Auckland Transport Under Fire for Lingering Road Closure, Poor Communications

Auckland Transport is under fire again. The high cost of pedestrian crossings, overcrowded school buses, and now extending the closure of Meola Rd, from six to 18 weeks. Now a football boss has had a go at AT’s communications about Meola Rd – labelling it a “bloody shambles”.

A football boss is fuming after Auckland Transport (AT) said the busy road outside the club’s playing fields will remain closed when the new season kicks off for thousands of players and spectators.

Western Springs Football Club manager Paul Rutland said the club was okay with AT closing off the club’s car park entrance on Meola Rd from December 15 until today.

“Now they are telling us it’s closed off until the end of April. They literally sent us an email on Waitangi Day at 9.37am after we chased them up to find out what was going on.

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“What a bloody shambles they are. Their communications skills are bloody non-existent,” Rutland said.

Western Springs Football Club is concerned about the closure of the Meola Rd entrance to its grounds at Seddon Fields for another three months. Photo / Michael Craig

AT also waited until today to notify residents that Meola Rd, linking the suburbs of Westmere and Pt Chevalier, will remain closed until the end of April.

Before AT closed Meola Rd on December 15, AT’s head of construction projects Mark Banfield said he expected the road to reopen no later than early February.

The closure is part of a $29.3 million road improvements project, including better drainage and underground power lines, and a two-way, off-road cycleway on the northern side of Meola Rd, which is being narrowed for vehicles.

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The works include rebuilding 840 metres of Meola Rd, half of which is being raised by about 400m over an old rubbish tip.

Rutland said the closure of Meola Rd over the Christmas period had not caused much disruption, but that changed on January 8 with the start of a seven-a-side competition running Monday to Thursday with 1800 participants.

He said the club – the largest in the country with 2800 members – is coming into winter preparations with skill centres and academies for boys and girls from February 12, and team training.

Meola Rd remains closed to all traffic, bar some areas for residents. Photo / Alex Burton

From early March, youth teams start training at the club grounds at Seddon Fields and on April 27 all community football starts with weekend games and about 2000 players training during the week.

Rutland said while Meola Rd is closed people have to come via Motions Rd and the main club car park with 78 spaces remains empty. He said there currently isn’t a usable entrance close to the sports grounds for an ambulance, and rubbish services are a logistical nightmare.

He described the situation as “utterly frustrating”, adding the club is meeting AT tomorrow to discuss the extra disruption.

“We were told that it is likely they would be finished by late January, but they put the Waitangi Day date on it, I guess for a margin of error,” he said.

The Herald has asked AT, including chief executive Dean Kimpton, about the reasons for extending the road closure by three months when the work was meant to be completed in six weeks.

Pt Chevalier resident Rob Meek has also questioned how AT will manage traffic when an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people attend the Big Gay Out event at Coyle Park on February 18.

Meola Rd has been narrowed for motorists, and a two-way cycleway is being built.

He said the communication from AT regarding the event has been terrible to date.

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Meek said he was getting hundreds of cars a day along his side street in Pt Chevalier as a result of the Meola Rd closure, and worries about the impact of thousands of cars, buses and event vehicles descending on Pt Chevalier for the Big Gay Out.

This morning the continued closure was causing huge issues on side streets, with one resident describing it as a “s**t show”.

“It’s utter chaos along Kiwi Rd and the side streets to get onto Great North Rd. Buses can’t pass, and a lot of swearing motorists trying to pull ueys. I’m not sure where they can go,” the resident said.

In the notice to residents today, AT said while significant progress has been made, the road will remain closed to vehicles until the end of April.

“Over the holiday period, the team has been hard at work reconstructing Meola Rd, which has seen new infrastructure including aggregate road base, kerb and channel, subsoil drainage and asphalt, along with stormwater upgrades on behalf of Auckland Council Healthy Waters. Chorus and Vector have also been working to place their overhead lines underground.

“We recognise that some in the community may be disappointed, and trust that the benefits for neighbours of the works are acknowledged. We are grateful for the patience and support that the project team and contractor have received,” the notice said.

AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.Auckland Transport today said Meola Rd will remain closed to traffic for a further three months. Photo / Alex Burton

Meola Rd is a key corridor for motorists. On top of that, it provides access to the Seddon Fields football facility, the Museum of Technology and Transport’s Aviation Hall, and the popular Meola Reef dog park.

Residents have still been able to get to their homes, but a detour is required to travel from Pt Chevalier to Westmere.

AT said by keeping Meola Rd closed “we can make significant progress with this next stage in building the new footpath and cycle lane, as well as road reconstruction in some residential areas whilst further progress also occurs with underground utilities”.

“Doing so will also help lessen the duration of impact on residents of Meola Road when accessing their properties,” it said.

Auckland Transport bosses will appear before the council’s transport and infrastructure committee tomorrow where Mayor Wayne Brown and councillors are expected to raise questions about recent issues in the headlines, including the high cost of pedestrian crossings and Meola Rd.

Bernard Orsman is an award-winning reporter who has been covering Auckland’s local politics and transport since 1998. Before that, he worked in the parliamentary press gallery for six years.

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2024-02-07 05:02:02
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