Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Auckland Transport reveals design of Eastern Busway through Burswood

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An artist’s impression of how the Eastern Busway will look once its Burswood section is complete. Image supplied

The Howick Local Board has again voiced its opposition to Auckland Transport’s (AT) plan to divert the Eastern Busway through Burswood.

Its members discussed the issue at a recent business meeting where they were asked to share their views on AT’s notices of requirement for stages 3C and 4L of the busway.

They were told the Eastern Busway Alliance, on behalf of AT, has served two such notices on Auckland Council to designate land for the extension of the existing busway and modifications and improvements to the road networks.

A report provided to the board states 34 submissions were received “including from land owners, businesses, utility operators, and central government entities”.

“The key themes arising from submissions include concerns about traffic, social impact, noise and vibration, air pollution, economic effects, effects on open spaces and parks, and planning.”

On stage 3C of the busway, the board’s feedback includes that it continues to support the project as critical local transport infrastructure, noting the significant potential benefits to public transport, private vehicles, walking and cycling.

But the board also emphasised its previous feedback on the Burswood diversion.

“The Howick Local Board does not support the proposed Eastern Busway route, over the estuary and via the Burswood residential community at this stage, due to insufficient evidence to justify the proposal.

“[We] reconfirm opposition to the Burswood diversion on the basis of the impact on the community, significant property acquisitions, and the functional and perceptual impact of routing public transport off the main arterial route.”

The board also noted “with concern” that the piece of land serving as a buffer between the Burswood residential and business zones that was part of the justification for the new route is not part of the designation.

It pointed out the potential negative ecological and environment impact the diversion will have on the coastal marine area due to reclamation for planned bridge structures.

“[We] question the utilisation of the raised crossings giving priority to the buses over general traffic.

“[We’re] concerned the impact on the flow on general traffic on Burswood drive will be unnecessarily negatively affected and could impact Ti Rakau [Drive] traffic as well.

“That negative impact on the general traffic flow may outweigh the benefit to the buses.”

The board also noted feedback from the local community and businesses regarding noise, vibration and other construction impacts.

It asked the Eastern Busway Alliance to take all reasonable steps to mitigate negative impacts during construction and operation.

“[We] request the alterations to the Huntington Drive and Ti Rakau Drive intersection consider requests from the local community to improve safety.”

The board’s views on stage 4L of the busway were similar to those it expressed on 3C.

It supports the proposed route through Guys Reserve and Whaka Maumahara Reserve on the basis there’s no acquisition of or impact to private land, and there’s minimal long-term impact on public reserves through the use of a raised bridge.

It notes the location and delivery of the Botany station is a critical component that will significantly impact the success of the project.

The board appointed chairperson Damian Light to speak to its views at a hearing on the notices of requirement.

The Howick Local Board’s members have held numerous debates about the Burswood route of the Eastern Courier. photo supplied

AT revealed in late 2021 its preferred route of the busway between the Ti Rakau Drive bridge and Botany Town Centre would see it run 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 into Ti Rakau Drive.

The plan requires the purchase of numerous homes in Burswood and has met with loud opposition from the local community from the start.

About 100 locals turned out to a public meeting on the issue in 2020 to hear from AT and Eastern Busway Alliance officials.

The meeting in Burswood was intended to give locals the chance to share their views and ask questions of the busway’s project team.

Members of the audience asked numerous questions relating to the disruption the project would cause, its cost and timeframes, what other options had been considered, and why they’d only heard about the meeting through social media instead of being formerly invited by AT.

Numerous people said they believed the Burswood option was a foregone conclusion and they felt they weren’t being listened to by AT.

One man in the audience asked people who support 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.

One of the questions posed was how long the work would take if the Burswood option went ahead as planned.

“We’re backing right onto the bus lane so we’re going to have to live through all that construction,” a woman said.

“What sort of timeframe are we looking at? Because we won’t be able to sell and we can’t get away from it.

“It will be right behind our bedroom window so we’re going to have to live through houses being demolished and bus lanes being put in.”

An AT official replied the agency was “looking at around a year-long period” to construct the Burswood corridor.

“So a year of paving construction and erecting the noise wall that sits between the busway and the properties.

“That involves standard construction equipment in terms of 20-tonne excavators and six-wheeler trucks that work up and down that narrow corridor.

“At the moment we’re thinking around 12 months.

“Around four months for the intersections that sit on the Burswood corridor.

“Each of those will be staged to minimise the disruption.

“All our effort and all our work would be around minimising the disruption and noise and vibration to those properties.”

Some local board members have supported the Burswood corridor while others have not.

Among the most vocal in their opposition to it since it was announced has been member David Collings.

During a heated debate on the issue at one of the board’s business meetings in 2022, Collings said the plan for the busway to deviate through Burswood “was certainly not on the plan, whatsoever,” in the days of the former Manukau City Council.

“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.”

Board chairperson Damian Light also spoke out against it during the 2022 Auckland Council elections, when he was standing as a candidate, saying: “Auckland Transport’s decision to destroy more homes to build the Eastern Busway is a terrible outcome for Auckland.

“I feel for the residents of Burswood, who have been forced to fight to keep their homes.

“Community feedback has been clear. We support the busway but not taking an unnecessary diversion through people’s homes.”

  • Disclosure: Howick Local Board deputy chairperson is the owner of the Times.

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