Mahurangi may need to take one for the team

by | 29 Jul 2010 | Motorway | 0 comments

It is clearly working.

Rock platform

Seeing the Back of Them: Rock platforms patiently carved out over geological time will be drowned and will not even begin to be formed again until the sea level stabilises. photographer Max Cumming Mahurangi Regatta 2006

Expectations for increased property demand at Mahurangi West have been dashed.

In line with the growth objectives of the district and regional plans, the NZ Transport Agency signalled that there would be no access to the planned motorway between Ōrewa and Warkworth. The energetic reaction to this announcement is, in part, a concern for the potential negative effect on property value.

But while being bypassed a motorway extension would help protect the harbourscape, Mahurangi’s gain would be short-term.

In the medium term, anthropogenic global warming will not be kind to the Mahurangi landscape. Sea level rise will inundate the few sandy beaches it boasts. Accelerated coastal erosion will transform shoreline into a battlefront of dead and dying trees, and mudslides. The catchment will alternatively be raked with rainstorms and scorched dry. The increase in sediment generation will see the harbour muddier, much of the time.

Long term, broad rock platforms will again be cut and beaches will form. But in the meantime, an unknowable number of generations of children will never experience the riches of mature coastlines.

All this means that lovers of its harbourscape should not wish for a ‘clean’ motorway to channel pressure past the Mahurangi. Better that motorway construction stops at Pūhoi, and that other means are deployed to protect the landscape.

A decade and a half ago, with its plans labelled ‘Albany to Pūhoi Motorway Project’, the former Transit New Zealand created the clear expectation of on-going motorway access at Pūhoi. By suddenly signalling that this access might cease, the transport agency has precipitated an unprecedentedly outraged, and often vitriolic, community backlash.

This widespread outburst has made it extremely uncomfortable for members of the community to express strong and long-held concerns for growth pressure—classic ‘if you are not for us, you are against us’ polarisation.

A manifestation of this is the exclusion, so far, of a community representative to address ‘other than pro-access’ issues, at tomorrow’s meeting between the agency, the community and the councils.

When the news broke that the transport agency planned to provide no local access when it extended the motorway northward, the Mahurangi Magazine suggested that life on the coast road would be kind to Pūhoi and Mahurangi West communities and landscape—that Mahurangi might have dodged a bullet.

Much more critical though, that the planet dodges a bullet. Fossil-fueled infrastructure is yesterday’s failed solution; contributing to global warming is not the way to protect the harbourscape…

Mahurangi may need to take one for the team.

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