Ex-mayor claims ‘veil of secrecy’ over effect of future harbour crossing

Wayne Thompson reports in the Herald on the concern about the lack of public involvement in the new harbour crossing project.

Former North Shore mayor George Wood has attacked what he calls a “veil of secrecy” over a future Waitemata Harbour Crossing project.

People who would be affected by the new crossing deserved to be treated far better, said Mr Wood, who was mayor from 1998 to 2007.

“NZ Transport Agency thinks it can push through this harbour crossing project on the basis it knows best and we will have to suffer what it offers,” Mr Wood told the North Shore City Council’s infrastructure and environment committee yesterday.

“The community must be told the impact of the crossing on North Shore’s arterial roads and potential adverse environmental, visual and ecological impacts.”

Consultants in a study last year for the former Transit NZ and Auckland councils recommended four tunnels – two for motorway traffic and two for trains – at a cost of $3.7 billion to $4.1 billion.

They recommended three-lane tunnels running 3.9km under the harbour for road traffic between Esmonde Rd in Takapuna and Spaghetti Junction in Newton, and single-track tubes for electric trains linking either Britomart or a proposed underground inner-city rail loop beneath Albert St.

Mr Wood said he had not seen one brochure setting out the broad outline of what the agency proposed.

“Public involvement should happen up front right at the start.”

Mr Wood said people of the North Shore had to lead the fight for progress on an alternative to the Auckland Harbour Bridge after a decade of doubt about the durability of the clip-ons.

A more vigorous approach would be to bring together key agencies in a project team, with a full-time project director and a funding stream from the government for initial planning and development.

Transport Agency regional director Wayne McDonald said North Shore City Council had been in a partnership of five agencies in the project to find a route. Information and plans were on the agency’s website.

No detailed design was done because the crossing could be several decades away.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce said he was seeking advice from the Transport Agency on whether the next harbour crossing should be added to the Government’s proposed 20-year national infrastructure plan.

This would be known by the end of this year.

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