MARA leader Wayne Pearson says there was no need for the village upgrade to turn into the nightmare it has become
In the second part of our series on the village upgrade, Mt Albert Residents’ Association (MARA) chair Wayne Pearson has a message for Auckland Transport: If you’re going to do something, do it properly or not at all.
OPINION: It started with a hiss and a roar, the collective efforts of MARA, the community, the business association, the local board and others to drive for an upgrade to our village to not only provide a hub to rival neighbouring suburbs but to allow our local businesses to flourish.
We wanted something we could be proud of that would endure for generations, and there were many public consultations with the experts along the way, debating over right-hand turns, cycle lanes and pocket parks.
Then the real work began.
Disruption after disruption caused many delays and heaped more pressures on local businesses who were struggling to survive even in a normal economic environment, let alone one where their clientele couldn’t find a parking space for love or money.
The inner workings of the various local bodies created many of the issues, but throughout the process we believed from our meetings with Auckland Transport that they were trying to deliver on what they had promised.
However, what they promised and what has been delivered are now some distance apart. Even more so, what has been delivered falls well short of our expectations.
There are still many issues to be addressed but the biggest disappointment is that, from AT’s perspective, their job is done.
We at MARA have tried to keep in contact with the previous project manager. His reply has been that he no longer has any involvement and our queries should be addressed to the general inquiry line. We may as well shoot arrows into a black hole.
We successfully met with AT’s elected-member relationship manager but after what appeared to be a promising admission that there were still some issues that needed to be addressed, we were advised we should be working through our local board; AT could not provide a future point of contact for MARA. Interestingly, the local board’s position is that AT should be the ones responsible.
The passing of the buck from local body to local body is of no use to anyone. All it does is reinforces the frustrations people have with overly bureaucratic organisations whose role, it seems, is to complicate matters.
There was no need for this to turn into the nightmare that it has become.
Frustrations are spilling over on Facebook as light phasing and other issues receive regular updates. It’s clear the community has had enough.
People are avoiding our town centre to shop, they are looking to drive through side streets instead of using the main arterial routes because of the massive delays they experience, and are generally not happy with what has been created because it still looks like a work in progress.
It all leads to the question: Why at local government level does nobody put their hand up to accept responsibility to properly finish the job?
Surely there is someone with the foresight to take the bull by the horns and say, “You know what, this might not fit with our internal procedures but it makes a whole lot of practical sense — so let’s just do it.”
We all take that approach in our personal lives and in the world of commerce. Why should the only way forward appear to be forcing AT and the local board into a locked room together and not let them out until they’ve got an agreement on what should happen and who should take responsibility.
It’s all very well for AT to walk away; they don’t have to live here. Jacinda, this is your electorate and your community. And Melissa, can you say that walking through our village fills you with a sense of pride?
We need to have a village that will deliver not only on what was promised, but on what we want as well.
The pocket park is an abysmal cold concrete blight. We were promised colour and local artwork.
The traffic lights just don’t work and AT’s own congestion mapping clearly shows this (although, not surprisingly, it has been skewed to focus only on a few minor improvements).
There are still so many things to be finished off, such as parking, rubbish collection, issues around street dining, fixed seating, lighting to make the centre look inviting and so on.
In our view the old adage applies: if you are going to do something then do it properly or don’t do it at all.
Is the upgrade a good thing for Mt Albert? Some would say no, because of the disruption. But the upgrade was necessary if we were going to really help our village to take off.
Local businesses are a core element of our economic value and also drive non-tangible benefits like a community feeling when they have a town centre to be proud of.
We will keep pressuring AT, the local board, the council and our local politicians but we need your support to do so. Get involved, have your say and use us as your voice so we can co-ordinate to reach a solution we will be proud of.
The series so far:
Tuesday: Business cry: we’ve been duped
Tomorrow: The local board has its say