An expressway ceremony, but not for locals

The Transport Agency had a sod-breaking ceremony for the Mackays Crossing to Peka Peka Expressway on Monday. But instead of being a community celebration, it seemed to be quite a secretive occasion.

Details of the location and time were available only to those who had been invited mainly politicians, members of the Alliance and of course employees of the Transport Agency. We heard the details from a politician who was too saddened to attend and thought members of the community should know about it.

Three of us, all residents of Waikanae, thought it would be worthwhile to view this historic occasion. We drove to Smithfield Road in Northern Waikanae, which is a dead end road and thus easily secured. There were about five guards, several vehicles and cones blocking the entrance to the site, so I parked outside.

We walked over to the guards, who asked if we were invited guests and then asked if we belonged to any organisations. We said we were residents of Waikanae and just wanted to observe the sod breaking. The guards were friendly and non-threatening. They told us jokingly that they were not going to do a pat down search.

We than walked about 250 meters down the road where there were more guards, including three men in police uniform. One of us, a long time resident, noted that three uniformed officers were high ranking from the Greater Wellington area. One of them, who was quite friendly, said that they had been invited as guests, not to provide “protection”. However they never joined the other guests in the large tent.

We were told by some people not in uniform that we could not go into the fenced area where the tent, with chairs and refreshments, was set up for the 60+ invited guests. We were told that we had to stand outside the fenced area. I noticed that during the ceremony there was a large man in a suit standing about 6 or 7 meters behind us.

A bus from Wellington arrived along with several limousines carrying ministers including Guy and Brownlee. After the ceremony about five reporters, some with TV cameras, ran past us to where the bus was parked. We overheard them say that Mayor Wade-Brown was still on the bus. We followed and saw her sitting on the bus talking on her telephone. She then got off the bus preceded and followed by the reporters. We heard her say that she had been dealing with some problems. Of course, we like to think that she was avoiding the ceremony.

Several people asked us if we would like some sun screen or some water. At first we refused, but eventually we were brought three goblets (not bottles or glasses) of water. None of the politicians or reporters looked at us or approached us. We had the impression that outsiders were to be ignored. What we could hear of the speeches was nothing we had not heard before.

It seemed very obvious that this was a politicians’ event, certainly not for taxpayers or residents. The money spent on this occasion, mainly the lost salary time from all of those who were there, would have been better spent on double-glazing the windows for some of the unhappy citizens who will be living less than 50 meters from this enormous, high speed road.

Elaine Engman bought her home in Waikanae three months before the route of the new expressway was changed to bring it close to her property.