Though Friday’s two official announcements about Transmission Gully were bland and re-assuring, the three-page notice published on Saturday contains more specific and more alarming details about the $1 billion plan which is being fast-forwarded by the government. It announces that the new road will result in irreversible changes to the environment.
Consider the list which is headed “Minister’s reasons for directing the Transmission Gully Proposal to a board of inquiry.”
The enormity of the project is clear:
…construction of a state highway 27km in length, which … will involve approximately 6.3million cubic metres of cut material and 5.8million cubic metres of fill material. There are approximately 112 stream crossings requiring culverts and bridges and the permanent realignment of approximately 6.5km of streams.
The announcement refers somewhat obscurely to the Pauatahanui Inlet with an inference that it may be seriously affected, though the wording reads as if some of the editing was never completed:
The proposal traverses nine hydrological catchments which are part of four different watersheds. Five of the catchments (approximately 65% of the length of the proposal) drain into the Pauatahanui Inlet which is considered to be relatively unmodified estuarine area in the southern North Island.
Later, there’s more about the importance of the inlet.
The Pauatahanui Inlet, into which 65 per cent of the length of the proposal drains, is identified in the Wellington Conservation Management Strategy as ‘a productive estuarine habitat, a site of national importance in the Sites of Special Wildlife Interest database, and the only large area of salt marshes and seagrass in the Wellington Region.
Why will the project cost more than $1 billion ?
Multiple areas of land will need to be acquired by the NZ Transport Agency … Hence the construction and subsequent occupation of land and water by the Transmission Gully Proposal will involve significant use of natural and physical resources.
There’s much more, with repetition which emphasises issues which will no doubt be of concern to organisations making submissions about the plan.
The proposal will involve large-scale earthworks … diversion of approximately 6.5km of streams, culverting or bridging of approximately 112 streams, removal of exotic and regenerating native vegetation and changes to the hydrology within the catchments impacted.
All this information is contained in Saturday’s advertising placed by the Environmental Protection Authority to advise that the Transport Agency, the Porirua City Council, and Transpower New Zealand have applied for resource consents for Transmission Gully. The Environment Minister has hand-picked a board of inquiry which is being given the power to say yes or no.
It’s being done in a hurry. The clock is ticking. The government insists that its independent board must reach a final decision no later than nine months from last Saturday. Regardless of the number of submissions and expert witnesses and levels of complexity.
Anyone can make a submission. But there’s less than a month to get everything together. Submissions must be on the prescribed form and must be received by the Environmental Protection Authority no later than 5pm on 14 October.
So who’s going to speak up in defence of the streams, the salt marshes, the catchment areas, the wild life and the Pauatahanui Inlet? Will this area that’s known for its ecological, aesthetic, recreational and cultural values qualify for protection from the Environmental Protection Agency?