Four-lane highways a big part of Government's $12 billion infrastructure package

Author
Bernard Orsman,
Publish Date
Wed, 29 Jan 2020, 11:47AM
Auckland Harbour Bridge's Skypath walkway is included in today's announcement. (Photo / Supplied)
Auckland Harbour Bridge's Skypath walkway is included in today's announcement. (Photo / Supplied)

Four-lane highways a big part of Government's $12 billion infrastructure package

Author
Bernard Orsman,
Publish Date
Wed, 29 Jan 2020, 11:47AM

KEY POINTS:
• $6.8b for transport projects in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Canterbury, Queenstown
• $1.1b for rail, including more than $900m for projects in Auckland
• $2.2b for new roads in Auckland, including Penlink, widening SH1 from Papakura to Drury, Mill Rd four-lane highway
• Auckland Harbour Bridge 'SkyPath' for pedestrians and cyclists confirmed

A number of big roading projects are part of the Government's $12 billion infrastructure package unveiled today.

After a two-year hiatus, the Government has given the green light to several four-lane highways, including SH1 from Whangarei to Port Marsden, Mill Rd in South Auckland, widening SH1 from Papakura to Drury, the Tauranga Northern Link and SH1 from Otaki to north of Levin.

The package also includes $1.1b for rail, including electrification from Papakura to Pukekohe, a third rail line in South Auckland, two new rail stations in Drury Central and Drury West and upgrades in Wellington and the Wairarapa.

Work on the SkyPath for Auckland's Harbour Bridge is also confirmed - a walking and cycling link between Westhaven and the North Shore. The project will cost $360m and is due to start next year.

The SkyPath cycle and walkway over the Auckland Harbour Bridge was first conceived 15 years ago and has been subject to numerous delays and debate.

In August 2018, Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced the Government would fully fund the $67 million SkyPath project but would not give a completion date.

NZTA purchased the SkyPath design for $1.8 million in December last year after consent was granted in 2015.

The SeaPath is a 3km walking and cycling path that would run alongside the Northern Motorway and stretch from the SkyPath on the Harbour Bridge to Northcote Point and on to Takapuna.

The SkyPath cycle and walkway over the Auckland Harbour Bridge was first conceived 15 years ago and has been subject to numerous delays and debate.

In August 2018, Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced the Government would fully fund the $67 million SkyPath project but would not give a completion date.

NZTA purchased the SkyPath design for $1.8 million in December last year after consent was granted in 2015.

The SeaPath is a 3km walking and cycling path that would run alongside the Northern Motorway and stretch from the SkyPath on the Harbour Bridge to Northcote Point and on to Takapuna.

In 2018, one of the world's largest construction companies, China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group, made an unsolicited bid to build and operate the $400m Penlink project and pay for it through tolls.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford said today: "Penlink will open up more growth north of Auckland and connect Whangaparoa residents to the successful northern busway."

The two-lane road will be tolled and will include a separated cycling and walking pathway.
Construction is set to start late next year and be completed in 2025.

The package of projects unveiled today, called the New Zealand Upgrade Programme, also includes funding for schools and hospitals.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the past decade has seen significant under-investment in crucial infrastructure, acting as a handbrake on the economy and society.

"The previous government announced a number of projects but did not commit any money to them. Some of those ghost roads we have improved, brought forward and funded."

The $6.8b in total transport spending would boost the economy and future-proof it, Robertson said.

Transport spending would target Auckland, Waikato, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

Robertson said the economy was in good shape and it makes sense to take advantage of record-low long-term interest rates.

While Auckland is the clear beneficiary, with $3.48 billion of road and rail projects announced, Northland also made the grade with $692 million announced to expand the Whangarei to Port Marsden 22 kilometre highway to four lanes to improve freight connectivity and productivity in the region. There was no announcement in this package on a rail spur-line out to Northport, which would be expected if some of Port of Auckland's operations were to shift progressively north.

A $1.35 billion new connection from Manukau to Drury South was the most expensive road announced, followed by the revived $817 million Otaki to Levin route north of Wellington, which has the longest timeline to completion, in 2029.

More than $1 billion was set aside for rail upgrades in Auckland and Wellington, which Transport Minister Phil Twyford said was key in shifting growing freight from the roads.

While today's announcements do not cover the Auckland light rail programme, which has yet to be considered by Cabinet, they did revive the shelved Melling interchange for Wellington's Hutt Valley, albeit not a hoped-for link between Grenada and the Hutt that would ease congestion in the Ngauranga Gorge.

In a document outlining the transport projects, Twyford said freight is expected to grow 55 percent by 2042 and that moving that onto rail reduced carbon emissions by two-thirds.

Twyford said the transport projects announced were expected to create 800 to 1,000 new direct jobs in civil construction in the next 12 months as the first five projects get underway. Another 7,000 to 9,000 jobs are expected to stem from the wider supply chain.

Ardern: Once in a lifetime opportunity to invest

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the package was a once in a lifetime opportunity to invest in New Zealand, modernising its infrastructure, preparing for climate change and helping grow the economy.

The Government said in December time that not all of the $12 billion would necessarily be spent in the proposed five-year timeframe because of the challenges the increased construction programme could create for the already tight New Zealand labour market and the speed with which infrastructure firms are able to do the work.

NZ Transport chairman Sir Brian Roche said all the of the projects will be advanced over the next few months but the reality is some will not be completed for a number of years.