Transport Minister Steven Joyce’s uneconomic Puhoi-Wellsford Holiday Highway is facing some unanticipated difficulties – from the Speaker of the House and National MP whom Joyce hopes to succeed as the MP for the Rodney electorate, Lockwood Smith.
“No off-ramp for Puhoi”, read the innocuous headline on a brief story buried in [the NZ Herald].
No bad thing, you might suspect for the settlement nestled beside the muddy tidal river that curls lazily through the village, 45km north of Auckland and a minute off the highway. Why should the historic settlement be so agitated about connecting to a shiny $1.65 billion new motorway pushing past the end of the road?
“Because we’ll die otherwise,” comes the response from store owner Nick Lodewyks.
“If we don’t have an off-ramp, I’m going.”
Local MP Lockwood Smith gets into the story, I suspect much to the annoyance of his ambitious heir apparent Steven Joyce:
Heavyweights have joined the fray. National member of Parliament Lockwood Smith has put his life on the line for a couple of ramps.
Dr Smith, the district’s MP for 26 years, says further consultation is unnecessary because access for Puhoi and Mahurangi West communities “simply must happen. You can shoot me if I’m wrong on this.”
Here’s a better idea, Lockwood and Steven. Don’t argue about the cost of a couple of ramps at Puhoi – just scrap the Holiday Highway altogether.
The people of Puhoi will respect you again because their town won’t become a ghost town. And you won’t be wasting $1.7 billion, or more if you build the Puhoi ramps, on a project that has a projected benefit-cost return of only 80 cents for every dollar (of our money) you “invest”.