Skypath amongst 11 projects fast-tracked by Government

Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 15 Jun 2020, 4:07PM

Skypath amongst 11 projects fast-tracked by Government

Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 15 Jun 2020, 4:07PM

High density housing around the country, transport infrastructure upgrades and more walkways and cycleways are among the "shovel-ready" projects that the Government wants to fast-track to kick-start the economic recovery.

The projects include the Auckland Harbour Bridge 'Skypath' - a cycleway and walkway between Westhaven and Akoranga in Auckland.

The 11 projects were announced today in the post-Cabinet press conference by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Environment Minister David Parker.

Ardern said today marked one week at alert level 1, and New Zealand's economy was now much more open than most other countries around the world.

There would be more Covid cases in the future, but hopefully they would only be at the border, she said.

"I don't want New Zealanders to believe that the battle is over when it is not."

Economic activity was now ramping up, and Ardern noted the rugby matches in Dunedin and Auckland this weekend.

She said the 11 projects could see up to 1200 jobs created and were selected because they were "ready to go".

Meanwhile Ardern was asked if new Labour candidate Ayesha Verrall will be the next Health Minister.

Verrall is almost certain to become an MP with a placing at 18.

The Prime Minister would not be drawn on what a future Cabinet might look like, adding that it depended on the outcome of September's election.

"We have excellent prospects for a future Cabinet," Ardern told reporters.

"She is an extremely competent candidate, but so are a range of other candidates that join her on the list today."

Ardern said Verrall had acted with "the utmost integrity" when she was commenting on the Government's Covid-19 contact-tracing system, and Verrall's comments had challenged the Government and been "objective".

The Prime Minister said Verrall had acted professionally and had specialist knowledge to help the Covid-19 response.

She credited Health Minister David Clark for the role he had played in the Covid-19 response.

"A little more emphasis on the outcome ... is in order," she said in reference to Clark's personal failures to observe lockdown protocols.

Ardern stood by her decision that she would have sacked Clark earlier, were it not for the need for continuity for the Covid response.

Labour's caucus next term would be comprised of about 50 per cent women, and more Māori than the party had ever had, Ardern said.

New projects could create 1200 jobs

Ardern said the 11 projects could see up to 1200 jobs created and were chosen because they were "ready to go".

Parker said legislation to fast track the 11 projects would be introduced to Parliament this week.

The projects had been selected after considering feedback from the likes of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and KiwiRail.

The 11 projects were part of concerns that the post-Covid recovery would be in the wrong direction, so there were a broad range of projects including walkways and cycleways.

"Job rich infrastructure and development projects of different sizes and in different locations around New Zealand will be prioritised," he said.

Last month the Government announced changes to the Resource Management Act to enable a faster consenting process for approving "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects.

The changes allow Parker to determine which projects can be fast-tracked, overseen by an expert panel chaired by a current or retired Environmental Court judge or senior lawyer, and including relevant local councils and iwi representatives.

The panels will be able to greenlight a project within 25 days - rather than months or years - or up to 50 days for large-scale infrastructure.

Parker said positive environmental outcomes will not be sacrificed at the expense of speed, and environmental safeguards remain.

Part 2 of the RMA, including the recognition of matters of national importance, will continue to apply, as will the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.


The 11 projects named in the bill

  • Kaikohe water storage facility – to provide water for agricultural and horticultural use and drinking water in Kaikohe. This project is expected to provide 70 jobs.
  • Unitec – Phase 1 – high density housing on the Unitec site in Auckland, 250 jobs.
  • Te Pa Tahuna – Phase 1 – up to 180 residential units and retail space on an old school site in Queenstown - part of a wider development that aims to provide up to 300 high density dwellings. Up to 100 jobs.
  • Papakāinga Network Development – the delivery of Papakainga across six sites; in Kaitaia, Pt Chevalier, Raglan, Waitara, Chatham Islands and Christchurch. This project will support the Government to provide up to 120 dwellings. It is being delivered by Māori developers with support from Te Puni Kōkiri. Will help retain and expand the existing workforce.
  • Britomart East Upgrade – upgrades to Britomart station to ensure the City Rail Link project can operate at full capacity once services commence. 30 jobs.
  • Papakura to Pukekohe electrification – electrification of rail from Papakura to Pukekohe and the construction of three rail platforms. This project aims to extend Auckland metro services south to Pukekohe providing South Auckland with increased lower emissions transport choice. This project is expected to create 85 jobs.
  • Wellington Metro Upgrade programme – suite of smaller projects aimed at increasing the passenger and freight capacity of trains between Masterton, Levin and Wellington. Works will involve upgrading drainage, new tracks, upgrading stations, new storage yards, and the establishment and operation of a gravel extraction site. This project is expected to create 90 jobs.
  • Picton Ferry Dock and Terminal upgrade – The project will improve rail services by expanding the docks and upgrading the passenger terminal. This project is expected to create 200 jobs. KiwiRail notes that the design of the new terminal takes into account 100 years of projected sea level rise.
  • Northern Pathway – a cycleway and walkway between Westhaven and Akoranga in Auckland. This project aims to create a safe and useable active transport corridor for the North Shore and aims to increase the number of people cycling for commuting and recreation. Number of jobs expected to be 50.
  • Papakura to Drury SH1 roading upgrade – upgrades to SH1 to improve its capacity, as well as constructing new walking and cycling facilities to improve highway access and safety. This project aims to respond to population growth and provide transport options for people in South Auckland. Up to 350 jobs.
  • Te Ara Tūpuna – a cycleway and walkway between Petone and Ngauranga in Wellington. This project will improve the safety and usability of an existing cycleway and aims to increase the number of people cycling for commuting, recreation and tourism. This project is expected to create between 30 and 40 jobs and is an opportunity to strengthen existing sea walls and structures to make it more resilient to sea level rise and increased storm events.