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Mike Hosking: We love roads, so let's get on with building them

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Mon, 19 Jun 2023, 3:07PM
Puhoi to Warkworth motorway. Photo / Supplied
Puhoi to Warkworth motorway. Photo / Supplied

Mike Hosking: We love roads, so let's get on with building them

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Mon, 19 Jun 2023, 3:07PM

I know if you are south of Auckland, you might not care.

But yet again Friday and over the weekend we were reminded of the value of roads, new roads, good roads, and roads that add to the value of the country and economy.

The Puhoi motorway extension was opened, ironically by the Prime Minister, who had the good grace to admit calling it the holiday highway had been a mistake.

For years the Labour Party, well known road haters had stalled it, insulted it, cancelled it, and yet here they were cutting ribbons.

There are questions around the future of infrastructure in this country. The New Zealand Initiative report last week very aptly pointed out, we have a massive backlog hundreds of billions of dollars worth of work and the summer storms haven't helped.

It also said governments get too involved and the cost of the sticky beak ”start it, stop it” only adds to the cost. The light rail debacle in Auckland is all the proof you need.

But every time a major bit of road is opened, whether it’s the Waikato Expressway extension or Transmission Gully there is a mainstream fascination with it all.

People get, and I think this is unique to infrastructure generally, but people get genuinely excited by roads. And as far as roads go, the Puhoi extension is magnificent. It's a great looking bit of road.

It took too long, it cost more than it should, and its hold up at the end must be dangerously close to criminal. But it’s open.

And it will be used and used well, and that is the point, isn't it? It will materially improve the operation of this country. We will financially benefit from its presence. It will ultimately pay for itself, and more.

Too much infrastructure is based on theory. Apparently, we need more buses, more bike lanes, and more trains. But the proof is people, rightly or wrongly, don't use them in a way that materially improves the country. But roads do.

Having been on that road many hundreds of times, it was never a holiday highway. It was State Highway One and access to the north of the country. It was and is a vital link.

And now it's gone from a second world goat track to a first world highway.

That's what good infrastructure is. Tangible improvement on the way we conduct the business of the country.

No one ever went to the opening of a bus lane. But roads we love, let's learn that lesson.

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