Kapiti Councillor K Gurunathan has called for action to get jobless young people working on the planned Kapiti Expressway.
He says: “I urge the Kapiti Chamber of Commerce to ask the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) and its contractors how this mammoth public works could be used to reduce youth unemployment.”
Meanwhile, the $630m Kapiti Expressway project has been stalled while the High Court hears an appeal lodged by SaveKapiti.
Save Kapiti oppose a Board of Inquiry decision in favour of the Expressway on the grounds the project was not compared to the Western Link Road (WLR), which was approved, consented and in the Kapiti Coast District Plan.
Cr Gurunathan also commends the Kapiti Chamber of Commerce for its Youth Employment Survey. The Chamber has invited over 1,000 Kapiti businesses to give their views on how to reduce youth unemployment.
The councillor has emphasised several times recently the urgent need for jobs for local youth.
And last week the KCDC agreed to facilitate an open strategic discussion with NZTA, local businesses, and business organisations to see how to leverage local business and employment, focusing on Youth employment.
This followed an appeal in public speaking time by Cr Gurunathan.
He quoted what he said was a significant public statement made on July 3 by NZTA’s Wellington’s State Highways manager Rod James —
‘There is no doubt that the expressway project will involve significant participation from local people and businesses, and we expect its flow-on economic benefits to Kapiti to be substantial.’
Cr Gurunathan continued:
“How do we know this? How can we as an affected community test this assertion about these ‘substantial’ economic benefits to the people and businesses of Kapiti? I contacted KCDC staff responsible for council’s economic development policy and requested that key interested parties be brought together for strategic discussions with NZTA on the local opportunities.
“Staff advice was that such discussions should not be with NZTA but with the Alliance construction contractors – Beca and Fletchers. Staff are now organizing for Beca and Flecthers to brief council on the construction phase and the tendering process and on what opportunities might be available for local businesses. Council will then be able to make decisions about what to focus on, the advice noted.
“I don’t think that is good enough. Firstly, it’s the NZTA which, under pressure, has publicly made statements about these substantial economic benefits. They should front up to flesh-out these public claims. Secondly, I cannot see any reason for an exclusive behind-closed-doors briefing of councillors. NZTA and its Alliance contractors should openly address all interested parties like the Chamber of Commerce, Electra and the media.
Guru added : “On behalf of the business community and the general public I urge councillors to support such an open approach. This project has already impacted the lives of people living on and along the designation. Sensitive environment, especially wetlands, will be destroyed. There will be social and economic disruption. Given all these, our communities have a right to know from NZTA what are these ‘substantial’ economic benefits to Kapiti during the construction phase?
“A majority of councillors around this table were against the Expressway but accepted the inevitability of the government’s decision and we have worked to get the best outcomes for the community. The sterling work by council’s senior staff has seen us secure tens of millions of dollars worth of mitigation and design work through the Alliance negotiations process. These gains have been made concrete through the Board of Inquiry process.
“We have, however, no strategy in place to gain local business and employment benefits from the project during the actual 4-year construction process. We get excited about the proposed $20m investment over 5 -10 years by Kapiti Coast Airport into its Phase 2 development. Here, we are talking about a $630m investment over just four years. What are we getting out of this?”