Action Hobson clutching at straws

It would seem that calling for the banning of SUVs from the CBD or demolishing the harbour bridge is not foolish enough a proposal from Action Hobson, the local Auckland City political ticket. Covered in this morning's Herald is the news that today's Transport and Urban Linkages committee meeting is considering a vote to lift the designation of the Eastern Highway route.
 
Whaleoil admires the self-interested politics that will be in play at this meeting. The designation for the Eastern Highway has been on the books for around 40 years. A roading proposal was put forward in earnest by former Mayor John Banks and the previous council but was defeated along with Dick Hubbard's election and the emergence of centre-left control of Auckland City.
 
Critical in removing the Eastern Highway was the election of two anti-highway councillors who ran on the Action Hobson ticket to defeat the road. One month after the 2004 election, the "Eastern Transport Corridor" was killed as a project, and eventually saw rebirth as a series of upgrades and road widenings in Manukau City and the south-eastern parts of Auckland City like Panmure and Mt Wellington. The proposed roading elements that stretched north and into the centre of the city through Purewa Creek and Hobson Bay was voted down.
 
The big change of heart appears to be with the Citizens and Ratepayers Now ticket, who were in favour of this road prior to the last election but have appeared to close ranks with the rest of the council and no longer advocate building a road or highway after losing on this issue in the 2004 elections. However, despite the killing of the actual proposal, the designation for the Eastern Corridor still exists. This means that at some point in the future, it could still be possible to propose new transport projects across this corridor in the future if voters changed their minds, such as rail, buses or possibly even roads.
 
Councillors Caughey and Simpson from the anti-motorway Action Hobson ticket want this designation removed now and forever more. But why, if they've killed the actual roading proposal? This is where the politics seem to come into it. Action Hobson appear to be a one issue ticket with a pretty bumpy track record since the last election. They have caught a lot of flak locally in siding with the left controlled council majority, and in breaking a number of election promises. They are also hypocritical in that they promised to move on rapid rail as a transport solution – which would require at some point upgrades to the rail lines across Hobson Bay.So fighting to kill the designation (and bringing back the one issue that voters responded to them on) is a most self-centred way of putting the spectre of a road (not an actual proposal, mind you) back on the political agenda to try and build political support for themselves locally. Publicly losing on this issue also gives them a chance to position themselves as pro-Hobson Ward martyrs.
 
So it would seem that issue was contrived by Action Hobson to try and generate the sort of negative publicity on roads that will give them the oxygen they need to thrive politically. No-one was calling for the designation to be lifted, with most parties reaching a consensus that improves rail and services through the corridor would proceed sometime in the future even if a road would not be built. It was an issue conjured out of thin air when the rest of the city was thinking about other transport projects like SH20, improved rail out west, a rail link to the airport,congestion pricing, improved GPS for buses and more.
But it would appear that the other council tickets have closed ranks and will vote to keep the designation. The man who could give Action Hobson the numbers if he wanted to, Deputy Mayor Bruce Hucker, said it would be "absolutely foolish" to lift the designation in the face of "rapid growth." Mayor Dick Hubbard said "he would be voting to keep the designation, saying the council should not cut off options for future generations."
 
This is the worst kind of NIMBYism. Not only are Action Hobson killing transport solutions, they’re trying to kill them for future councils too. It seems pretty clear that the one issue ticket Action Hobson is going to try and milk this for as much as its worth. "We'll keep them honest – and prevent the motorway from being built!" is what the likely catchcry will be from the renegade councillors from Hobson. How credible this will be when no-one else wants the road is yet to be seen.
 


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