Roads of National Suicide

The Greens oppose the Sandhills Expressway. We oppose the Roads of National Significance initiative because it will demolish houses, We oppose it because it will sever entire communities, We oppose it because it will have a devastating impact on our local ecology And we oppose it because it is an appalling waste of our precious financial resources.

We are proud to be part of the opposition to these roads and a voice for the alternatives. Sandhills Expressway is bad for Community, Environment and Economy. Sandhills will be an American style expressway right through the heart of vibrant Kapiti communities, will bowl some stunning homes, and take more land from the precious remaining wahi tapu. This will ruin the aesthetic, peace and tranquillity of a beautiful place that people throughout the region treasure.

One rationale for this road has been cited as promoting development on the Kapiti Coast to shorten the commute for people into Wellington. I’m one of those people who commute into Wellington and I’m conscious of the impact of this on my ability to participate in the community. I leave early and get home late so it’s a real challenge to shop locally and it’s also really difficult to get involved in community activities. Creating more commuters will further compromise the culture and economy of our smaller communities.

This road is also bad for the community because it tells us our views aren’t important. Kapiti has spent over 20 years looking to improve mobility in the district. 30% of traffic on SH1 is local traffic, and locally, the bottle necks are around the existing motorway. Congestion and local mobility problems would be solved by upgrading SH1, having a link road and another bridge over the river.

This government stopped the local ‘Western Link’ road solution, while justifying the Sandhills Expressway by saying the community wants it NOW. Sandhills won’t be started until 2012 and won’t be finished until 2019. The Western Link road would have been completed by 2013.

The expressway is clearly bad for the environment as, ignoring peak oil, it will put 20% more cars onto the roads and there will be a consequent increase in transport related GHG emissions. If both are built there will be a projected 20% increase in traffic and a 13% decrease in rail patronage. That’s an extra 40,000 cars looking for a park in Wellington! Even if we don’t ignore peak oil we will be unnecessarily increasing our emission profile through the building of the motorway.

It will increase air pollution and put a road in the pathway of all the birds we’ve been slowly coaxing back onto the mainland. It will further degrade the waterways that are home to our beloved whitebait and other precious natives.

People may be used to arguments like those above to oppose new motorways but this road is also a bad decision economically. By the Government’s own estimate this road has a marginal cost benefit ratio. Basically this means it will cost more money to build than it will return to economy, and that was using conservative estimates on the cost of oil.

The US defence force, and International Energy Agency have both now acknowledged that are now in what is called peak oil and have been since 2006. Basically this means, while there may be small fluctuations, oil is now going to be harder for us to get and what we do manage to get will be more and more expensive. New Zealand engineer Dr Susan Krumdieck has noted we need to prepare not just for increase in the price of oil but a reduced supply as larger markets manage to secure a larger share of the remaining oil.

The other purpose of the expressway as opposed to a local road is supposedly to help move freight around the country more quickly and therefore boost the economy. This again ignores peak oil and assumes congestion will increase and ignores the impact on businesses of the rising price of oil. The sustainable solution for our economy needs to be reducing business reliance on oil, not increasing it.

Our economy requires an urgent investment in alternative freight and transport options. Rail and sea are less energy intensive compared to road and air. Our infrastructure is pitifully rundown and we are far from prepared for this transition.

To spend $2.4 billion dollars in the Wellington region alone, at a time of economic constraint to build new roads is frankly irresponsible.

To spend $2.4 billion in the Wellington region while we wait another 8 years for the trains to run on time and school students are kicked off early because of overcrowding is frankly bad for society and the economy.

I believe our country and economy would be better served in the short and long term by using that money to invest in early childhood education (with a 1:8 economic return) and public transport.

Our Solution

Listen to the local communities and mana whenua and build a local link road instead, a second bridge over the river, and transform our dilapidated rail network into a fast, reliable commuter rail system.

Here’s how:

• Ensure trains run on time, and put toilets and bike racks on all trains

• Ensure train fares are affordable for all commuters

• Increase the frequency of peak time trains to every five to ten minutes.

• Run 12 trains with 12 carriages at peak times, which would carry 10,000 passengers or the equivalent of 8-9,000 car trips.

• Transform bare, windy, exposed platforms into safe, attractive community hubs

• Extend the commuter rail network with light rail through to Courtenay Place, so commuters can travel right to their place of work

• Electrify and double track trains up to Otaki.

• Enhance park and ride facilities.

• Introduce integrated ticketing.

These solutions will build Community, Environment and Economy.

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