Mandy Hager’s Column

Wrong road, wrong place, wrong time… and wrong process

By Mandy Hager

The Board of Enquiry set up to examine the case for the Kapiti Expressway has just wound up, with their interim decision due in early March.

After speaking to many who attended on a regular basis, as well as going several times myself and reading transcripts on the EPA website, I have come to a most disturbing and depressing conclusion.

This is that — despite the efforts of those trying to get a sustainable approach to infrastructure and transport — the Enquiry is little more than a box-ticking exercise — and the Board will approve the Expressway.

Even though the overwhelming evidence has been that it is ill-conceived, ill-planned, ill-suited to the community and environment, and economic suicide.

What is most distressing has been the down-right misleading evidence and behaviour of the NZ Transport Agency.

Submitter after submitter talked about NZTA’s dismissive attitude and their lack of any consultation with many of the affected residents.

The agency has spent a fortune on outside ‘experts’ to back up their application, many of whom have little or no knowledge of the Kapiti community and its unique demographic issues.

They made wildly unsupported assertions, they fudged statistics, evaded important questions and suggested ludicrous mitigation procedures, such as expecting homeowners to wear dust masks in their own homes for the duration of the build, and to mitigate for noise after the expressway has been built (as if this is possible once the damn thing’s there!)

They have undertaken no social impact assessment of any real value, nor have they bothered with a health impact assessment. They have also ignored cultural and environmental imperatives and have done their best to undermine those opposed to the Expressway by mucking around with timetables at the last minute and introducing new evidence when it became clear their arguments had more holes than a sieve.

While one cannot blame the NZTA in their entirety (as they are working under the directive of the National Government), it would have been nice to see transparent and honest behaviour, rather than employing highly-paid lawyers to defend their indefensible case.

What became more and more evident as the Board of Enquiry went on is just how ill-founded the case for this Expressway is, and how much it reflects the failed, out-moded thinking of the current government.

A leaked document prepared by NZTA in December 2011 shows that the cost benefit ratio for this road is only 0.2 – 0.5. This means that for every dollar of the $630 million (and rising) spent on the road, we actually only get about $120 million worth of gain.[1] This makes a mockery of the government’s supposed focus is on building roads to help the economy. It is out-moded thinking, harking back to the failed Think Big schemes of the past.

Of National’s three big election bribes to supposedly fix the economy, they are steadily failing on all three: Transport infrastructure (where they’re clearly prepared to throw away millions of tax-payer dollars to continue with their fossil-fuel driven thinking); broadband (look at that debacle); and asset sales (which sell our children’s futures, and which they have already spent the proceeds of many times over in their smoke and mirrors PR spin.)

There are so many other things that $630 million (and rising) could be spent on in New Zealand to really benefit people’s lives. We can’t afford to throw away money (and that’s what the leaked BCR, in essence, means.)

Out in the real world,beyond political egos and business lobbyists, rape crisis centres are closing, alternative and special education schools are being axed, our youth unemployment is surging towards 20% — and people in Christchurch are still living in sheds. Communities are hurting enough. They’re already under enormous strain. And all this even before the first real climate change impacts kick in.

Well said Mandy. Supporters of the expressway seem unable to supply any facts to support their argument. As we know the traffic is actually decreasing on the highway, and would do so even more if the rail was further upraded. How about double tracking the rail all the way to Palmerston North and electrifying it? I noticed that the rail is electrified in Feilding, I don’t know just how far that goes but must surely go some distance, it could link up with Palmerston North.What happened to electrifying the main trunk as was being done years ago? I do also have a real gripe with the Dom Post who now are unwilling to publish the many anti expressway letters I have sent them. I had a few they accepted years ago, but for th last 2 or 3 years none have got past their “censor”. Reminds me so much of New Zealand history that is litterd with media support for outrageous tory projects. These have a great influence on public thinking. Best of luck Mandy.

Yes the road was planned way back in the 1950s…… and then rejected 3 times because it was so fossilised and outdated. It was thrice rejected in favour of a more appropriate 21st century solution. Let’s get back to building that road which was environment court approved before this current government of dinosaurs reverted to the 1950s motorway of madness