Sunday, August 4, 2013

Urban redevelopment, old school

We have something of a fondness for old school in our household: steel bicycles, woolen T-shirts, old Dr Marten boots. But there are some old school thingimagigs that should be relegated to history's dustbin and one of them is Auckland's Old Style Urban Redevelopment.

OSUR is a process whereby in the name of improving traffic flow a bunch of houses get knocked down to make way for a motorway. Hard to believe it may be, but the motorway running through Newton Gully used to be houses (see photo below). They weren't in good repair and only poor people lived in them (this was when people were moving out of the city to shiny new suburbs) so planners could kill two birds with one stone by bowling the houses and putting in a motorway to help car-driving suburban commuters get to their jobs. This photo of Newton Gully was taken in 1959. 

Stolen from

We're over that, I hear the progressives among you say. These days we build public transport facilities and don't turf the poor out of their homes. At least not without due process.

Wrong (although there still might be some token due process). In a press release issued Friday the 2nd June, Gerry Brownlee announced:
“Together, AMETI and the East-West Link have the potential to unlock the economic potential of this important part of Auckland [Onehunga, Tamaki, Mt Wellington].
“I have asked the NZ Transport Agency to work with Auckland Transport and report back to me about which elements of AMETI and the East-West Link should be brought forward with additional funding.
“This work will be completed in December, and I expect that the Government will make funding decisions in the first quarter of 2014.”
One of Spider's girlfriends (he has lots) informs us that officials at Auckland Transport are pushing Option 4 (see map below) of the possible routes. The beauty of Option 4 is that it doesn't go through a National MP's electorate although we wonder how many Onehunga residents realise that wee diamond on the Onehunga foreshore actually covers an area twice the size of the Southern Motorway/SH20 interchange at Manukau. The more mysterious aspect of Option 4 is that it appears to be answering a question no one has asked.

At this point we do need to declare an interest: the big black line in the map above goes over the top of our house. Literally. So we are taking it kinda personally.

But it's not just us. If you take the above map and compare it to a map of Mangere you'll notice the following:
  • the black blob on the left (black blobs are a "full road interchange") covers a good portion of Mangere Central park (in an area short of recreation facilities). If SH20A is widened it will also take out bits of other parks in the area.
  • it will also take out housing to the west of Robertson Road. Robertson Road is home to several schools and we can only assume that some of the children who attend them live south of where the big black line crosses over.
  • The black line then goes cheerfully over a big bunch of housing in Mangere. Apparently much of the housing is state housing so by putting a new motorway through in that modern 1950s sort of way, the government can give back to its road freight sector donors and say it is selling horrid old state houses to build new ones...somewhere. Sometime. What happens to these residents? Who knows? We suspect AT and the government are working on the basis that no one is that interested in the fate of dozens of low-income families with extremely limited options for resettlement.
  • Advancing west, the black line goes through some light industrial land but then proceeds slightly to the south of Mangere Road. The problem with this is that it goes over the top of Otahuhu College. We're sure it won't touch a hair on the head of next-door Kings College but Otahuhu College (a school with a role of about 1,300 students from some of the poorest areas in the region) is a goneburger under this plan.
  • The big black blob to the right looks like it will probably take out Wymondley Primary School. Again there are currently state houses down there but if they get bowled over then there won't be any need for a school.
  • The part of this that probably gets the transport boys (they're nearly all boys) terribly excited is the prospect of building a bridge over the Tamaki Estuary. Bridges are big and present engineering challenges. Whether or not they solve an actual transport problem doesn't seem to matter.
There's other aspects of the plan that are less than loveable but they're the main ones. And now, thanks to Gerry, people who may have lived in their sleepy suburbs for years face the very real prospect of an accelerated planning and consultation process. The fact that the New Zealand Transport Agency is dealing directly with AT cuts the Mayor and Council (and thus any meaningful democratic input) out of the process. The good news is National gets to deliver a major Auckland transport project to its mates before the 2014 election. It's deeply cynical pork-barrel politics, played out under the banner of solving a largely non-existent transport problem. Residents who find themselves with nowhere to go are just so much collateral damage here in the world's most liveable city.