Bricks and mortar started crumbling on properties in Pakuranga today in preparation for construction of the $1.4b Eastern Busway.
A total of 61 council-owned properties are being removed between the suburbs of Pakuranga and Panmure to make way for the second largest transport project in Auckland currently.
The busway, known as Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (Ameti), was first announced in 2006 - before Auckland Transport existed - but has taken the past 12 years to come to fruition.
When complete it will create a dedicated, congestion-free busway between Panmure, Pakuranga, and Botany town centres - in a similar way to the Northern Busway in Albany.
It will also be supported by three new stations at Panmure, Pakuranga and Botany and include a new flyover connecting Pakuranga Highway and Pakuranga Rd.
This morning, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff visited the demolition site on the corner of Ti Rakau Dr and Pakuranga Rd.
As a digger tore through the roof of the former residential property at 86 Pakuranga Rd, there was little reminder of the previous occupants and lives lived at the address.
Young families and elderly residents were among those evicted from their homes to make way for the new busway.
Earlier in the year, residents of Basin View Lane spoke with the Herald about the tough time they were having looking at new rentals after their eviction.
"We've been to 27 viewings, they are all either too expensive or by the time we get there they've gone," Geoff Kaye said.
"With the way housing is in Auckland it has become increasingly hard to find anything that is within a budget of two people on one income."
Residents were told by letter on June 1 that they must vacate by September 2, having earlier been pre-warned in September 2017 that the vacate notices would be coming.
Auckland Council said it had done its best to help the tenants; by keeping in regular contact and putting them in touch with agencies, such as Housing New Zealand and local real estate agents.
The removal of properties on the northern side of Lagoon Dr and Pakuranga Rd is expected to finish by early next year, to enable the main construction phase to start in March/April 2019.
AT project director Duncan Humphrey said the removal of properties may generate some noise and dust, but allowances had been made with the contractor to minimise this as much as possible.
"This work will significantly increase the visibly of the project for those who live, work and travel through this area," he said.
"While this progress is exciting and will result in vastly improved travel choices, journey times and reliability for East Aucklanders, we appreciate that there will be inconveniences and disruption caused by the removal of properties and imminent construction. We do have plans to minimise these impacts."
Howick's ward councillors welcomed the news that the busway could start construction as early as March.
"It's an exciting milestone," says Councillor Sharon Stewart.
"The community has been hearing and talking about Ameti for more than a decade so it is great to see real progress and momentum on a transformational project that will deliver better transport options, improve safety and allow people to get to where they are going faster."
The construction phase will take approximately two years.
The work will include the widening of Pakuranga Rd to create the Busway, Panmure Roundabout will be turned into a safer signalised intersection, there will be new cycle and walking paths, improved public spaces and reserves, a second bridge across Tamaki River and several intersection upgrades.
When the busway is fully operational, customers will be able to travel between Botany and Britomart, by bus and train, in less than 40 minutes.
Fellow Ward Councillor Paul Young recognises the benefits the congestion-free busway will have for businesses.
"Congestion is having an impact on the logistics and cost of transporting goods for some businesses," he said.
"By providing improved public transport, we reduce the volume of general traffic. Reducing this congestion will benefit businesses and the economy over time so I want to encourage people to focus on the long-term benefits."
• November 2018 - Panmure to Pakuranga construction starts.
• Late 2018 to early 2019 - NoR lodged for Pakuranga to Botany stage.
• Late 2018 - late 2019 - Construction of Panmure busway bridge.
• Late 2018 - late 2020 - Construction of Panmure to Pakuranga busway section.
• 2020 - 2022 - Construction of Reeves Road Flyover.
• 2022 - 2025 - Construction of Pakuranga to Botany busway section; Pakuranga to Botany cycling and walking paths.
• 2026 - Construction starts on Botany Station (completion date TBC).