Highway robs Phillip of beach view

By Michele McPherson


Phillip Knight grew up on the Mount Maunganui beach _ now he's raising a family in a three-bedroom apartment beside the coast in Hitachi.
But all is not well - a two-lane expressway is being built on the beach where he takes his wife Akemi and two children for swims, barbecues and volleyball.
Mr Knight has watched the new highway snake along the central Hamanomiya Beach for the past two years.
The road is being built 12m above ground so big waves caused by typhoons don't wash away the motorists.
Mr Knight, who moved to Japan as an English teacher 15 years ago, has seen seen thousands of bags of stone chips dumped on the beach to form the base of the highway in Tauranga's sister city. He's not impressed by the series of concrete pylons built in front of his apartment to hold up the road.
"All the residents around here were pretty appalled at what was happening," he said. "Having grown up on the beach myself, I wanted my kids to do the same but we can't now. They have taken our beach away and there was not much we could do about it."
The 5km coastal highway will ease traffic jams on the tight Hitachi streets - a familiar story for Tauranga motorists.
There's no Resource Management Act in Japan, and certainly not the same degree of consultation that New Zealanders have become used to.
As Mr Knight put it, Kiwis don't know how lucky they are when it comes to preserving their environment. There were no public meetings that he was made aware of and the roading project just seemed to happen.
But the disruption isn't enough to make them leave. Mr Knight and his family are scouting around to buy a 100sq m home, which will take up nearly all the section.

It will be two levels with three bedrooms at the top and two living areas at the bottom and they expect to pay around 25 million ($350,000).
They need to save 5 million, or a 20 per cent deposit, to qualify for a mortgage and Mr Knight estimated he was two years away from buying.
Mr Knight, who has a Masters in Psychology from Waikato University, first arrived in Hitachi in 1987 on the Japanese English teaching programme. He taught junior high school and elementary school students.
After a year he returned to Tauranga and worked in the Labour Department running Access job courses. But he found he missed Japan.
``I didn't realise how at-home I felt (in Japan) until I left and arrived back in New Zealand,'' he said.
He went back in 1990 and worked for the International Education Research and Analysis Corporation (Interac) in Hitachi, running courses on English and presentation skills for company workers.
He and Akemi married nine years ago and they have two children - Hiromu, 7, and Reina, 5. Mr Knight is assistant manager of the Hitachi branch of Interac, recruiting teachers from around the world, including New Zealand.
Mr Knight lived in Tauranga for 16 years and attended Mount Maunganui College. He has been back to witness the dramatic change the city has undergone.
"I remember the place when we were kids - getting around on bikes and having a really good lifestyle at the beach.
"Everyone knew each other; now it's over-commercialised and has lost its community focus.
"There's been too much investment for my liking - people are buying properties but don't live there. That doesn't happen in Japan. When you buy a home, it's kept in the family,'' he said.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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