Tamahere residents in the shadow of an ambitious half-billion-dollar roading project say they could be stuck in limbo, possibly unable to develop their land, while waiting for roading bosses to act over the next 20 years.
Plans by the New Zealand Transport Agency and the Hamilton City Council to protect the Southern Links roading project, connecting the region to the south of Hamilton, were publicly notified on January 29. The sprawling network cuts a swath through some of the Waikato's most sought-after real estate.
When finished, the network will complement the city's ring road.
The call for public submissions on Southern Links has kicked off and Tamahere residents have been quick to voice their opposition, saying the project has the potential to devastate their rural community. Long-term Tamahere resident Andrew Gibson said many residents were not convinced of the project's need and questioned whether it would even get built.
There are no plans to construct the network in the next decade, with neither the council nor the NZ Transport Agency setting aside funds for the project in their 10-year plans.
"I think Tamahere residents are resigned to Southern Links but it's a very hard-done-by sort of resignation," Mr Gibson said.
"NZ Transport Agency say the project won't go ahead in the next 10 years but I don't think it will happen in the next 20 years. All that time the designations will sit over people's land, meaning they can't develop it."
Mr Gibson said the project would negatively impact on property values and he took aim at Waikato District's Tamahere ward councillor Wally Hayes who, he said, had not advocated hard enough on residents' behalf.
"There's a children's programme called Where's Wally and I would ask where's Wally [Hayes] been on all this and what has he done to support residents? I wouldn't be surprised that after 20 years, the NZ Transport Agency suddenly shelves this and all those affected families would have gone through all this for nothing."
Mr Hayes said the route designated was different to the one indicated on maps for the past 26 years and he sympathised with affected families.
"Southern Links started off with three different routes and each route sliced through Tamahere, so no matter what option was chosen there was always going to be winners and losers," he said.
"One of the reasons for Tamahere's success has been because of its location, being on the outskirts of Hamilton and with its ease of access to the airport.
"Tamahere has to accept that, because of its location and future development, Southern Links makes sense."
Southern Links will connect State Highway 1 from Kahikatea Drive in Hamilton to the Waikato Expressway at Tamahere, and SH3 from Hamilton Airport to central and east Hamilton.
NZ Transport Agency highways manager Kaye Clark said the network would provide better linkage and access across and in and out of Hamilton and surrounding districts. Southern Links was at an "early stage" of development, Mrs Clark said, with construction 10-15 years away. The current Resource Management Act phase of the project was a vital step in the network's development and would allow the route to be protected.
"This process will provide certainty to not only the councils but to landowners and the community as to the location of the network route for future land use planning." Timing for construction would depend on funding availability as the project would be prioritised alongside other national projects.
Michael Holmes, who has lived at Tamahere for 11 years, said the proposed roading network risked being an "unnecessary white elephant" and would ruin lives.
He predicted it would go ahead because of the city council's desire for a ring road around Hamilton.
"My belief is if the Ruakura [inland port] development goes ahead, then traffic will stay to the east of Hamilton and the need for a southern link to the west of Hamilton will be less important."
Mr Holmes said the designated route was different to the three route options presented to the public.
"Some people's lives have been ruined because suddenly the house they were going to live in for the rest of their lives is screwed up by a big road going next to them. Fundamentally the most unfair thing about development in New Zealand is people who are affected by large developments that aren't directly on their property, are not compensated."
Public submissions on Southern Links close on February 28.
For information on how to make a submission visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Waikato Times