Motorway threat to 'beautiful community'

By Mathew Dearnaley

Pani Taiapa moved to her Waterview home from Henderson four years ago because it was just across the road from a school and kindergarten for her two young children - and handy to Auckland's Northwestern Motorway.

She became part of a close-knit community of Housing NZ tenants, and immersed herself in the life of the kindergarten and Waterview Primary School as Brodie and Anita - now aged 6 and 4 - joined their junior classes.

But the trio have found themselves casualties of Aucklanders' appetite for more motorways, as their home is one of 160 that Transit NZ announced on Friday are likely to be demolished if it digs a $1.89 billion set of twin two-lane tunnels between Mt Roskill and Waterview.

Transit and the Government say the bored tunnels - running for 3.2km, and 20m to 40m deep - will cause far less social and environmental disruption than an earlier proposal to run a covered trench for up to 90,000 vehicles a day through the sensitive Oakley Creek catchment.

They say a trench would have meant destroying at least 300 more homes, while costing between $1.7 billion and $2 billion, once a new 4.5km motorway section opens in 2015 as the final link in Auckland's 48km western bypass.

But their words are little comfort to Ms Taiapa and her neighbours in Herdman St off Great North Rd.

They face eviction next year if Transit confirms its route preference in April, before seeking a notice of requirement giving it compulsory property acquisition rights.

Although Housing NZ has promised to try to find new homes suitable for all residents of the more than 100 of its properties likely to be demolished around the tunnel's two portals, both in Waterview and near the intersection of Richardson and Stoddard Rds in Owairaka, she is dreading having to make a fresh start elsewhere.

"Nobody is happy about it - we have got a beautiful community - some people are pretty emotional," Ms Taiapa said.

"We are a small community and we all look after each other. Our kids can ride down the road and every second house knows them and keeps an eye on them.

"We are all very close-knit and I am involved with the school and kindy, and coach the t-ball team."

One man called over her fence: "If they kick us out of our houses, we'll have to sleep in the tunnel."

Waterview Primary principal Brett Skeen expects to lose up to 22 of his 140 pupils from homes in the path of the motorway, and he is worried about noise and air pollution from tunnel portals just across Herdman St from the school grounds.

He said the kindergarten was only about 200m from where traffic would enter and emerge from the tunnels in the middle of Waterview Reserve and its well-used sports ground.

Although Transit principal project manager Clive Fuhr says venting towers at each end of the tunnels will pump vehicle exhaust fumes high into the atmosphere, Mr Skeen is waiting for the agency to spell out other mitigation measures.

Peter McCurdy and his partner Robyn Mason, facing eviction with their son from a home overlooking bush and the remnants of a 19th century flour mill around the mouth of Oakley Creek in Cowley St, are furious Transit is claiming environmental credit for tunnels.

"They say they will protect the creek but there will be four road crossings coming through here," said Mr McCurdy, pointing to a dense stand of bush above which motorway ramps will converge from two directions between the tunnels and the Northwestern Motorway.

Ms Mason said rising oil costs and global warming would make such a project "an environmental outrage and egregious waste of money" when funds were sorely needed for public transport.

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