Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Transport chief promises 'blood in the street' if tower is built on school side of road

Mike Lee. File photo / Brett Phibbs
Mike Lee. File photo / Brett Phibbs

Blood will flow in the street if a controversial plan to move a ventilation tower on the $2 billion Waterview motorway project proceeds, says Auckland Council transport committee chairman Mike Lee.

The transport committee yesterday joined the Albert-Eden Local Board in opposing a proposal by the Transport Agency and its contractors to build the 15m tower on the Waterview Primary School side of Great North Rd.

Mr Lee said the "little people" had an upset victory when the board of inquiry into the project approved building the tower on the other side of Great North Rd to the school.

"If there was a blatant reversal of the board of inquiry's decision in favour of the community, it will be more than problematic and blood will flow in the street," he said.

The committee recommended the agency comply with the decision of the board of inquiry in relation to the location of the ventilation tower.

This followed a presentation from an alliance that includes the Transport Agency to build twin 2.4km tunnels along the 4.5km State Highway 20 motorway extension.

Last night, agency regional director Stephen Town said three workshops on moving the tower were proceeding this month, which agency officials yesterday acknowledged was an "extremely sensitive" issue.

Mr Town said if the community and the alliance wanted to proceed, the alliance would go back to the Auckland Council as a partner in the project.

He said one reason for wanting to move the tower was value for money, but did not know much could be saved, other than multimillions of dollars. Value for money was not defined as the cheapest solution, he said, but about a solution that delivered benefits during and after construction.

Gez Johns, an agency official and alliance spokesman, told the transport committee that at the time of the board of inquiry it was believed to be too difficult to bore under Great North Rd, but new technology meant it would now be bored.

That has given the alliance the opportunity to build the tower on the school side, but further north than earlier proposed, to avoid cutting a disruptive trench through the busy arterial road.

Mr Johns said as well as avoiding disruption, moving the tower would have potential visual and environmental benefits for the Waterview community.

Councillor Cathy Casey accused the agency of being underhand and dishonest in wanting to shift the tower back to the school side and berated council officers for collusion in the process.

Margi Watson, the deputy chairwoman of the Albert-Eden board, said it was not acceptable to move the stack back into the face of the Waterview community, right in front of the primary school.

She said the board of inquiry had reached a balanced decision for the community and the environment following nine months of hearings, part of which the agency wanted to overturn.

Ms Watson said the agency should get on with the green light to build the project without messing around with the community.

VENTING ON STACK
* It had been proposed the 15m ventilation tower be built on the Waterview Primary School side of Great North Rd.
* A board of inquiry has approved building the tower on the other side of Great North Rd.
* The city's transport committee also opposes building the tower on the school side of the thoroughfare.
* The Waterview motorway project will cost $2 billion.

- NZ Herald

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