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Motorway Decision Today, And It Won't Help National

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, May 13 NZPA - The chosen route for a motorway through Mt Albert in Auckland will be announced this afternoon, ending the uncertainty that has been hanging over the June 13 by-election in former prime minister Helen Clark's electorate.

The Transport Agency has been given three options by the Government -- and regardless of which one it picks the news for National will be bad.

The previous Labour government had planned to put a tunnel under the suburb, causing the least possible disruption, but Transport Minister Steven Joyce announced yesterday it had been scrapped as too expensive.

The cheapest alternative option is all above ground and the other two are a mixture of tunnel and road.

Mr Joyce said the alternatives cost between $1 billion and $1.4b while Labour's tunnel would have cost between $2.7b and $3.1b.

The Transport Agency met yesterday to decide which one to go for and was today contacting residents whose houses will be demolished before making an announcement, expected around 3pm.

Labour candidate David Shearer said Mt Albert voters wanted the tunnel and scrapping it had sidelined National's candidate Melissa Lee.

"It's a kick in the guts for the people of Mt Albert," he said.

Green Party candidate Russel Norman said the Government had made the wrong decision.

"It's 1950s dinosaur thinking to hammer a motorway through the heart of a residential area," he said.

Only ACT's candidate, John Boscawen, was pleased with the announcement.

He said the country couldn't afford an expensive tunnel, and he had his own proposal for an alternative motorway route that would affect fewer houses than the Government's options.

The motorway will link up existing roads and complete Auckland's Western Ring Route.

The plan is for work to start in 2011 and for the route to be completed in four years.

Mt Albert is a safe Labour seat and the party has held it since it was created 63 years ago. Miss Clark was retained the seat in last year's election with a majority of more than 10,000.

But National had been hoping to take it, helped by a split vote between Labour and the Greens.

That hope will probably disappear, along with about 240 houses.

Residents are pledging to fight that every step of the way.

Avondale Community Board chairman and business association leader Duncan McDonald told the New Zealand Herald residents would fight all the way.

"They're not going to destroy the whole of Oakley Creek by chucking a motorway down it," he said.

"They won't get a motorway -- the people will lay down in front of the bulldozers."

Mt Albert resident of 23 years Leonard Purchase was angry.

"My old man bought it (and) he died here -- I thought I was going to die here too. The tunnel sounded alright but this -- where the hell am I going to go now?"

Sheelah Chalklen said: "I'm not having it. We spent years working hard on this place, I'm furious... They are talking about our houses. They are not houses they are our homes."

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