Legal threat over highway

Nelson businessman Tom Sturgess is threatening legal action against the Nelson City Council and NZ Transport Agency over their plans for Rocks Rd-Wakefield Quay.

Sturgess, named in the National Business Review's rich list this week as having diverse interests totalling $280 million, lives on Wakefield Quay and is concerned about the redevelopment concepts rolled out by the council and transport agency (NZTA).

He has taken issue with the consultation process and the second option in particular, calling it unsafe and devaluing to businesses and properties along the road.

"What feels uncomfortable to me is that 70 residents of Nelson, the people along Rocks Rd, find out in a newspaper opinion poll that there is going to be an option that will make their houses not habitable, or if they are habitable they will be worth 25 to 40 per cent less than they were before, and some small businesses will be bankrupted.

"To call it callous and unfeeling would be charitable," he said of the process.

Concept two proposes the removal of 83 car parks along the road with the majority between Poynters Cres and Richardson St. Cycle lanes on both sides would disappear to be replaced by a four-metre shared pedestrian and cycle pathway on the seaward side.

Sturgess suspected option one with on-road cycle lanes, less car park loss, and a wider footpath could be viable and safe if it was "worked and worked and worked", but option two was a "dead duck" he would fight in the courts if he had to.

If selected, option two would have "dire economic consequences" for "the carrot of a cycleway" and this did not feel fair or right to him, said Sturgess.

He said the removal of car parks would leave visitors parking 1-1.5 kilometres away and vehicles backing out of properties straight on to the highway and oncoming traffic.

The NZTA had acted "unreasonably", Sturgess said, by putting forward an unsafe solution with narrow carriageways and potential for truck side-mirrors to overhang into pedestrian and cyclists' areas.

He was also worried about the loss of value on properties and had hired an evaluation firm to calculate the potential loss.

"Yes we want approved amenities on Rocks Rd, but we don't want it at the expense of the safety of our people, or an inappropriate amount of sacrifice from the residents," he said.

Wakefield House owner and operator Woodi Moore said the loss of car parks proposed in the second concept would spell the end of the accommodation business she and her husband had invested in along the route.

"We've worked really hard to maintain a heritage house and every four years something comes along that says they are going to take parking away or do something crazy. It just gets a bit exhausting, to be honest," she said.

Moore would prefer the road to stay as is until the Southern Link was built relieving pressure on the coastal route.

Sturgess was financially backing the Nelson Waterfront Association, rallying neighbours and using publicity to raise awareness.

The Nelson Waterfront Association shared Sturgess' concerns and has sent out 4000 fliers on the matter.

The association also disputes the logic of the proposed height of the relocated chains in both concepts, where they will be raised on to a 530mm concrete plinth, about 200mm higher than where they now sit.

Deputy Mayor Paul Matheson said he had talked to Sturgess and encouraged him to put forward his concerns through the consultation process.

"There are a lot of options - it could be option one or two or a combination of them both," he said. "At the end of the day everyone might say they don't like any of them. It's so early in the process."

Matheson said the council had followed the correct process looking at all options, deciding what the most viable choices were, then putting these out for public feedback.

NZTA regional planning and investment manager Lyndon Hammond said public feedback was welcome.

"The whole point of public consultation is to ensure that the community gets a voice, and that any concerns or potential enhancements can be picked up early in the process and therefore inform the development of the project," he said.

"As the road controlling authority and co-investor in the project, safety is a huge priority to us.

"There is absolutely no question that safety will be a fundamental consideration in any decisions that are made."

The Nelson Mail