Gone: Govt scraps $785m Auckland harbour cycle bridge

Author
Claire Trevett, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 2 Oct 2021, 9:02AM
A concept drawing for the Northern Pathway, a new separate structure for walking and cycling next to the existing Auckland Harbour Bridge. (Picture / Supplied)
A concept drawing for the Northern Pathway, a new separate structure for walking and cycling next to the existing Auckland Harbour Bridge. (Picture / Supplied)

Gone: Govt scraps $785m Auckland harbour cycle bridge

Author
Claire Trevett, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 2 Oct 2021, 9:02AM

The Government has confirmed it is scrapping plans for a $785 million cycle bridge across Auckland's Harbour in response to public pressure, and will instead use the money on projects such as speeding up the Eastern Busway. 

In early August, the NZ Herald reported the cycle bridge was poised to be scrapped after strong public opposition to the cost of it and revelations the benefit to cost ratio was very low. 

Transport Minister Michael Wood has now confirmed the controversial Northern Pathway will not go ahead. 

"It did not get the public support needed for a project of its scale, and we acknowledge that." 

Wood said the money allocated for the cycle bridge would now be used on other projects, such as bringing forward the $1.4 billion Eastern Busway project. 

In a Newshub Reid Research poll in early August, 81.7 per cent of respondents said they did not support the crossing and only 11.9 per cent said they did. 

Wood said Waka Kotahi would look at lower-cost options for getting cyclists and walkers across the harbour. 

Short-term options could include dedicated bike ferries or buses linking to cycleways on either side. The Seapath cycleway project on the North Shore leading to the bridge would continue, but would be re-designed. 

He ruled out permanently allocating a lane of the bridge for cycles and pedestrians, but said he had written to Waka Kotahi to express support for a trial of that over the quieter summer months, if it was safe. 

He said work would still go ahead on plans for a second harbour crossing, for which public transport would be a priority. 

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff welcomed the development, saying dedicated ferries or buses would be a quicker and more cost-effective way of delivering for cyclists and pedestrians in the short term. 

He said Aucklanders would welcome the reallocation of the funding to projects that were seen as a higher priority such as the Eastern Busway. 

"This infrastructure is critical in bringing rapid public transit to our eastern suburbs and giving people the choice of a fast and reliable service." 

That busway is the second-largest transport project in Auckland, after the City Rail Link. 

However, the project's completion date was pushed back from 2025 to 2027 because of a $120m cut to Auckland Transport's budget - a development National MPs Christopher Luxon and Simeon Brown said was "a disgrace" given its priority as a public transport measure. 

Wood had previously said he hoped to be able to get it back to its original completion date, and yesterday announced the Government would boost its contribution above the original 50 per cent to achieve that. 

"The project will achieve similar objectives to the bridge of reducing emissions and congestion." 

A 1.9 km link to connect the new Eastern Busway cycleway to the Tamaki cycleway would also be brought forward, and other cycling links improved. 

Ashburton will also benefit from the cycle bridge scrapping: $2 million will go to the Ashburton Rail Hub, a $14 million project to treble freight capacity in the region. The rest of the money would be allocated over the next few months. 

The cycle bridge was included in Labour's rejig of the transport part of the NZ Upgrade Programme, which was altered because of cost estimate blowouts and to take account of Labour's carbon emissions reductions goals. 

That same transport plan scrapped other major projects, including Mill Rd. 

Labour had promised a cycle crossing over the harbour, but its preference for the SkyPath could not go ahead because the Auckland Harbour Bridge was not strong enough for it – and could not be strengthened further.