. At the Snells Beach event, we handed out brochures identifying the misinformation and misconceptions and countering them with facts. We have also created a new section of our website at www.FixHillStreetNow.org/myths.


Auckland Council’s role

Part of the problem is the uncertainty about Auckland Council’s role. While the media have been described as having “All power and no responsibility”, John Roughan’s op-ed in the NZ Herald suggests that Auckland Council’s representatives have no power but take all the responsibility.