The TVNZ website is reporting that a 2008 study into the Puhoi-Wellsford project, before it became a “Road of National Significance”, highlighted that it was an expensive and rather unnecessary project – at least in the immediate future. Here’s a snippet of the story:

Four years ago a roading consultancy group now working on the upgrade wrote: “The scope for substantial economic growth…is limited.”…

…A report obtained by ONE News shows the roading consultancy firm now planning the upgrade originally thought it would have little economic benefit.

In 2008 Sinclair Knight Merz wrote that the project would “have costs exceeding benefits”, adding “the scope for substantial economic growth…is limited in the region.

The report in question can be read in its entirety here, and was the subject of a post on this blog back in July 2010 (I really love the blog search function!). 

The analysis showing that the road’s potential to generate wider economic benefits is very limited is perhaps the most damning element of the report, as the project’s ‘economic regeneration’ impact is often cited as being its saving grace.

The fact that SKM came back a year later to say that the project was now well worth doing within 10 years, contrary to their earlier advice, is quite interesting and potentially relevant to Stu’s recent post about the role of transport consultancies.

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    1. Based on years of research into the mystery that is the RONs I would interpret “criteria” to mean “instances where Steven Joyce got stuck in a traffic jam while heading away on holiday.”

  1. We would be careful to not be hypocrites here. When National tell us the CRL doesn’t stack up and we say “you forgot to include the effects” of how it will improve things, then say about this highway “it doesn’t go anywhere important” we forget that National want this highway to help improve the GDP of the North

    1. ‘National want this highway to help improve the GDP of the North’
      Me thinks that for the money involved, there are many better ways to invest that money to improve the GDP of the North. If Northland is to become a post-modern collection of villages, then working intensively on that ultra fast broadband would be a great place to start. If faster journeys to/from Auckland International Airport are really desired, how about subsidising a shuttle air service at greater frequency and at much lower prices than the current going rate between Auckland, Whangarei, Kerikeri and Kaitaia.

      The key comment by the original report was that it saw better linkages between Northland and overseas as potentially more important than better linkages with Auckland. That is where the investment should go, along with such things as first class tertiary and industry educational facilities as a starting point toward attracting the talent and ideas toward this potentially very attractive region. With the right sort of government support, could we entice one of our local universities to partner with a big name overseas university to open a campus at some idyllic spot in the region? Reasonable course fees, and a determination to attract local students to upskill an essential part of the package.

      1. “Me thinks that for the money involved, there are many better ways to invest that money to improve the GDP of the North.”
        I fully agree. Much of the economic benefit of the highway would be from freight not cars, and if so I would have though the same amount of money spent on upgrading the North Auckland Rail Line would do more to “connect” the far north and Auckland (and further south) for freight.
        A good rail line would encourage heavy industry into the north where there is plenty of land away from residential areas. And plenty of unemployed people for labour.

        1. For the cost of Puford el grande, the CBT’s Project Lifesaver could be implemented in full, the North Auckland Line could be fully upgraded to carry high-cube containers, at speed, and there’d be money left over. But that would be good-quality spending that didn’t put much money into the hands of the road builders, so it’ll never happen under National.

    2. The improving the GDP of the North argument came along much later, when the Government realised they were losing the PR battle. Its purpose was to blunt the ‘Holiday Highway’ argument that was winning a lot of favour. Clearly it is a load of rubbish, especially at a time when I bet the rest of the North is being starved of roading funds. Remember ALL of this road is in the Auckland region, how about spending money in Northland to improve the economy of Northland for one thing! The Brwynderwyns are actually much more dangerous than the Puhoi Wellsford Section and money should go int improving them, and this would benefit the economy of Northland.
      This media release is interesting, says significant reduction in Dome Valley crashes since 80kmh speed limit introduced in 2007. I hope NZTA isnt using pre 2007 figures to justify a mad motorway here….

      1. Lol, Luke you’re making way too much sense. Please bring it down a notch so others can follow along, we’ve all been trained, you see, to not think critically.

  2. The thing that gets me about this project is the blatant hypocrisy of the government when comparing RONS with TV7, rail, DOC, education and any number of other more worthy programmes.

    To quote from the Minister on that TVNZ website, gotta love this gem –

    ‘But Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said “one of the things you’ve got to be careful about is relying constantly on costs benefit analysis on road by road.”
    “The reality is that Northland is a growth region but it’s also a somewhat depressed region,” the minister said, adding that if Aucklanders were looking at the Harbour Bridge now under the same sort of analysis “it probably would never have been built”.

    So, how come there are different rules for the CRL……… or the many other rail (and bus) projects that commentators on this site could name.

    The RONS debacle has damaged forever claims that roads are built according to robust economic criteria.
    A great shame, because it undermines the reputation of those roading and transportation engineers who do the hard yards to develop credible roading solutions.

  3. Like asset sales RoNS is a political programme with various, and varying, economic justifications tacked on after the fact. Red meat for the road lobby and National’s provincial power base.

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