Residents of Mt Albert and Waterview in Auckland are preparing for battle to save hundreds of homes and hectares of green space from road-building bulldozers.
"They're not going to destroy the whole of Oakley Creek by chucking a motorway down it," said Avondale Community Board chairman and business association leader Duncan McDonald last night.
"They won't get a motorway - the people will lay down in front of the bulldozers.
"We'll put this on websites showing all the greenies around the world what they intend to do to Oakley Creek."
The Government announced yesterday it would ditch a Labour Government plan for twin tunnels since costed at $2.55 billion.
An alternative route for the 4.5km motorway, to be announced today, will probably require the demolition of at least 300 homes, against the 160 that would have to be cleared around tunnel portals.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce said officials had found that the final motorway link needed for the 48km western ring route could be built for between $820 million and $1.17 billion by scaling back the project so it could be paid for from the national land transport fund of fuel taxes and motor licence fees.
That would avoid spending $550 million on debt-financing, which would be needed for borrowing outside the fund to build the tunnels.
A further $240 million will be spent on widening and raising the adjoining Northwestern Motorway's sinking causeway to cope with extra traffic between Waterview and the Rosebank Peninsula.
Mr Joyce said the Transport Agency had come up with three alternatives to tunnels, and would notify all affected residents of its preference today.
The cheapest was for a surface motorway, which he said the Government would "struggle with", and the others would have "varying levels of undergrounding".
He would not reveal more, but said the surface route was the only new alignment and officials had looked at the other two before the tunnels proposal emerged last year in response to community opposition.
The former Transit NZ produced two options in 2003, running on each side of Oakley Creek.
Mr Joyce said that although he regretted the added uncertainty for residents, the agency had been quite inventive in proposing a generous level of community mitigation measures.
Asked how the motorway would affect National candidate Melissa Lee's chances of winning the Mt Albert by-election, he said the Government had to act responsibly on behalf of the entire country.
"We wouldn't be prepared to spend $1.5 billion to buy a by-election - it would be completely irresponsible."
He expected the national significance of the road would trigger a deadline of nine months for processing resource consents, enabling a possible construction start in 2011 for a project likely to take four years.
Mr McDonald said that would make the motorway a wider issue for Aucklanders in the 2011 election campaign.
"We would prefer that if the Government wants to save some money, then don't build the bloody thing at all."
Waterview resident Margi Watson said that far from the good infrastructure promised by Prime Minister John Key, National was preparing to leave her community with "an awful legacy".
Eden Albert Community Board deputy chairman Phil Chase said the tunnels proposal followed many years of community consultation, and Mr Key was "acting like Robert Mugabe".
Friends of Oakley Creek representative Wendy John said the motorway would reduce the stream's wildlife habitat and replace birdsong with traffic noise and fumes.
But the Automobile Association said motorists would be delighted to drive along the entire ring route without tolls. It commended the Government for guaranteeing the money for the final link needed so the ring route could give the country economic benefits of $840 million a year.
* What the residents think
Residents of Phyllis St, Mt Albert, give their reaction to the Government's decision to can plans for a Waterview motorway tunnel to complete Auckland's Western Ring Route:
"Bastards. They're a bunch of no-hopes - rats. I've been here 23 years. I inherited this place from my father. My old man bought it [and] he died here - I thought I was going to die here too. The tunnel sounded all right, but this - where the hell am I going to go now? Nobody's come to talk to me - it's just things that have come through the mail. I didn't think for a minute that it would come to this. I don't feel like moving - this is my home - and now they're going to go right through. What are they thinking?"
"If they change the plan to a motorway and not a tunnel, it's not good. I'm angry because it's no good for this area - too noisy, going to be too many cars through here.
"It's very close to us - I think all the residents are not happy. I will object. I have been here for 10 years."
"I'm not having it. We spent years working hard on this place, I'm furious. We can't have a bloody great motorway through there. They're talking about these houses. They are not houses - they are our homes! There's a play centre on our street and ... other schools in the area - all the fumes will be horrendous for those children."
"It'll be pointless to put a motorway in. There'll still be loads of cars coming through - it's not going to do anything. Underneath would be better - and it would be safer to be underneath. So many people use the park [behind] - kids walking through to go to the college and kids playing sport every Saturday. It's not fair."