Last week I wrote about the East West
Link Connections and how the cost of the project were ever increasing and how the staging for the project had changed. The post was based on a number of papers I received from the NZTA as a result of an OIA request.
One aspect I didn’t cover were some of the major risks that have been identified for the project. These are described in the paper from December 2015, I’ve left out the funding risk as not really relevant to this post.
- The underlying land use and travel demand assumptions for the project are based on an agreed medium growth scenario associated with the Auckland Plan. Given the preferred option is a long-term response to current and planned future growth, there is a risk that the growth assumptions and associated travel demand may not materialise as planned. This could result in a transport response that is misaligned with the future needs of the network and as such, this will need to be reviewed at each funding stage as the project progresses.
- Given the early stage of the project, there is a future cost risk that outturn costs will exceed the expected estimate, based on incomplete knowledge. This has been accounted for by providing additional contingency in the current estimates. The top cost risk items are:
- Property – the proposed alignment has attempted to minimise impact on industrial zoned property as far as practicable, however there are still a number of properties which will likely be required either in part or whole. Based on the current state of the Auckland property market, any delays to the property acquisition process are likely to result in inflated property costs above and beyond current market rates.
- Neilson St Interchange – the design of the interchange is a complex task requiring careful balancing of competing priorities and community interests. There are significant consenting challenges both with the presence of natural volcanic features (Hopua tuff ring), but also the close proximity to the town centre and the foreshore, both of which have strong public interest. There is a risk that through the consenting process an alternative proposal is put forward that is significantly more costly (CapEx and/or OpEx) than the currently preferred option.
- Foreshore – having regard to the NZ Coastal Policy Statement and recent case law, there are significant policy hurdles to pass with the proposed alignment along the foreshore. Conversely, early engagement with key partners has indicated conditional support on the basis that the proposed response could have the greatest opportunity for mitigation, particularly in tidying up historical reclamation and contaminating activities. It is expected that more than just mitigation will need to be considered to enable reclamation to be considered favourably, though the extent of works required and associated costs is unknown at this stage.
Let’s just step through them a bit
Land Use and Travel Demand assumptions – A lot of assumptions seem to be based most of the Onehunga/Penrose area staying industrial. Most of the area to the west of Onehunga Mall is already earmarked for mixed use and with land prices and demand the way they are it’s likely that over the medium to long term all of those will end up residential. It’s also quite likely that over time, a lot of the other commercial land in the area will be converted to residential, most likely through private plan changes. That will fundamentally change the transport demand for the area and likely the whole purpose of this project.
Neilson St Interchange – The NZTA’s predecessor originally planned to build this interchange as part of the Manukau Harbour Crossing project before revising their consent to not include it. From memory this was due to the significant impact it would have had on the area, especially the Hopua Tuff Ring and the need reclamation to accommodate it. It appears the road builders are emboldened to try again and with what appears to be very similar to what was originally proposed in 2006.
It’s also worth noting that Panuku is meant to be redeveloping the Onehunga Port area to be more people friendly just like they’ve done at the Wynyard Quarter. It remains to be seen how they’re going to make that a success when it will be cut off from the rest of the city by what is effectively a motorway and seemingly poor access for PT and active modes.
Foreshore – The impact on the foreshore where the main thing that originally inspired this post. A number of the documents referenced in the post last week made mention of it and in particular mentioned NZ Coastal Policy Statement 2010 (NZCPS). Looking at it the NZCPS it’s easy to see why they’re concerned as it basically says they shouldn’t do it. Now to be fair I haven’t read all 30 pages of the document but if you have and I’ve got parts of it wrong then please let me know in the comments. For this I’m just going to focus on a couple of sections.
- Reclamation – As mentioned it basically says that reclamation should be avoided unless there are no other options. But that isn’t the case with the East-West project as we know that other options not only exist but also perform better economically. Here’s what the NZCPS says about reclamation:
Reclamation and de-reclamation
- Avoid reclamation of land in the coastal marine area, unless:
- land outside the coastal marine area is not available for the proposed activity;
- the activity which requires reclamation can only occur in or adjacent to the coastal marine area;
- there are no practicable alternative methods of providing the activity; and
- the reclamation will provide significant regional or national benefit.
- Where a reclamation is considered to be a suitable use of the coastal marine area, in considering its form and design have particular regard to:
- the potential effects on the site of climate change, including sea level rise, over no less than 100 years;
- the shape of the reclamation and, where appropriate, whether the materials used are visually and aesthetically compatible with the adjoining coast;
- the use of materials in the reclamation, including avoiding the use of contaminated materials that could significantly adversely affect water quality, aquatic ecosystems and indigenous biodiversity in the coastal marine area;
- providing public access, including providing access to and along the coastal marine area at high tide where practicable, unless a restriction on public access is appropriate as provided for in Policy 19;
- the ability to remedy or mitigate adverse effects on the coastal environment;
- whether the proposed activity will affect cultural landscapes and sites of significance to tangata whenua; and
- the ability to avoid consequential erosion and accretion, and other natural hazards.
- In considering proposed reclamations, have particular regard to the extent to which the reclamation and intended purpose would provide for the efficient operation of infrastructure, including ports, airports, coastal roads, pipelines, electricity transmission, railways and ferry terminals, and of marinas and electricity generation.
- Walking Access – As mentioned in the quote above, public access should be provided to the coastal area. The section on walking access expands on this more and none of the reasons given for reasons to restrict public from the foreshore seem to be relevant to this project.
- Recognise the public expectation of and need for walking access to and along the coast that is practical, free of charge and safe for pedestrian use.
- Maintain and enhance public walking access to, along and adjacent to the coastal marine area, including by:
- identifying how information on where the public have walking access will be made publicly available;
- avoiding, remedying or mitigating any loss of public walking access resulting from subdivision, use, or development; and
- identifying opportunities to enhance or restore public walking access, for example where:
- connections between existing public areas can be provided; or
- improving access would promote outdoor recreation; or
- physical access for people with disabilities is desirable; or
- the long-term availability of public access is threatened by erosion or sea level rise; or
- access to areas or sites of historic or cultural significance is important; or
- subdivision, use, or development of land adjacent to the coastal marine area has reduced public access, or has the potential to do so.
- Only impose a restriction on public walking access to, along or adjacent to the coastal marine area where such a restriction is necessary:
- to protect threatened indigenous species; or
- to protect dunes, estuaries and other sensitive natural areas or habitats; or
- to protect sites and activities of cultural value to Māori; or
- to protect historic heritage; or
- to protect public health or safety; or
- to avoid or reduce conflict between public uses of the coastal marine area and its margins; or
- for temporary activities or special events; or
- for defence purposes in accordance with the Defence Act 1990; or
- to ensure a level of security consistent with the purpose of a resource consent; or
- in other exceptional circumstances sufficient to justify the restriction.
- Before imposing any restriction under (3), consider and where practicable provide for alternative routes that are available to the public free of charge at all times.
Now the reason this is important is so far the NZTA have yet to say whether provision will be made for the public to have access, like they currently – a photo essay of which can be seen here. So far from what I’ve seen the NZTA have only resorted to saying that they haven’t decided yet.
The drawings developed for the detailed business case (46MB) suggest there will be a narrow path along the seaward side of the massive reclamation as well as the existing walking/cycling path but the new path appears a fairly barren and exposed place to be – perhaps a bit like the cycleway on the causeway along SH16. You can also see the intersection for this new road with Captain Springs Rd will also require people on foot or bikes to make up to three crossings to get across this new mega road.
The drawings also highlight the massive extent of the planned reclamation. As a quick estimation, it appears to be at least 50m wide, if not wider in places and even straighter than the current foreshore which doesn’t seem to meet the requirements in the NZCPS.
It’s worth noting for these drawings the comments in the grey box which says that the “alignment is for cost estimation and to establish an indicative footprint” and that “the actual footprint and location is subject to change“. These drawings are also just a selection of what is in the document but for the foreshore are all fairly consistent.
If this project does go ahead, it seems like a much better job needs to be done on the on the foreshore. As it stands, it appears the NZTA are going for the cheapest option available – which at $1.8 billion is not cheap.