Thursday, April 18, 2024

Auckland Transport approves Burswood route for Eastern Busway

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An artist’s impression of the Eastern Busway, once completed, with the Edgewater Station on Ti Rakau Drive. Image supplied

Despite loud opposition from the public and a group of local community politicians, Auckland Transport (AT) has given approval for the Eastern Busway to cut through Burswood.

The agency says the arrival of affordable mass rapid transit for tens of thousands of Aucklanders is one step closer with the next stage of the busway’s design and route details confirmed.

Its board has approved the details for the section between Pakuranga and Botany Town Centre with work preparing for construction set to start in Pakuranga this year.

AT interim chief executive Mark Lambert says it’s an important milestone for the busway programme as it delivers certainty for east Auckland communities about the future of their rapid transit route.

“This significant project is about more than just better and more reliable transport.

“It will not only reduce journey times significantly by public transport between Botany and Pakuranga and then on to Panmure with connections to the city centre and other parts of the Auckland region.

“It will [also] increase access to jobs and education, connect people to social and community opportunities, attract investment and growth and help reduce emissions and congestion.”

The approved route attracted opposition from Burswood residents and a group of Howick Local Board members when it was announced as AT’s preferred option in 2021.

The agency said the preferred route would see the busway run east down Ti Rakau Drive, move left over a new bridge around the back of the Chinatown complex and onto Burswood Drive.

It then moves along the back of businesses in Torrens Road, continues in a straight line past Bunnings, onto Burswood Drive, and back out onto Ti Rakau Drive.

The plan would require the purchase of dozens of homes in Burswood.

About 100 upset residents packed into East City Wesleyan Church in the suburb in April to hear from AT and Eastern Busway Alliance officials about the project’s next stage.

Those in attendance asked questions about the disruption the project would cause, its cost and timeframes, what other options had been considered, and why they only heard about the meeting through social media instead of being formerly invited to it by AT.

A number of people said they believed the Burswood option was a foregone conclusion and they felt they weren’t being listened to by the agency.

At one point a man in the audience asked people who supported the preferred option to raise their hands, with no one raising their hands.

He then asked everyone who opposed it to raise their hands, with the vast majority of people raising their hands.

An AT official at the meeting said the agency was “looking at around a year-long period” to construct what it calls the Burswood corridor.

The Burswood option has also been publicly opposed by Howick Local Board members Bob Wichman, Mike Turinsky, David Collings, Katrina Bungard, and Bruce Kendall.

The five board members supported a move earlier this year to request AT to reconsider its original option within the Ti Rakau Drive road corridor without the deviation through Burswood.

Speaking during a board business meeting, Wichman said he opposed the Burswood option due to the “economic and logical disadvantages to the community” it presents.

“I don’t think it’s the right idea for the circumstances and the economics for the time,” he said.

“The sheer economics of it, $1-$2 billion, is just ridiculous and the economics can’t afford it.

“We are working on behalf of the community, and the community, they have to pay the bill.”

Collings added the Burswood deviation was “certainly not the plan” during the days of the former Manukau City Council, on which he had served as an elected member.

“It’s not a slight deviation if the busway is suddenly coming through someone’s property or right through their living room and they’re being moved out of their homes.

“We suffered this along Pakuranga Road from Panmure to Pakuranga Town Centre, where many people and many houses are gone.

“We suffered that and we endured that. I think the community as a whole has had a bit of a gutsful to be honest.”

Lambert says the busway will also deliver separated cycleways and walkways that will help give thousands more Aucklanders access to safe cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, “better connecting them with their local town centres”.

He says public feedback on the route showed keen support for construction of the busway along with concern for the impacts of construction on the Burswood community.

“We acknowledge the approved design will impact the homes of some Burswood residents, and we have given extra consideration to their feedback over several months.

“The decision on the preferred option was made only after a large number of alternative alignment possibilities were considered both on and around Ti Rakau Drive.”

Lambert says there will be more opportunities for public feedback this year when the project design is refined and during the consenting process, which will be widely advertised.

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