Govt offers three new options for Waterview connection

The Government today faced accusations of choosing a cheap, second-best option after it canned the plan for a motorway tunnel through Mt Albert to complete Auckland's Western Ring Route.

The alternatives will save about $1.5 billion but will probably cost National votes in the June 13 by-election because of the number of houses that will have to be demolished.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce announced the Government had given the Transport Agency three options costing between $1 billion and $1.4 billion.

Mr Joyce said the previous government's preference for a tunnel affecting fewer households was too expensive at between $2.7b and $3.1b.

The cheapest alternative option is all above ground and the other two are a mixture of road and tunnel.

Labour's candidate, David Shearer, said the decision to go for "inferior options" was "a kick in the guts" for the people of Mt Albert.

He said the decision had effectively sidelined National's candidate, Melissa Lee.

"There is overwhelming support among Mt Albert people for a tunnel," he said.

"This is a second class solution for a first class city."

Green Party candidate Russel Norman said the Government was going to bulldoze a motorway through the electorate.

"It is 1950s dinosaur thinking to hammer a motorway through the heart of a residential area," he said.

Dr Norman raised the issue in Parliament, saying the Government's options would affect poor people in Mt Albert.

"We're not putting this motorway through the richest area - it's not King's College they're going to put a motorway through - it's going to be Waterview Primary School, it's a decile two school," he said.

ACT's candidate, John Boscawen, welcomed the Government's announcement and said a tunnel would have been an extravagance the country could not afford.

Mr Boscawen is proposing his own alternative road route which he says will minimise the impact on residents.

The Transport Agency was deciding today which option to take and then immediately get in touch with about 240 residents whose houses will be knocked down.

Tomorrow the agency will announce the decision and the process to begin construction in 2011 and complete within four years.

Mr Joyce said the path of the three different routes were different, but they all broadly followed the current Waterview alignment.

He said the lowest cost option was all above ground and the other two options had varying levels of "undergrounding", either by tunnelling or using cut and cover methods.

Whichever option was taken about the same number of houses - around 240 - would be affected but they are not necessarily the same houses.

The by-election is being held to fill the seat left vacant by former prime minister Helen Clark.

It is a safe Labour seat - the party has held it since it was created 63 years ago - and the Government's decision to scrap the tunnel option is likely to improve Mr Shearer's vote.

- NZPA

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