Viewpoint - Spring in the air ...
The onset of spring provides the lift in optimism we all look forward to, although this year's will not be without its challenges. It's great to see the recent easing of Covid restrictions – some relief for local businesses, roll on Level 1. Local infrastructure projects are getting back underway with the continuation of the Ara Tuhono motorway, initial stages of the new Matakana link road and expansion of the Snells Beach wastewater treatment facility.
Spring reminds us about the environment we live in; its benefits but also its frailties. Many projects are up for discussion and decision this year, including the proposed Dome Valley landfill, the Rodney Healthy Harbours and Waterways project, zoning plan change submission hearings, and the Rodney Local Board's own strategic three-year plan. All will have direct ramifications for our rapidly expanding population and unique area of nature. I note here the tremendous efforts by the many voluntary groups and enthusiasts working tirelessly to preserve and enhance our natural environment. I had occasion to walk the tracks of Kowhai Park recently with members of the park's bush restoration group. Their “get on and do it” attitude was great to see.
Let's be real though about the impact that the area's population growth is having on our local infrastructure – particularly ancillary services such as fresh and wastewater, our roads, footpaths, and cycleways. Auckland has a 7500km roading network, 868 km (12%) is unsealed, of that some 677 km (78%) is in Rodney. With this in mind, a Transport Targeted Rate was approved by the Rodney Local Board in 2018, to “accelerate investment in transport”, to address the rapidly deteriorating condition of our roads and footpaths, prioritise rural road sealing programmes and to improve safety and protect the environment. All good so far, but Local Board priorities have changed recently, with the introduction of a temporary Warkworth Park and Ride project likely to cost in excess of $5 million dollars, which would otherwise be fundable by Auckland Transport. The associated 131 car parks on the outskirts of Warkworth, budgeted at some $40,000 each, will be of minimal benefit for the majority of north Rodney ratepayers, while well overdue road and footpath projects are again relegated to a back seat.