Mike Yardley: Rigid ideology still controlling our policies on roading

Mike Yardley,
Publish Date
Thursday, 11 July 2019, 12:01PM
This could be a chance for Phil Twyford to redeem himself, Mike writes. (Photo / NZ Herald)

I was greatly encouraged by the Business Advisory Council’s plea to the Prime Minister to get cracking with those twelve roading projects that her government slammed the brakes on.

This is not a choice between roads, rail and coastal shipping. We need all modes to be scaled up.  But this council, chaired by Luxon,  was set up by Jacinda Ardern, so here’s a great test of its worth and intent. Was it just window-dressing to placate the business community when she was under the pump this time last year? Is it just a talk shop, or did she intend it to be a serious player, producing policy advice to be acted upon?

It is a disgrace those roads of national significance, like Warkworth to Whangarei, and Christchurch to Ashburton, were dumped from the workplan. They need to be four laned.

Desperately. I travel on SH1 to Ashburton regularly. It’s an over-loaded death trap, swamped in trucks and far too many fatalities. How high does the body count have to rise? It’s despicable. Four lane it.

The NZTA should be allowed to raise debt to fast-track these projects.  

Luxon’s council wants private investment and toll road regimes to expedite many of these projects. And when there is an alternative, albeit slower free route, that’s all good with me.

A case in point is the proposed Penlink Toll Road, across to the Whangaparoa Peninsula.  Michael Barnett from the Auckland Business Chamber is hot on this, confirming there are companies happy to front-foot the cost of the four hundred million project. It would ease congestion by diverting fifty thousand vehicles a day, bypassing Silverdale.

The idea is its construction would be privately funded and operate as a toll road for twenty years, before reverting to the public realm at no charge.

Hasn’t this Penlink Toll Road been talked about for twenty years?

Idealogically, I see obstacles. The Ardern government would need to have a dramatic come to Jesus conversion over highway projects.  Come on, Minister Twyford. Here’s your chance to redeem yourself.  But listening to him with Heather last night, rigid ideology was still running rampant.

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