Getting Auckland MP’s on Board the Supercity

Life in the Supercity, two months in, is turning out to be quite a rev. We have new, young and different looking faces in charge. Even the seasoned politicians are energized by the new priorities and clear public mandate to make Auckland more liveable for us and lovable to visitors. Who would have thought Rodney had this in mind when he came on his white charger to save us from ourselves!

I get a taste of the public mood, as I live in both Devonport and Waiheke, and travel around the city by public transport and bicycle. As spokesperson for Cycle Action I am stopped in the street by strangers who are keen to tell me their views on Auckland’s transport needs. I also get unsolicited emails on the same subject every time cycling hits the headlines.

Maybe I’m a Pollyanna, but I sense a new and invigorating mood of optimism and united sense of purpose in Auckland. Even the most ardent addicts of using cars for transport are telling me that we need to provide more transport choice if we are serious about joining Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne as a successful international city.

It’s a relief to hear this, as I was beginning to despair that we’d ever show the collective will to deliver the fabulous city that Auckland’s physical setting deserves.  It’s early days, but it seems remarkable how smoothly the Supercity ‘start up’ has been.

I am particularly impressed by how quickly the new Auckland Transport CCO has put systems in place to respond to public requests affecting roads and public transport. Key staff have been retained for Waiheke to oversee the completion of major projects like the Oceanview Rd upgrade linking to the ferry terminal. Stage 1 is looking classy, and providing a welcoming walk for summer visitors to the island. Fullers’ bus drivers tell me they would like more cyclists to use the shared path, but maybe that will happen in time.

The new Auckland Council is also coming up trumps so far  – Mike’s Lee’s first Transport Committee was stunning in its unified support for public transport as the spending priority for the region, and awareness that cycling and walking deserve more support as well. The Waiheke Local Board followed suit, with public inclusion and mutual goodwill prevailing at its first meeting.

We now need all of the Auckland MP’s to come on board and help.  I understand that some, like the Minister of Transport, have national priorities in mind, but I fail to see how these can be so much at odds with those of Auckland. The reality that Auckland is the economic engine of the country, so all 4.3 million of us have a vested interest helping it to reach its peak potential sooner, rather than later.

We have a publicly approved programme of big roading projects like completing the Western Ring Road (with the Waterview Tunnel), the SH 18 Hobsonville deviation, the Victoria Park  Tunnel and the Newmarket Viaduct. These all make sense, as they are designed to widen travel choices and make for more efficient and safer transport around our region. The projects that have us wondering are those which have been imposed from on high, without the public scrutiny that applies to all other big ticket transport items. The Puhoi – Wellsford motorway is the classic, and more recently there has been an impetuous suggestion to widen the northern and southern motorways to accommodate an unexpected ‘blow out’ of vehicle demand.

My New Year’s wish is for the government to accept that Auckland has shown itself to be very responsible in co-operating in the reorganization of our region, and to treat us fairly in helping achieve the transport shift that the majority of us voted for in the Supercity elections. The first step will be to put our national transport dollars into the hat to fund those projects which have been publicly tested and approved – including the CBD tunnel, improved bus lanes, the regional cycle network and more walking projects. These projects are essential for the Supercity – remember all that talk about beating Auckland’s congestion, and joining the sexy league with those Australian cities we all visit and are showing us the way? What’s not to like about that?

Barbara Cuthbert

Spokesperson, Cycle Action Auckland, and Committee member, Cycle Action Waiheke.

This opinion piece  originally appeared in Waiheke’s Gulf News on 6th January 2011

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