Transmission Gully could be started by 2015
TOM HUNT AND BRONWYN TORRIE
Work on Transmission Gully could begin as early as 2015.
Supporters of the inland motorway are celebrating a historic draft decision in favour of the project, but detractors hope to fight the controversial road.
In a draft decision made public yesterday, a board of inquiry signalled it would grant resource consent for the $930 million project. This would allow for a new 27km, four-lane state highway between Linden and the Kapiti Coast by 2021.
Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett said the decision would put to rest the "thousands of doubters out there" who questioned whether it would be built. "It gives us some confidence Transmission Gully might actually happen."
With direct access roads planned to the eastern suburbs of Whitby, Pauatahanui, and the "highly deprived" area of Waitangirua, it was hoped there would be economic spinoffs.
But the more than 3000 tonnes of sediment expected to flow into Porirua Harbour during construction, at a time the council was trying to clean it up, was concerning.
Wellington Employers' Chamber of Commerce president Richard Stone described the decision as a significant milestone.
"It would improve travelling times to and from the capital and greatly assist Wellington's economic development."
Labour Mana MP Kris Faafoi said the board of inquiry was the biggest bureaucratic hurdle the project faced. "I think it's a big opportunity in terms of making sure we get Transmission Gully built. Obviously there's some bridges still to cross."
UnitedFuture leader and Ohariu MP Peter Dunne said the decision was a step toward the road becoming a reality. He would campaign vigorously for it.
There was no doubt Wellington needed the road. "Every obstacle from the nay-sayers is being overcome and this important draft approval is the latest step."
Suresh and Nilu Senadeera, who stand to lose their life savings when the highway skims their Tawa properties, are two such nay-sayers. Mr Senadeera said a monstrous concrete overbridge would overshadow their three rental properties, with a nearly $1m combined value, in Collins Ave and scare away prospective buyers or tenants.
Rational Transport Society spokesman Kent Duston said it would look at the "narrow" legal avenues it could take to continue the fight against the road.
"It's disappointing that they're going ahead with what is ... a poor quality decision. It's highly unlikely that even with the conditions imposed that the negative transport impacts or the negative environment impacts are going to be significantly mitigated."
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown was unavailable for comment. But since 2006 Wellington City Council has supported the road if it was not at the expense of spending on public transport or other roading projects.
Acting Transport Minister Steven Joyce said it was a good step forward. "This is a significant milestone towards progression of this nationally significant road, which will deliver reduced travel times and enhanced safety for road users between Linden and McKays Crossing."
Transport Agency state highways manager Rod James also welcomed the decision.
The board of inquiry's draft decision is being sent to affected councils, submitters and the environment minister for comment on minor or technical aspects.
A final decision is due in mid-June either giving it the nod as is or creating conditions. People can appeal against the decision to the High Court on a point of law only.
Local councils must implement the board's decision. Construction could start in 2015 and be completed by 2021.
- The Dominion Post