Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the ceremony marking the end of the upgrade when many people were full of hope. But 14 weeks on, anger has replaced optimism
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is putting on her local hat and convening a meeting with Auckland Transport to discuss community concerns over the Mt Albert town centre upgrade.
As MP for Mt Albert, Ms Ardern has requested a briefing by AT executives, and she will no doubt have at the back of her mind comments made by the agency chair, Dr Lester Levy, at the opening ceremony in May.
The Prime Minister was alongside Dr Levy when he virtually conceded the project hadn’t been perfect, telling the audience he had instructed his CEO to find a model for future projects that could be completed quicker and with less upheaval.
Fourteen weeks on, the admission of “a job not well done” still grates locally, with endless problems, omissions and flaws.
Those imperfections cut deeper when information and explanation are difficult to extract and AT tries to give the impression it has more or less delivered what was promised.
In the eyes of many locals, it is certainly “less” rather than “more”, especially when put alongside the pre-project AT pledge: “Mount Albert town centre upgrade will revitalise the heart of one of Auckland’s older suburbs, celebrating its unique character while creating a safe, pleasant, lively environment that locals can enjoy and take pride in.”
Ms Ardern, who will be joined by Albert Eden Local Board members at the meeting, has no special power to require a local authority to lift its game.
But the voice of the PM will be a useful reminder to AT that disappointment over aspects of the upgrade – and the ensuing traffic bedlam at busy times, with overflow to previously-quiet local streets – can’t be shoved aside.
The Prime Minister’s staff is arranging the meeting now and hope it can be held this week, or next week at the latest. That step follows an email to Ms Ardern from Mt Albert Inc, seeking her comment on concerns held by Mt Albert people and the local board as expressed in a range of stories on this website.
Melissa Lee, the National list MP whose office is based in Mt Albert and who stood against Ms Ardern at the last election, has also got involved. She attended a Mt Albert Business Association meeting today where concerns over the upgrade were discussed in front of Auckland Transport representatives.
She would have got a good grasp of many of the issues dribbling on since the opening, including the endless experimentation with traffic phases and policing, flawed signs and disregard of the clearway zone.
Meanwhile, local board members have met with council staff to discuss community concerns over the starkness of the upgrade.
That has resulted in a commitment to “soften” the appearance of the streetscape and make it more inviting, says board chair Peter Haynes.
A landscaper is working on an overall plan for the village, including the stark pocket park. But to start with, ground-cover vines will be planted within the scoria rocks and, in time, will hopefully produce a pleasing tumbling effect over the side of the concrete walls.