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The Gauntlet: Issue #6


Newsletter #6 - 27 October 2016


Thank you again Steve Hathaway for your patience to film Hill Street with your drone over Labour Weekend. Craig Powell of LMLive was also filming. The traffic and weather was more erratic than last week.


This week's newsletter has some background analysis about what will be mentioned in the media over the coming week. If you get the time, please read the information at the links.


STAY-CATION

Labour Weekend congestion was significantly less than previous years. Other areas experienced the same phenomenon. A couple of State Highway 1 crashes in and around Auckland also caused chaos.


The NZTA released several travel advisories well in advance, warning about ‘increased journey times.’ Did people simply choose to stay at home? (http://bit.ly/2eFyDYL)


Unfortunately, people are already avoiding the area. Tour groups from visiting cruise ships don’t venture here as there is a risk that congestion could make buses late for the ship’s departure.


DOUBLE STANDARDS?

The NZTA’s attitude towards the Tollway appears to be the opposite to Hill Street. “Build it and they will come” is their attitude towards the Tollway but “We won’t fix it so stay away” is their attitude towards Hill Street.


SAY THAT AGAIN?

Politics is about benefits outweighing the costs (win more votes than lose). The Resource Management Act, however, is ensuring that no one is left worse off.


For a start, NZTA weren’t clear about how much traffic would use the Tollway. At the Puhoi end (p.30 here: http://bit.ly/2f6NtM9), 13700 annual average daily trips would use it. At the end (p.31), 5700 would use it. As Roger Williams pointed out at the hearing, even though there are no on or off ramps in between, 8000 vehicles a day would disappear between. (p.346 here: http://bit.ly/1n86TJT)


Let’s assume the 13700 number is the correct one. NZTA plan to build a dual carriageway (two lanes in each direction) costing $1billion to cater for traffic that’s a fraction of what uses the Hill Street Intersection.


WHAT EVIDENCE WAS THERE?

We dare anyone to go into any of the big engineering firms and ask them, “Could you please give evidence against your biggest client?” Fortunately, the one engineer who dared to challenge the NZTA’s evidence retired to Warkworth. Roger Williams’ 42 years’ experience aided the Board of Inquiry immensely, although the NZTA’s lawyer tried to make it inadmissible.


Usually, a panel of hearings commissioners comprises a judge and experts in relevant fields to the application. Windfarm applications have landscape architects as commissioners, hydrodams have hydrologists, and marinas have ecologists. For the Tollway, there was David Chandler, an experienced civil engineer with particular experience with road and motorway systems (see link: http://bit.ly/2eHXpr1).


The reason why panels have experts is that they are meant to operate like commissions of inquiry. They are meant to draw on their own experience and expertise, to encourage the free flowing of information, to ask for the right information, and to find the best outcome. In such an open approach, experts should feel comfortable suggesting mitigating measures against a former client.


Unfortunately, since the renaming of the Planning Tribunal to the Environment Court in 1996, lawyers have moved in, along with their adversarial tactics and formalised procedure. Hearings at all levels have become a war of attrition where might is right and good decisions are rare.


The Board of Inquiry did an excellent job. The banter between Roger and retired Judge Priestley QC is worth a read. They even compared the ‘temperamental’ Hill Street intersection to Downtown Abbey!


MYTHS BUSTED

Surprisingly, after the Tollway application was lodged and submissions were received, the NZTA expert did concede the following about Hill Street:


57. My modelling indicates that there will be an increase in traffic volumes on Hill Street past the Warkworth Primary School. This increase is partly as a result of the induced traffic growth in the corridor and the relocation of growth from Woodcocks Road to the Hudson Road area, and partly as a result of changed traffic patterns as a result of the Project.


58. I consider that the increase in volumes on Hill Street as a result of the Project have only a minor potential adverse effect on road safety. However, I recommend that prior to opening the Project or significant uptake of additional development adjacent to Hudson Road, the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport (AT) undertake a review of road safety associated with Warkworth Primary School. The Transport Agency and AT have indicated that they will undertake such a review if traffic volumes on Hill Street begin to increase significantly.


If the NZTA’s own expert says that, why are locals still thinking that the Tollway will fix Hill Street? (See for yourself, page 11 here: http://bit.ly/2dHVEgT)


THROUGH TRAFFIC?

Probably the most startling omission from the evidence is the lack of knowledge about how much of the traffic in Warkworth was through traffic. Basically, there were simple counters to the south of Warkworth and counters to the north. There was no attempt to qualitatively assess how much traffic went through, to, from, or stopped in Warkworth.


Considering State Highway 1 traffic immediately south of the Hill Street intersection is 21,800 AADT and 11,900 to the north, wouldn’t you want to know why there is that drop in traffic?


Why is this important? The Tollway collects traffic at Puhoi and transplants it uninterrupted to north of Warkworth. There are no on or off ramps in between. That is a considerable shift in the route choices for Warkworth drivers. How much traffic would head north through Hill Street to use the Tollway? Who would use the existing route?