Transport leaders want Transit to be more flexible

By Mathew Dearnaley

Auckland transport leaders are calling on Transit New Zealand to be less heavy-handed in curbing land development near state highways.

The Auckland Regional Land Transport Committee has approved a submission expressing concern that the roading agency had become over-zealous in protecting state highways at the expense of other community objectives.

While welcoming in principle a new involvement by Transit in planning processes, the submission says there is concern that it has "gone too far" in protecting one element of the transport system over others.

Transit says a proposed supplement to its planning policy manual reflects its new statutory obligation to manage the state highway network as a key component of the transport system, a departure from its traditional role simply to build roads as traffic volumes rise.

This means managing demand to moderate the need for new roads, and keeping an eye on land use developments which may cause more traffic.

The agency says state highways are the backbone of the land transport system, which require a high degree of protection to ensure their continuing contribution to economic development and social and environmental well-being.

It says it is keen to become involved at the beginning of planning proposals "to ensure the development of integrated land use and transport solutions."

But the transport committee submission, which has also been adopted by the Auckland Regional Council, says state highways also function as links within the region and local townships, and that Transit should be more sensitive to community needs.

"Transit's present policy application is not reflective of sustainable and integrated land use and transport planning, but rather is reflective of a narrow and unsustainable view of state highway throughput," the submission says.

It notes that in Rodney District, almost every significant community depends on or is bisected by a state highway.

"Virtually every community is experiencing substantial growth pressures at the same time," it says.

The submission says state highways occupy scarce land, and Transit should in some cases be prepared to retrofit noise barriers to support optimal use.

"It is not reasonable for Transit to pass all costs of change and growth to surrounding land uses on the grounds that the road was there first."

Transit has upset community leaders in Warkworth, for example, by blocking a $90 million plan for a shopping centre and retirement village for fear it would pour too much traffic on to a congested section of State Highway 1 running through the town.

The Rodney Economic Development Trust says Transit's assumption that such proposals would overload existing highways ignores their potential to create local employment and reduce the need for residents to travel long distances to work by road.

North Shore City's representative on the regional transport committee, Julia Parfitt, said Transit should support the development of agreed growth centres such as the Albany basin rather than lodge expensive appeals with the Environment Court.

"We are battling one another and wasting resources that could be used for promoting the national highway network."

Transit regional manager Richard Hancy confirmed outside the meeting that his organisation had lodged an appeal against the Albany blueprint, but said this was simply to ensure the adequate infrastructure was provided. He shared Mrs Parfitt's hope for an out-of-court settlement.

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