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Motorway victory

TAO LIN
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2014
Wymondley Road School
Tao Lin

BIG VICTORY: Wymondley Road School principal Pelu Leaupepetele and board member Megan Timu are ecstatic after hearing transport agencies have backed down on motorway plans that would have destroyed their school.

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More than 250 people turned up at Otara's Wymondley Road School on Wednesday night ready to fight against plans for a new motorway.

Instead they were "blown away" by a major backdown.

Auckland Transport and the New Zealand Transport Agency told them they have decided against building a new motorway south of the Manukau Harbour for the next 10 years.

The agencies had been considering four options for a new East-West Link to improve freight movement between East Tamaki and Onehunga.

Option four would have seen homes in Mangere and Otahuhu bulldozed and a motorway running through several schools, including Otahuhu College and Wymondley Rd.

Wednesday's announcement means three of the four options have been dropped for the time being and the agencies are now focusing north of the harbour.

Wymondley Rd board member and former pupil Megan Timu set up the Stand Tall campaign in December after she heard about the motorway plans.

Wednesday's meeting was a chance for community members to voice their opinions and get some answers from Auckland Transport, she says.

A petition signed by more than 1000 was to have been presented. Instead came the unexpected announcement.

"I was blown away," Ms Timu says. "I'm a very, very proud Wymondleyian and I'm very relieved. The community can be very proud."

Principal Pelu Leaupepetele says there's an irony to the outcome.

"We were caught off guard with the initial proposals put forward and then we were caught off guard again when they made the announcement," he says.

"For a small community and a small school - we have 231 students - it's a big victory for us."

Auckland Transport might have backed down for now but the community won't stop fighting against motorway proposals through the area, Mr Leaupepetele says.

"We will continue to remind Auckland Transport that there's got to be far better options than putting a motorway through the community.".

The chairman of fellow anti-motorway group Respect Our Community Campaign Roger Fowler is also thrilled with the announcement.

He says he will continue to work with Auckland Transport and NZTA on bettering the railway system as well as cycleways and walkways.

Manukau East MP Ross Robertson says the outcome shows the power a community can have when it stands together.

"I understand the community and I knew that going ahead with the proposal would rip the guts out of it.

"The school is the backbone of the community and in working together as a team via the petition we have been successful."

Mangere MP Su'a William Sio says the "fantastic win" is a tribute to all those who stood up to the transport agencies.

"If the community hadn't kicked up opposition and organised ourselves we would have seen the arbitrary destruction of homes, schools and many community facilities."

The Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board also welcomes the news, saying common sense has prevailed.

Its chair Lydia Sosene says individuals and distraught families met with transport officials in mid-December to voice their displeasure at not being consulted from the beginning of the planning process.

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The announcement is "a significant outcome" for the communities and for the board.

Auckland Transport and NZTA have confirmed no major roading options will be considered south of the Manukau Harbour at this point and they will be focussing on the Onehunga-Penrose area.

Both say they will continue consultations with communities to determine the best steps forward.

- Manukau Courier

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