Auckland traffic: Onehunga low traffic neighbourhood trial faces vandalism attacks

Auckland residents disgruntled with a road safety trial have vandalised wooden boxes blocking suburban Onehunga streets – and even hopped into a forklift to move them out the way.

Messages such as, “Move these please Phil”, “We don’t want” and “Road 4 cars” were spray painted on the boxes in the suburb.

Auckland Council’s Maungakiekie-Tāmaki Local Board earlier laid the boxes along Arthur St to prevent motorists using smaller roads as major thoroughfares.

Supporters said the program would make streets more people-friendly by reducing the number of cars on them and the speeds at which they travelled.

However, other residents have led a fierce backlash to the trial, saying they were angry at facing longer travel times as traffic jams formed on nearby major streets when more cars were funnelled onto them.

At a Maungakiekie-Tāmaki Local Board extraordinary session last week a councillor vote to immediately cancel the trial was narrowly defeated 3 to 4.

However, Maungakiekie-Tāmaki board member Peter McGlashan posted to Twitter this week decrying people for vandalising the boxes and using a forklift to move them.

He said he was “devastated” by their actions and that they were “ignoring democracy and taking the law into their own hands”.

An Auckland Council spokesperson said contractors reinstated and repaired the road installations, that had been vandalised and illegally moved.

“Vandalism is illegal and always comes at a cost to ratepayers and taxpayers. Costs of this work will be covered within the existing budget.”

The plywood crates for Onehunga had cost around $41,000 to be produced, transported and installed.

“The project aims to create safer, quieter local streets where people are safe to walk and cycle and cars are directed back on to main arterial roads.”

The trial was part of a government agency Waka’s Innovating Streets Programme aiming to deliver so-called Low Traffic Neighbourhood across the city.

As part of the program, Waka Kotahi offers to pay 90 per cent of the costs of blocking streets should local council bodies agree to implement the changes.

The Maungakiekie-Tāmaki board was one of the first to sign up, with $822,000 being spent to set up the program in Onehunga and Glen Innes.

“This is a trial, it’s six to eight weeks of testing some things out, gathering public feedback – a truly open consultation process where people can see plans in real life rather than on a computer screen,” Maungakiekie-Tāmaki Local Board member Peter McGlashan earlier said.

Arthur St usually had about 5000 vehicles a day and was notorious in the community for traffic and car crashes.

Resident Heather Bates said the project had been divisive and frustrating for most people in the area. She lives just outside the low traffic neighbourhood and drives to work in South Auckland.

“My travel time has more than doubled, so getting home has gone from around 30 minutes to over an hour sometimes,” she said.

“We all want safer streets. And the main frustration at the moment is the lack of community consult.”

But McGlashan argues LTNs did make streets safer and nicer and that people needed to stop driving so much to aid in the fight against climate change.

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