Cycleway protesters occupy digger, demand end to construction Auckland-wide

Protesters angry at the construction of a "dangerous" cycleway through their neighbourhood are now occupying a contractor's digger.

Lisa Prager of the Occupy Garnet Rd group says she won't budge, until Auckland Transport stops its "eco-terrorism".

"I'm prepared to hang onto the digger for as long as it takes to get the CEO of Auckland Transport to simply put in writing what he has told the local board, what he has told the local retailers' association, what he's told everybody, but us - which is work will stop on the cycleways in West Lynn, until they have been reviewed and genuine public consultation with all affected parties has taken place."

The group has occupied a traffic island on Garnet Rd, West Lynn for the past few weeks.

"We want Auckland Transport to put in writing its verbal promises to stop construction on these badly designed and dangerous cycleways," Ms Prager told Newshub, speaking by phone from the digger.

"Auckland Transport has just rolled out these massive amounts of cycleways. In West Lynn, it's taken a terrible toll on retailers. 

"They're rolling it out in Birkenhead and Mt Albert and Parnell and Devonport, and all the local communities are up in arms, because of the negative impacts it's having on their communities, their shops and their wellbeing."

Auckland Transport told Newshub it hasn't told anyone, secretly or otherwise, that it plans to stop work on cycleways across the city. 

The Waitemata Local Board also confirms that it has not been told of any plans to stop work on cycleway construction across the city.

Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan said, while it doesn't own the digger, it's still private property and Ms Prager has "no right" to occupy it. 

Ms Prager begs to differ.

"I'm not actually doing anything illegal," she says. "Anybody can occupy a piece of equipment in the public arena and they will not be asked to move. 

"It's part of the new health and safety rules, I believe. I'm not exactly sure."

Police said no-one had laid a complaint, as of Friday lunchtime. 

Ms Prager supplied Newshub with a copy of the letter her lawyer sent to Auckland Transport earlier this month, in which she demands the organisation "stop work on the entire Waitemata Safe Cycle Route immediately", because "the consultation was flawed and has failed residents and retailers across Auckland".

She also demands Auckland Transport "compensate businesses that have lost income in Grey Lynn as a result".

Ms Prager owns the Garnet Station café, which she says has lost business, after carparking was reduced. Other shops in the suburb have also had parking reduced to make way for bus stops and to make it safer for cyclists. 

In November, Auckland Transport told Ms Prager in a letter that it was "not safe to have cars reversing out into a cycle lane", so they had to go.  

Ms Prager insists she isn't anti-cycle lanes, as some people have claimed. Prominent blogger and journalist Russell Brown said her fight was "basically about Lisa Prager not wanting to lose any parking outside her cafe and they just make shit up daily from there".

"We are pro-cyclists, we are pro-good design and we are pro-community," Ms Prager told Newshub, adding that most cyclists want to use roads, alongside cars, and few of them want separate cycleways.

"They don't want to be in a constrained cycle lane. You then have to say to yourself, who will use it?"