"I want you to know that what we are feeling is beyond anger." The delivery was steady but there was no mistaking the anguish in the voice.
Angela Turrall of Onehunga had a petition to present to the Maungakiekie-Tāmaki Local Board, which was meeting last Tuesday night in extraordinary session.
She spoke brilliantly, presenting tale after tale of heartache and ruin. The council and Government between them was trialling a new way for traffic to flow through the suburb and the effect had been devastating. Many of the complaints related to the pain caused by the extra time it now takes to drive anywhere.
"My mother used to pick up the kids after school," Turrall reported on behalf of one woman. "But she can't get there in time now. So I have to pay for after-school care and my kids and their Nana don't see each other. How is that good?"
Another: "I can't do my commute in time now, so I get to work later and I have to leave earlier. It's costing me $480 a week in lost wages."
Another: "I used to go to the supermarket after work, but I can't do that now because I don't have time. I don't have time to walk my dog or go and see friends. Now I just go home and by the time I get there I'm stuck there."
Commutes were taking half an hour longer, said Turrall, sometimes an hour longer.
She spoke of the woman who had said, "I hate walking on the streets now, because they're too quiet. And I hate walking on the other streets because of all the driver anger."
One woman was 74. "She has been active in the community all her life and she's still working. She gives bikes to kids and to refugees. But the burden of extra travel time on her means she's too tired now. She's scared and she's worried she'll have to give up work. She has no savings and that means, apart from the pension, she'll have no money."
No one could have listened to this testimony and not been moved. It doesn't matter what you think of the merits of the traffic project, these people were hurting. And that's not right.
But why? How is this happening?
The object of that anger is a trial by the board, with Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi, the New Zealand Transport Agency, to close a small number of streets to through traffic. It's called the Arthur Grey Low Traffic Neighbourhood, after two of the streets it affects.
The aim is to stop rat-running by forcing commuters to use the main roads. Smaller suburban streets will be safer for children walking to school and others out and about. The project's advocates want to nudge locals towards the idea that not all of them need to drive as much. And that should reduce carbon emissions.
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are part of Waka Kotahi's Innovating Streets programme, in which the agency pays 90 per cent of the costs of blocking the streets, making them friendlier to non-drivers and promoting the campaign.
The Maungakiekie-Tāmaki Local Board was the first in Auckland to sign up, and will soon be rolling out the same exercise in Glen Innes, which it also covers.
Auckland Transport says its surveys, using the rubber counting strips on the roads, GPS and observation, suggest the LTN has added perhaps 3-6 minutes to a trip through the suburb.
Kathy Errington of the Helen Clark Foundation: "The great thing about low-traffic neighbourhoods - when they are made to work - is that they have benefits beyond emissions reductions … They have been shown to improve air quality, increase physical activity, benefit local business, dramatically reduce road deaths and injuries, reduce street crime, enhance social connectedness, and even extend life-expectancy."
Also, it seems from Arthur Grey, they can produce fury and despair.
Board member Debbie Burrows moved that the trial be cancelled immediately. She lost, 3 votes to 4.
Board member Peter McGlashan moved that the trial be modified to open traffic on one of the streets, and that was passed 4 votes to 3.
McGlashan is the board's Arthur Grey project leader. He's had the job of trying to make it work, which has included trying to help locals understand and building support.
He's been tireless: out on the streets, on Facebook, on emails, explaining and explaining, trying to help people who feel badly affected find ways to overcome that. Ways to not be stuck in traffic.
Does the petition have popular support? It was signed by 1042 people and the meeting was attended by perhaps 150, of whom at least two-thirds seemed opposed to the LTN. Many people there claimed this meant "the majority" of people in Onehunga wanted the trial stopped.
Auckland Transport officials told the meeting that at the start of the project, only one in eight people said they supported it. But in the eight weeks since then they've conducted a rolling survey. The combined toll for that puts the figure at one in three.
That suggests a strong trajectory of growing support. But nobody really knows.
Onehunga has about 10,000 residents aged 15+, which means only 10 per cent of them have signed the petition. That's despite a very vigorous campaign: you'd be hard pressed to find locals who didn't know about this.
But should decisions be weighted more to people who suffer more from something?
McGlashan argues that LTNs do make streets safer and nicer to be in, and we do need to stop driving so much. It's painful, he says, but we need to do it. He's not happy about the pain his kids are going to face in a climate crisis world and he wasn't afraid to say that on the night.
He got booed and catcalled for it, though. In fact, he's been attacked for it at every step.
In the meeting, his opponents really got stuck in. He wasn't impartial, said Turrall, Burrows and some other members of the public, and that meant he had a conflict of interest. He was abused and there was a concerted effort to force him not to vote.
The evidence for his "conflict" was his public record of supporting cycling and other such projects.
But not being impartial is not at all the same as having a conflict of interest. We expect our politicians to be partial: that's why we vote for this one and not that one. We choose them for their views. It's absurd to conflate that with having an improper conflict.
Local woman Janine Randerson spoke up about congestion. "What do we think traffic will be like in Onehunga in the next five years?" she asked. "We're getting lots more houses and lots more cars and it's going to be clogged everywhere. Those who can will have to get out of their cars."
It's true. But what does it mean for the LTN and for those people genuinely affected badly by it? It's no good telling them it's "good for them" or "good for society".
Undoubtedly, some of the complainants are simply unwilling to hear McGlashan and Randerson's message. They don't want to know that we are near the end of the drive-first and drive-everywhere approach to life. Change for them might be painful, but not for long.
And especially not in Onehunga, which has good public transport. Well into the night on Tuesday, the train and buses on several routes were still running.
But many of those complainants have real problems. That was so clear.
The awful thing for them is that the LTN forces them to join main roads that become rivers of traffic in peak times. Most of that traffic is from out of the suburb, the drivers unaware of the call to use their cars less, or uncaring about it, at least for now.
As an LTN supporter at the meeting said, it's not the boxes blocking the streets, it's cars. The enemy of the people who need to drive is not the LTN, it's all those people who don't need to drive but insist on doing it anyway.
How do all those drivers get the message?
An LTN opponent at the meeting said, "To make this work, they should have taken much smaller steps." That makes it easier for everyone to adjust.
But Arthur Grey actually is pretty small.
The same man also said, "This can't work unless it involves the whole transport network."
So how do we do that?
Is traffic – congestion as well as carbon – too big to solve? It can't be. But when small-scale battles like Arthur Grey break out, this is the context: they're part of the difficult process we all have to face, of working out better ways to manage.
McGlashan asked one complainant what she thought they should do to address congestion and the climate crisis? She didn't have an adequate answer. But we can't do nothing.
This column was been amended since originally published.