Eastern highway route likely to escape political 'exorcism'

By Bernard Orsman

City Vision and Labour councillors look set to line up with their rival Citizens & Ratepayers Now colleagues today to keep the transport designation over the route of the ill-fated eastern highway.

A call to lift the designation north of Glen Innes by transport committee chairman Richard Simpson, who was elected with fellow Action Hobson councillor Christine Caughey on an anti-highway ticket, goes to a special meeting of the transport committee.

But it appears Mr Simpson's call for a "public exorcism" to rid Auckland of the spectre of the eastern highway once and for all has failed to attract crucial support from the six City Vision and Labour councillors on the committee.

The council abandoned former Mayor John Banks' plans for an eastern highway soon after the 2004 local body elections but opted to "protect" the transport designation between Glen Innes and the city for future transport use.

City Vision leader and deputy mayor Dr Bruce Hucker yesterday said the "consultative group" of City Vision, Labour, independent councillor Bill Christian and Mayor Dick Hubbard would discuss the matter before the committee meeting but he believed it would be "absolutely foolish" to lift the designation in the face of rapid growth.

The Tamaki Edge suburbs from Glen Innes to Sylvia Park are expected to get another 30,000 residents and 10,000 jobs by 2015 from projects like a new housing suburb on the Mt Wellington quarry and expansion of the Auckland University Tamaki campus.

Mayor Dick Hubbard said he would be voting to keep the designation, saying the council should not cut off options for future generations.

Auckland Regional Transport Authority chief executive Alan Thompson said he understood the election issue to abandon the eastern highway but there was still the transport problems to be addressed with a strong public transport component.

Mr Thompson has written to the council, saying more work should be done on the transport solutions before any decisions are taken to remove part of the eastern transport corridor.

An officers' report to the committee has recommended that the council spend $1.2 million on design work on arterial road improvements between Glen Innes and State Highway 1 to the south. That is in addition to the Auckland and Manukau councils defining a new arterial route from Pakuranga to Panmure at a cost of $1 million.

C&R Now councillor Doug Armstrong said City Vision/Labour would be doing the responsible thing by voting to keep the designation, leaving the "single-issue Action Hobson party ... up the creek without a paddle".

Mr Armstrong said C&R Now accepted the eastern highway was a dead duck.

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