Newsletter #11 - 1 December 2016
Thank you to everyone who attended our public meeting at Bridgehouse last night. It was standing room only, the presentations were well received, and since the circulation of our petition booklets to 50 local businesses and organisations, we have so far gathered over 1,200 signatures. Our online petition, which was launched last night, has already gained a significant number of signatures. We will be out over summer in force to collect signatures.
We would especially like to thank our supporters and sponsors for making the event so successful. Ian & Ramona Holt of Bridgehouse, Greg Allen-Baines of Harveys Warkworth, Leigh Sheehan at ECM Signs, John Baker of Matakana Country Park, Warehouse Stationery, Chris Murphy of One Warkworth, Mark Mitchell MP, Greg Sayers, local media, private donors and local businesses have helped make us get this far.
GOT OUR BACK Mark Mitchell MP, who is sponsoring our petition, organised a meeting on Monday with Auckland Transport and NZTA officials. A second meeting of concerned local businesses affected by the Elizabeth Street trial followed. We are confident that Auckland Transport has got the message that there needs to be some urgency given to finding a permanent solution to Hill Street.
Mark's got our back. To watch Mark’s video of support, please view below:
TOO BIG TO FAIL We did some fact-checking after the meeting by contacting the Environmental Protection Agency – the consent authority who issued the resource consent for the Tollway. We were told that the Auckland Council has been delegated the administration of the consent conditions.
So we contacted the Auckland Council’s Major Infrastructure Projects planning department. They were very appreciative of our explaining the background to the conditions of consent relating to the Hill Street intersection.
What makes things interesting is that Auckland Transport was a submitter to the Tollway’s resource consent application and Auckland Transport are now making sure that the NZTA comply with their consent. Auckland Transport, who will inherit Hill Street at the completion of the Tollway, wanted Hill Street fixed before the Tollway commenced. The NZTA were against this request, arguing that the construction traffic will have a less than minor effect based on the projected growth in traffic at the intersection. The conditions of resource for the Tollway, however, recognized the problems at Hill Street and required that Tollway construction traffic only use the Hill Street intersection outside “peak” times.
This is where things get interesting. Auckland Transport have repeatedly told us that Hill Street intersection is at capacity in all directions for most of the time. Auckland Transport have also shared with us the actual traffic volumes for all the roads using the intersection. Those volumes have been much higher than NZTA’s projections.
When I brought these two facts to the Auckland Council official managing the consent, he admitted that it was a Catch-22 position. How can the Tollway be built if NZTA contractors can’t get to their site? Was the information provided to the Board of Inquiry that considered the resource consent application incorrect to such an extent that it materially affected the decision?
We suggested that Auckland Transport’s original request that NZTA fix Hill Street now can be a requirement if the conditions of consent are reviewed. As a consent authority, Auckland Council can now require that the NZTA do just that.
If Auckland Council lets this opportunity slip through its grasp, the ratepayers will be burdened with the cost to fix Hill Street. Auckland Council is and should be big enough to stand up to the NZTA and shouldn’t fail its citizens. DUCKS IN A ROW The Consortium that is building the Tollway hasn’t yet lodged its Site Specific Traffic Management Plan to meet its conditions of consent obligations for Hill Street. Instead, it has submitted a draft Traffic Management Plan for the other sections of the Tollway. Hill Street Intersection was already in the “too hard basket” to fix. Are the conditions too hard to work around?
Effectively, the Consortium has been handed a hospital pass. The NZTA are about to start consultation for the Warkworth-Wellsford Tollway section. We have been asked by Wellsford locals to help them with their research.
The NZTA have made life unreasonably and unnecessarily frustrating for itself and those affected by their planning. Our cause is to make sure that all the NZTA’s ducks are in a row. Auckland Transport told us that they want to build all the other roads first, relying on an already congested intersection to freight its materials, equipment, and labour. In the meantime, the council has fast-tracked a raft of subdivisions and zoning to provide for even more housing. We say, “Increase the capacity of the infrastructure, then allow buildings to connect to it.”
TRIPLE WHAMMY When the order is out of whack, “improvements” become hindrances. We knew that the Tollway will bypass Warkworth. We knew that the NZTA won’t fix Hill Street until the Tollway is built. We know that the Elizabeth Street trial will have significant impact for some.
The trial has caused permanent damage to the reputation of Warkworth. Tourists and motorists are avoiding Warkworth’s town centre completely. At the Monday meeting, business was down 20+% when usually November is one of their busiest months.
If the Tollway is finished and Hill Street isn’t fixed, even more motorists will avoid Warkworth. Needless to say, if Hill Street is fixed, Warkworth can be a more inviting destination.
NUISANCE Every first-year law student is taught the case of the flour mill and the dam. The flour mill, which was the town’s largest employer, relied on water flowing past its waterwheel. Upstream, a dam diverted water to irrigate local farms. The flour mill couldn’t operate and sued the owners of the dam.
The local farmers argued that the water produced a greater benefit to more people. The miller argued that the dam owner caused a substantial and unreasonable interference with his use use and enjoyment of the stream.
The court found that the dam owner had a duty to not obstruct the flow of the river that would adversely affect the miller, breached that duty, and required the dam owner to pay damages to the miller.
Public nuisance also applies to the foreseeable effects of the obstruction to traffic flow. The Elizabeth Street trial is no different.