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The Late Lamented Western Link

When Minister Joyce swept into town with his new road, the Kapiti Coast district Council was a breath away from getting Land Transport New Zealand to sign off the final design for the Western Link. The documents were ready and we were ready to start. Those documents, designs, environmental assessments and everything needed for the Link to progress are still there on the desk just waiting for when they will be needed.

However I am a pragmatist. This is now a done deal and will happen eventually. Much as I dislike the decision we have to now try and make the best of what I believe is a bad decision. We have to make it work for Kapiti.

Just imagine what a motorway will mean for our community. A 4 lane motorway with speeds up to 100kms an hour is to go right down the middle. This will forever divide the beach communities from the rest of the Kapiti Coast. Those residents will have a southern, middle and a northern interchange where they can get from the beach to the shops, the doctors, the health centre, the schools. When a petition was presented to the community, asking if they wanted the expressway down the western link alignment. Of course, said the people. That’s where our local road will be anyway. What’s the difference?

It isnot a road  for locals. It is to take trucks and cars through our district faster.

The process has been in the words of ASK – ‘divisive, manipulative and lacking information. Instead of consulting with the community we were only offered a choice between three equally unacceptable expressway routes.’

The expressway will destroy our environment and change it dramatically. Above all it will not solve our own local traffic issues. It will make it harder for council to integrate and connect our communities.

And above all the second bridge which would have been started by now, making it easier for Waikanae to connect with Paraparaumu, will be some years away and will on the present planning not be available to the Waikanae community. They won’t be able to get on it.

This is where we must focus our work. Instead of three on/off ramps we need many more to improve our connectivity and make the motorway work for us instead of against us. There has to be a connection at Waikanae, at the airport, as well as the southern and northern entranceways.

Instead of traffic relief on the State Highway from next year, there will be continuing delays until completion date in about 2020. The expressway will bulldoze its way through residential communities who thought they were getting a local road. It is currently designed to go through Queen Elizabeth Park, our local taonga, through wetlands and dunes, a waahi tapu and native bush. All these were protected by the Western Link.

The reason given by the Minister is that this road is needed for New Zealand’s economic growth. Alas Kapiti’s economic growth and productivity will be its victim. Let's try and redeem this gloomy forecast and make it work for us.