One of the tasks I have taken to heart as a MP has been ensuring that locals are treated fairly and with respect by government agencies, particularly as the decisions of these agencies can have a huge impact on communities and the lives of their residents.
As such I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to many locals that the New Zealand Transport Agency desperately needs to rethink its engagement with our local communities here in Mana.
The way many residents of Kapiti have been treated by the NZTA has been appalling and has left many feeling like they’ve had a ton of bricks dropped on them.
‘Too many people feel they’ve been bullied’
I recently took our Transport Spokesperson Darien Fenton to Kapiti to meet with locals and we found far too many people who feel like they have been bullied or poorly consulted.
In their view NZTA has made what would have always been a difficult process that much harder.
There was the local business owner who has had their land taken and they haven’t yet settled on a sale price as well as a resident who bought a house in September and was then told six weeks later that it would be demolished to make way for the expressway.
Just as concerning is the way that local iwi have been treated in relation to wāhi tapu sites.
When koiwi tangata was discovered near El Rancho in Waikanae, work stopped on the site and it was surprising to say the least for kuia to find construction workers eating lunch near the site as they showed Darien Fenton and I around.
NZTA ‘runs roughshod’ over legitimate safety concerns
But this inept treatment of locals isn’t isolated to Kapiti – NZTA have run roughshod over the legitimate safety concerns of Pauatahanui residents on the construction of a cleanfill along State Highway 58 and the necessary road upgrades.
This disregard for safety along what police have called “the worst highway in the Wellington region” has prompted the police to join with locals in opposing the cleanfill upgrades.
The way affected residents have been treated is simply wrong.
For locals to have confidence in the NZTA they need to be treated with a lot more respect than they’ve received so far – I hope that “treating locals fairly” will be the first of NZTA’s New Year’s Resolutions.