Trust fires opening salvoes
Expressway opponents deliver views to boardJOEL MAXWELL
Opponents of the $630 million Kapiti expressway have launched their case against the road at the hearing to decide the road's future.
A Board of Inquiry deciding resource consent for the MacKay's to Peka Peka project opened at Southwards Car Museum's conference room this week.
The hearing began on Monday with the NZ Transport Agency's opening submission.
On Tuesday, opposition groups laid the groundwork for legal argument covering everything from cultural impacts to public safety.
Opening for the Takamore Trust, charged with protecting sacred land in Waikanae, legal counsel Leo Watson said its opposition covered only the "wahi tapu" area.
In designing the route the agency selected a path from Waikanae River to Te Moana Rd that cut through sacred land, over one that largely affected private homes.
The decision left the trust with a sense of cultural alienation, Mr Watson said.
"In terms of the expression of cultural wellbeing, we again, in 2012, are faced with a situation where private residential properties are favoured over the protection of cultural values."
Mr Watson said that was not meant to be provocative but was the "absolute upshot" of the agency's choice.
He said trustees were stunned by the agency's proposition the expressway plans would "enable cultural wellbeing".
The trust did not agree with the agency on mitigation, he said.
On Monday the agency said the road was needed to enhance inter- regional and national economic growth and productivity and to make journey times more efficient to and through the Kapiti district, Wellington's central business district, key industrial and employment centres, ports, airports and hospitals.
The agency stressed the expressway would be closer to Kapiti's largest industrial hub and reduce freight trips on local roads.
It said the project was needed to address current and future problems on State Highway 1, including congestion, unreliable journey times, unsafe conditions for cyclists and pedestrians, a high crash rate and a lack of resilience to accidents and earthquakes.
Waikanae on One, a community group advocating changes to the expressway route and design, raised concern about the expressway's impact on the flood-prone town.
Legal counsel Chris Mitchell said the expressway design was "off the shelf" and not designed for Waikanae's waterlogged conditions.
"Local ground and water conditions appear to be regarded as indistinguishable from those along the rest of the corridor," he said.
Mr Mitchell asked what would happen in these conditions when they were bisected by what is effectively a wide, impermeable trench in the form of the expressway.
He said significant flood events had happened in the recent past, including three in the past decade.
"NZTA characterises these floods that I refer to as extreme events and, while this may be so, the best science suggests that they might become more frequent."
Mr Mitchell said the Kapiti community and the agency have had a long and not entirely good relationship.
The much smaller Lindale interchange project showed what happens when agency modelling meets reality, he said.
"The project not only took twice as long and cost twice as much as it should have, but caused severe consequences for traffic over a long period."
Mr Mitchell called for the Board of Inquiry to require the hydrology, geology and landscape impacts of the proposal in Waikanae be subject to an "independent and rigorous" review considering alternative options.
The board is chaired by retired High Court judge Sir John Hansen, alongside Environment Commissioner David Bunting, Resource Management Act decision maker Glenice Paine and hearings commissioner Mark Apeldoorn.
The board, an independent body, was appointed as part of a fast-tracked resource consent process.
A decision must be made within nine months.
The hearings are expected to run for nine weeks, split by the holiday season, and finish at the end of January. The board is obliged to provide a draft decision by March 20.
Work on the expressway is scheduled to begin, pending the decision, late next year.
On Tuesday, one of the most prominent anti-expressway groups, Save Kapiti, made its opening submission.
Counsel Richard Fowler questioned the level of detail in the proposal, and the economic benefits of the project.
He said there has been little consideration of the Western Link Rd combined with an upgrade of the existing SH1.
The proposed expressway, now using the designation for the old Link road, would carve a relatively impermeable barrier through the district.
"It's an east-west fracture that will stand for generations and has consequences that are simply unacceptable in terms of the Resource Management Act."
- Kapiti Observer
Should Kapiti have international airport?Related story: (See story)