Submission on Christchurch Northern Corridor traffic mitigation

At the start of this week I submitted feedback to Council on the draft Christchurch Northern Corridor (CNC) Downstream Effects Mitigation Plan. The draft plan is no longer open for feedback – I left my response to pretty much the last minute as I’d been waiting on information from the NZ Transport Agency regarding the benefits of the project.

CNC DEMP 1080 sq

In the interests of transparency in light of my Papanui Ward candidacy in the 2019 local government elections, my submission follows:

Do you have any comments on the recommended projects?
No comments on specific projects at this stage.

Do you have any comments on the project stages?
In my view this current consultation process has under-communicated the impact of the ‘South of Berwick’ upgrades, noting that Stage 1 includes both a scoping study and also delivery of an upgrade for traffic south of Berwick Street. This aspect and the associated decision (to direct traffic along either Cranford Street or Barbadoes/Madras/Forfar) will have significant impact on the community and yet it is scarcely mentioned.

Have we missed anything?
In reviewing background material (specifically the December 2011 NZTA Final Scheme Assessment Report) I get the impression that the St Albans community was given no consideration by NZTA when planning and commissioning the project.

For example, the NZTA Report mentions “Social and community severance between the western and eastern areas of Belfast, either side of Main North Road” and “the social amenity of the Belfast area” as part of the ‘problem’ that the CNC will address (p.55). Further on, I read that “The project will have positive impacts for the Belfast area with a significant reduction of traffic on Main North Road”, and “Access to community infrastructure and retail areas will be maintained or enhanced through … reduced traffic on the Main North Road corridor.” (p.166). There is no mention in the Report, however, that there will be social impacts downstream of the project, or the likely transfer of severance and amenity issues from Belfast and the Main North Road corridor to St Albans.

Perhaps this gap in NZTA’s report is part of the reason that the downstream effects Plan is required? My reading of the draft Plan is that it is very narrowly focused on compliantly delivering the motorway project and associated traffic impacts. From a prior presentation to Council I understand that the scope of the Plan has been limited to fulfilling the consent requirements – this is a missed opportunity for Council to communicate to the community all aspects of transport planning that are connected to this project. At the 14 February 2019 Council meeting, Mayor Lianne Dalziel noted that NZTA & Council material relating to the CNC and multiple other transport workstreams don’t link well online, and that there is a need for more joined-up communication for the public – I don’t believe there’s been any movement on that yet.

Finally, my reading of community sentiment is there is a strong feeling that the CNC is a project that is being done “to” the downstream community, rather than ‘“with” and certainly not “for”. I think more time and more community engagement is needed. My understanding is that the CNC’s consent conditions require the Council to implement a Downstream Effects Mitigation Plan (DEMP) prior to operating the motorway. If the downstream plan isn’t ready and the community is going to be too negatively impacted, why not press ‘pause’ on the opening of the CNC? After all, the NZTA economic evaluation requires a 30 year operating period just to get a Benefit to Cost Ratio (BCR) of greater than 1.0, so even a year or two of delay prior to opening isn’t going to change the financials significantly.