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Two out of three Aucklanders want upgraded rail services ahead of a motorway between Panmure and the central city, says a poll commissioned by Stop the Eastern Motorway lobby group (Stem).
The poll found 64 per cent support for improved rail, while 25 per cent supported a motorway. The 500 people polled were told the upgraded rail option would cost $500 million and the motorway option $1.5 billion.
Support for the motorway fell away to 14 per cent when supporters were asked whether they would change their minds if the environment was shown to be adversely affected by the construction of a road.
The poll found 56 per cent of people were not prepared to pay tolls to finance the construction of the eastern motorway. Support for tolls was 38 per cent.
When it came to voters' intentions at October's local body elections, 57 per cent said the eastern motorway would to some degree affect their vote. One in five said it would greatly affect their vote.
The poll was conducted in the fortnight leading up to Queen's Birthday Weekend by TNS, an international company which has been polling in New Zealand since 1989. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.38 per cent.
Stem executive officer Richard Lewis said the poll was a wake-up call to politicians who had staked their careers on the motorway.
"The survey clearly shows that pro-road councillors in Auckland and Manukau cities are out of touch with voter opinion," said Mr Lewis. "Voters find the enormous cost of the eastern motorway prohibitive and rail the more logical, cost-effective alternative for the route."
Auckland City Mayor John Banks said his door-knocking in the eastern suburbs showed overwhelming support for the eastern corridor, but he was also picking up a mood swing towards public transport.
Mr Banks said the region was budgeting to spend $1.5 billion on public transport over the next decade, but with the number of cars forecast to double it was vital to complete the region's motorway network, including the link between Panmure and the central city.
The eastern highway is becoming a hot political issue in the lead-up to the local body elections, with the Stem poll and the Hobson Bay Residents' Network dropping 11,000 leaflets in the Hobson and Eastern Bays wards showing a computer-generated image of the highway along Tamaki Drive.
New Zealand Herald
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