PM watching furore in her electorate

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is keeping close tabs on the uproar into the upgrade of the Mt Albert town centre that has left a sour taste in the community.

As MP for Mt Albert, the Prime Minister is sending two members from her electorate office to a meeting on Monday with AT officers and the Albert-Eden Local Board to get briefed on the issue.

Writing in the Mt Albert Inc blog this week, editor Bruce Morris, said Ardern will have in the back of her mind comments made at the opening ceremony by AT chairman Dr Lester Levy that the project had not been perfect.

It‘s totally diabolical. The whole thing has to be redone.

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“Fourteen weeks on, the admission of a ‘job not well done‘ still grates locally with endless problems, omissions and flaws,” Morris said.

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When the Herald asked Ardern for comment, a spokeswoman said “the Prime Minister, as MP for Mt Albert, is of course always interested in what is going on in her electorate”.

Turnover at many Mt Albert shops has not recovered after tumbling 50 per cent during the construction period.

“It‘s a ghost town,” said Bhaidas Bhula, who has been forced to lay off two of four staff at the New North Pharmacy in the town centre.

Local business owners Bhaidas Bhula, left, and Calab Vincent in the Mt Albert Town centre during the upgrade in February. Photo / Dean Purcell facebook twitter email linkedin google-plus whatsapp pinterest reddit

Bhula said takings dropped 50 per cent during construction and had been tracking at those levels since the Prime Minister, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and Dr Levy opened the $6.5 million upgrade in May.

He blamed the loss of parking and light phasing at the busy intersection in the town centre for fewer customers. Rat-running through local streets to avoid the intersection and lack of policing by AT for a clearway zone are other concerns in the community.

A bleak concrete pocket park with a solitary tree is also raising heckles.

“It‘s totally diabolical. The whole thing has to be redone,” Bhula said.

In a recent posting on Morris‘ blog, Mt Albert Business Association communications co-ordinator Dalline Leng said the upgrade is a failure and bringing some businesses close to collapse.

She spoke of tenants barely surviving, sales not meeting the costs of rent, power and wages and one business owner who revealed his total takings in one day were $10.

The community was promised great things out of the upgrade but all they got were wider footpaths, which, at the expense of parking, were not worth it, Leng said.

Mt Albert Town centre after the upgrade. Photo / Michael Craig facebook twitter email linkedin google-plus whatsapp pinterest reddit

Albert-Eden Local Board chairman Peter Haynes, who told the Herald in February that the upgrade would rescue and reinvigorate the town centre, was disappointed with AT and council staff for not grasping the urgency to resolve a number of issues.

“They just haven‘t been focused on the very real needs that impact greatly on the amenities,” said Haynes, who hopes the upgrade will be seen in its proper light coming into summer and make up for some of the losses.

An AT spokesman said the transport body was addressing traffic concerns and its enforcement team is ticketing and towing motorists in the clearway during the evening peak.

“AT has a dedicated person monitoring the light phasing during a settling in period – we are making changes based on the traffic flow data and are surveying traffic volumes in surrounding streets,” the spokesman said.

He said AT met with the business association on Monday to address issues around location of rubbish bins and seating.