Truckies, greenies and Nimbys get the chance to have a say on a major road through Auckland's industrial belt when a board of inquiry starts tomorrow.
The east-west link, a new four-lane road connecting State Highway 1 at Sylvia Park to State Highway 16 at Onehunga, is costed at between $1.25 billion and $1.85b.
It rivals the $1.4b Waterview tunnel in cost and, like that project, is being fast-tracked through a board of inquiry as one of the Government's roads of national significance.
If we get this wrong we will be living with the consequences for the next 100 years
As the road builder, the NZ Transport Agency will spend the first three days making an "opening statement", while supporters like the National Road Carriers and opponents like the Onehunga Enhancement Society wait their turn.
The proposal, along the northern edge of the Mangere Inlet in Manukau Harbour and the industrial belt of Penrose, Te Papapa and Onehunga, involves 18.4ha of reclamation and a major interchange at the Onehunga end.
It will see State Highway 1 widened from three to four lanes between Mt Wellington Highway and Princes St to increase capacity to allow for the new connection, and a pedestrian and cycling link between the old Mangere Bridge and Onehunga through to Sylvia Park Town Centre.
NZTA's Auckland highway manager Brett Gliddon says the manufacturing and industrial hub of Onehunga and Penrose is waiting with bated breath for the east-west link - a key to the global marketplace in an area that employs 68,000 people and contributes $4.6b a year to Auckland's economy.
Jim Jackson, of The Onehunga Enhancement Society (TOES), says "if we get this wrong we will be living with the consequences for the next 100 years". Jackson and the Onehunga community believe the proposal will separate the Ports of Onehunga from Onehunga Mall and new railway station. TOES has come up with its own community plan to overcome gridlock on local roads and improve access to the waterfront.
Another point of contention is the business case for the project, with the Green Party's Julie Anne Genter saying a $200m to $800m increase in cost at the beginning of 2016 cast doubt on the Government's figure of $1.90 benefit for $1 spent. Genter believes the costs may now outweigh the benefits, although the Government and NZTA are sticking by their figures.
The board of inquiry, chaired by retired High Court Judge Dr John Priestley, is set to run until August 25.
The board will release a draft decision on October 9. Following comments from submitters restricted to minor or technical matters, the board is due to make a final decision on November 22.
Construction is expected to begin late next year and be completed by 2025.