Friday, June 11, 2010

Traffic Problems at the Base to worsen before they improve!

   Residents of the northern suburbs will be acutely aware of the traffic problems both inside and outside The Base at certain times of the week – Saturdays regularly being a problem.
   Original calculations of the number of vehicles using the Base and the access roads to it – provided to the City Council and the NZ Transport Agency at the time consents were applied for - were obviously inaccurate, and roads and intersections were therefore not built to cope with the volumes we see on occasions.
   This problem is likely to worsen in the near future as the following developments – none of which can legally be stopped – get built and start operating:
• Farmers Mall at The Base (with nearly 1,000 extra carparks)
• New development at the Base to the north of Mitre 10
• Countdown Supermarket across the highway from The Base entrance
• 5 new office blocks at the corner of Church & Maui Sts
• Large petrol station on the corner of Te Kowhai Rd and the Highway
   In addition, Council is aware that The Base intends to put further developments in the north east corner of their site (in front of Mitre 10), the owners of the Eagle Spares site across the Highway are looking to develop that, and a number of new smaller developments are happening down The Boulevard past Harvey Norman.
   The new Te Rapa Bypass, taking the current highway from Horotiu to Avalon Drive, to the west away from this area is 3-4 years away from completion, and will probably only help the Council mark time with traffic growth in the north.
   One of the major causes of the problems in the area has been the unwillingness of The Base owners to inform Council as to their full plans for the whole site – they are ‘drip-feeding’ development applications segment by segment without ever giving the full picture. This has meant that it is impossible to properly plan for traffic growth and other transport options in the area, as The Base is the major player, and what it does affects everyone else. While they contributed in a small way to the cost of new intersections outside The Base when it first started, traffic growth generated by their development has outstripped capacity of the roads and public transport services.
   The City Council is grappling with how to get this problem area under control, so residents and businesses travelling through the area are not adversely affected more than at present – watch this space!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cowboy developer given green light for Clyde St debacle

The Environment Court this week predictably turned down an appeal by Hamilton East community representatives against Council approval for a retail building and carparks in the old convent site on the corner of Clyde and Grey Sts in Hamilton East.

The 'development' (to very loosely use the phrase) will cause traffic chaos on what is already the busiest intersection of the highly-congested route between the CBD and the University, and on the key Orbiter bus route for the whole city, not to mention putting up an ugly 2-storey square block, complete with asphalted carparks on a former historical site (I say former given that the developer bowled the trees and the iconic brick wall on the corner in the early hours of the morning, and was called a 'cowboy' by Council management for doing so).

The appeal predictably lost after not one of the professional witnesses the Hamilton East Community Trust lined up was willing to come to court to give evidence, because the Trust wasn't able to pay them in advance - they had already been paid $thousands for preparing written material which the Court then refused to allow to be discussed in court because the authors were not present.

For the record, both the Government's community legal aid fund and the Council refused to assist with the Trust's legal costs, even though the Trust was promoting Council's own strategies.

In the hearing, the developer's and Council's lawyers attempted to belittle the evidence of the two non-professional community witnesses to make sure nothing they had to say about community aspirations were taken account of - reading the 'judgement', this clearly worked. The judge and panel were not from the area, and clearly have no interest in whether Hamilton develops to the benefit of its residents or not!

The traffic impact reports prepared by both the developer's and Council's consultants were pathetic, to put it kindly, making zero acknowledgement of the Council's own transport strategy to REDUCE congestion in this busy precinct, where two schools and two existing shopping centres already contribute to the traffic chaos.

The whole case shows Hamilton City Council's planning processes in a very bad light - we have all the wonderful strategies in the world to promote transport access, safeguard heritage precincts and encourage good urban design, but follow archaic planning practices that move the city in completely the opposite direction.

STOP PRESS: The City Council CEO, Michael Redman, has decided HCC will NOT be pursuing costs against the Community Trust.