Clarity on transport
I would like to clarify a few of the statements made by Councillor Greg Sayers in the article Mahurangi wins big under Land Transport Plan (MM May 16). It is great news that the planning that Auckland Council and Auckland Transport have completed over the last three years is now appearing as dollar figures in long-term budgets, but it needs to be pointed out that some of this is effectively “placeholder”, residential growth-related projects, in a 10-year budget. For example, the $51 million for the Sandspit Road realignment is entirely related to land release and subsequent development, which could be decades away. Ditto the $15 million Park and Ride and $68 million Western Collector – these things will happen sometime in the future, but this budget doesn’t tell us when. Matakana Link Road was announced in 2016, so that was already known and budgeted for. Likewise, the $800 million of central government-funded SH1 improvements are already under construction. We can’t keep claiming every year that something already underway is a “notable gain”, when it’s old news. The increase in Local Board Transport capital funding has been under discussion between Auckland Transport, local boards and their chairs for over a year, and is completely unrelated to any activities of our Councillor. If any credit is due, it’s to our hardworking Rodney Local Board chair, Beth Houlbrooke. The really big potential win for Rodney is in the area of increases in road safety funding (not to be confused with Health & Safety which is quite different and relates to workplace safety), and a proposed $85 million boost to sealing gravel roads. These could see dramatic improvements in Rodney, however they are completely dependent on the Regional Fuel Tax being approved. I’ll be watching to see if our Councillor will back up his call to the Mayor last year for a Regional Fuel Tax by voting to support it and the subsequent funding for our rural roads.
Phelan Pirrie, Deputy Chair, Rodney Local Board
Let’s clear this up. The Auckland Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) has been enlivened not because of the effort by any individual local government representation but by the change of Government, and an enlightened reassessment of transport policy and funding in Auckland. As on other occasions, the self-described “Voice of Rodney”, Cr Greg Sayers, is tireless at least in one respect – self-promotion. In this case, he displays a garrulous disregard for the fact that nothing he nor any other politician from Rodney has done regarding the RLTP has influenced it one jot. It is unfortunate – but fair to say – that one result of Rodney’s chequered past in local government is a diminished influence within the Council’s key corridors of power. If Cr Sayers wishes to claim credit for the years of work done by private and public transport lobbyists in greater Auckland, that is his prerogative. However, the rest of us might as well believe that when the sun rises over Great Barrier tomorrow, it’s because the “Voice of Rodney” has been diligently at work again.
Brent Morrissey, Te Arai
I congratulate Cr Greg Sayers for standing up on behalf of ratepayers (Ditch targeted rate, says Sayers – MM May 16). Why should we pay more if Auckland Council can’t cut its costs first? Somebody has to hold the line for us and he is doing the right thing.
Alan Kendall, Snells Beach
Of pianos and paint
Ah, here comes the nine-twenty shuttle from Matakana, and even better, I see Gary behind the wheel for my pre-requested pick up. I know you see, that on the midday return trip from Warkworth, Gary is one driver who won’t allow me to cross busy Sharp Road on foot, but will instead make a right-hand turn, deposit me onto my driveway, then reverse back out. For the partially blind, such as myself, this is a most appreciated gesture.
Soon, with the shuttle now parked at Warkworth’s bus shelter, I set off on preordained visits to various shops – a bank, a copying service and last, but heaven forbid not least, a cafe.
A half-hour later, with only two more scheduled stops and time left to kill, I settle down for an extended coffee break, complete, I know you’ll be clamouring to learn, with a slice of cheesecake. Eventually back on the street, I pause to converse with a friendly German Shepherd and her equally friendly minders, then, at my last port of call, enter a paint shop for some undercoat-primer. I’d estimated a litre should suffice, but when informed of a cheaper brand now in stock, I extravagantly ask for two litres. It’d been more than 10 years since my last paint purchase, and I’d neglected to factor inflation into my subsequent and, as it proved, wildly optimistic price expectations. The sale completed, I dazedly look for the chauffeured limo, or at the very least Champagne, sure to be laid on for a transaction of such magnitude, but must be content with the proffered plastic carrier bag. I shudder at how perilously close I’d come to insisting that only the more expensive, top-of-the-line brand would do for my plywood tool shed.
The time, I’m obligingly informed by a passing pedestrian, is 11 o’clock, which leaves a whole hour to be whiled away before the shuttle’s scheduled return trip. And so I dawdle off down the street, browse in shops whose wares hold little or no attraction, waste attendants’ time and hopes with feigned interest until, down at the clock tower, I find my determined time-frittering efforts netted a paltry fifteen minutes only. Outside the Information Centre, late morning sunlight warms a bench seat, so that’s where I sit to rest awhile, and in time, puzzle at the function of a nearby, glossy white structure. A closer short-sighted scrutiny reveals, I kid you not, a piano. A piano, I mean, now come, on, how many pedestrians hurrying about their lawful business will suddenly shriek, “Oh goody, look a piano, I must go and belt out a medley of old favourites.” Believe me, with 78 years of accumulated experience, I do have a pretty good handle on such things, so sadly shake my head at this undoubtedly well-intentioned folly, and amble down to the bus stop.
I arrive to find a fellow would-be shuttle traveller waiting, book on lap, backpack slung into a corner. Soon bored, I push my carrier bag and precious contents out of sight behind the backpack – can’t be too careful – then walk back to check the tower clock’s hands for belated movement. The first strains of sweet music reach my ears while still some distance from the rendezvous, and on drawing nearer, I discover the melodic notes are coming from, yes that’s right, the “it’ll never get played” piano. I re-occupy my recently vacated seat just as the pianist, a young Asian lady, stands to close the white painted lid. I applaud then complain, “You can’t stop now, I’ve only just got here.” She shrugs into the straps of her backpack, favours me with a shy smile and “thank you”, then in the blink of an eye is gone, lost amongst other anonymous Baxter Street pedestrians.
More shuttle commuters have gathered during my absence, and to one, an acquaintance, I tell of the mystery pianist, and, to my untrained ear anyway, her most accomplished playing. The others it seems overhear, for in no time these apparent strangers to one another add their pennies’ worth, cite favourite musicians and expound on music in general. I’m not sure how much time elapses before Gary and the waiting shuttle are first noticed, before we silently file into our private spaces and equally private worlds, strangers again. Which, on reflection may have been just as well, the final bus shelter debate, on who were the better band, the Beatles or the Bee Gees, could’ve turned nasty.
Afterword – Since putting pen to paper I’m authoritatively informed that (a) the price for my paint was a competitive one, that (b) the piano is well patronised, that (c) the Lions Club piano initiative is a widely acclaimed success, and (d) what the hell would a grumpy old bugger like me know anyway?
Bob Sharp, Sandspit
In a story about the revitalisation of Brick Bay walking tracks (MM May 16), the new contractor for the area was wrongly identified as Rhodes for Roads. The contractor is, in fact, UMS.