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They opened it, but not for traffic

opening
Photo via Twitter from Transport Minister Simon Bridges

by Lindsay Shelton
I can remember when official openings were immediately followed by access for the public – into a new shop, or on to a new road. Not these days. The Kapiti Expressway was officially opened this morning. But it didn’t mean anything for motorists.

Nor for the locals it seems. Today’s official opening didn’t include them – they’ve been segregated into what’s being called “a community event” this Saturday to give them “a chance to experience the Expressway before it opens to traffic.” It would have been friendlier if the politicians had merged their official ceremony with the community event – why wouldn’t they want to mingle with the locals after spending $630million?

And when will the expressway actually be opening? The answer is less than specific: “in the next two weeks.”

The politicians and the Transport Agency are full of praise for what their big spend has created:

• 18 bridges; • 1.4 million new plants over 140 hectares, mostly locally sourced native species; • Over $200 million contributed to the local economy through employment of local businesses; • Over 5000 people worked on the project through its life; • 16km of shared pathways for cyclists, walkers and in most sections horses – around 20,000 steps if you want to walk it; • 70,000 cubic metres of concrete poured, enough to lay a footpath from Wellington to Auckland; • 3.5 million cubic metres of earth shifted – that’s 102 rugby fields piled 5m high; • 14ha of wetlands created

But for the locals, it may have been a different story. NewsHub’s report from the official opening contains this:

Kapiti Deputy Mayor Janet Holborow acknowledged all those who’ve lost their homes and businesses to make way for the expressway.

She may have been thinking of these people, described in 2015 by (now-mayor) K Guranathan:

Property owners who, for one reason or another, were not able to present their case during the Board of Enquiry process are now feeling the full brunt of the construction. Their property values have plummeted and life alongside the Expressway has become hell with little or no relief in sight.

There was a campaign against the expressway. The Kapiti campaigners quoted a Beca report which, they said, showed that “the expressway has no business case – the expected economic benefits are just 20% of the cost of building it.” But they failed to persuade the politicians to change their minds. The money was spent. And the expressway is now officially open. But not yet for traffic.

3 comments:

  1. Chris Harrington, 16. February 2017, 16:21

    This is not the end. The next huge section to beyond Otaki is even more questionable. It will wreck pockets of native bush at Mundell’s old farm, it will destroy Te Horo and not fix the only congestion currently on the route at the entrance to Otaki. These roads underline the lack of any real planning. Why was the Motorway from Plimmerton to Pukerua Bay built if Transmission Gully was going ahead, why were large sections of SH1 three laned and four laned if the Expressway was to be built? And why encourage outlet stores in Otaki if you are going to bypass the joint. Millions and millions of wasted dollars.

     
  2. syrahnose, 17. February 2017, 2:38

    Thanks heavens it’s almost open. No more seemingly endless traffic lights, wasted fuel idling during traffic jams at Waikanae and Paraparaumu. Te Horo, where we have a house, is now within easy reach of Wellington. Te Horo will thrive and grow now. Lots of space to build houses there and shops and restaurants and new businesses. I can now haul my tools back and forth much more easily and efficiently between work in Wellington and Kapiti. The weather is much better out on Kapiti and it will encourage more people to live there, reducing housing pressure in and around Wellington. Anyone who knows how outlet malls exist in the developed world know people get off motorways to shop in outlets, they don’t drive through them!
    Great the whole coastal highway system has been improved up to mid-20th century standards. Let’s hope Transmission Gully gets finished before the next big earthquake cuts Wellington off from the rest of the country.

     
  3. Troy H, 17. February 2017, 9:29

    Ignoring the spin drs, the road is another serious waste of money. And there will still be traffic jams and Wellington could still be cut off in a big earthquake. It will also not reduce the housing pressure in Wgtn.

     

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