You can’t help feeling sorry for the 15 (or more) Raumati South families who’ve discovered that their houses will be demolished to make way for the southern entrance to the new Kapiti expressway. And for the many other families whose houses will survive, but whose quality of life will be destroyed by four lanes of speeding cars and trucks nearby. On what the locals are describing as an autobahn, a truckies’ dream. An expressway which Labour and Green MPs have promised will be cancelled if there’s a change of government.
At last week’s meeting of the Kapiti Coast District Council, there was a six-hour debate on the location of the expressway entrance. The controversial decision which will force houses to be bulldozed was supported by six councilors and opposed by three.
The Kapiti Independent News reports that Mayor Jenny Rowan talked about “the greater good” in choosing to bulldoze houses:
No one likes to make decisions that could result in people losing their homes and their dreams (but) at the end of the day, we have to make decisions for the greater good.
The effect of this “greater good” was put into human terms by a Waikanae couple who say their dream retirement home will be destroyed by the expressway: It is such a beautiful place. Everyone plants trees to attract the tuis – an expressway will ruin Waikanae.
Last week’s council decision was specially controversial because there was an alternative route for the entranceway – through an empty, swampy corner of Queen Elizabeth Park. No one would lose their homes if this option had been chosen. But the mayor talked darkly of longer term inter-generational and open space issues attached to this option. And a majority of councilors agreed with her.
The decision will now be part of a submission to the New Zealand Transport Agency. February 4 is the deadline for this latest round of public submissions. “We are committed to keeping the community informed and giving people the opportunity to have their say,” says the agency’s regional director. The people have their say. Is anyone listening?
Kapiti people have been having their say and stating their unease about the expressway since the government first announced it was to be one of the roads of national significance. At that time, Greens MP Sue Kedgley said the expressway would sever Kapiti and destroy communities. Six months ago, local residents had to use the Official Information Act to obtain plans which showed how it would cut through quiet residential areas. In November, the Alliance For Sustainable Kapiti said that as many as 86 properties would be needed, and the impact would be far more severe than people realised.
Last week’s vote by Kapiti councilors was a reminder of the reality of the impact, if the expressway is built.