Kapiti expressway planners are not working to a set budget - and the only legal, formal consultation takes place after the route has been designed.
The people in charge of designing the expressway faced a question-and-answer roasting at a three-hour community meeting at Waikanae's El Rancho camp on Thursday night.
The panel included NZ Transport Agency regional head Jenny Chetwynd and the man in charge of the expressway Alliance, project manager Jim Bentley.
During the meeting the panel revealed the consultation process was not a formal process, but was informal feedback from the community on the proposals.
Formal submissions do not take place till a Board of Inquiry decision on the final proposed design, Mr Bentley said.
"That process is entirely independent of us and that's the formal, independent process.
"What we're trying to do here is get feedback to help us make sure we've got the design as good as we need it to be."
Ms Chetwynd said the agency has internal checks to ensure "robust" engagement.
The project board would check feedback from the community has been taken into account, she said.
Meanwhile, Mr Bentley said he has not been given a budget.
"I haven't been given a number ... they don't start by saying, 'Here's a sum of money, build me a road for that'.
"They start by saying, 'Assess what's there, show us the plan for how a road could go, while meeting these guidelines, from here to here'."
Mr Bentley said gaining value for money is a key aspect of the design project.
But he did not know what benefits the Alliance factors into analysis for the proposed route.
"We've hired people - their role is to do this cost-benefit analysis work," he said.
"I don't have that at my fingertips tonight."
Under repeated questioning, Mr Bentley replied he did not have the answers with him.
"I'm not going to promise something that I don't have the answer to."
Similarly, Ms Chetwynd would not say if Transmission Gully was behind the Kapiti expressway on the agency's priority list, or why it will be built after it.
"There are a number of projects as part of this RONS [Roads of National Significance] project," she said.
"Some of them have got higher priority than others because of where they are, but sorry, I haven't got all the details right now."
Audience members voiced surprise that the regional boss did not know the priority list for the region's RONS.
During the meeting Ms Chetwynd said the final proposed design for the expressway will be submitted to the Ministry for the Environment's Environmental Protection Authority.
From there, a board of inquiry will be set up to consider the application, with its final decision able to be appealed, on points of law, to the Environment Court.
All the panel members emphasised the Alliance's willingness to listen to the community, including Mr Bentley.
"I'm not actually being paid this evening," he said.
"I'm here to see you because it's the right thing to do to come and answer your questions."
He said the Alliance hoped to have a single proposed route for feedback available from May.
The Kapiti Observer has summarised the important meeting questions answered by the Alliance and NZTA panel at Thursday's meeting.
Who is Jim Bentley and what is the Alliance?
Jim Bentley: "When the NZTA decided to use an Alliance for delivery of this project, and a number of [private] consortia formed to bid for the work, the particular consortium that was selected [Fletcher, Beca, and Higgins] appointed me as the leader of their team ... Fletcher, Beca, and Higgins have joined with the NZTA and more recently KCDC into the Alliance."
How does the Alliance respond to charges of poor community notification and inconsistent information for the community?
Jim Bentley: "We have made some mistakes because unfortunately databases that are used in the public sector don't always have 100 per cent accuracy, so some letters were sent to the wrong residents and I apologise for that.
"We've done everything we can in terms of training ... to prepare people ... to be as consistent and clear as we can be, and again if any errors have occurred I apologise for that as well."
Will the Alliance pay landowners left neighbouring the expressway.
Jim Bentley: "We apply what Land Information New Zealand requires us to apply. That's not our choice, that's the choice of Land Information New Zealand and that [the requirement] does not apply compensation to people whose properties are not required to be taken by the expressway."
Did the Alliance use out-of-date aerial photos, possibly two years old, in its November consultation photos of the route?
Noel Nancekivell, road design manager: "Apologies. We did fly the route in August. We have very recent aerial photographs. They are currently on all our plans, now, so in any further consultation any information that is shown will be on those aerial photos taken last year."
Why propose two routes in Waikanae when there's no chance the Board of Inquiry will allow the waahi tapu option due to cultural sensitivity?
Jim Bentley: "We're not certain that that's the case.
"The two options we've come up with, we've tried to find an option that minimises property impact.
"So we've tried to see if there's a way of getting this road between the urupa and the maketu tree. We don't know if that's going to fly. We don't know if that can be done."
Why is the Alliance performing geotechnical testing away from the proposed route?
Noel Nancekivell: "We do it on the route and away from the route ... we use that information in our design. You've got to have it over a wide area, not just a narrow corridor."
When is the soonest homeowners can start talking about selling up to the NZTA?
Jim Bentley: "What we're trying to do is come back around about May at which time we'll have selected where this road's going to go ... and having got that higher certainty and having the plans for each individual property we can start that meaningful dialogue."
Will extra interchanges choke up the expressway with local vehicles?
Jim Bentley: "Traffic modelling showed the expressway wouldn't be choked up with local traffic and it would be at least 50 years before you even get close to exceeding the RONS' guidelines.
When will the entire design and consent process be completed?
Jim Bentley: "We're targeting ... the Board of Inquiry being set up around about the end of this year or the start of next year ... nine months is the time for the Board of Inquiry so the earliest time we could have our consents in place would be at the back end of 2012."
- Kapiti Observer
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