Transit ‘playing politics’ over Eastern Highway

Auckland Green MP Keith Locke has accused Transit chairperson Alan Bickers of playing politics with Mayor John Banks over the construction of an Eastern Highway through Auckland.

“Mr Bickers shouldn’t be party to political games by Auckland Mayor John Banks and Manukau Mayor Sir Barry Curtis to fast track this highway, when there are real questions as to whether it will qualify for construction under the government’s new transport package,” said Mr Locke, the Green Party’s associate transport spokesperson.

Under the new package announced in February, transport projects must show community, health or environmental benefits. They must also relieve congestion, not increase it as the Eastern Highway will do in pouring thousands more cars into downtown Auckland.

“The Eastern Highway will also despoil the green space and the sea frontage of the eastern suburbs, and divide communities,” said Mr Locke.

“I find it hard to imagine how the Eastern Highway could qualify under the new priorities and new legislation proposed for land transport. The package ,developed after negotiations between the Government and the Greens, is not a blank cheque for roading.”

Mr Locke said that improved public transport from the east into the city, particularly via rail, would probably fit the funding criteria much more easily.

“Mr Bickers should know better than to co-issue a release which has John Banks saying that ‘Our aim is to complete the planning phases thoroughly and efficiently so we can get the work on the ground started next year.’ Mr Bickers must know that the planning and consent process would take years, and that Mr Banks is simply playing politics in saying it could be done in a year.

“Mr Bickers needs to remember that Transit’s statutory role is to manage the state highway system not to join in politicians lobbying campaigns,” Keith Locke said.

“Mr Banks’ talk about private financing of the Eastern Highway, and tolling, is also jumping the gun. There is not yet legislation in Parliament to allow for privately funded roads and tolling and the Greens will argue against any legislation that gives the green light to harmful projects, like the Eastern Highway.”