Expressway is on the slow road

Save Kāpiti Inc has sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court on the legality of the BOI’s decision to grant consent to the Kāpiti Expressway.

The request was lodged on Friday 30 August, 10 days after the High Court decision was delivered, which declined their initial appeal. Appeal is not an automatic right in this instance. If leave is granted, the Supreme Court may choose to hear the matter themselves or may refer it to the Court of Appeal.

Save Kāpiti spokesperson Mark Harris says Save Kāpiti are taking this step for two reasons. The first is because there are strong public interests involved.

“The case tests whether pre-existing consented activities which are already in the district plan have any status at all. Clearly there are public interest grounds here which affect all councils, developers’ and ratepayers in every part of New Zealand where there is a district plan operating.”

Secondly, Save Kāpiti remain very concerned that the “solution” of putting a high speed motorway through three coastal communities is unnecessary to solve the roading problems in the district.

“We acknowledge there are some very real traffic problems on the coast, although we contend they are not as bad as NZTA has painted them in trying to make their case for this motorway. But there is a simple, effective and much cheaper solution the pre-existing plan for an urban arterial to take local traffic off the highway, and make improvements to SH1 on its existing path,” said Mr. Harris, referring to the Western Link Road and SH1 Improvement plan proposed by KCDC in 2009.

“Many people are unaware that on any day, when you drive through Kāpiti, that 3 of the 4 of the drivers around you are locals travelling between their homes in Paraparaumu and Waikanae. NZTA acknowledged this in their proposal.”

“The State Highway is currently the only way that Kāpiti locals can drive between Waikanae and Paraparaumu – this means for all trips to and from home to work, school, sports or the shops they are forced to use SH1 as there is no other way to go north/south through the district.

“Taking this local traffic out of the picture, NZTA figures show that only 6,500 of 23,000 vehicles using the road every day are vehicles passing right through the district without stopping. The current proposal is therefore like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. As a comparison, NZTA decided not to pursue an expressway for the Ōtaki to North of Levin section as it felt the 9000 vehicle journeys a day did not warrant the expenditure.”

An NZTA Senior Transport Planner acknowledged this issue in 2009 saying “A high proportion of trips on SH1 are local trips. One of the objectives of State Highway operations is to remove local trips from the SH where possible.”

NZTA’s own figures show that there has been no growth in traffic volumes in this area, as anticipated, for the last 10 years – in fact, volumes are falling.

Save Kāpiti says this is not a delaying tactic, with no chance of success.

“The point of law is a good one. We don’t agree with the High Court’s understanding of it, so we’re appealing. If that decision had gone our way, you can be sure NZTA would be appealing it. Also, this appeal does not halt construction as the last appeal did. We think it’s unlikely NZTA would commit to major expenditure while it is motion, but there’s nothing to stop them,” said Mr. Harris

“We know some members of the community will be angry that we are taking this action. We’ve already seen disappointing comments from Mayor Rowan and some councillors, all of whom are positioning themselves for election. But we did not create this situation NZTA did. If they and Minister Joyce had not interfered in 2009, we would already be driving on a second bridge across the river and looking forward to the upgrades on the State Highway. This project is bad for Kāpiti and bad for the country, and we are committed to opposing it.”