Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Rail loop: Letter stuns homeowners

Ben Basevi. Photo / Natalie Slade
Ben Basevi. Photo / Natalie Slade

Auckland's plans for a $2.8 billion rail loop may affect dozens of locations eyed for demolition. Here's some of the stories of those in the gun.

1. MERCURY LANE

Auckland inner-city resident Benjamin Basevi had bought double-glazing, a $30,000 designer kitchen, insulation, had nearly finished interior painting and was about to start on the upper-level deck at his townhouse.

Then he got a letter from Claire Stewart, Auckland Transport's City Rail Link (CRL) project director, telling him his building may have to be demolished. The notice left him stunned.

On July 1, she wrote to say the property he and his wife own is in the way of the $2.8 billion underground loop.

"The property you occupy has been identified as being affected as it is within the land footprint required by CRL," Ms Stewart wrote.

"Auckland Transport is proposing to designate the route and your property has been identified as one that will be directly affected by the designation and may require purchase in the future."

The 3.5km tunnel's route is from Britomart to Karangahape Rd, where there will be a station, then across to Mt Eden.

Mr Basevi, an Auckland Hospital duty manager, said he and his wife would go reluctantly. "We bought it for $400,000 two years ago but I've spent about $100,000 on it and the CV's now only $350,000," he says, wondering what price will be offered.

The rail project could affect an estimated 280 properties.

"It will be more difficult for people who have businesses. They'll be losing their livelihoods," Mr Basevi says.

He has examined the Public Works Act 1981 and Land Information New Zealand's land owners' rights documents, and wonders how others are reacting to their letters but is also keen to know precisely why his townhouse, right beside the historic Mercury Theatre in Newton, will be needed.

"Maybe a shaft or for storing construction gear. I don't know."

Mr Basevi, 52, says he does not want to be a difficult owner and is willing to negotiate.

"But we were planning to be here long-term. We thought we'd get the benefits of all the work and that's the most disappointing thing."

Sara Cairney, of Auckland Transport, said the Karangahape Rd station would need ventilation shafts and emergency escape provisions at each end. Construction sites would be close to these shafts. Platforms would span under Karangahape Rd.

"These shafts are envisaged in Beresford St and off Mercury Lane, roughly opposite Cross St," she said.

2. NEW NORTH RD

A gathering place for Chinese people is in the way of the loop project.

Arthur Loo, chairman of the Auckland Chinese Community Centre, said a $2.7 million property at 1 New North Rd was identified as being on the route.

Mr Loo said the centre was important to the community.

It was used as a pre-school and for offices, language classes, chess games, song and dance lessons, gatherings and meetings.

Part of the large property is leased as a cafe.

Mr Loo's main concern is where the centre would shift to - its location near the intersection of Symonds St and Mt Eden Rd was ideal.

"It would be disruptive. The biggest issue is to find a comparable replacement property that we could afford and that's in the right location," he said.

The centre's committee met last week after receiving a letter from Auckland Transport and agreed to wait to see what happened next.

However, Mr Loo said that for the rail loop to be built, properties would be needed and he believed the site might be needed for a station.

"It's disconcerting but if it goes ahead, we have to accept it," he said.

Auckland Transport said its planned Newton Station would be at the intersection of Mt Eden Rd and New North Rd. At this point, the line will be at its deepest - about 42m below ground.

On July 1, Claire Stewart, CRL project director, wrote to 400 owners in 280 properties informing them that contact was being established because the route was being designated.

Auckland Transport hopes to start property purchases in 2014, ready for a five-year construction programme to begin in 2015.

3. TAWARI STREET

The developer of Tawari Mews is gutted the block is facing demolition for Auckland's rail loop project.

Brian Hughes, of Hughes Construction, said he was stunned to hear about the fate of the new 24-unit apartment block in Mt Eden.

"From our point of view, we are absolutely gutted. We put a huge amount of effort into trying to comply with exactly what the council wanted, and going out of our way to do a good job for people.

"And I feel that [after] a huge amount of effort over several years, the rug has been pulled out from underneath it," said Mr Hughes.

Auckland Transport has written to Tawari Mews' owners, saying the property is on the designated rail route.

Carole Greensmith, a spokeswoman, said it would not have been possible to halt the apartments without getting a land designation.

Mr Hughes said he took huge pride in work on the $10.5 million property and he was at a loss to understand how the whole situation had come to this.

"It's been a week since I found out about it. We're still trying to get our heads around it and understand it, and we're not marketing and selling apartments any more," he said.

The most expensive apartment sold there fetched about $480,000 and conditional contracts had been struck on the final two units, he said.

HAVE YOUR SAY

Have you received a rail loop letter? Email Anne Gibson on the link below.

- NZ Herald

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