At yesterday’s meeting of the ARC’s Transport and Urban Development Committee there was a lengthy discussion of the merits of the Puhoi to Wellsford “holiday highway”. This was reported in the NZ Herald today, in an article that includes the following:
The Government was accused yesterday of “picking winners” by promoting a new highway north of Auckland for up to $2 billion while KiwiRail is considering closing its line to Northland.
Auckland Regional Council transport chairwoman Christine Rose said more investment in rail was needed to carry some of the freight load for which the Government is earmarking the proposed dual-carriageway road between Puhoi and Wellsford.
“We have a real concern there is a clear picking of winners in [transport] modes,” she told Transport Agency regional director Wayne McDonald at a meeting of her committee…
…councillors passed a resolution of concern about the cost implications of “state highway duplication, especially in the absence of a cost-benefit analysis and cost of capital considerations compared with other modes”.
Mr McDonald said the project was still in its initial consultation stage for selecting a route, and a cost-benefit analysis would follow as part of a full scheme assessment.
Council strategy and planning chairman Paul Walbran said although Auckland should consider ways by which it could support Northland, given that region’s large areas of economic deprivation, is was unclear whether the new road was the answer.
“I note that Mr McDonald has got the order to do it and work out the costs and benefits later,” he said.
It is true that NZTA can’t be blamed too much for the stupidity that is the holiday highway. They have their orders from the Minister of Transport to get the thing done. However, as I have noted in the past (and will elaborate upon in posts in the not too distant future) I think that NZTA’s work on this project so far has been pretty shoddy. They must know, in their heart of hearts, that the project simply does not stack up financially as good value for money. Perhaps that explains to some extent why they seem to be inviting people to come up with reasons to make the project difficult, but in general I think they need to be doing a better job at fully analysing what the real issues are along this stretch of State Highway 1 and proposing what would be far more sensible alternatives to the Minister’s grandiose monument to himself.
Anyway, back to the ARC’s position on the matter. This is outlined in more detail in the agenda of yesterday’s meeting (pages 22-33 of this document), as it seems as though the councillors pretty much agreed with the recommendations in the agenda item, which were:
I also found this part quite interesting:
It would seem as though the ARC has come to the realisation that upgrading the existing road, with perhaps a few minor realignments, is by far the more cost-effective option than a full 38 kilometre new motorway.
What will be really fascinating is if the new Auckland Council takes a position opposing this project, and directs the Auckland Transport CCO to also oppose it. While obviously it’s a completely NZTA funded project, things could get rather interesting if it is being imposed on a council and a transport agency that have stated positions against it. On a related note, it’s probably worth noting that at Tuesday’s CBT meeting, John Banks said that he fully supported the Puhoi-Wellsford holiday highway (though of course he didn’t called it a holiday highway).