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New Zealand: Greens challenge freeway extension

The Green Party is urging opponents of the Mt Roskill extension of State Highway 20 to look at a judicial review of Transfund's decision today to fund the project.

"Transfund is quite deliberately flouting the requirements in its own act for sustainable transport by pushing ahead with a motorway," Auckland Transport spokesperson, Keith Locke said.

He pointed out that as recently as last December, Transfund had said the project ought not to proceed until it could be demonstrated the claimed benefits could be sustained. "Transfund stated then that almost as soon as it opened the project was likely to be congested, 'in view of the lack of capacity at opening'," said Mr Locke.

"That is still true. All this project will do is spend $152 million shift congestion from Hillsborough Road to Dominion Road, and according to the plans even Hillsborough Road will be full up in a few years time. This project will devour the equivalent of three years public transport funding for Auckland."

"This highway will only encourage more car travel, add to air and noise pollution and divide the community of Mt Roskill.

Mr Locke pointed out that Mt Roskill extension was precisely the type of project that ought to be halted pending a thorough review of Auckland's transport needs, under the new Auckland transport structure being set up next month. "The chair of Transfund, Dr Jan Wright, talks about completing Auckland's motorway system. Surely what is needed first is the completion of the rail network, to get people on to public transport, not a motorway to encourage people encourage to hop into their cars.

"Dr Wright says the motorway is being built so as to allow future development of rail tracks. Why not can the SH20 extension and build a Southdown to Avondale railway now? This would make public transport between west and south Auckland really fast. $152 million would cover much of the cost of building such a railway."

Mr Locke urged opponents to consider a judicial review of Transfund's decision.

"The Green Party will be making strong representations to the Government that Transfund and Transit need to be forced take their new legislation seriously. SH 20 is a waste of public money at a time when climate change, local air pollution and oil depletion will all be much worse by the time it is opened."

Mr Locke called for the $152 million for the Mt Roskill extension to be put into the rail upgrade instead. He noted that Transfund was still refusing to spend money on rail projects anywhere in the country.

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