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Goodbye old motorway, hello new rail

by 17 Aug 2010Cartoons, Motorway0 comments

Mahurangi motorway

Stop the Motorway #2: With rail to Ōrewa on the horizon, the possible suddenly looks probable, and refreshingly sane. cartoon Majorlook Productions

It was an entirely reasonable expectation. That the best features of the constituent local bodies would be melded into the new region‑wide council.

Len Brown’s announcement that he would ‘take onboard the Waitakere eco‑city concept’ may be belated but is a nonetheless welcome introduction of climate action to the Auckland Council election.

Until now, the two contenders had brought little to the campaign but tired left- and right-wing biases. The mood of the electorate meanwhile had been anybody-but-Banks. But Brown’s excruciating self-inflicted wounds ensured that that had become anybody-but-Banks-or-Brown.

Now, by nailing his environmental colours to the mast in flamboyant manner—including rail to Ōrewa—Mr Brown has painted a vibrant and optimistic vision for the future.

Historically, the North Shore has been rail’s monument to missed opportunity. Public transport always struggles when the private car option exists in parallel. This is because the second road congestion eases sufficiently, folk find it all too convenient to slip back into the comfort of their cars. (A variation of this phenomenon ensures a toll motorway won’t materialise at Whangaparāoa—its viability too easily eroded by those who would take advantage of the decongested, and little-longer, original route.)

Where public transport can gain a natural monopoly, such as a rail-only harbour crossing, it is a different story. A similarly strategic opportunity exists north of Ōrewa. Rather than build an unsustainable $2.3‍ ‍billion motorway to Wellsford, rail should be extended to Marsden Point and heavy long-haul transport regulated off the highway.

And in the short term, safety can be put first and the highway between Pūhoi and Wellsford quickly upgraded.

With three days to go until nominations close, it is still possible that a truly exciting and charismatic candidate could materialise. But unless it is Lucy Lawless, it is unlikely that a late candidate could hurt Len Brown’s prospects. Meantime, Waitemata and Gulf candidate Tenby Powell’s threatened mayoral bid presumably still haunts Banks, it certainly should.

To what extent Len Brown’s slowness to embrace the Waitakere vision will smack of desperation remains to be seen. It is to be hoped that most will see it in a sympathetic light—astutely keeping his powder dry.

Voters in the Mahurangi now have worthy mayoral and ward candidates—regional councillor Christine Rose has an impeccable record of sound work for the harbour and region. If only it could be three out of three, with a few board candidates unsullied by the self-serving attempts secede as a separate Rodney kingdom.

Short of a late and Lawless bid, the Mahurangi Magazine supports Brown for mayor.

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