Expressway hysteria — a balancing view
Alan Tristram introduces a special article by Mandy Hager
Amid the general jubilation, National backslapping and huge PR spending in our local papers about the Kapiti Expressway. I think it’s time for an alternative view to be aired.
So here is columnist Mandy Hager, giving us her views on all this kerfuffle —
A Yellow Brick Road to Nowhere
By Mandy Hager
So tomorrow sees the grand unveiling of the Kapiti Expressway, with all the bangs and whistles. Locals are invited to travel along it, as if it was as magical as the yellow brick road. It looks as if all the money spent on positive spin is having an effect.
Monument to fossil fuels
But as you gaze over the kilometres of grey asphalt and marvel at its construction, think about what has been lost to this monument for fossil fuels.
Once there were lush gardens, lovingly tended by people who thought that they had found their ‘forever’ home.
Once there were houses that those same people put their life savings into, along with the usual sweat of creating the space they love. There were ancient flight corridors for native birds. There were natural wetlands for waterbirds. There was a picturesque beach community that had retained the feel of old New Zealand. All gone.
For those of us close to the road, who were deemed lucky at the time for not having to sell up our homes, we have undergone years of dust, vibration and machinery noise. I have seen people slowly wilt and fade as this behemoth snaked towards them, some critically ill now as the result of years of stress.
Now, if I stand at my kitchen window I can see the road, generously lit by large overhead street lamps.
The property we bought as a sanctuary is now open to the public gaze. And, worse, our garden suffers, trees dying and destabilised because the natural flow of water has been interfered with.
I know for most of you, especially those who commute, you will see the expressway as a boon. But whether it actually saves you time is still a very moot point. And at what greater cost?
Families in some of our poorest neighbourhoods now live next to an emissions-spewing beast with proven health risks.
‘Old world, suicidal, thinking’
But, even worse, at the very time when we should be re-examining our fossil-fuel culture in the light of climate change, our government spent billions of dollars enabling old world, suicidal thinking.
Think what that money could have achieved if directed towards sustainable public transport. Think what it might have achieved for our ever-growing homeless and poverty-stricken population.
We have to think beyond our short-term needs — a minute or two shaved off a commute — if we are ever to survive the climate catastrophes that will engulf us. It seems ironic that as I write this Christchurch is once more paying the price for nature’s push-back against human intervention.
Prepare yourselves for more of these catastrophes; this is the new reality from this time forth, and a bloody great motorway is not, and never was, the answer.