A "public exorcism" to rid Auckland once and for all of the eastern highway failed last night when Auckland City councillors voted 7-5 to keep the transport designation over the route.
On the one hand the vote was a disappointment for Action Hobson councillors Richard Simpson and Christine Caughey who, in the words of Mr Simpson, said the issue was "like a bad breath over the city - we have to go through a public exorcism".
On the other hand, it was a public relations success for the two councillors - who were elected on an anti-highway ticket - and created a platform to argue for a rail-based transport solution from Glen Innes to the city in the run-up to next year's local body elections.
The vote to begin consultation on removing the designation also came close to being passed when Labour councillor John Hinchcliff said he had heard some convincing arguments to lift the designation.
But it was necessary to "cut through all the passion" and focus on finding transport solutions for the eastern transport corridor instead of focusing on lifting the designation, he said.
Had Dr Hinchcliff swung the other way, the vote would have been tied and Mr Simpson would have had the casting vote.
Ms Caughey said the recommendations were about investigating a range of public transport options between Glen Innes and the city in consultation with the Auckland Regional Transport Authority and other interested groups before looking at the possible removal of the transport designation.
She said there had been considerable misrepresentation of the issues and scaremongering by the roading lobby to promote its view of more roads, tarmac and jobs for Auckland.
"The final act must be a review of the designation to unlock the future of this area. It will never be unlocked with more roads," Ms Caughey said.
Deputy Mayor and City Vision leader Bruce Hucker said to remove the designation would actually reduce public transport options in the corridor, including a third and fourth railway line and cycling and rail options.
One of four lobby group representatives to address the packed meeting, Bevan Woodward, of Cycle Action Auckland, said transport plans for the corridor would allow a motorway to "creep forward" under another name.
Stephen Selwood, of the Council for Infrastructure Development, said that time and again professional advice to the council had stressed the importance of keeping the transport designation.
THE VOTE FOR
Richard Simpson, Christine Caughey, Leila Boyle, Glenda Fryer, Richard Northey.
Dick Hubbard, Bruce Hucker, Doug Armstrong, Toni Millar, John Hinchcliff, Bill Christian, Penny Sefuiva.By Bernard Orsman @BernardOrsman Email Bernard