Our Eastern Highway April Fool’s Day post was intended to be a funny joke, but since then a number of matters have made us wonder whether that post cut a bit closer to the truth than we had suspected. The first was Gerry Brownlee’s rather strange remarks during an interview with John Campbell where he was meant to be talking about the AMETI project, but came across as though he was talking about the Eastern Highway.
The second is obvious if you look a bit closer into the online Draft Unitary Plan – into the designations section under Auckland Transport you get designation number 1620:The area the designation covers seems to be quite significant – my best guess is highlighted in red in the Unitary Plan maps below:Like most people, I had thought that this project was long dead and buried – considering the significant grief it has brought over time to its promoters. Further south, the AMETI project generally picks up the parts of the old Eastern Highway project which made some sense and has attempted to stitch them together into a sensible project.
The designation description also seems to be in something of a time warp:
Proposed Eastern Transport Corridor.
This requirement for a designation has been carried forward from the former Auckland City 1991 Transitional District Plan, with its purpose being to secure the opportunity for a future transport corridor.
At the time of public notification of the Proposed District Plan (1 July 1993), it was not possible for the Council to delineate the final form of the transport corridor designation, as the necessary transport studies had not been completed.
The Council expects to be in a position by the end of 1997 to decide in principle the appropriate form or forms of transport for the transport needs and options for meeting them. As part of this process, the Council will consult with local residents and provide them with all relevant information as it becomes available.
If the Council proposes to carry out any development on the proposed Eastern Transport Corridor, the Council will withdraw this designation and replace it with a fresh requirement, in accordance with Section 168 of the Act. That fresh requirement will be publicly notified, and determined in accordance with the provisions of Part VIII of the Act.
The expiry date of this designation was extended to 1 November 2015, by S78 of the Local Government (Auckland Transitional Provisions) Act 2010.
Note: In accordance with section 184A(2)(b) of the Act, the council resolved on 11 August 2004 that it had made, and was continuing to make, substantial progress or effort towards giving effect to the designation and extended the designation lapse period until 11 August 2014.
It’s worth noting that this designation does not provide for the construction of the project, but rather just secures the corridor so that it can’t be used for other purposes (although seemingly most of the land it covers is already owned by NZTA or the Council). Yet it seems strange to even bother having this designation retained for a project that is not even in the 30 year vision of the Auckland Plan.
Unless something weird is going on behind the scenes over trying to revive this project, the Unitary Plan certainly seems like a golden opportunity to finally bury the Eastern Highway forever as a bad idea. We’ve already got a high-speed, high-capacity route along its alignment – the railway line. The last thing we need is a motorway to duplicate the line and funnel a heap of traffic right into downtown Auckland, at a gigantic cost and with huge environmental destruction.