The best of all possible worlds?

The start of the new expressway. Illustration from the Environmental Protection Authority

The government’s Transport Agency will never win a popularity contest. Not when it sends out letters such as the ones reported this week.

“It is very unsettling, frightening. Hells bells, we haven’t even had the [board of] inquiry,” Kapiti resident Graham Bathgate told the DomPost after he’d received one of the letters. He’s one of 27 Kapiti residents who’ve been told they’ve got to sell up and move, like it or not, to make way for the four-lane expressway that’s to be bulldozed through their quiet neighbourhood from Mackay’s Crossing to Peka Peka.

The letters have sinister names – “notices of desire” to take the houses, and then “a notice of intention,” which is sent if and when negotiations have failed.

The Agency says that if residents disagree they can lodge an objection with the Environment Court. But the reality is that it’s not easy for any individual to fight the might of the government’s agency and its seemingly unlimited resources – the Agency can afford to commission reports from 30 professional consultants to defend the expressway plans at the board of inquiry hearing which starts next week.

It’s a given that if you’re hired as a consultant then you’ll be supporting the expressway. Consultants could be compared to the character in Candide – they can see only the best of all possible worlds.

One of the reports for the hearing defends “the aesthetic coherence of overhead roads” and claims – in the face of international experience – that the quality of the spaces beneath them will will be “aesthetically pleasing.”

Another report claims the “net social effect of the expressway will be positive,” but in the same document the writer states that “some people in the district will suffer physical and psychological severance … households required to relocate will find it stressful … neighbourhoods affected will take time to adjust.”

This consultant confirms that the families facing compulsory relocation could face “stress, anxiety and anger.” The emergence of overhead roads will bring “feelings of severance for some communities.” There’ll be adverse visual effects. And during construction there’ll be frustration, disturbance and annoyance.

And when the expressway is completed, there’ll be more air pollution and more traffic noise for people whose homes are near it. The noise will cause “disturbance, nuisance and stress” and may “decrease enjoyment [of living on the coast] for some.”

There’s more. “The physical presence of the expressway will change the character of this part of the Kapiti coast.” Something which all Kapiti residents are of course aware of.

But having detailed all these problems, the consultant resolutely converts herself to optimism and claims that “the expressway … will enhance the cohesiveness of communities and community wellbeing.”

Who decides whether or not to accept such statements? The answer: a board of inquiry – four people appointed by the government. They have the power to approve or reject the expressway through Kapiti and in doing so they’ll have to decide whether or not an expressway with massive flyovers could somehow enhance the wellbeing of the quiet coastal community.

A pre-hearing conference will be held on Tuesday next week, starting at 10:30am at the Southward Car Museum. The hearing will begin on 12 November in the same venue.

About the four Board members

A summary of all 740 submissions – 56 per cent opposing the expressway


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