I’ve talked before about how as part of The Auckland Plan,  that councillors couldn’t help but lose their focus and instead of providing the high level strategy, goals and objectives went and created the biggest transport wish list the city had ever seen. The only debate was some jockeying for position around which projects should have the highest priority. As the debate about the plan reached the home straight, there was one project which seemingly came from nowhere to get a podium finish, the East-West Link.

The project is one that is being championed strongly by many in the business community which is probably why it managed to emerge from almost nowhere. It is also sometimes known as the middle rung on the state highway ladder although once Waterview is finished, the real middle rung is SH16 between Waterview and the CMJ. In another example of not being able to actually make a decision, the council ended up lumping the East-West link – on which no work had been done – in with AMETI which been through years of planning and was just about to start construction. The project is described in The Auckland Plan as:

The East-West Link is a proposed strategic transport corridor that will connect the Western Ring Route (SH20) at Onehunga and the Southern Motorway (SH1), providing improved access to the rail freight hub at Metroport and major employment areas, such as East Tāmaki. This link will address the high traffic and freight movements on congested local roads, provide efficient freight movements between SH20 and SH1, and between industrial areas and the port and airport. This link will also enable east-west improvements for public transport, walking and cycling. The total cost of both projects is estimated to be $2.6 billion.

Earlier investigations into the route by the NZTA came up with some very expensive and horrific looking options.


At the Councils Transport Committee meeting last week a presentation was given on the status of the project. One of the first slides shows just how massive an area the East-West link project area covers in comparison to AMETI which itself is very large. A key driver for the project is enabling easier freight movements between the large commercial area that covers from Onehunga in the West to East Tamaki in the East, areas which have some of the highest freight volumes in the country.

East-West Study Area

Because this region of town is also home to all of the key pinch points between the southern Auckland and the rest of the city, it just helps to add even more complexity in as this map of the various key movements shows.

East-West Key Movements

The presentation then goes on to show the four options that are being considered by Auckland Transport, each has a different focus and set of projects associated with them however there are some common elements to all of them. I’ll cover them first before going into the options.

SH20 Onehunga Interchange – There appears to be a desire – most likely coming from the NZTA’s engineers -to turn the motorway interchange at Onehunga into a diamond. What is interesting about this is I’m pretty sure the NZTA’s predecessor tried to do this as part of the project to duplicate the harbour crossing but the consent for it was rejected due to the impact on what remained of the volcanic cone. Perhaps AT/NZTA think they will be able to get it done as provisions in the RMA are weakened.

South Facing ramps from Panama Rd – I think that there definitely needs to be better connections to the motorway in this area but seeing as most of this project is about making it easier to move freight, putting them in at Panama Rd which is a residential street seems like an odd choice. It’s certainly one way to help devalue the massive proposed residential development along there.

Extension of Gossimer Dr to Highbrook Dr – I’m not exactly sure what to say but it certainly doesn’t sound cheap.

As mentioned, each of four options then does something slightly different. Upgraded existing roads are shown in Red while new roads are shown in Black (The green lines are for the AMETI busway).

Option 1: Redistribute traffic away from SEART

This seems to have the least change of all of the plans and apart from what is mentioned above, includes a new road between the Highbrook interchange and Gt South Rd along with some upgrades to existing roads to the south of the harbour.

East-West Option 1

Option 2: Redistribute traffic away from SEART plus improved connections to Metro Port

An extension of the first option this also involves a new road from the Metroport to Panama Rd to access the south facing ramps.

East-West Option 2

Option 3: Focus on connecting industrial belt

This seems likely to be the most expensive of all the options and one that is extremely similar to one of the options earlier with a brand new road all the way from Onehunga to East Tamaki

East-West Option 3

Option 4: Decongest surrounding arterials and focus east-west in a high capacity corridor

An extension of SH20A from Mangere to Highbrook. If you look at maps you can actually see that this corridor was originally set aside but then obviously sold off for housing.

East-West Option 4

There are no costs listed for either of these options however the Integrated Transport Programme suggested that it could cost up to $600 million which is absolutely massive. Personally I think that the project needs to focus on upgrades to existing roads as much as possible rather than building expensive new ones.

Perhaps because it involves the prospect of new roads – which politicians and engineers always seem to find much more interesting that upgrades to existing ones – this whole project is getting fast tracked with AT hoping to start construction as early as 2015, a mere 3-4 years after the project was given priority. That seems like almost light speed compared to other large projects.

East-West Timeframe

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  1. Four massively destructive, crazily expensive and completely over the top options. Where is the “truck lanes on Neilson St and be done with it” option?

      1. Only one station. They are replacing train service to Waitakere station with a bus route, once electrification stops at Swanson (rather than running a diesel shuttle train from Waitakere to Swanson).

        1. And saving millions of dollars in operating costs in the process, for reportedly very little time impact on passengers against what’s already a pretty time-consuming journey. It seems like a very sensible course of action, personally, given that the savings can be used on other services.

          1. No! No! No! These alleged savings only come from NOT providing a dedicated diesel-shuttle DMU fleet on a long-term basis. This is not the only option (or the best) for keeping Waitakere service going. The easiest and cheapest is to “extend” the EMU service by diesel-hauling electric units through to Waitakere (provided the lowered pantograph can still fit through the tunnel). This pattern of diesel-hauling EMU’s formed the Paekakariki-Paraparaumu service for many years, unitl that portion was electrified in the 1980’s. In the short to medium term, one surplus DCP locomotive is all that it should take.
            Whether it is worth it in the long term (when purchase of a new locomotive might be needed) is another matter, but by then the need for a more substantive service further west might have become clear.
            My point is simply that the “millions of dollars” seems to be a scare-off figure being bandied around to support a closure agenda.

  2. Option 3 will do for me. That coast line is already reclaimed and the project could go some way to fix it up.

    Plus its a much smoother alignment.

    1. It’ll destroy what’s currently a very pleasant coastal walkway/cycle path by either building a motorway over it or building a motorway between it and the harbour for total destruction of the visual amenity. I imagine I’m in the majority on this blog when I say “Bugger that!”

      1. Ah very true there is a path there. I was under the impression it was just cheap reclamation like it is by the Westfield train station.

        In any event, if the do make such a project they would be required to put back an even better facility with better environmental mitigation. I’m would also rather have it being a twolane two-way truck only road feeding the port/industrial area.

        1. There is no reason for it to go right beside the foreshore when there are acres of vacant land inland just used to store used imports, a container terminal,for empty containers and wasteland contaminated with asbestos.

    2. How do you “fix up” a reclaimed coastline by building a massive road along or near it? The mind boggles. This won’t be Tamaki Drive they are building…

      1. You will note that whenever NZTA does anything they spend a fortune on environmental mitigation. It’s more private developers and sometimes the council that do the cheap and nasty work.

        1. They only started doing that recently, and only under the force of semi-independent hearing commissioners like on Waterview placing a stronger focus on the RMA’s mitigation requirements than in the past. Bet what kind of regulations in the RMA and in the Land Transport Acts are proposed to be weakened? Exactly – those discussing mitigation and especially sustainability.

          Also, road-centric development encouraging car dominance, and costing oddles. It doesn’t get any prettier (except visually) by adding a few areas of new native planting and the odd stormwater treatment pond.

  3. Option 0;
    Sort out Neilson St with truck lanes and improved intersections.
    Maybe a new south facing connection to the SH20 bridge down Galway St
    And a south facing connection at SEART, the Mt Wellington squeeze would need addressing too then

    All options have a river ruining Highbrook extension that will divert some traffic from current roads through industrial an estate- really? that’s high value? I guess we can expect more destruction of the environment like this after the filleting of the RMA… Hard to see the value for the financial, economic, and environmental costs here.

    Option 4 is a really horror; destroying whole neighbourhoods for a minute or two for some truckers… phaaaark.

  4. Why do these diamond interchanges at Onehunga show the proposed new highways coming off the middle of the town through Neilson St? Wouldn’t you run the highway the other way along Onehunga Harbour Dr and avoid the town centre completely? That would make more sense as a bypass.

    1. Bait and switch? Show the worst options first, and then “placate” by doing something slightly less horrible? Like with the semi-surface option in Waterview, which would have extended the motorway trench scar by another 1-2 km of surface bits and pieces?

  5. Another obscene roadsfest from AT. It’s extraordinary how they manage to ram through roading projects with barely a heard whimper from the communities these sewers destroy. And any critique of the rationale of these projects is water off a duck’s back. Needed: not.

  6. Patrick, do you think it’s possible for you or any others to take a walk around the Manukau and take photos of what they want to destroy? I’ve got folks who fought hard for it in the 80s and who’d be happy to show you around.

    In my submission to the Auckland Plan, I asked that the Manukau be preserved and its coasts be valued as we value the Waitemata. We will, in time, if we don’t ring it with unneeded superhighways.

  7. It’s a pity they didn’t find a way to link Te Irirangi Drive and SH20. That short link would alleviate the need to put a highway across the whole of Onehunga. Actually, now that I have a good look, Cavendish Drive is just about all commercial land. Repurpose it as the transport link to South East Auckland. You could even grade separate the intersections if it’s really needed.

      1. NZTA does not pay half of everything AT does, NZTA have funding brackets that money can be gained but once they brackets are used up e.g cycling (and since it’s a tiny budget it’s always oversubscribed) anything else they do receives no NZTA funding.

        1. Cycling is a tiny part of AT’s budget. Mostly they build and maintain roads, and fund the operation of PT services. As Starinus points out, that’s the point. NZTA choose what AT does, by deciding what they’ll go halves in. 50% of the spending, 100% of the control. A pretty devious trick when you think about it.

          1. Although I doubt AT would spend much more on cycling even if they had total freedom about what to fund.

          2. Guys, are you aware that NZTA is currently constructing a cycleway from the end of the Northwestern Cycleway down Grafton Gully, past the university to Beach Rd? That’s not part of a road project, although admittedly it is using almost all the cycling budget in one hit.

          3. That massive project? A 5k long 3m wide path is the entir NZTA budget? If that is true I think it would be fair to throw any and all criticism possible at NZTA.

  8. went for a long walk around this area yesterday about 3pm to 5pm. Traffic reasonably free flowing all over, only issue was the Great South Road/SEART/Nelson intersection. Maybe grade seperate this in 10 years and you’ll be fine.
    If anywhere in Auckland is to get roading upgrades it should be around here, better access to Kiwirail terminal will help the rail network nationwide. However best solutions cheap upgrades, not new major highways.
    The other option AT have forgotten is there already is an existing road from Railway Lane serving Mainfreight and Kiwirail Westfield. This actually goes all the way to the Kiwirail/Metroport terminal as a private road. A cheap upgrade to this would give an alternate entrance to the yard, and wouldn’t get congested with single occupant vehicles driving to Sylvia Park!

    1. I agree, generally traffic flows freely around here, outside of rush hour. I drive around here a lot. As an aside.. there is no realistic alternative, due to the nature of the journeys, point-to-point-to-point.. but also due to the dearth of interconnected PT options. (Maybe the new PT network will help?)

      Rush hour is different though, can be a nightmare.. waste of time and money and fuel for all concerned. My observation would be similar.. on the face of it, a few grade separated intersections could make a significant difference. If they could also accommodate cycling improvements so much the better – this is possibly the worst part of town for cycling.

      1. trains every 10 minutes all day and lots of interconnecting buses throughout central and south Auckland should help.
        I do wonder if an alternate package of transport improvements could further improve the frequent network around here if this is such a critical part of Auckland.
        Westfield will close but that has very low patronage, mostly Veolia workers who will leave to Wiri instead.
        Of course the cheapest way to improve traffic around here would have been not allowing Sylvia Park to go ahead, would be interesting to calculate the economic disbenefit of huge malls built on critical freight routes.

  9. Oh my gosh horrifying! Like something from a dr Seuss story. They shouldn’t be destroying parts that have amenities the onehunga cycle way , which has become more and more popular with locals. If they must do something then it should be upgrade neilson st as others have said. If a connection needs to be built what about from neilson around 373 where all the trucks are through to the bottom of Hugo Johnston and on to join near Sylvia park rd. it would take pressure off the pinch point at church st/gt south rd.

    1. Can’t agree more, this plan is abhorrent. No harbour and river -destroying new highways are necessary. Nielson St is massively underused as it is, for much of its length it is a wide road reserve but with only one lane each way, what’s more around Waikaraka Park here I masses of on-street parking. Bin that parking and paint truck lanes right through to Church St foe starters.
      And cycling amenity is desperately needed in this area. I sometimes bike from near Te Papapa station down to Sylvia Park. It is literally life-threatening in places, some cheap cycling amenity e.g. bike lanes on the SH1 underpass would make the area more attractive to cyclists and take some pressure off traffic.
      Small money, big effect. No need for mega-projects!

  10. This is absolutely hideous, and just shows the system is absolutely f**ked in Auckland when projects like this get fast tracked yet the modes with the greatest ability to take pressure of the roads are completely ignored. Imagine what an impact on transport in Auckland $600 million would have if spent on building a cycle network rather than simply solidifying car dependence. These sorts of massive road fests are really something that will make sure my current time in NZ won’t be for much longer.

  11. Don’t worry. It may well not happen. While the present government might be trying to ram through the current crop of RON’s as quickly as they can before they get tossed out of office, we are still staring down the barrel of joint global climate and energy crises. There is a heap of evidence that mass road-transport as we currently know it is not sustainable into the future. This evidence has not gone away. All that has happened in recent years is that the National Govt has somehow swept a gullible public along with its crisis-denial mentality. But the indefensible can be defended only for so long, before it turns and bites . . Then all the transport policy rules will change.

    1. All the transport policy rules will change… after Auckland becomes a relatively less competitive place to live and do business that is.

  12. My view is that it is a disgrace that the walkway/cycleway from Onehunga to Southdown has no connection out south to Great South road over the Railway line. This makes it a plaything only because it serves no useful transport purpose. I would support building a road from Metroport along the harbour and over the railway line to Great South road if it meant this walkway/cycleway gained access as well.
    However I don’t see the full option three as being necessary or desirable. It could be possible to set up a one way system with trucks to Metroport arriving on Neilson street and exiting out to Great South road.

    1. Hi Royce – the planning documents (i.e. the Auckland Cycle Network that AT and NZTA both have subscribed to), does show a continuation of the Onehunga foreshore cycleway, across the rail line and towards Syvia Park.

      Of course since that involves at least one bridge – with, for cycling budgets, very big costs of several million – its anyone’s bet whether we get that link in 20 years, or in a more rushed 10 years…


  13. Actually trucks could exit from the Metroport site on to Hugo Johnston drive or maybe onto Salesyard road if Kiwirail would allow for the upgrading of its dirt tracks within its yards.

  14. Yes, NZTA are building the cycleway through Grafton and good on them. They are also going to upgrade the shared path along the causeway. Great work NZTA. AT? Well, they are building a Copenhagen lane on the Albany Highway – as part of the highway upgrade.

    1. The Grafton Gully cycleway is in the state highway corridor, that is NZTA’s domain. The cycleway extensions along Beach Rd and Upper Queen St are being done by AT, as those are on local roads.

  15. Thank you for your reply Starnius I have just thought about an underpass under the railway they build them for cows why not cyclists. Maybe the water table would be to high. Actually the have put one under the line at Parnell. Do you know if the proposed cycleway towards Slyvia park would go along the railway right of way. That would be exciting imagine being able to ride from Mangere bridge right to Slyvia park on a car free cycleway.

  16. Rumours are saying that Option Four is the preferred route. Incredible to me that this could even be considered. Clearly the owners of Highbrook Business Park have friends in high places. Looks like it is all about getting to the Airport by car from Highbrook and Pakuranga quicker than anything to do with truck numbers on Nielson St. What an extraordinary project this is.

    Extremely disappointed that Len Brown is uncritically backing this project and its shady and rushed process.

  17. Option 4, its gaining moment, for the wrong reason. Option 4 will cut mangere east in half. Destroying hundreds of home, wrecking homes families have built up over decades!
    Its a mixture of state housing, rentals and private homes.
    How can they even put this as an option?
    This is gaining momentum in mangere east, residents are fighters, and they dont back down from a fight.

    1. This whole process is appalling, urban motorway building for it’s own sake, somewhere where the locals are too disenfranchised to be able to stop it. Option 4 is the worst of a very bad bunch.

      How is Highbrook to airport the most important route in the country that it needs it’s own place ruining and severing highway- extraordinary.

  18. Absolutely ridiculous…. There is a sh1 link to sh20, at redoubt road. As a home owner that will have the new highway run through my living room, I am disgusted that this option seems to be being fast tracked by politicians who would never entertain the idea of a duper highway through their property! We are fighters in Otahuhu also… Watch the fur fly if this is looked at….seriously!

  19. Who cares!!! I’ve been an Aucklander for all of my 49 years and never have I felt so much desire to get the hell out of here because the idiots who run this country and our largest city have blown the cost of living out of sight. Len Brown goes on about making this the most liveable city in NZ, how does he propose to do that when its the most expensive city to live in?

  20. option 2 seems very sensible & clearly urgently required to decongest this whole area & provide sensible linkage options

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