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The Press-News column Dec 2

Whining neighbourhood groups ignore the big picture

Whining neighbourhood groups appear to be a news-making trend du jour. First, it was the snooty, sneering sub-division dwellers of Stonefields, bleating about the “excessive noise” of excited children playing on the newly-installed flying fox in the adventure playground.  Then we had the tears and theatrics of the Quieter Please action group, railing against Ruapuna Raceway.  And now the St. Albans Residents Association has morphed into a steely oppositional force against  “unbearable” roading projects which they are “vowing” to fight. But just who does the St. Albans Residents Association purport to represent? Are they solely interested in amplifying the squeaky wheel of protest?   The Northern Arterial Extension and proposed 4-laning of Cranford Street, to Innes Road, have been on the cards for quite some time.  In fact, the wider history behind this roading project can be traced all the way back to 1962. Born and raised a St. Albans boy, and brought up in the McFaddens Road home that my parents still reside in, Cranford Street has always struck me as a major arterial in and out of the city. Residents who have chosen to live on this busy road have done so in the long-cast shadow of mooted road widening. Given the inexorably growing demand on this critical commuter corridor, it’s staggering that the New Zealand Transport Agency and the Christchurch City Council have faffed about for so long over this festering problem, failing to increase its capacity. Perversely, the post-quake landscape has helped expedite matters,  with the Northern Arterial Extension and 4-laning of Cranford Street now firmly the radar. Despite the trenchant opposition from the St. Albans Residents Association, the first round of consultation in June registered majority support amongst local residents, including many of my parents neighbours.  A further round of consultation is currently underway, until December 19. Not only will the projects help relieve the crippling congestion on the Main North Road  and Marshland Road for Waimakariri commuters,  but it will help service the looming demand from the 9500 new homes being developed on Christchurch’s northern fringe. For walkers and cyclists, Cranford Street will be a much safer proposition, with segregated cycleways and overbridges.  Hopefully, the submission process can further enhance the project, particularly south of Innes Rd. But the best alternative solution the residents association have coughed up so far is “ better public transport”, even though Cranford Street is already well-serviced, albeit under-used, by the trusty No.28 line.  My only gripe with the roading project is the timeframe. Construction isn’t scheduled to start until 2017. It can’t come soon enough.

Mike’s weekly current affairs column, as first published in The Press. December 2.

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