Residents unite to fight busway plan

The preferred route of the next stage of the Eastern Busway project runs behind the Chinatown complex and through Burswood. Times photo Wayne Martin

People living in a quiet east Auckland suburb are fighting plans that would see a major public transport project run through their community.

As the Times previously reported, Auckland Transport (AT) has written to Burswood residents to say the organisation is planning and designing the next stage of the Eastern Busway, from Pakuranga to Botany.

An AT design of the preferred route shows the busway running down Ti Rakau Drive, moving left over a new bridge around the back of the Chinatown complex and onto Burswood Drive.

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

AT has held online meetings with residents whose properties will be impacted by the project.

A group of locals calling themselves Burswood Resident Collective want to stop the busway from running through their suburb.

They’ve sent a long email on the issue to people including AT chief executive Shane Ellison as well as Auckland mayor Phil Goff, Botany MP Christopher Luxon’s office and Act Party leader David Seymour.

The email directs numerous questions to AT, including what the reasons are for this option being chosen, when AT recognised it as a viable option, who made the decision and why it’s acceptable during a housing crisis to bulldoze houses.

The group says it’s concerned the proposed route will not enable urban intensification due to “fragmented land ownership, geography and distance away from services”.

“As such, the currently proposed route will lead to economic and urban blight as our homes are severed from key services and activities to the south.

“We … are severely concerned by your lack of empathy and compassion for residents who have endured 19 months of uncertainty due to lockdowns, choosing to progress within the current alert level lockdown and a housing crisis with little-to-no-time to process such a colossal change.

“We do not feel encouraged to engage in the process and are disillusioned by the competence of officials to progress this in such a cavalier and disrespectful manner.”

AT spokeswoman Natalie Polley says the organisation acknowledges the consultation programme will be concerning for people whose properties may be impacted by the proposed project design.

“We also recognise there is no ‘ideal’ time to be consulting as there would have been before the pandemic.

“When restrictions ease and we are permitted to meet in person, we are keen to offer that opportunity to residents.”

Polley says following meetings with property owners, community engagement will be widely advertised and is due to begin in mid-November.

“There will be further opportunities for property owners and the broader community to engage with the project team and provide feedback next year.

“This includes the detailed design and consenting process, currently scheduled for mid-late 2022.”

Botany MP Christopher Luxon says consultation is critical.

“This is a consultation and engagement process, not a foregone conclusion and it’s important that affected families are properly consulted and get a fair go,” he says.

“My office and I are here to help directly-affected property owners get that fair go.”

An online petition opposing the plan has so far been signed by more than 400 people.