Roadworks u-turn angers Newtown residents

AMY JACKMAN
Last updated 08:51 06/12/2012
Paul Eagle
Paul Eagle: A vote for Kevin Lavery was a vote for change.

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The Wellingtonian

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Wellington city councillor Paul Eagle is angry that council officers have broken a promise to the Newtown community.

Residents were promised there would be no roadworks around John St last Saturday.

Instead, they say, the roadworks began before 5am that day.

Newtown roads have been dug up repeatedly this year, disrupting local businesses. The major upgrade has been centred around the Adelaide Rd, John St and Riddiford St intersection.

Residents have complained about lack of council communication and assistance.

Last week a meeting was held between Southern ward councillors, council staff and community representatives to try to mend the relationship.

It was agreed there would be no roadworks at the John St intersection last Saturday, as a sign of good faith.

However, Mr Eagle said he received a call from Four Seasons Florist owner Laura Newcombe on Saturday saying there were roadworks.

"I went up and had a look. I was really angry to find out roadworks were going ahead," he said.

"The council organisation has completely let down Newtown. I am fuming.

"There has been a total breakdown of communication between the council and the community.

"What we agreed was that there were no roadworks. Not that there might be none."

The president of the Newtown Business Group, David Wilcock, said the community wanted better communication from the council.

This was echoed by resident Peter Kennedy, who said he expected the council to be "accountable, honest and transparent".

Councillor Paul Eagle said he carefully checked with council officers members at the meeting - Steve Spence, Stavros Michael and Stephen Harte - about whether that was possible.

"I said to them, ‘Hold up, are you sure you can promise this? Do you need to check?' They said, ‘No, no. It's fine'. They confirmed it was possible and it went in the agreement from the meeting."

Mr Kennedy said he saw Downer and Fulton Hogan contractors working on Saturday.

"Between 4am and 5am, Downers arrived at the intersection, and began work on . . . Adelaide Rd. Shortly thereafter, Fulton Hogan arrived to start work," he said in a letter to the council.

Mr Michael replied to Mr Kennedy on Sunday and said the roadworks were being done by Countdown, not council.

"The Countdown site activities are fully legitimate undertakings. The owners . . . are entitled and required to modify the surrounding roading configuration as per the resource consent conditions.

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"Council is required to abide by the consent it granted for the site," Mr Michael said.

"Countdown were not at the Monday meeting and they had not agreed to stop works as this would constrain their target opening date."

Mr Eagle said Mr Michael's response was trying to justify why the council's promise was broken.

"I said to Stav, ‘This is ridiculous. You should've said you couldn't tell Countdown to stop work at the meeting or taken up my offer to say you don't know and will confirm later'."

Mr Eagle said when he asked why the community was not told about the change in plans, he was told staff could not find all the email addresses.

"That's wrong. I sent out the minutes to everyone at the meeting. The addresses were there.

"The community just wanted courteous and kind communication. How hard is that?"

Mr Michael said to The Wellingtonian that the council should have informed the residents about the change of plan.

"We thought Countdown would've finished their work by November 30, but we found out late on Friday that they would be working on Saturday," he said.

"An email should've gone out to residents that afternoon. We admit that we were remiss in that aspect."

- The Wellingtonian

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