Queen’s Birthday weekend is the last public holiday until the election on September 23. The Lions game in Whangarei exacerbated traffic congestion through Warkworth. With the announcement of $2m to investigate and redesign the Hill Street intersection over the next five years, is that enough to quell local frustration?
It’s less than a week until we feature on Episode 4 of the TV series “Gutsful.” It airs on Thursday 8 June at 8:30pm on TV2. We will be holding a screening party at The Bridgehouse. Here is a snippet that featured on episode 3: http://bit.ly/2qLx2KC. See if you can spot our campaign in these promos: http://bit.ly/2sKPDCR, https://goo.gl/FbEQ7E.
We haven’t seen the final cut of the show so it will be interesting to see how the campaign is portrayed. At the time, our campaign was in its early days. Grant just mocked up our ‘dog’ logo and had the prototype t-shirt made on the Saturday morning before filming. We were testing our 3d modelling of ‘The Pill’ design with and without an overpass. Labour weekend traffic drone footage and our campaign billboards came much later.
Looking back at it, one would think that we’ve come a long way. But have we?
Several locals have approached our team suggesting that the $2m package (http://bit.ly/2pIW6Rc) to investigate and design the Hill Street intersection is hush money – designed to shut us up and buy time ahead of an election. Well, we certainly haven’t shut up but the roading authorities have.
It’s been quiet on the Hill Street intersection news front. We haven’t heard anything from Auckland Transport. NZTA have removed ‘Warkworth intersection improvements’ from its projects map (http://bit.ly/2szzq3D). Any mention of the Hill Street intersection has been removed from the ‘SH1 Warkworth intersection improvements’ page (http://bit.ly/29ggH6e.) The page isn’t even linked to or searchable on the NZTA website. Fortunately, google “NZTA Warkworth” and there it is.
Effectively, the NZTA has delegated the state highway intersection to Auckland Transport… in election year. So, this National Government created the Supercity monster and then fed Warkworth to it. We find that hard to digest.
Just like the $42m Matakana Link, Auckland Transport will drag out the $2m for five years. So, we can expect Hill Street to be an election issue this year, during next year’s local body elections, 2020’s general election, and 2021’s local body elections.
So, we’re expected to sit in congestion for four elections in the false hope that ‘Auckland Transport will fix it?’
For the past five years of local body and general elections, the motorway was meant to ‘fix it.’ Last local body elections, the Matakana Link was meant to ‘fix it.’
How far can $2m go in this council? Can it redesign an intersection? Can it cover the ‘consultation’ huis? Or was the announcement meant to kill the issue for six months?
Fortunately, every month the Warkworth Area Liaison Group holds meetings and an update is expected. Every three months there is meant to be a meeting dedicated to progress on infrastructural improvements.
We know that there are discussions going on about relocating the Sandspit Road pedestrian crossing to the traffic lights. We know that the $300,000 minor works fund could be spent on the Sandspit Road/ Matakana Road intersection. But that’s as far as it’s gone.
We expect to see signs of progress by our next meeting. Otherwise, our billboards will appear next to general election billboards in July. And this time around, the council can’t order us to take our billboards down.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
The timing of elections is important. Governments set the date so to maintain a positive mood to stay in power. Distractions, like America’s Cup and Rugby World Cup victories, influence elections.
Every fourth Rugby World Cup is in the same year as a general election. The last two British and Irish tours have occurred months before general elections. The first Rugby World Cup at home was staged shortly before the 1987 election, helping the Lange Government secure a second term. Jenny Shipley gambled on the All Blacks winning in 1999 (we lost to France) and APEC making her look like a leader. The 2011 Rugby World Cup victory at home and the Christchurch Earthquakes increased National’s grip on power.
But what has this got to do with Hill Street intersection? Putting it bluntly, this government has invested heavily in infrastructure projects. When elections have traditionally been held in November, it’s a bad look for Labour Weekend congestion to frustrate voters. Thus, the 2014 and 2017 general elections have been held in September.
It makes you think: Will the Lions tour be remembered for the rugby or the traffic congestion?
After three terms in power, voters expect results. When Steven Joyce was transport minister and National’s campaign manager, he pushed through the Waterview Connection, Kapiti Expressway, and Transmission Gully projects. National has since gone on to win the party votes in Mount Albert, Mount Roskill, Mana, and Otaki.
The false hope could backfire. The Kapiti Expressway opened in February and has underwhelmed (http://bit.ly/2ruFHjr). The NZTA are now lowering the expectations of the Waterview Connection as the opening was delayed until after Queens Birthday weekend (http://bit.ly/2rYcYVn.)
The polling companies have been canvasing the Rodney electorate, which stretches from south of Whangaparaoa to south of Wellsford. Traffic congestion has emerged as a major issue amongst voters. Delaying PENLink and Hill Street hasn’t helped. Look at what happened in Whangaparaoa at last year’s local body elections: http://bit.ly/2qZt38y.
National are worried. The new catch phrase pushed by the National caucus is that “the roadworks are causing congestion.” Apparently, their focus groups fell for it.
Rodney is a safe National-held seat but that shouldn’t matter under a proportional representation system. Motorists passing through vote. Getting into and out of Auckland is a major election issue.
National relies on the ‘two ticks’ strategy in the regions. It’s worked for them since 2005. But frustrated voters are more likely to be strategic and split their vote if it means getting results – or as some would say, ‘keeping the bastards honest.’
National will be worried that Bill English is a hopeless campaigner. Cemented on his back foot (just like his boxing technique: http://bit.ly/2qZvJmz), he is fodder for journalists and nimble minor party politicians.
All it takes is 3-5 percent of voters to split vote to cause headaches for National. It happened in 1997, 2002, and 2005. In 1997 and 2005, Winston Peters was kingmaker, who then secured the fast-tracking of major infrastructure projects in his electorate, Tauranga.
National tried to counter Peters in the 2015 Northland by-election with the miserly offer to replacie 10 one-lane bridges, which backfired. National has since reneged on that offer since Peters secured the electorate (http://bit.ly/2sxBZUE.)
That’s a lot to think about. But, then again, motorists passing through Warkworth have a lot of time to think while they are stuck in traffic.
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