Tamahere’s representatives have slammed the NZ Transport Agency for deceiving it over promises to deliver safe pedestrian and cycle ways across a community severed by the Waikato Expressway.
The Tamahere Community Committee believes NZTA and its expressway contractors have been stringing it along with insincere consultation for more than a decade.
It and its proposals having been ignored the committee says it is now being cut out of further discussions about community connectivity as the expressway completion date draws near.
In a strongly worded letter to NZTA, Tamahere Community Committee (TCC) chairman Dallas Fisher complained that even Tamahere ward councillor Aksel Bech was now having to make requests to attend so-called stakeholder meetings.
“The TCC is extremely concerned at recent advice from the expressway contractors that they had no plans and no funding to complete either of the two major [pedestrian] crossings within the current expressway project,” Fisher said in the letter to NZTA.
The shock news of the lack plans for safe crossings came after more than a decade of lobbying by the committee. TCC had insisted over that time that “the safe connectivity for our community was non-negotiable,” Fisher said in the letter that has also gone to Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter, local MPs and the Waikato District Council.
In airing its complaints widely the committee wanted to ensure NZTA and other decision makers were aware of the community’s concerns about the safety and connectivity issues, Fisher said.
Tamahere, with 6000 residents, is bisected by the SH1 expressway, compromising safe and efficient connectivity between its eastern and western sides at the busy interchange at Tauwhare and Airport Rds, which is set to become even busier when the expressway is completed.
NZTA’s proposal to just widen the footpath under the expressway bridge was unacceptable, TCC said in a document setting out its position.
“Our main concern is there is no plan to ensure safety and promote connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists (comprising up to half our community) who live on the eastern side of of the expressway when they travel to the school, the church, the new park and the village and piazza area.
“The expressway has severed our community and NZTA is obliged to provide safe crossing options across the expressway on- and off-ramps,” TCC said.
As well, north-south connectivity at the Airport Rd-Tamahere Dr corner by the church had long been a concern and was now even more so because of the imminent arrival of greater pedestrian and cycle use from the Te Awa Cycle Trail and the Tamahere Country Club retirement village.
“For 13 years we have placed a high priority on a pedestrian and cycle way crossing over or under SH21 [Airport Rd] from Tamahere Dr to access Devine Rd,” the committee said.
For maximum use and benefit the committee’s ideal site for a bridge or underpass had been from Tamahere Dr to Tamahere Lane, adjacent to the on-ramp, it said.
But recently NZTA had presented options such as a footbridge with over long ramps at Wiremu Tamihana Dr for what the committee believed was an over inflated cost of $8-10 million.
In its position paper, the TCC said its options, in priority order, were an underpass or bridge adjacent to the on-ramp, an underpass near the Regal Haulage boundary with Tamahere Park, or an underpass on the park side of Wiremu Tamihana Dr.
“We see large potential savings in cost, improvement of visual effects and amenity values if an underpass concept could be adopted,” the committee said.
“We also request that the Tamahere community have more involvement in the planning process and that the safety, access and connectivity of our community be taken seriously, as the severance of our community has been imposed on us for ‘the greater good’.”
TCC deputy chair Sue Robertson told Tamahere Forum that NZTA had yet to respond to the committee’s letter.