The Maverick strikes back

ACT candidate Stephen Berry

The Media party recently published what can only be described as a ‘hit piece’ on Act candidate Stephen Berry. This post is his response.

It?s been a good week for Act?s campaign to win the seat of Northcote. For the first two weeks, we?ve been pushing our message that it?s time the Auckland motorway network was finally completed.

The money is there if governments are prepared to take the bold sorts of measures that really can revolutionise the country. When we analysed our policy to increase the age of eligibility for National Superannuation to 67 (a policy supported by both major parties at various times) over twelve years to 2032, we calculated this would save $58 billion over twenty years.

Decades of under-investment in Auckland mean things have gotten to the stage where no amount of rates increases, fuel taxes, levies, etc, etc by Auckland Council are going to fix the shortfall.

A few weeks ago Labour unveiled a $28 billion Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) to help the city get ?back on track?. It essentially involves drivers paying more for fuel to fund other modes of transport they do not want to use. What did Northcote get out of this? SkyPath (for the 0.6% of Northcote residents who cycle to work) and bus lane extensions outside the electorate.

That?s a slap in the face.

On Monday Act launched our detailed plan for an alternate harbour crossing, via a causeway along Meola Reef and on to a new 800-metre bridge to Chelsea on the North Shore. Areas of the electorate now isolated from the motorway network (Highbury, Chelsea, Birkdale, Beach Haven, Birkenhead and Glenfield) would be connected to both SH16 (near the SH20 Waterview Tunnel) and SH18 (the Upper Harbour Motorway). Tunnelling under Highbury and the narrowest section of the Birkenhead Glenfield Cemetery would avoid any destruction of homes and other buildings.

Instead of northern traffic being dependent on SH1?s Auckland Harbour Bridge, a single point of failure, this alternate route between the Shore and West, Central and South Auckland would enhance network resilience. This alternative would also take tremendous pressure off arterial routes connecting to the motorway that are near capacity, such as Onewa Road (where waits can exceed half an hour).

I have been door-knocking for nearly three weeks and the message I am getting on the doorsteps of Northcote is near unanimous: they want congestion fixed and most of those I spoke to about our motorway proposal were enthusiastic about the idea.

Compare our plan with that of National?s Dan Bidois, whose Comprehensive Traffic Plan hit letterboxes two weeks ago. Of his seven promises, he has the power to implement just two – widening motorway onramps (big whoop) and pushing for a second harbour crossing (where?). We already know what Labour?s plan is because they?ve presented their $28 billion ATAP and it is truly pathetic ? bleak comfort for motorists.

If you were only to inhabit social media and never leave the home to talk to your neighbours, you might think Act and its candidate had gone mad. The media have even checked in with David to ensure his Northcote candidate has not gone rogue and that this is a genuine policy. Some people did not bother so I have received more coverage in the North Shore Times last week than any other candidate, including a re-print of the motorway plan we had to spend thousands of dollars to promote a few days earlier.

One of those people is Steve Kilgallon, who writes a piece called ?Act candidate Stephen Berry has a dream for the North Shore. It?s very stupid?. ?Wary that the ?cleverness? of the headline may be reflected in the article, let us consider what Mr. Kilgallon has to say. Quote:

Stephen Berry has an idea. Not an original one, but one seemingly abandoned some 40-odd years ago. Nonetheless, it’s the idea he thinks could win him the Northcote by-election for the ACT party. End of quote.

Of course, similar concepts presented previously need updating to reflect modern housing developments (whose road users further justify the route) ? things have changed since 1972, a lot. That is why two engineers volunteering for the campaign have surveyed the route and a roading economist has been advising on the numbers. Nobody ever seems to ask what these things cost but I think it is important. And yes, in a contest absolutely bereft of ideas to fix the universally acknowledged traffic problem, I think it actually may be a winner. Quote:

It is, indeed, the stupidest of stupid ideas. It’s a new six-lane motorway, revived from a 1972 Ministry of Works plan, thrusting its way across the Harbour to bulldoze its way through a big chunk of the very electorate Berry hopes to represent.?End of quote.

Kilgallon doesn?t propose any alternative ideas. Later in his piece he even concedes he is not opposed to the idea of a motorway, but wishes they would first crack on with SkyPath.

I am not opposed to SkyPath. I think it is logical to have a means of crossing our major bridge without using a vehicle but it is fantastical to ever think it will make a hint of an impact on congestion. Even if SkyPath quadrupled the 0.6% of Northcote residents that cycle to work, you would not notice any traffic difference. Quote:

Fear not, though. It will not take out a single house, he says. Instead, it appears he’s run his finger over every patch of green space he can see in his A to Z and calculated a meandering route to take out as many of them as possible. End of quote.

If you wish to have a surface motorway, it must either go through green areas (mangrove creeks, bush and pastureland) or through developed houses and gardens. And I say respect for people?s property rights matters. And I value humanity over plants, insects and other animals. But that being said, the percentage of green surface area taken would be very small, and access to what remained would be improved.

Now while I may be an experienced retailer, home-schooled economist and a part-time door to door politician, I am certainly not a traffic engineer. I did not design the motorway route. However, I was very clear that I am not prepared to bulldoze a single home and this plan is consistent with that. Using the green areas was the only alternative and (considering this Council is hell-bent on intensification for ideology?s sake) we had better do it soon before the green areas become infill housing. Quote:

On the other side of the water, it would, it seems, also smash through half of the Motat museum. Berry has, unaccountably, failed to add a further flourish and sent his expressway spiralling through the zoo. End of quote.

Here, the key words are ?it seems?. That approximation must be very wide. From Meola Reserve, the route could go along creeks or alongside Motat 2 and Motions Road ? a decision for NZTA?s roading engineers. Moving a transport museum is simple enough to do if you move it before the motorway ?smashes through? ? you see, the thing about transport (Onewa Road traffic aside) is that it is designed to move. The clue is in the name. And there is plenty of room to rejig the layout of Motat 2. Quote:

Fear not. He’s focused his attention on despoiling the Shore. On its arrival on the north side, Berry’s modest project (one of several grand roading plans) would find land at the Chelsea Estate Heritage Park.[…]

For non-locals, this is a beautiful sweeping chunk of parkland and forest, wrapped around the historic Chelsea Sugar factory and its original worker’s [sic] cottages, with native forest, pohutakawa-lined coastline and walking trails. End of quote.

Walking the route turns up no pohutakawa where the bridge would touch down. The native bush would remain accessible to walkers ? and would now be seen by motorists. The original workers? cottages would be untouched. And with possible motorway access, sugar from Chelsea would no longer need to go out on trucks through congested local streets. Quote:

Having beautified this piece of park further with his six lanes of asphalt, the road would charge northwards, tunnelling beneath the Highbury shopping centre, but thankfully emerging above ground again just in time to rip the guts from Birkenhead War Memorial Park.[…]

That’s very important, as otherwise he wouldn’t be able to threaten the future of the local rugby league club (which produced Gary Freeman and Tom Hadfield), or the local cricket club (John Bracewell’s alma mater, and where I am a member), oh, and the rugby union, athletics and rifle clubs, the model railway society, the Scouts, the theatre company, the historical society and the kindy that all use said park.?End of quote.

?Rip the guts? shows us just how exaggerated his smear hyperbolic commentary is. It certainly will go through the swampy depression between the rugby grounds and the skate rink. The low lying and relatively narrow route would be easily covered to restore pedestrian access and ensure no current community group?s use was diminished. Along with the remaining bush, noise barriers can further minimise the impact of traffic noise, seemingly a good solution for the residents of St. Mary?s Bay. Quote:

Having guaranteed the 4000 or so votes of those grateful locals, there’s just a couple of historic graveyards to navigate before the Berry Expressway can roll on through one of the Shore’s largest stands of native bush, Eskdale Reserve, where he can swap running, walking or mountain biking for another stunning swoop of concrete. Then he’s keen to take out a stream. End of quote.

The vast majority of the sprawling bush and parkland will remain as is, allowing the running, walking and mountain biking to continue. The stream, incidentally, has a bridge over the top of it already. By anyone?s definition of ?taking out,? that is not occurring here.

And all without touching a single house.