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A Waikanae homeowners’ story – the shock of discovering expressway, flyover plans

by Elaine Engman
I bought my home in Te Moana Road in Waikanae in March, 2010. The 1800 meter property has large trees and a spring fed pond. The Waimea stream flows through it. Since it is about 100 meters from Te Moana Road, the only sound we hear is birdsong.

Before buying the property, I had heard about the Kapiti Expressway but was informed by the Kapiti Coast District Council and the Transport Agency website that it would follow the Western Link Road route and would be at grade.

Only a few months after buying my home, I was horrified to hear that the expressway was being moved much closer to my property, that many homes were to be destroyed and that a huge overpass was going to be built on Te Moana Road, close to my house. I would never have bought this property had I known this, let alone invested large amounts of money upgrading and repairing it – money which I will never recover if the expressway is built.

Many people have testified convincingly why the expressway will have such a severe impact on thousands who live in Kapiti – a number of whom don’t realize yet what a terrible neighbor it will be. Rather than repeat what has been said, I would like to try and give a different prospective as someone who has spent nearly all of my life abroad. It is tragic that “clean, green NZ ” is making some of the mistakes that the USA made years ago.

Growing up in Southern California – the home of the world’s first freeway (the US name for an expressway) – I soon learned that for quality of life, one did not want to live anywhere near a freeway. House prices near freeways are always much lower – which is of course what will happen in Kapiti.

The last property that I owned for 14 years in California was in Pacific Palisades with a population around 24,000, an increasingly upscale community between Santa Monica and Malibu. It is a beautiful area in the foothills of the Santa Monica mountains with many homes having wonderful ocean views. There is a vibrant town center much patronized and appreciated by the local residents.

In California there was a tremendous push to build freeways for commuters, so in the 1960s a new 8 lane freeway was planned to the outlying valley regions which would go through the heart of Pacific Palisades and across the Santa Monica mountains. Despite the highway lobby’s vigorous attempts to show how essential this tremendously expensive monstrosity was, local communities and environmentalists prevailed and the proposed freeway route became part of Temescal Gateway Park. Now many would say that Pacific Palisades is one of the most desirable places to live in Los Angeles, as well as one of the most expensive. Freeways do NOT make an area more desirable place to live.

Living in Holland was a eye opener. Amazing public transportation and everyone rides bicycles. In addition, the Dutch government plans for the future and is very concerned about global warming. Politicians are not just discussing that there could be flooding in the future. In The Hague, the seawalls protecting the city have ALREADY been raised!

Though private auto usage is discouraged through taxation and by making inner cities expensive and difficult to drive in, the Dutch realize that roads are still important. But expressways are never built through the center of towns or cities – always ring roads. The Hague where I lived has a thirty year plan to build a ring road. A lot of it will be underground so as not to disturb the people that live nearby. A very long tunnel was completed a couple of hundred meters from where I lived, resulting in a transformed, peaceful, cleaner and safer neighborhood, Of course much of Holland is below sea level, but the Dutch government feels that the quality of people’s lives is important enough that they are willing to invest in tunnels rather than build motorways that pass through where people live.

Elaine Engman is a US citizen who lives in Waikanae. She achieved NZ residency last July. Before moving to New Zealand, she had lived in Southern California and the Netherlands. This article is edited from part of the submission which she made to the Board of Inquiry into the Kapiti Expressway.