Gareth Hughes

Which motorway project(s) would you cut?

by Gareth Hughes

So, the Minister of Finance has confirmed its full steam ahead with the national motorway gamble. Even the Transport Minister has made it clear that he will not consider cutting the budget for the poster-child of uneconomic motorways, the Puhoi to Wellsford ‘Holiday Highway,’ after the quake. Government cabinet papers also say that the government is not likely to commit to funding any major new rail project in Auckland over the next 10 years. That presumably includes the CBD rail loop.

It really is becoming hard to believe the Transport Minister’s staunch commitment to the ‘Holiday Highway.’ The earthquake gave him an opportunity to downsize this uneconomic project without losing face. Given its poor business case and the soaring oil prices it seems logical he would have grasped eagerly at the chance.

Maybe it’s the lack of joined-up thinking?

Bill English, in response to my questions in the house, has indicated he’s happy to let the market sort out New Zealand’s dependence on oil in the absence of developing a Government plan.

I find it a little rich that he doesn’t want to put even a little bit of strategic thought into it, when he acknowledges our significant economic vulnerability to volatile and high oil prices but is prepared to sign off on billions of dollars of motorway spending, furthering New Zealand’s oil addiction.

The fastest way we could reduce our dependence on oil is to re-direct the massive motorway funds to a balanced transport budget that invests more in public transport, car-sharing and active transport.

If you were Finance Minister for a day what project(s) would you cut to re-direct transport funds?

Auckland Projects

  • Waterview & widening of SH16 – construction meant to start at end of this year: approx $2 billion
  • Victoria Park Tunnel – in progress: $360 million
  • Newmarket Viaduct – in progress: $225 million
  • Puhoi to Wellsford – Construction would start in 2014. However, the Government has already put a significant amount ($100 million) into planning the project: $2.1 billion.
  • Penlink – likely to start in next few years. Much of the funds for this will come from Auckland Council, however: $201 million.
  • AMETI – this project requires a mixture of Auckland Council and government funds. Currently in progress: $430 million over the next 10 years.

Outside Auckland

  • Widening Waikato expressway – This project is ongoing until 2019. Some parts have already been built, others are being designed: $2.4 billion.
  • Wellington Northern Corridor: $2.4 billion (Transmission Gully – Construction proposed to start in 2014: $1.025 billion)
  • Christchurch motorways – this project is obviously going to change substantially due to the earthquake. Cost will likely be at least $400 million
  • Tauranga Eastern Link – construction will start in 2011: $455 million