From Veronica Harrod
Expressway past Levin a high stakes game
The land and property development agenda of Horowhenua District Council and council’s in-house economic development board would implode if the New Zealand Transport Agency decides not to proceed with the expressway past Levin demonstrating just how high the stakes are.
Otaki electorate MP Nathan Guy, a National Party MP, brought along National Party leader Simon Bridges and new transport minister Jami-Lee Ross to the second Levin public meeting Mr Guy has held in the last six weeks pushing for the expressway to proceed. Mr Bridges was the transport minister under the former National led Government.
The motivations of Mr Guy, in particular, are questionable in light of council’s role in land and property development which is entirely based on a November 2015 New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) report commissioned by the council and the board called, “Investment in transport infrastructure: Effects on economic and demographic outlook.”
A July 6, 2016 council agenda states, “The assessment determined that the Wellington National Corridor investment represents a ‘free hit’ to Horowhenua, and creates an opportunity for the district to target population growth, employment, and economic activity levels significantly higher than both otherwise and previously expected.”
Council’s chief executive David Clapperton and economic development manager Shanon Grainger have repeatedly used forcasted growth statistics included in the NZIER report as a justification for rolling out an explosion in the number of land and development projects across the district.
Without the economic justification’s provided for in the NZIER report difficult questions would be asked of council about its close and secretive relationship with the economic development board, whose members have multimillion dollar interests in land and development and construction industries.
Council draft and consultation documents that rely on the expressway proceeding include council’s 20 year Long Term Plan, the Horowhenua growth strategy 2040 and the yet-to-be released Levin Town Centre Plan.
According to the Quotable Values database Mr Guy also has a significant amount of land and property interests in the north east sector of Levin at Koputaroa, one of the preferred expressway routes, which equates to at least $6 million over eight separate lots. The sale date of two further purchases he made in this sector is withheld from the Quotable Value database so have not been included.
If the expressway does proceed this means Mr Guy could potentially financially benefit from the expressway either through the sale of land confiscated under the Public Works Act or land and property development projects on land he owns next to the expressway route.
The decision made by NZTA could be a game changer for Horowhenua with residents facing unsustainable rates rises due to land and property development and associated negative environmental effects from an explosion in new builds connecting to an essential infrastructure council’s LTP states is ageing and end of life.
According to council’s 20 year draft and consultation documents there are no plans by council to consult the community on an economic development strategy moving into the future even though the public were not consulted on the now expired 2014-2017 economic development strategy that continues to be applied by the council.
Photo, from left, Otaki MP Nathan Guy, former Prime Minister Bill English and former Horowhenua District Council mayor Brendan Duffy at an Electra After 5 event.
Findings and assessments from the NZIER report were presented at an “After 5” event on 24 March 2016.