24 Apr 2013

Bridge’s place on plan irks

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Written by: Dubby Henry
Published: Auckland Now – Papakura Courier

NO WAY: Karaka farmers Deb Milliken and James Urquhart on the possible site of the proposed Karaka-Weymouth bridge.

NO WAY: Karaka farmers Deb Milliken and James Urquhart on the possible site of the proposed Karaka-Weymouth bridge.

A bridge across the Manukau Harbour from Karaka to Weymouth will be a real option if growth continues in the south, Auckland Council planners say.

But residents on both sides of the Pahurehure Inlet oppose the idea.

The bridge would start near the end of the Urquhart Peninsula, cross to the tip of the Weymouth Peninsula and allow for a four to six-lane highway along Weymouth and Roscommon Rds which would link up to the southwestern motorway.

It has been pencilled in as an addendum to the council’s Unitary Plan after a collective of Karaka landowners approached it about extending the Rural Urban Boundary in their area.

Auckland is expected grow by up to 1 million people over the next 30 years. The council wants to fit at least 60 per cent of that growth within the existing city limits but that leaves up to 40 percent of growth for new areas of expansion.

The council wants room for 55,000 homes to be built south of the current urban limits.

Karaka, Drury and areas around Pukekohe are all being investigated as options where rural land could be rezoned and included for development.

The Karaka Collective wants the council to open up the Karaka North and West peninsulas for housing and says a bridge would provide the extra infrastructure to serve those areas.

It would also unclog State Highway 1, which is rapidly reaching capacity.

But many Karaka residents don’t believe their area should be rezoned and are preparing to fight the collective’s proposal.

Objections are being raised by long-term residents like Deb Milliken and James Urquhart, who both own property on the Urquhart Peninsula.

Mrs Milliken has owned a stud farm on the edge of the Pahurehure Inlet for 25 years and raised a family there but she wants to keep her emotional attachment to the land out of the debate.

“I’m fighting for this because I believe it’s a fundamentally flawed concept for the growth of Auckland,” she says.

“This is totally contrary to the Unitary Plan’s idea of making the world’s most liveable city.”

She says the Karaka peninsulas are “geographically isolated and water-bound” making them completely unsuitable for development, especially while people continue to commute into the city.

“Until they develop Pukekohe and have people commuting to new jobs in the south, this is not going to work,” she says.

Karaka is also a major food producer for Auckland and the racing and stud farming industry brings in a fortune. Crowding farms out of the area would be silly, she says.

“I believe very strongly in keeping productive land productive. There are a lot of rural areas in Auckland that are far better suited to being included in the Rural Urban Boundary.”

The council has proposed other development options, such as Drury and Paerata, which are near existing transport routes and make much more sense, Mrs Milliken says.

The Karaka Collective’s submission suggests development could be done sustainably to improve the health of the Manukau Harbour – but Mr Urquhart and Mrs Milliken say they’re waiting to see proof of that.

Weymouth residents are also being shortchanged by the collective, which has done a poor job of consulting people on that side of the inlet, Mrs Milliken says.

James Urquhart is the fifth generation of his family to farm in Karaka and agrees there is a lack of transparency around the proposal.

Despite being a major landowner in the area he has not been approached about the concept and he’s not the only one, he says.

“There is this perception out there that there’s a Karaka Collective but that is a misuse of the word.

“People think all Karaka

landowners are after is to develop up their land and sell out. I don’t think that’s true for a majority of people but we’re being lumped in with the minority,” Mr Urquhart says.

Around 100 Karaka residents turned up to a meeting of the local residents and ratepayers association this month to hear from council planners about the Rural-Urban Boundary options.

Transport planner Joshua Arbury told them the Karaka-Weymouth bridge is “the elephant in the room” when it comes to discussing development in the south.

Developing Karaka will almost certainly force the bridge to be built but other options could still require it in the future, he says.

But whether the bridge would be needed in the next decade is still up for discussion.

The council is trying to predict the level of growth that will be a “trigger point” for building the bridge, Mr Arbury says.

He urges people to give the council feedback on its proposals if they are worried about the effect on their community.

Not everyone has taken a position on the bridge. Karaka Residents and Ratepayers chairman Steve Bird says he won’t form an opinion until the Karaka Collective has a chance to make its case.

Mrs Milliken called for a show of hands on who supported the bridge but Mr Bird shut that down, saying the meeting was not the appropriate forum for a vote.

A number of other important concerns have been raised including traffic congestion and the possibility of skyrocketing rates and he says those issues deserve space to be discussed properly.

Mr Bird is working with the Karaka Collective’s lawyer Peter Fuller to set up a meeting where the collective’s members will get to speak to residents.



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