Auckland Transport did not front a public meeting about safety improvement in St Heliers last night partly out of fear for the safety of staff.
More than 600 locals, many of them elderly, overflowed from two meeting rooms at the St Heliers Community Centre and booed when they heard AT had turned down an invitation to attend and explain itself.
In an email to the chairs of the St Heliers business and residents associations on Sunday, AT chief executive Shane Ellison said he was aware of comments about the crowd being "hostile", saying he had "a duty of care to the wellbeing of AT's employees".
Ellison was also concerned about some of the behaviour AT experienced at a drop-in day at St Heliers Library, disappointment at the issue being referred to the media and a "shop window" campaign in and around the area.
Campaign notices in shop windows read "Save our Village Before AT Ruin It!!" and listed the email address for Ellison and mayor Phil Goff to send feedback to.
"In light of all these factors we don't believe there is anything to gain in AT having its people attending the meeting," the email from Ellison said.
Tamaki MP Simon O'Connor said AT should not be implying the people of St Heliers are thugs and to be pushed around.
He said its failure to turn up was an affront to locals and to democracy, saying AT is accountable to the people and should front the community.
Last night's meeting overwhelmingly opposed AT's plans to increase the number of raised zebra pedestrian crossings in the seaside suburb from three to 15, build a new traffic island, widen part of Tamaki Drive and remove 40 car parks to improve safety.
Peter Jones, the chairman of the St Heliers Business Association, said the loss of 40 car parks represented 19 per cent of the 250 car parks in the village and caused serious problems for businesses competing with the Eastridge and Sylvia Park shopping centres.
Ayush Madeshia, who runs a small fruit and vegetable shop, yesterday told the Herald the loss of 40 car parks could see his small fruit and vegetable business go under.
One man at the meeting said every car park in the village is worth $200 an hour to local restaurants. That meant $8000 a week or $3 million a year being sucked out of restaurants.
Jones urged the restless crowd, one of whom suggested bombarding AT with phone calls, to work with AT to improve St Heliers in a way that benefited everyone.
One young man got up to speak in favour of the changes, saying he did not want to be living with the consequences of being hit by a car in future.
"To solve a problem, you have to have a problem," said Orakei councillor Desley Simpson, who said she could not see how 12 new raised pedestrians crossings could have solved three serious crashes in St Heliers over a five-year period.
"In my opinion they [AT] are not behaving in the manner that as ratepayers and residents of this region we believe they should," she said.
In a statement to the Herald yesterday, an AT spokesman said the changes for St Heliers were to make it safer for people walking, riding bikes and driving.
"There needs to be an easier way to connect the sea front with the town centres and we are proposing new zebra crossings to make it safer for people to get to their destinations around the centres more safely," he said.
He said AT is working closely with the community around their parking concerns, saying parking restrictions could be introduced to prevent all-day parking and allow a better turnover of parking for those wishing to visit the centres and their amenities.
AT said that between 2013 and 2017 there have been 39 reported crashes which have resulted in three serious injuries and seven minor casualties. The crashes involved four pedestrians, three cyclists, one motorcyclist and one moped rider.