Gareth Hughes

Uneconomic motorways – one thing Brash and I agree on

by Gareth Hughes

There aren’t many things that Don Brash and I agree on however one thing we have in common is we both share concerns around the Government’s massive motorway infrastructure projects.

In the media statement on the latest 2025 Taskforce report it mentions “Public investment in big projects needed to be justified, such as the spending on the Transmission Gully highway north of Wellington.” And later “There was no evidence the project would provide a net benefit to the economy, Brash said.

While I think Brash’s economic analysis is overall out-dated and discredited he is yet another prominent voice challenging Steven Joyce’s big gamble on the Roads of National Significance projects (RONS). The fact is many of these projects like Transmission Gully and the Puhoi-to-Wellsford ‘Holiday Highway,’ with Benefit Cost Ratios of 0.6 and 0.8 respectively are uneconomic using current economic tools but that’s even without a more comprehensive analysis that takes into account oil price risk, climate change, and externalities like pollution, road safety and even obesity rates.

Others like the Kapiti Expressway, that was the cause of a protest this morning and the Waterview Connection are deeply unpopular locally and will damage the local communities all in the search for a 1950s-type economic vision where motorways = growth.

The Government cries ‘Stop, we need to wait for the spatial plans’ in response to the unified voice of the Auckland Super City calling for the CBD Rail Loop, which would actually achieve more for Auckland’s congested motorists that the Holiday Highway, but is prepared to borrow billions to ram through the Roads of National Party Significance, even though many don’t have positive business cases, they are extraordinarily expensive compared to the alternatives and more jobs could be created in public transport infrastructure.

Brash’s views by themselves wouldn’t matter much, but on top of all the other criticisms of the RONS projects should make the Government sit up and take note.

Published in Environment & Resource Management by Gareth Hughes on Wed, November 3rd, 2010   

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