On 15 December Anne Langford, Secretary of TPOG, and I met Roger Wilson and Owena Schuster at the offices of Auckland Transport (AT). We were 20 minutes late due to no public parking being available when we arrived in the pouring rain.
Roger opened the meeting and said he wanted to look at the big picture. I said I had been invited to the meeting by AT to discuss TPOG’s concerns and to that end had prepared some material and also had a number of questions. I said the first time property owners had been made aware of the road widening was when they received a letter dated 20 September from AT. This was followed by two open days, the first for residents who were affected parties and the second for the general public.
My first question was “What was the purpose of this consultation?” Roger waffled, said he didn’t like the use of the word “consultation” and commenced to digress. I produced a couple of pamphlets and said nevertheless this was the word used in the material put out by AT. Roger said the purpose was to gauge the views of the community. It was more about information sharing and “there will be more information sharing as time goes by.” He said the consultation was ongoing. I said that was not so as we had been told submissions closed on 21 November and AT’s own website had advertised the “Consultation” from 28 October to 21 November.
Roger turned to Owena and asked if that was so. She acknowledged it was. I pointed out to Roger that on 3 February 2010 it was stated at a meeting of the Works and Infrastructure Committee for Waitakere City Council “Public consultation will need to take various forms to ensure the public is fully informed.” I commented that the only so-called public consultation was on 5 November and consisted of members of the public being asked to fill in a feedback form and return it by 21 November. I asked what the various forms of consultation were. Roger suggested we had misunderstood the consultation. I then pointed out another statement from 3 February 2010. “Council officers anticipate a lengthy process.” I asked why this had not occurred and who was in charge of the consultation. Once again he avoided my questions. I then drew his attention to a statement by Darryl Griffin on 17 November 2011 (before public submissions had closed). “I do not consider there is any reason why Auckland Transport would revisit the decision for construction of cycle lanes on both sides of Te Atatu Road.” In other words, before submissions had closed AT had made a decision. I asked on what date AT had made the decision. Roger did not know but then suggested the decision had been made by Waitakere City Council.
I showed him the title for my property as it existed in September 1987, when I bought it, devoid of any designation for road widening. I expressed concern at the lack of dialogue forthcoming from AT and said several TPOG members had had difficulty getting hold of AT staff during normal business hours or even getting phone calls returned. Roger said the project was proceeding come hell or high water and that it was done and dusted ages ago. He said AT was “very comfortable” with their process and the consultation stage was now over. Anne said it had really been more of a “show and tell” process and he agreed. He conceded the word consultation did not properly reflect the process that had occurred. When I asked him who took responsibility for all the inaccurate glossy brochures, leaflets etc, he said it was irrelevant at this stage. He promised to look into the matter of unreturned phone calls.
I pointed to the brochure saying “If your property is affected we will: talk to you personally, work with you to manage your concerns.. etc”
I asked him when the talk was going to start. He said he would look into it. I also told him I was not happy that Call centre staff had been instructed to block any communication from me to the CEO of AT. He said that was because I had bombarded the CEO with emails and it was inappropriate to contact him and expect immediate replies, as the CEO is responsible for overall business, has much on his plate and the Te Atatu Rd project was just one of many on his list of ongoing projects.
I refuted that and said the first email I had sent to the CEO was following an unreturned phone call at 2.13 pm the same day. Since then I had copied him in to all emails sent to AT and would continue to do so.
I then drew Roger’s attention to a statement on 3 February 2010 “It is noted that currently the Waitakere District Plan has a 2.88 metre designation along both sides of the corridor between Edmonton Road and the motorway interchange. This will need to be uplifted and replaced to reflect the current concept design as it requires a wider designation up to 7 metres.” I asked Roger why this had not happened. Roger said he couldn’t speak for the person who had made the statement as to what was in that person’s mind when he made it but AT had a different view. I said it was all very well having rules re District Plan (DP) changes for the public, but the Council not using its own internal monitoring systems to apply for changes to the DP when it was seeking to do things outside designations in the DP made it unfair. Roger said I could apply for a Plan Change if I wished but I assured him there was no intention on my part to do that. He reiterated AT was quite comfortable with the process used. I then pointed out that only a day earlier AT had claimed it was first realised in mid 2011 that parts of properties beyond designations in the DP would be required. This did not gel with the statement on 3 February 2010. He conceded there was a contradiction.
I then pointed out I had recently been told there were about seven properties being acquired outside the designations in the DP but on 14 November was informed by Owena Schuster there were 43. That represented 39% of the total properties being acquired. I said AT had misinformed residents in their communications. Roger disagreed but said he undertook to have dialogue on the matter but AT was not yet ready to discuss matters with property owners. It was early days yet but property owners would be contacted individually “in due course”. He conceded that the advertised time-frames were inaccurate.
I then asked him if a change in the DP required public consultation. He answered “Probably.” I asked when it would be updated and he said the Auckland District Plan is currently underway.
I pointed out that if the $4m acquisition budget includes properties such as a complete block of shops in Edmonton Road, TPOG members have grave concerns the budget is inadequate. He said not to worry, if the budget falls short they will find the money somewhere. I asked him where I could find details of the budget and he referred me to the 2012/13 Annual Plan. He said it may be insufficient but we don’t need to worry about it. We will be paid a “fair” amount for our land. I asked about fences, planting etc and he said there was no need to worry, it will be negotiated on a property by property basis. I asked how much money the Government was putting into the project. He did not know and said it may not have been documented. I asked if the Government funding was conditional on cycle lanes being put in place and he said it was.
I then read three emails from TPOG members.
Owena Schuster said she had another meeting to go to so we brought things to a fairly speedy ending.
Roger Wilson undertook to
- Follow up on why I have received no feedback on my property.
- Find out when discussions will begin with individual property owners.
- Look into the possibility of releasing individual submissions.