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:eastern-highway-designationThe area the designation covers seems to be quite significant – my best guess is highlighted in red in the Unitary Plan maps below:designation-mapLike 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.

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42 comments

  1. I don’t think anything particularly *is* going on (I could be wrong), but this is a good example of ‘roll-over’ planning; simply roll the designation over into the new plan and leave it for someone else to sort out.

    The August 2004 date refers to some months before the 2004 Local Body elections in October 2004, and simply reflects the dynamics of the time; Banks and his eastern motorway were facing certain defeat, so this is a rear-guard move.

  2. Your title is a bit hyperbolic. Makes it sounds like the project is actually in the plan (no proof of that yet)..

    Regardless, it certainly isn’t a project that’s needed any time soon & hopefully it’ll continue to quietly disappear..

  3. Two things here may be confusing the issue:

    1. The designation still exists. AT are looking to run a cycle highway through here with NZTA planning assistance and subsidy, so for at least the next few years you’ll be seeing articles with NZTA representatives discussing “Eastern Transport Corridor” and “designation” in them at the same time. This will certainly get the Herald excited and I wouldn’t be surprised if this also got a few within NZTA assuming the motorwary was back on the table. But it’s not.
    2. Even members of the Panmure / GI public still refer to AMETI as “the motorway”. Almost without exception. I’d expect no different from a Christchurch MP with little knowledge of the project.

  4. Well spotted Matt. Would be great to see the motorway designation dropped once and for all. Why despoil one of the last green valleys left on the isthmus with the large footprint of another roading development? Interesting that Purewa Valley and Hobson Bay are designated as Significant Ecological Areas on the draft Unitary Plan, affecting developments on private land bordering the area. It would seem ironic therefore that neighbours will be expected to do their bit to protect the bush and waterways when one day a dirty great motorway might be bulldozed through it. Much better to expand on the smaller footprint, potentially higher capacity of the soon to be electrified railway line and extend walkways, picnic spots and cycleways already started at Orakei. Let’s try and leave a much more liveable city with bush and sea for all to enjoy.

          1. At least the two of us understand that you can make a comment that something is a good idea as satire and not imply at all that it is in fact a good idea.

            If we can’t laugh at NIMBYs then they will reduce us to tears.

        1. There are people who support projects elsewhere with dubious benefit, and significant negative local effects. They’re distributed all over Auckland.

          However, those who have higher incomes are more influential for a range of reasons; they’re more influential with the National Party, which views them as its constituency and they have a natural confluence of interests. they’re more influential with advertisers, and thus with the august institutions which feed us news and opinion, and they’re often better connected. What they want has a significantly better than even chance of becoming policy.

          Such people are overly represented in the middle east. Do such people ‘deserve’ bad projects? Probably not. Do the rest of us deserve such projects? Certainly not.

  5. If you look at the AMETI plan I large amount of funding is still going into roading leading to the on ramps of SH1 which is already congested at peak times; from this point of view it does not seem to make any sense.
    My belief is that there will be a comeback of the Eastern Highway project or an equally expensive widening of SH1 required to support this in the future (at the cost of other projects) if this plan continues in its present form.

  6. Not sure what the issue is here – the designation was extended in 2004 until at least 2014 (you even quote this in your post). Therefore it must be at least identified in the draft Unitary Plan as we’re not in 2014 yet.

  7. “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.”

    So, AC will revoke the current designation no matter what they intend to do. And publicly notify a new designation.
    And they have to do it before November 1 2015 or it lapses.

    So look forward to the Cycleway proposal being firmed up and publicly notified well before 1 November 2015.
    [heaven knows when they’ll build it though, given the need for public notification].

    But, if council does nothing between now and then we could have the situation where the designation expires, before the UP that contains the area actually becomes operational.

    Question – what happens then (designation lapses) – does the land get offered back to the original owners (who owns this land now – the crown?)
    Or will it be sold for housing developments?

    One problem I see with doing this is that only the land between BI and St Johns road is suitable for housing due to its aspect,
    But this is in effect well and truly severed from the surroundings courtesy of the railway on the eastern border and the houses and factories on the western side
    – which all “turned their backs” on this area years ago, expecting a nasty motorway through it.

    So, you will have to build roads to access this area in the “from the ends” – from St Johns Road and Merton Roads to access it,
    Which means that a good chunk of the land you could have for building will be eaten up with “long skinny” roads and the area is not very walkable – quite steep land and the severance issue with the railway don’t help.

    This could be an ideal THAB zone though and the southern part is in the THAB zone for GI already for the most part (only the St Johns road end wouldn’t be currently due to its distance from GI town centre).

    One thing, if this does come to pass (have houses on it), then the cycleway must be allowed for and built and the St Johns Road end should be kept free of housing to allow for a future railway station down near the eastern (or western) tunnel entrance. So when this area intensifies the original plans for a “St Johns” train station allowed for way back when can be built.

    1. “Question – what happens then (designation lapses) – does the land get offered back to the original owners (who owns this land now – the crown?)
      Or will it be sold for housing developments?”

      If the land was acquired under the Public Works Act then there is an order of priority for disposal
      1) the land may be transferred to another Crown entity or the local council for another public work (eg to Kiwirail or to Housing NZ for state housing)
      2) if located in an area covered by a Treay settlemet, offered for sale to the relevant iwi
      3) offered for sale to previous owner
      4) if identified in District Plan as being of significant ecological value,may be transferred to DoC or local authority as public reserve land
      5) public sale

    1. Fantastic this is something long overdue.

      I know some folks here don’t think that an Isthmus loop is at all desirable/needed (I don’t see why not and thats my opinion so I’m sticking to it).

      Key point is that doing this adds flexibility to the overall network – while adding a small degree of complexity if done “at grade” due to the need for one line to cross the “south bound” NIMT line when going from Sylvia Park to Penrose lines.

    2. AMETI incorporates the large bus/rail interchange at Panmure currently under construction, which will service the greater east Auckland area including Pakuranga, Howick and Botany. An Isthmus loop seems a great idea and would provide better better east /west & Onehunga rail services, reducing travel times and the Britomart bottleneck as passengers could transfer at Newmarket.

      We’ll definitely need longitudinal seats on those trains to fit everyone in!

        1. What do you think is lacking about the crosstown routes in the RPTP? There’s a whole bunch of crosstown routes, including one from Mt Albert to Pakuranga which serves most of the route Sailor Boy just proposed.

          I think the Pt Chev-Ellerslie route should be joined up with the Panmure-Botany route, though, which would eliminate some transfers. Plus (for mostly selfish reasons) I’d like the Mt Eden crosstown to be on the frequent network, instead of running every 30 minutes as it’s proposed now.

          1. You just answered your on question on the last two lines 😉

            If one was to hit off a true Cross Town service using the rail network then the following lines are needing
            1) CRL
            2) Manukau South Rail Link
            3) Botany Line
            4) Airport Line
            5) Westfield Junction rebuilt to allow Sylvia Park to Penrose direct
            6) North Shore Line
            6) Avondale Line

            Seems we have a bit of investment to do then

          2. I asked what you thought. I know what I think 😀

            Anyway, the RPTP is supposed to be implemented in three years time, so I’m not going to blame Auckland Transport for not planning on having built seven rail lines that would cost the better part of $10 billion. Could be a stretch getting them all done in time.

            Having a crosstown rail line is a good thing to aim for in the future, but it’s not going to happen overnight. No sense waiting for it, just because the buses still need a little tweaking. Step 1 is – tweak those buses!

            I wonder if we really need a North Shore Line, though. They seem pretty opposed up there to the idea of any new people moving in, and if they succeed in halting growth that means that the busway will probably have enough capacity indefinitely.

          3. @Steve, agreed, wee bit of effort.

            Disagre, we don’t oppose people moving in on the Shore, it is a very small vocal minoriy making us all look like classist, ageist pigs.
            Albany’s about to go full skyscraper on our asses and we WILL need rail soon. Busway is not that far from capacity in terms of bus numbers in the AM peak, the RPTP will help by removing the empty routes, but not by much….

  8. If the city transforms into Urban sprawl, then the Eastern Highway may be resurected at some point in time to provide another route into the CBD for the new traffic. Housing intensification and transportation alternatives would reduce the need for an Eastern Highway.

    1. There is no ‘need’ for an eastern highway even under a disastrous sprawl future- no matter what is built further out it would always be terrible for the city centre as it cannot take any more cars and terrible for the places along its route. It can’t happen in any form. But:

      A dedicated freight third line and top quality cycling and walking infrastructure is what should and surely will happen along its length. Meadowbank station needs moving up the hill with much better links to the surrounding neighbourhoods, schools, and connecting buses…

    1. If Brownlee decleared the Eastern Highway as State Highway [enter number here] and a RoNS then Orakei Point development dies in the ditch.

      So Orakei have an interesting choice there…

      1. Would be 17 or 19.

        17 recently ceased to exist and 19 hasn’t xisted for a long time.
        Highway numbers increase heading South through the country with the exception of 1 to 8 which are core routes.

        I would love to see Orakei go ahead. It is so physically isolated, yet so connected by the rail.

    2. For that matter how do the third (or fourth) main line plans fit in with Orakei Point? The train station was supposed to be completely buried, which means if they don’t plan for it, there won’t be room later.

  9. Forget about any Eastern highway- just let us have a new railway station near Selwyn College that has a bridge over to Meadowbank. And a station that doesn’t cost $20 mill. Selwyn has 40% of its students coming from Glen Innes and Panmure who would be better served by rail.The Orakei Board are supportive.Must be the lack of funding from Central Govt.? And lets stop cars using Tamaki Drive- have light rail instead along there. The traffic in the Eastern Bays is barely moving at rush hour. No more motorways!!

    1. Yes Chris, and walking and cycling down that corridor. While keeping space for a dedicated freight line.

      And yes it is our one-eyed government. 3% of new spend of transport budget on PT infrastructure. That’s 39million over three years. Nothing for sorting out the location and functionality of Meadowbank Station until we get a new government.

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