Former Auckland City Council fans of an eastern highway are battling to keep a transport designation over the route, but deny still wanting to build a motorway across Hobson Bay.

A sudden call for council staff to investigate lifting the designation appeared on the agenda of a transport committee meeting yesterday at the behest of chairman Richard Simpson, who was elected with fellow Action Hobson candidate Christine Caughey on an anti-highway ticket.

The item was deferred for a special committee meeting yet to be scheduled, after strong protests from minority Auckland Citizens and Ratepayers Now councillors, who accused Mr Simpson of abusing council procedure by trying to introduce a raft of late amendments.

"We have a real situation with a chairman out of control," ACRN team leader Scott Milne told the Herald last night.

He accused the Action Hobson team of setting out to potentially "strangle" Auckland by trying to remove the possibility of using the eastern transport corridor north of Glen Innes for future bus or other services, and said it might even be needed for a third railway line.

"We don't know what's going to be required in 20 years," he said.

Meanwhile, he said little provision was being made for the transport needs of 30,000 future new residents of the Tamaki Edge suburbs from Glen Innes to Sylvia Park, including up to 8000 occupants of a housing estate soon to be built in the disused Mt Wellington quarry.

Mr Simpson said earlier that he had circulated his amendments by email on Friday, after becoming concerned about a staff recommendation that the council should start design work on arterial road improvements between Glen Innes and State Highway 1 to the south.

That is in addition to a move for Auckland, with Manukau City Council, to start defining a new arterial route from Pakuranga to Panmure.

Christine Caughey said any major roading improvements north of a designated transport "super-hub" around Panmure, where the council is creating a large park-and-ride area next to where a railway station is being relocated, would undermine public transport growth.

She feared a mooted arterial route between the end of an upgraded Mt Wellington Highway and Pilkington Rd could turn into the first stage of a revived eastern motorway, similar to what was proposed by former mayor John Banks for up to $4 billion.

That would be counter-productive in competing against the Auckland Regional Transport Authority's plans for higher frequency trail services, with feeder buses which she believed should be made available for Mt Wellington quarry residents among others.

Mr Simpson said the spectre of the eastern highway still hung over Auckland and needed eradicating. "It is like a bad breath over the city - we have to go through a public exorcism."

Mr Milne said his team had heeded the voters' strong message in the 2004 local body election that they did not want a highway across Hobson Bay, but that did not mean future options should be pre-empted by removing a decades-old land designation.

He said trains and bicycles did not suit everyone, and believed the message should be "tattooed on Richard Simpson's forehead" that buses needed roads to run along.

The committee also received a report from the Hobson Community Board calling for a feasibility study for a cycleway and pedestrian boardwalk across Hobson Bay, and a scheme assessment to continue the route along the Purewa Creek to St Johns.

But transport official Alan Bufton suggested adding a structure to the rail embankment could threaten stability. Council staff are to investigate.