Penlink meetings under wraps

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With public interest high on the Coast regarding construction of the Penlink road to Redvale from Whangaparāoa Peninsula, Waka Kotahi/NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) recently made it crystal clear that it will release information about the project only on its own terms.

On May 24 it held a meeting covering the Penlink “cultural and environmental design framework”, which local environmental groups were invited to.

Media have been excluded from these regular updates – when Hibiscus Matters sought an invitation, NZTA was quick to say “no”.

NZTA described the meeting as “a brainstorming session” to discuss NZTA’s approach to environmental protection and mitigation.

It remains unclear why this process should be in any way confidential for a publicly funded project of this magnitude.

The environmental cost of building Penlink will be substantial, including on sedimentation of the Weiti River, impact on wildlife and loss of native vegetation.

Hibiscus Coast Forest and Bird chair Pauline Smith was at last month’s meeting. She says Boffa Miskell has completed some of its studies into environmental impacts, and there was a lot of talk about stream catchments, but nothing is resolved yet.

She says she is concerned that the environmental mitigation currently being discussed involves planting, but no money.

“We get plenty of plants. It is funding for pest animal and weed control that we desperately need,” Pauline says.

She says the local environmental groups have been asked to prepare a plan that sets out what they want.

“That’s a big task,” Pauline says.

The next meeting with NZTA is scheduled for late July or early August.

Penlink is funded via the Government’s NZ Upgrade scheme. Currently this scheme is being refreshed (HM April 21) with an update expected soon as to how this may affect Penlink – the costs, whether two or four lanes are funded, and/or timing of the start of the build.

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