Road protesters greet Joyce at Railway ceremonyBy Alan Tristram February 19, 2011
A large crowd of anti -Expressway protesters greeted Transport Minister Steven Joyce at the opening of the new Waikanae Railway Station.
The ceremony marked the completion of an $86 million project to electrify and double track the lines to Waikanae and build a new commuter station and car park at Waikanae.
A group of more than 120 protesters from all sections of the community assembled with balloons in the Waikanae Town Centre and were later joined by many more protesters at the Railway Station.
They said they were angry at Mr Joyce’s decision to back the Expressway which will cut through the heart of Kapiti.
National, regional and local politicians were out in force for the opening – as well as a crowd estimated at up to a thousand people.
New Matangi units popular
After the politicians had spoken, local people crowded onto one of the new 48 new Matangi electric trains, due to come into service on the line in July.
Several of the politicians paid tribute to local Maori and the Parata family, who gave land for the original railway and also made laid available for parking at the new station.
The ceremony began with an Iwi blessing of the whole station and the new Matangi train.
It ended with Otaki MP Nathan Guy and Transport Minister Joyce sledge hammering a symbolic spike into memorial rails on the station forecourt.
This had special significance for Mr Guy as his great grandfather hammered the last spike into place at Otaihanga in 1886 when the Main Trunk line was completed.
Mr Guy spoke of the historic part played by Te Ati Awa in providing land to help to build the Main Trunk Line.
But when he lauded the Government’s plans for Road of National Significance (including the Expressway) he was booed by restive protesters.
In fact, the real hero of the occasion appeared to be the one politician not on the speaking list — Labour MP Darren Hughes.
Huge cheers greeted references to his name and a poster circulated thanking him and the Labour Party for their part in getting the rail project funded and under way.
‘One of the biggest milestones’
Speaking for the organizer of the project — the Regional Council — Chair Fran Wilde said a regular commuter service to Waikanae is a one of the biggest milestones in the Wellington regional rail improvement programme, which kicked off in early 2007.
The programme, funded by Greater Wellington and contracted to KiwiRail, includes a brand new fleet of 48 Matangi trains, new signalling systems, a much stronger power supply and new substations, a third line into Wellington Station, a major upgrade of the Johnsonville Line and double tracking and electrification to Waikanae.
Balloons at height of Expressway
As the official opening proceeded, the crowd of protesters stood, mostly in silence, holding one-metre round helium balloons to symbolise each property that will be demolished if the ‘Road of National Significance’ goes ahead.
The balloons floated nine metres in the air – symbolising the height of the proposed Expressway — and banners at ground level stated ‘Railways Yes, Expressways No’, ‘Raumati Station Next, Please’, and ‘Roads 2 Debt – Please don’t sell our state assets for roads
Earlier, Waikanae residents affected by the Expressway — and groups from Otaki, Te Horo and the rest of Kapiti — had marched from the town centre to the railway station to make their point.
And residents’ spokesperson, Jonathan Gradwell, said: “While we fully support this new station, thanks to the hard work of Darren Hughes and the last government, and Fran Wilde at Greater Wellington, this is an opportunity to let Steven Joyce know that we strongly oppose the proposed expressway.
“It will destroy our environment, health and lifestyle. It has already had a huge impact on dividing our community, just through the ‘consultation’ period (or lack of).”
He added: “The National-led government wants to spend $10 billion dollars of taxpayer money and sell our state assets to build roads that are uneconomic and unnecessary.
“Putting a motorway through our community is a 1950’s solution to our frustrating peak-time problems on the Kapiti Coast. It is not the best answer to our traffic woes.”