Jeremy Matthews knows how it sounds – a real estate agent who lives on Moana Ave high over Tasman Bay telling Victory residents that they need to start thinking creatively about what the Southern Link could mean for their community.
For the last 19 years he has been wanting the Government to build the new highway that would very likely follow the old Railway Reserve and down St Vincent St.
He says it needs to happen.
Victory residents have long said the move would severe their suburb, create a community divided by a road.
NZTA is currently in the process of deciding the future options for Nelson’s transport issues.
They include building an ‘Inland Route’, known as the Southern Link, establishing clearways on Waimea Rd and Rocks Rd or widening Rocks Rd and having it remain as SH6.
Jeremy and his cohort of pro Southern Link enthusiasts say that the oppositional narrative over a new inland highway needs to move on.
“It’s unproductive. If you want to call it an olive branch … let’s have a look and see what we can do.”
He says Victory needs to think about what it might be able to get out of a new highway that he says is “as inevitable as sunrise”.
“There is no other community in the Nelson region that is facing such a dramatic challenge with such an amazing opportunity.”
Jeremy has a vision. He thinks that a new highway should come down into St Vincent street and then sink down below the sight line. Then he says all the shops should be demolished with the new Victory created around Victory Square.
“The park is the sizzle. Right now, it’s got some seagulls and a couple of cricket teams on the weekend. It’s nice but it’s just sitting there.”
He says the community should turn its back on the road and so the new square, complete with shops and maybe apartments, becomes more a village green that still has room for cricket.
Then he says that the intersection with Toi Toi St should be split into levels with a flyover that itself becomes a park, in the form of New York City’s Highline.
It would have separate pedestrian and cycle paths so both parties are happy, he says.
“That is the pièce de résistance.”
Currently the Southern Link is the cheapest of the long-term options, at $190m to $260m, but something of Jeremy’s vision would cost considerably more.
“We don’t want the cheapest, we want the best.”
On the topic of Victory’s pollution levels under a new highway, he says that electric cars and trucks would eventually mean there would be no issue.
“These are just ideas. To some people I’m the devil incarnate and I’m kind of cool with that.”
He and a consortium of pro Inland Route groups are currently in battle with the NZTA over what they say was a flawed consultation process.
They say that the agency released their plan with incorrect assumptions about what clearways might do to Waimea Rd and Rutherford St.
“It’s a shot across the bow.”
Jeremy says his skin in the game is that he hates seeing “potential not being released”.
He says he would like the Victory community to think about what could be in it for them and then demand it of council and Government.
“It sounds like I am trying to buy them off, and I am.
“I look at the waterfront and I see how much pleasure it could bring for everybody.”