Heartbreak: Residents In Kumeu Area

7 May 2021. By Cr Greg Sayers, Rodney Ward Councillor. The local townships of Kumeu, Huapai, Riverhead, Coatesville and now even Taupaki are confronted with a growing traffic congestion problem. Solving the problem is becoming increasingly expensive.

This is the result of the Government forcing thousands of unplanned houses (“Special Housing Areas”) to be built without building the required roading infrastructure. 

Auckland Council opposed the Governments plans to build the Special Housing Areas foreseeing without new roads there would be congestion, but Council was overruled, and are now also forced (by law) to keep issuing the consents, so the planned number of houses get built.

This is a Government created this problem. Should the Government not be paying to fix it?

Why is the infrastructure not being built in advance of housing?

Why is $150+ million of fuel tax collected a year not being spent?

It was opportune a couple of weeks ago, when the Director of Regional Relationships from the central Government’s transport agency called Waka Kotahi NZTA, invited local Members of Parliament Chris Penk (National), Marja Lubeck (Labour), Vanushi Walters (Labour) and myself as the Auckland Councillor to visit with them to get the latest update on progress on transport infrastructure in the local area.

In summary, $137 million has been allocated to build a range of safety improvements between Brigham Creek and Waimauku. This is allocated to be spent over the next four years, not over ten years, nor in ten years’ time. Included is a new round-about at the Coatesville Riverhead Highway – SH16 intersection. (Full details of all the work to be carried out can be found on the Waka Kotahi NZTA website).

Station Road is to be re-aligned with traffic lights put in at the intersection of SH16. This is at a cost of $17.5 million spent over the next two years.

A rough order of costs to build an alternative 4-lane access highway around Kumeu from Brigham Creek to Waimauku is estimated to be $1,097 million. Yet there are still no plans to build this “bypass” within the next 10 years, however, work will continue advancing detailed plans, resource consents and route designations over that time.

Unfortunately trains to Hauapi are still not supported. Instead Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi NZTA are working together on upgrades that will improve public transport travel time and frequency times for the people who travel by bus to and from northwest Auckland.

Improvements include a station at Westgate and interim bus stops at the Lincoln Road and Te Atatū motorway interchanges. Over the next two years $85 million has been allocated. As well upgrading and extending the existing bus shoulder lanes on the Northwestern Motorway (SH16) is desired but the funding for this is yet to be approved.

There does not seem to be any immediate relief coming for the current local traffic congestion issues.

The Governments and Auckland Transports strategic direction continues to focus on moving Auckland away from a car focused city to a public transport focused city. The purpose of doing this is to reduce traffic congestion, carbon emissions and speed limits to make roads safer.

Many people may continue to find this heart-breaking, with funding being diverted into more public transport for electrified buses, trains, ferries, cycleways, and separated bus lanes, but not into local solutions such as rail to Huapai, local frequent bus services, or priority being given to build a bypass for Kumeu.

Let’s hope that the projects above that are said will happen are not yet another set of “mirages” that end up getting delayed again.

Particularly heart-breaking is the reduction in funding for rural residents and ratepayers. When I was first elected to office the road sealing budget was $10m for 10 years ($1m a year), with continual determination this was fought for and wins made to increase this to reach $121 m for 10 years ($12m a year) in the last RLTP budget. In this latest RLTP budget this has been slashed to $40m for 10 years ($4m a year).  This is a Depletion budget for Rodney, not a Recovery budget as Auckland Council, the Mayor and his local board member supporters are marketing it to be.

As if Rodney’s unsafe unsealed roads are not in bad enough, the maintenance budgets are to also be slashed. Currently averaging $4.4 million per year the grading and drain clearing budget is to be reduced by $800,000 to $3.6 million per year. Even though Auckland Transports overall operating budgets have been increased, our area’s budgets are being decreased. It is scandalous.  

To fight back I meet with the Mayor, the Board of Directors of Auckland Transport and NZTA. Your local Members of Parliament joined me. The justifications we get back are that as long as the Government and Auckland Transport are directing priority funding into public transport, cycling, reducing speed limits and wanting people to not use cars, then getting a proportionate amount back for fixing, widening or sealing Rodney’s roads simply will not be a priority.

I say, they have forgotten the power of the people.