The Expressway – unity in frustration

The Te Horo Road Action Committee (THRAC) argues for construction of the Peka Peka to North Ōtaki section of Steven Joyce’s expressway on a route to the west of the Te Horo and Ōtaki townships.

This appears to place them in opposition to the Alliance for Sustainable Kāpiti and SaveKāpiti. Is this true? “Not so” says THRAC chairman Peter Curling. “THRAC has taken a neutral stance on the issue of build or not build. NZTA had been instructed by the Minister to build a road and did not have the option of NOT building a road. Their only remit was to establish where and arrange construction.

“As our submissions were to NZTA, they had to focus on the best route which is precisely what the submissions established, including reasons why,” explains Mr Curling. THRAC believes that ASK and SaveKāpiti’s argument is not with NZTA but rather with the Minister and, necessarily, the Associate Minister, local electorate MP Nathan Guy.

THRAC’s ongoing campaign is against what it sees as unjustified and morally wrong consultation conduct and decision making by NZTA.

“At first we assumed that NZTA would be doing an honest job and had no doubt that one of the better routes proposed in submissions would be selected,” says Mr Curling. He goes on, “Of course, we didn’t know then that the responsible NZTA officers would deliberately manipulate and misrepresent community reaction, ignore difficulties with its preferred route, ignore the benefits of alternative routes and effectively mislead its own Board into an erroneous route selection. Why did they do that? We have been trying to find that out since last December,” reports Mr Curling, adding “NZTA have avoided provision of relevant information at every turn.”

It is understood however, that recent THRAC success with a complaint to the Ombudsman has seen NZTA ordered to release previously withheld information and that THRAC is approaching a position where it can lay a complaint with the Ombudsman concerning the entire conduct of the consultation and decision making process. “Success there could derail the project for a year or more,” states Mr Curling, “but NZTA have acted knowingly and I for one, will have no sympathy for them – merely regret at the amount of tax payer money being wasted and the stress they are causing.”

In regard to the objectives of ASK and SaveKāpiti Mr Curling says, “Put simply, THRAC’s stance has been that if a road is to be built, put it in the best, most beneficial place. Given NZTA’s determination not to do that and all its shenanigans to date, we take the view that it is better not to build at all than to put it in the wrong place.”

Mr Curling indicates that with the exception of Transmission Gully perhaps, a four lane highway is not needed and THRAC supports ASK and SaveKāpiti in this, sincerely hoping that the Minister and Associate Minister can be persuaded that the simple alternatives, available at a fraction of the projected expressway cost, are the more commonsense approach. “Darren Hughes is convinced and if the incumbents don’t take the hint, it is even more likely that it will be Mr Hughes who makes the decisions after the next election.”

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