Light rail on the wrong track3 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
A prominent Onehunga resident has called the light rail routes ‘ridiculous’ as several schools, houses and heritage buildings will be affected, while another resident is questioning the lack of communication from the rail company.
Auckland Light Rail has proposed two options for a route from the city centre to the airport, and both will affect Onehunga. The first option is tunnelled light rail that will run from Wynyard Quarter to Mt Roskill, with surface tracking along the route of State Highway 20, via Onehunga and Māngere townships, before continuing to the airport. But the second option has hundreds of local residents in an uproar: light rail being built on KiwiRail land that was set aside 80 years ago, and will ‘snake’ through the suburb.
Former Onehunga Borough Councillor, Community Board and Local Board member, Bridget Graham is unimpressed that both options were for tracks to be built above ground.
Bridget is adamant that any light rail through Onehunga needs to be underground. She says the track running next to SH20, would risk ruining the area round the lagoon and possibly, once again, cutting the beach off from the community.
“After spending $28-million restoring the beach and creating the reserve, this is ridiculous.” She adds that families enjoy walking around the lagoon and it is very popular with dog owners. Removing that facility will be a huge loss to the area.
But Bridget thinks the other option is even worse!
Onehunga High School could lose half a dozen classrooms, while at least three dozen homes, across eight streets, would be demolished. The old Technical School buildings opposite the Community House would be in danger, and three heritage buildings would have to be relocated: the original St Peters Church, Scotland House and, ironically, the old Onehunga Railway Station, which is now a railway museum.
It also means the roundabout at Church and Victoria Streets, would be demolished – which is regrettable as it was only installed a few years ago, after lengthy lobbying by locals.
Bridget says this route would also require at least 10 level crossings, including two outside Onehunga Primary and Onehunga High Schools.
Onehunga Primary School Principal, Viki Holley, is very concerned about how close the second option would be to the school. She says the school has been working hard to encourage pupils to travel to school sustainably, either by walking, bike or scooter, and adding an additional hazard so close to the school would hinder those efforts.
A local resident who wishes to remain anonymous, lives in a house owned by KiwiRail, and the news of a possible line being built through his property ‘came out of the blue’ for him.
He has been living in the house with his partner for the last two-and-a-half years and they were not notified about the proposed routes. “The first I heard of the routes was when everyone else did,” he says. “I have no idea what is going to happen or what the future holds for us.”
Both the man and Bridget, say that the plan to have heavy rail chugging through the suburbs at all hours is unreasonable. They attended the Onehunga Business Association’s networking breakfast, where Jeff Valenzuela, stakeholder manager at Auckland Light Rail, spoke about the plans for the light rail. When asked about the noise of the freight trains, Jeff assured them that “the trains would be electric, so they won’t have the same noise impact as a normal freight train.”
Jeff also admitted that navigation around the lagoon was a challenge, and they are yet to make a final decision on the options.