RAW Owner Richard Wilton, Photo Geoff Cumming

A million dollar Auckland Transport (AT) project to upgrade Putiki Road is now due to begin on 8 January, but business owners on the street are angry after their feedback has apparently fallen on deaf ears – and that they’ve been given just two weeks notice.

The project, now scheduled for Monday, will widen and re-lay the road, install a footpath on the north side and create ‘traffic tables’ – effectively wide speed bumps – at regular intervals to slow down traffic. The road has been deemed hazardous to both pedestrians and vehicles, owing to the narrow lanes, crumbling edges, the lack of footpaths and a ditch on the south side.

During a consultation meeting on 12 October, AT as the Auckland Council transport CCO, residents and business owners sat down to discuss planned work on the road, which was significantly damaged during the construction of Countdown. As Gulf News reported at the time, however, AT were sent “back to the drawing board” after both business owners and residents raised various concerns over the project.

Local people didn’t hear anything from AT until 22 December, though, at which point they were told AT would continue with its original plans and begin the project on 8 January.

“I’m very frustrated,” says Richard Wilton, who owns RAW grocery – Putiki Road’s biggest business. “We got the e-mail on Friday afternoon, a couple of hours before the council closed for Christmas, and they don’t come back until Monday 8 January – which is when the work is supposed to start.”

“It’s a huge surprise, because we’ve just invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into perishable stock for over the holiday season which runs up to the end of February.”
At the October meeting, “residents and business owners found all sorts of fishhooks in the plan.”

On their wish list was having the speed tables moved to the crest of the hill on Putiki Road, having the public footpath installed on the south side of the road instead of the north, installation of angled parking in front of the dentist near Ostend Road and having the work begin after Easter so as to cause as little disruption as possible to their businesses.

They had been under the impression that they would hear from the council sometime in November, says Mr Wilton. When they weren’t contacted, they could only assume the project had been delayed.

“We thought that the agreed-upon proposal was that it was going to happen after Easter. Don’t get me wrong, we want the work to be done – and it’s going to be fantastic once it’s done – but everyone needs to be on the same page.

“We’ve got running costs of over $20,000 a week, and we employ about fifteen local people as well. If [AT] are going to basically close us down for up to 12 weeks, there will be huge repercussions for us and I’m going to be sending them a bill.”

Shortly after receiving the news on 22 December, Mr Wilton received an AT letter – dated 23 November – that details community feedback and explains why AT have opted to carry out its original plans. In the document, AT says the cost of moving the footpath to the south side is prohibitive, and that it could be unsafe.

“It was our intention in good faith to undergo a robust process and to reach agreement with residents and business owners of Putiki Road on the best practical outcome. This process has been curtailed due to the deteriorating condition of the road,” the letter says.

It also says that during further investigations, AT concluded that it must “act now” to prevent further damage to the road, and that it must complete the work within the current financial year – which ends 30 June – to stay on budget.

Mr Wilton argues that there are also safety concerns about AT’s plans, which he understands propose the footpath running hard up against the road on the north side, leaving a several metre gap before the businesses’ boundaries. At the October meeting, he asked AT to consider having the footpath moved back to the businesses boundaries, leaving car parking space in front.

“Four-wheel drives will just drive over the footpath and someone will eventually just get hit. We’ve notified them they are creating a hazard, we’ve proposed a solution for it, which is a simple fix, and according to this letter we’ve got they’re ignoring the idea,” he says.

Mr Wilton says he has tried to contact the council since receiving the notice, however staff are now on their annual Christmas break. AT was unavailable for comment on the issue when contacted by Gulf News. • Richard Jones

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