Back in May in this post, Matt highlighted the NZTA’s strategy of designating only for road tunnels across the Waitemata Harbour, leaving any rail designation up to Auckland Transport. The NZTA have a total budget of $27m for the designation work, $14m million of which is an additional appropriation, approved under the delegated authority of the Chief Executive, to cover enlarged works at Esmonde Road and Victoria Park. The work is proceeding even though the comparative Preliminary Business Case for a road only crossing calculated a BCR of 0.4. The Western Ring route, which is designed to reduce pressure on the existing Harbour Bridge, is yet to open.
On the back of this I wrote to NZTA CEO Fergus Gammie pointing out that the NZTA’s governing legislation, the Land Transport Management Act (LTMA), was not being complied with and therefore the route protection work currently underway should be placed on hold until a number of issues had been resolved.
NZTA have responded to the letter but, before we look at that, let’s take a quick look at the LTMA.
The LTMA was introduced by the Labour / Green government in 2003, and a ministerial press release at the time promised that it would “broaden the focus of the land transport system beyond just roads and represent a true multi-modal, integrated, approach to land transport.”
Since then the LTMA has been amended, but it still defines the objective of the NZTA to “undertake its functions in a way that contributes to an effective, efficient, and safe land transport system in the public interest.”
Key functions are:
- to manage the State highway system, including planning, funding, design, supervision, construction, and maintenance and operations
- determine whether particular activities should be included in a national land transport programme
- approve activities or combinations of activities
The operating principles the NZTA must abide by include:
- exhibiting a sense of social and environmental responsibility
- using its revenue in a manner that seeks value for money
- ensuring that it gives, when making decisions in respect of land transport planning and funding , the same level of scrutiny to its own proposed activities and combinations of activities as it would give to those proposed by approved organisations
When approving a proposed activity or combination of activities for funding, the NZTA must be satisfied that:
- The activity is consistent with the GPS on land transport; and
- is efficient and effective; and
- contributes to the Agency’s objective; and
- has been assessed against other land transport options and alternatives
- relevant consultation requirements have been complied with
The NZTA must also take into account any national energy efficiency and conservation strategies, and act in accordance with its operating principles.
It should be clear from any reasonable interpretation of the law that any work on the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing does not qualify for payments from the National Land Transport Fund as most, if not all, of the above criteria have not been met. But let’s return to the NZTA’s response and see what they have to say.
Under the Land Transport Management Act heading, the NZTA claim:
The NZTA claim that other land transport options (which aren’t limited to roads by the LTMA) have been assessed. But what the NZTA neglect to say is that the 2008 Summary Report found that for passenger transport alone, passenger transport in a new tunnel or on a new bridge between Esmonde and Britomart was the best option. No comparative cost benefit analysis was done for a rail only vs a road crossing – it was just assumed by the report that a road crossing was also needed.
The NZTA claim that the additional crossing was consulted on as part of the Regional Land Transport Plan (PDF 5 Mb). The RLTP contains a single line item for the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing, for which no discussion on the shape or form of the route protection was consulted on:
The NZTA suggest “as the proposal is only to seek route protection at present, there is no need to include (or consult on) the construction of the crossing in the Regional Land Transport Plan”. I disagree. Route protection defines the envelope of the project, and necessarily needs to cater for a chosen mode. Right now on-going route protection work affects Victoria Park, Esmonde Rd and sensitive ecological areas. Exhaust stacks at Wynyard and Northcote or Esmonde Rd are included in the designation work because the chosen solution is a pair of three lane road tunnels, yet there has been no public consultation to date. It is socially irresponsible and in bad faith for NZTA to leave consultation to the Board of Inquiry process. The NZTA need to be getting feedback from the public and businesses now on the desired mode and how much road users would be willing to pay in tolls for the new crossing and also potentially the existing Harbour Bridge.
The NZTA don’t address the issue of efficiency or effectiveness in their response. Instead they rely on the fact that there will be a business case completed after the $27m budget for a road crossing designation has been spent. That business case will not examine whether a road crossing is required at all, because the decision has already been made. The NZTA is clearly not using it’s revenue in a way that seeks value for money, nor has it adequately considered alternatives.
Even the Government Policy Statement appears to be disregarded by the NZTA in its pursuit of a road only crossing. The GPS has the objective of mitigating the effects of land transport on the environment. The focus for Auckland is investment to maximise throughput of people and freight as Auckland grows, something the AWHC project which is dedicated to the movement of single occupant cars cannot achieve.
So what do you think? Is the NZTA following the law?