by James Fraser
It is beyond belief that demolition of two apartment buildings owned by the government’s NZ Transport Agency on Wellington Road in Kilbirnie is to go ahead this month without any political comment or scrutiny.
What a depressing indictment of a system that allows a taxpayer-funded roading agency to purchase perfectly acceptable housing units to further a controversial roading agenda, and then to allow the properties to become empty and deteriorate over many years.
The old chestnut “earthquake risk” is dragged out to justify the demolition, in an attempt to remove embarrassment to the agency and create ‘Facts On The Ground’ to help speed up the ‘Four Lanes To The Planes’ decision-making process.
This ‘Improvements to SH1’ project is subject to a Business Case examination due to report back to the Let’s Get Welly Moving people early next year. It is by no means a foregone conclusion that four lanes on Wellington Road, along with a third Mt Victoria Tunnel, will be the answer to Wellington’s transport challenges for the 21st century.
The NZTA has shown itself to be totally insensitive to the lack of affordable housing, and negligent as a housing agency or landlord. There is no sense of responsibility about making these properties habitable.
The buildings should be handed over to those who can make them habitable – even if necessary on a short to medium term basis. But not demolition.
James Fraser is a Newtown resident born and bred who has witnessed the slow quake of destruction in Wellington brought about by roading since the 1960s.