12 Feb 2015

Highway fight in Nelson

9:53 am on 12 February 2015

A proposed new highway through an area of central Nelson has locals in the suburb of Victory concerned for the future of their community.

Design tenders have been submitted for the Southern Arterial Link despite an Environment Court ruling ten years ago that Victory was fundamentally the wrong place for it.

With plans for the highway first mooted more than 60 years ago, many local residents and community leaders are now, once again, rallying together to fight the plans.

In the four decades June Flemming has lived in Victory, the idea of a main highway through the very centre of the community has continued to rear its head.

She said people feel very strongly about the issue and she fears many will move away.

"It's bad enough going out now in the winter time with the smell of the fumes and that. Imagine what the trucks are going to be like - twice as bad. It's going to be terrible. I've lived her for 40 years and it's likely going to push us all out."

Aerial view of Nelson City

Aerial view of Nelson City Photo: 123rf

Fellow resident Jan D'Ath said it could destroy one of Nelson's closest communities.

"We've got neighbours that we really love and connect with really well on each side of St Vincent Street and when it's busier it will be hard for us to cross. There are very strong connections in Victory, much more than other places. This a community."

Another Victory resident Kevin Williams said the highway would be devastating.

"A community like this and they put a highway through the guts of it and bang! That park is ruined and people don't take their children to the park and that sort of thing. What sort of world are we living in when we do that sort of thing?"

The planned highway would create a link between Whakatu Drive and Queen Elizabeth II Drive - effectively linking the city to the port. It would help reduce traffic, particularly noisy logging trucks, through the waterfront suburb of Tahunanui, but the proposed route would literally cut the suburb of Victory in half.

A local resident Vaughan Main said people who insist the new road is needed because of congestion, just need to adapt.

"To me it's a really nice community, it's nice and quiet and it's really good for the kids. I think the way it is at the moment, Nelsonians should just get used to the fact it's got a traffic problem. Go to other cities and there's traffic problems. I think just deal with it, get used to it."

Some support

But owner of the local dairy Pritesh Mandaliya said it could be good for his business:

"It will definitely bring a lot more traffic around here for sure. If it helps the businesses around and in the community sense of not interrupting the schools and stuff we've got around here. It would be a good idea actually."

Another local resident Steve Mortimer said provided safety is taken into account, it could have some benefits.

"If they do the right safety issues then I don't have too many problems with it. It's all the safety said of it. There's a lot of kids in the area, there's schools and kindergartens and shops, it's a really busy area."

But the programme and facilities manager at the Victory Community Centre Gareth Cashen said the evidence to back up the highway simply isn't there.

"I know that this community is incredibly jaded by this issue. It's been looked at numerous times and lots of money has been spent and really good research done. The city council has done it. You know we've had the Environment Court ruling in 2004 which categorically stated this is not the place for a main arterial route through this community."

The deadline for tenders closed last week and a further announcement is expected in the coming months.

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