When it came to the final hurdle, well, what could Margi Watson do but throw up her arms in delight. It had been a long, long mission.
Really, you couldn’t call it a hurdle after what went before. Simple stuff actually – grab the scissors, cut the ribbon and join the march down the Waterview-Owairaka shared path that, without her drive at the helm of a tribe of locals, might not have happened quite this way.
“This day is just fantastic,” she said as the council and state agencies she once battled joined her to share today’s scissor-cutting duties.
The whole business goes back to 2000 when the then-Transit New Zealand started talking about its plans for SH20.
Neighbourhoods quickly grasped the full picture of a big motorway slicing through their neighbourhood and anxiety levels started to rise. Locals rallied to challenge the then-Auckland City Council, the Government and Transit NZ and demand concessions for having to suffer a 1950s-style motorway pushed through their neighbourhood in the 21st century.
As time moved on and local voices grew louder, part of the above-ground motorway became today’s 2.4km stretch of Waterview tunnel.
And an independent board of inquiry, effectively forced on the Government by the will and drive of the people, gave its support by finding there should be appropriate recompense for the loss of community amenities like parks.
Part of the result was the $26m shared path (paid by the NZ Transport Agency, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and local boards) that officially opened today, leading through and over parks and reserves like Te Auaunga-Oakley Creek, Waterview Glades, Phyllis Reserve, Harbutt Reserve, Alan Wood Reserve, Kukuwai Park and Valonia Reserve. Next year, work will start on the Avondale-New Lynn segment.
Margi Watson, these days an Albert Eden Local Board member, was there for most of the long journey – through marches, protests and endless meetings, and today was very special.
She knew that from almost the time the sun was up that local people would just love their new walkway. As the iwi blessing broke the morning calm, kids and their parents, dog walkers, cyclists and skaters were already enjoying their new patch.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony Margi wasn’t interested in taking credit for her role, pointing to the vigorous community, great legal support and fellow board members like Graeme Easte for their contributions. Not to mention the board of inquiry members who forced a shift in attitude from NZTA that would continue to benefit a growing Auckland.
But everyone there knew whose day it really was.