There’s an interesting article in today’s NZ Herald about local opposition in Puhoi to losing access to SH1 if/when the Puhoi-Wellsford “holiday highway” is constructed. Here’s an extract:

The little town of Puhoi first learned of what residents consider its death sentence two months ago.

“No off-ramp for Puhoi”, read the innocuous headline on a brief story buried in this newspaper.

No bad thing, you might suspect for the settlement nestled beside the muddy tidal river that curls lazily through the village, 45km north of Auckland and a minute off the highway. Why should the historic settlement be so agitated about connecting to a shiny $1.65 billion new motorway pushing past the end of the road?

“Because we’ll die otherwise,” comes the response from store owner Nick Lodewyks.

“If we don’t have an off-ramp, I’m going.”

Without a connection to the motorway, people driving south to Auckland will be required to follow the old State Highway 1 route through Waiwera and built-up Orewa, adding 16km and a fair bit of time to their journey.

Setting aside for a minute the main question over whether we should be building this extremely expensive motorway, when I first learned that NZTA’s preferred option was to have interchanges at Warkworth and Wellsford, I thought that was probably a good idea. My thoughts were that putting an interchange at Puhoi would simply encourage development around that area – which would contradict our urban growth strategies. Furthermore, Puhoi residents wouldn’t be any worse off in terms of their accessibility than they were back before January 2009 when the Orewa-Puhoi extension opened.

However, thinking about things in a little bit more detail, if the holiday highway is built without an interchange for Puhoi, for someone visiting the town and its surrounding area you would need to take a vastly different and longer route than the new main road. For the first time, Puhoi wouldn’t be easily accessible from the main road – and I suspect as a result the economic impact on the shops within the small village would be devastating.

Eventually the article gets on to talking about the justification for the road as a whole:

One position the NZTA will not budge on is the need for the road, which critics label the “holiday highway” because it could ease gridlock during long weekends.

Estimates as high as $2 billion make a pricey strip of bitumen, and the ARC transport committee doesn’t believe it’s worth the investment.

The Campaign for Better Transport has concluded that almost half the benefits such as journey time savings could be achieved for 20 per cent of the Government’s budget. The lobby group argues that by spending $160 million to $320 million on bypasses and upgrades, the country’s 10th deadliest road – it claimed 41 lives in the past decade – would be a lot safer and faster to drive.

But Mr Parker says the project is proceeding: “The motorway is funded as one of the roads of national significance within the state highway programme. We are pushing ahead on that basis.”

Good to see the hard work of the Campaign for Better Transport getting a mention. A bit of a pity that the Herald didn’t include mention of the 50 people who will die along the road over the next 12 years while the holiday highway is built – but I guess one can’t hope for everything. What’s also interesting is the exact wording used by Mr Tommy Parker of NZTA – that they’re pushing ahead because it’s a “road of national significance”, not because he thinks it’s a good idea, or that it’s necessary or that it’s cost-effective. I really do wonder what NZTA think of the holiday highway. Surely they have enough smart people working there to realise what a complete waste of money it will be?

Getting back to the Puhoi access issue, I think that ultimately the whole debate is pointless – because what we should be doing is not building the motorway in the first place: but instead focusing on safety improvements and a Warkworth bypass. That alternative would obviously retain access to Puhoi.

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  1. Assuming the full motorway goes ahead (not that I want it to in its current form) I am a bit mixed on whether an interchange should be built for Puhoi. The town doesn’t have the population to justify the cost of the interchange and from what I remember they campaigned to keep the town out of the development plans, that development could have justified it. In effect they can’t have have a small quaint town and a motorway interchange, it needs to be one of the other. The other side of the argument is the one that is raised by the residents, not having access would force them to use the old road and the safety issues that are associated, likely it would see the town shrink and possibly die off. I wonder how much it would cost to build an interchange, I assume $10 – $15 mil, would the town be prepared to help pay for it? it could be either directly and/or through increased a targeted rate.

  2. Puhoi will end up like Pokeno: a quaint memory invoked by letters on a bypass sign as you hurtle along this waste-of-money Road of Significance to National.

    CBT needs to push the unnecessary deaths angle hard in the media. Point out that at the cheapest figure used by NZTA in calculating the social cost of road deaths 50 deaths equates to $150m in social costs, or over $200m on the highest figure. Dead bodies gets through to people.

  3. Mr Parker’s comments does make one momentarily pine for the same set up in Wellington Joyce tried to impose on Auckland – national transport plans devoid of moronic politicians… Or NZTA employees with balls…

  4. Also these roads are popular especially with core National Party people. And they are carefully spread around the country. Roads of National Party Significance. They should be seen for what they are: a big vote buying exercise with public money and a fiscal hangover that we’ll all be paying way after SJ has moved on to pastures fresh.

    Public money going back to the people they consider themselves to be; the hard working backbone of the country. The deserving well off. Many of whom resent any idea of redistributive taxation, and that is unfortunately how they understand PT. They feel it’s their tax dollar and PT is like wasting money on dole blugers, solo mums, and losers. This is why some people get soooo angry when you propose PT investment, and why they so resent complaint about its low level because they actually feel the crumbs currently spent are a sign of their big-hearted generousity.

    Unfortunately this view was even widespread in the previous labour government, no understanding of the vast benefits for everyone- especially those not directly using PT- in having an efficient and interconnected transit system to compliment the road based one. Benefits for the economy through productivity gains and the dynamic effects of agglomeration, through a lower overall cost to us all, and considerable quality of life gains that should be at the front of the mind of anyone handwringing about mirgration to Australia….. Auckland could be so good, if only we would stop paving it and burying it under car parks.

    It is easier to feel an individual benefit from a new road, and we are almost all car drivers…. complicated outcomes like much better urban centres, lower costs over the long term, less oil dependency, lower congestion etc are less tangible and not promoted or in fact actively ignored, denied, or rejected by Stevo and friends.

  5. > for someone visiting the town and its surrounding area you would need to take a vastly different and longer route than the new main road.

    But that is true of every small town beside a motorway. They will still have the old SH1 route going direct as you say. You can’t stick an offramp at every small town or it wouldn’t be a motorway at all

  6. Given the road would be tolled I imagine the current SH1 would become the free, scenic route and still see significant traffic.

  7. 1. Issue Number ONE is SAFETY! 50 deaths in the time it takes to build is NOT ACCEPTABLE! People this must be hammered home in the media, to the people of New Zealand, and to the Government. Or is National that truly callous and uncaring. For those of us who remember this was the issue that drove people power to demand a median on the Harbour Bridge under Muldoon’s Junta! Then eventually the entire motorway network.

    2. BCR! It just doesn’t stack up. We’d be better off flushing that money down the loo. Wasn’t National voted in on the premiss of they having the best business sense to manage the country! Aren’t people with a firm business background better at running our nation than lawyers and teachers. You know the same crowd who through selfish, dodgy and plain stupid miss management led to the financial crises of 2008 and the worst recession the planet has seen since 1929.

    This BCR also needs to be hammered home, especially to right wingers who care more for their wallets than their fellow human beings. Generalisation, maybe, but actions speak so loudly don’t they?

  8. Wouldn’t it be logical that a new bypass with no off ramp would greatly reduce the traffic flow on the old route, therefore less traffic would equate to a more safer road to travel on??
    If travellers are interested in visiting Puhoi they will still do so irrespective of the route they need to take.

  9. A bypass at Warkworth and and an eased southern approach to Windy Ridge and two major impediments to traffic flow would be largely eliminated. Joyce is like the old Pharoahs with a need to build monuments and damn the cost. I would say the Egyptian programmes probably had a better BCR than the holiday highway.

  10. my own conversations with various NZTA officials make me think it’s not exactly that they’re “not budging” on whether they need the road. Instead, the line I’ve heard from several different people is simply “We have been instructed to build this road”. they wont (understandably given that there are not so many jobs in NZ for transport consultants/engineers) comment on whether it should or shouldn’t be built – they just say “This is what we’ve been told to do and we will do it.”

    1. Yeah I feel sorry for NZTA and their position on this issue. It would be nice for them to leave us a nice paper-trail saying “this is a really stupid idea” that could be found through some OIA requests.

      I guess the business case pretty much says that, in a roundabout way of course.

  11. “Or NZTA employees with balls…”

    What use would it be for Wayne McDonald or Tommy Parker to say “This is nonsense” and be replaced by somebody more compliant a few weeks or months later? The NZTA/Ministry-setup is not a democracy (and that’s actually good – the cards can be reversed after all, and I don’t want the future people in charge of NZTA saying “Naaaah, we really don’t believe in this…” if told to build railway lines).

    “2. BCR! It just doesn’t stack up. We’d be better off flushing that money down the loo. ”

    Well, that IS nonsense. If it gets built, we DO end up with a high-quality motorway. We just need other things a lot more than a high-quality motorway, especially in that place.

    “I would say the Egyptian programmes probably had a better BCR than the holiday highway.”

    Lol. If you counted the whole length of the afterlife into the benefit period, yes. But the travel time savings assumptions for one Pharao would still have to be pretty high for it to “stack up”. At least the slaves probably had a pretty high walking mode share, and the Pharao used water transport 😉

    1. If you counted the tourism benefits to Egypt of the pyramids then their “business case” would stack up really well in hindsight actually 😉

      I agree we can’t really blame NZTA for not openly coming out and saying the project is rubbish.

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