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The Gauntlet: Issue #30



Newsletter #30 - 13 April 2017


Thursday didn’t disappoint with the usual flood of press releases from all directions. At The Gauntlet, we prepare a draft early in the week, expecting for the final version to look very different. Since it is a holiday weekend, we’ve decided the clear the desk and put together a bumper issue covering the past week.


(NOTE: This issue contains large graphics that can be viewed in more detail at the foot of this newsletter.)


IN A NUTSHELL

The NZTA announced at midday on Thursday that $2 million will be set aside to investigate and design a major upgrade to the Hill Street intersection. We are cautiously optimistic and will be making sure that the design phase is expedited so that the NZTA can dynamically respond to future pressures on the intersection.


THIRTEEN DAYS

As we said, there have been press releases and news bombs from all directions, spinning the heads of many journalists and politicians since the 31 March meeting of stakeholders. Fortunately, the situation settled down with NZTA’s announcement at midday thirteen days later that “Up to $2million has been set aside to investigate and design changes to the intersection.” (Read the full release here: http://bit.ly/2os9Xbo)


To recap, this announcement is precisely what Rodney Member of Parliament and minister Mark Mitchell told the Rodney Times 10 days prior at the presentation of the petition, when he said, “We have secured some funding to actually get a dedicated project manager to now get some serious work on the redesign of Hill Street.” (http://bit.ly/2p2N51b)


Two days later, the NZTA and Auckland Transport put out two releases in quick succession, which appeared inconsistent with the minister (NZTA here: http://bit.ly/2oDawlK; and Auckland Transport here: http://bit.ly/2nLHAUe.)


Relying on the information, the Mahurangi Matters lead their issue with the headline “Hill Street petitioners ignored.” (http://bit.ly/2p1D88h) The following day, the NZTA clarified that “The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport have brought forward planning for the future of the Hill Street intersection in Warkworth” with the $2million package. The Mahurangi Matters then updated their online edition. The Rodney Times rang around and put together this piece: http://bit.ly/2pcvGH4.


Cooler heads prevailed.


WHY THE SHIFT?

The full release says:


The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport have brought forward planning for the future of the Hill Street intersection in Warkworth.


Up to $2million has been set aside to investigate and design changes to the intersection.


The Transport Agency is working closely with Auckland Transport to work through designs that have been developed by both Auckland Transport and the Warkworth community. These designs will form the list of options which will be considered by the project team.


“When the new motorway is finished in 2021, along with other upgrades such as the Matakana Link Road and Western Collector, much of the current traffic will be able to bypass Warkworth, easing a significant amount of the existing pressure on Hill Street,” says Ernst Zollner the Transport Agency’s Auckland Relationship Director.


The Transport Agency says it’s continuing to work with Auckland Transport to investigate and deliver short term solutions to improve the capacity and efficiency of the intersection during peak periods.


Auckland Transport’s Delivery Manager, North and West, David Nelson says “With the funding for this project we can do a full investigation for re-designing the intersection. We’ll also look at any land acquisition and regulatory requirements needed before we can physically start the work.”


This release is the fourth significant shift in the position of the NZTA and AT. Originally, the 2009 plans for a major upgrade to Hill Street intersection were canned due to the fear of disruption after the upgrade of the Woodcocks to Whitaker section of State Highway 1 proved troublesome. The focus then shifted towards the motorway as the solution.


The next shift was the works to install lights at Hudson Road, the removal of the right run into Hill Street, the pedestrian/cycleway, and the lengthening of the right-turning lane into Sandspit Road.


The third shift was the Matakana Link fast-tracking. Since then, the Unitary Plan fast-tracked the zoning to the north of Warkworth, allowing for as many as 2300 houses by 2022. More than half of the 2300 homes will be to the north west of the Hill Street intersection, which will include Stage 2 of the Western Collector between the Mansel Drive/Falls Road intersection and the Matakana Link/State Highway 1 intersection.


All four shifts have been the result of traffic growth far greater than anticipated. The developers of the North Western Warkworth want to move as quick as possible and we may see Stage 2 completed before the Matakana Link. We may also see significant developments in the new light industrial zone between Goatley Road and the showgrounds.


BUT WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Clearly, NZTA are worried about disruption and their announcement is very carefully worded. The i