This really is turning into a transport election and the differences between the main parties couldn’t be clearer. Yesterday the National Party announced what seems to be their key transport initiative – the “next generation” Roads of National Significance (RoNS).

Motorists would get four-lane highways from Auckland to Whangarei under a $10 billion National Party policy.

National returned to a familiar theme for its latest election promise, saying it would build 10 major highways around the country if it remained in power after September.

One of the new Roads of National Signifcance will run between Wellsford and Whangarei, extending the planned Puhoi-Wellsford highway which was approved under the last series of major roading projects.

Roads of National Significance are usually four-lane highways, meaning there would be a continuous four-laned road for the entire 160km route between Auckland and Whangarei…

…Bridges said the estimated cost of the 10 projects was $10.5 billion, compared to the $12 billion for the previous seven Roads of National Significance. The projects were chosen because they were New Zealand’s highest-volume roads, he said.

They would be funded through the National Land Transport Fund and private-public partnerships. The initial funding had already been committed to in this year’s Budget.

The seven previous projects were the Puhoi-Wellsford highway, the Western Ring Route in Auckland, the Victoria Park tunnel, the Waikato Expressway, Tauranga’s Eastern Link, Wellington’s Northern Corridor, and motorways around Christchurch.

The full list of projects is below:

• Wellsford to Whangarei
• East West Link in Auckland
• Cambridge to Tirau
• Piarere to the foot of the Kaimai Range
• Tauranga to Katikati
• Napier to Hastings
• Manawatu Gorge
• Levin to Sanson
• Christchurch Northern Motorway
• Christchurch to Ashburton

The current bunch of RoNS projects are a mixed bag. Some were highly developed and their classification was essentially just a useful exercise in providing confirmed funding. Victoria Park Tunnel is a good example of this. Others were more substantial, but still based on a lot of analysis over time and – while flawed in some respects – still provide pretty good overall value. Waterview Connection is a good example of this. Inevitably though, there are only so many large-scale roading projects that provide good value and a bunch of the current RoNS seem to be scraping the barrel:

Like the original RoNS, it seems this new set are a mixed bunch. Upgrading Tauranga to Kaitikati seems like a good idea, given the safety issues along that stretch of road. Providing a resilient link bypassing the Manawatu Gorge is clearly essential to the southern North Island. Likewise some sort of upgrade between Napier and Hastings might be a good idea, as this is also a pretty dangerous road.

However, overall it seems like we are scraping the barrel in terms of the return from such large-scale investments as indicated by the identification of these routes as RoNS. The announcement says the routes have been chosen because they are the highest volume roads and are “sensible and logical extensions” of the current RoNS projects. The table below compares the volumes of these routes against a number of major Auckland arterial roads (I’ve excluded East West Link because we’ve discussed that project at length previously):

The data on Auckland traffic volumes is sourced from here and the state highway volumes from here. Roads in Auckland with volumes of around 15,000 vehicles a day – around the top end of those highlighted for major upgrade – are generally secondary arterial routes like Stancombe Road in Flat Bush, Parrs Cross Road out west and Manuka Road in Glenfield. When you come down to roads with around 7,500 vehicle trips a day you’re way below that level and getting into basic collector streets.

The sad thing is that there’s a huge opportunity cost from spending $10 billion on a handful or so of roads. This is money that can’t go to creating a world-class public transport system in major cities like Auckland and it can’t go to reversing our increasing road toll. Of course there will be some safety benefits from the RoNS projects, but targeting such a huge amount of investment to such a small number of projects means other crucial safety upgrades will miss out.

Ultimately New Zealand has a fairly well developed state highway network. It clearly needs selective improvements over time, especially in and around major growth areas and where there are safety problems. But because the network is so well developed the marginal benefits from the extra investment seem to be getting smaller and smaller. These projects will save a few minutes here and there, but nothing like the 40 minutes the whole Waikato Expressway will save along New Zealand’s busiest inter-regional corridor, nothing like the impact of Waterview Connection on completing Auckland’s motorway network. Instead more and more money is getting shovelled into projects that provide less and less return. This is why there are so many better uses of this $10 billion – a mere fraction of which could get 160 kph trains running between Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and beyond. A RoNS is never going to give you that speed.

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169 comments

  1. Good to see a comparison of the numbers against Auckland arterials. The line about them being Nas highest volume roads is clearly nonsense.

  2. It sounds like an aucklander writing this. Ask the people in Tauranga who voted for the early construction of the eastern link and now pay a toll for it. It was a good idea. And the huge residential and industrial developments now making progress along the link certainly make it worth it alone. And the improvements in Te Puke without the trucks amazing! U probably don’t know where that is… but really this article has no point. Lol.

    1. Yep we all remember how Route K was tolled then went bankrupt and NZTA had to bail out Tauranga City Council

      Same with the Eastern Link

      Basic safety improvements to the old SH2 and a bypass around the back of Te Puke would have done the job for less cash.

      Also you have a rail line – use it

      1. Tga city council decided to build route K. NZTA said no, it didn’t have the numbers… so in the end NZTA were right. The old tolled Tauranga bridge was for too good a success story
        Safety improvement don’t allow the Kaituna and Papamoa area to develop as its too far away.. the road it was gonna happen no matter what.

        1. you’ve just made my point for me. It can be a bad idea to build a good idea too early.

          The RoNS are often too much too soon. A lot of these projects may well make sense at some point in the next 10, 20, 30 years. And we can get on planning them and building some of the most important bits.

          But seriously, $10 billion is a lot of money to spend on roads that currently carry 7,000 vehicles per day. No other country I know of would be doing that; it’s simply bad policy.

          1. Fair point with the cost… I only have an opinion on this article as its using the tauranga eastern link as an example of a bad RoNS. But i disagree, and its recorded usage was 40% more than predicted. The road itself is quite flawless and great to drive. Government investment in our local roads is well supported. Rail is not. The mindset of NZder’s to live in intensified buildings and near rail stations needs to change – this will take decades. In the mean im i fully support giving Tauranga more money for more roads e.g. Tauranga to Katikati. 😀

  3. If NZTA can’t build roads, what will they do?
    (The land transport fund isn’t accessible for rail infrastructure as far as I know. – and KiwiRaiL aren’t going to fund it in their own)

    Perhaps give NZTA the ability to spend the LTF on strategic rail, and they can then make decsisions that are aligned to the highest benefit.

    1. From NZTA: “The National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) is our key commitment with the sector for how we will use national land transport funding to provide all users of the transport system with a safe, integrated network they can rely on.”

      I assume this means NZTA funds are not limited to roads, but to any transport on land. Happy to learn more.

      1. All except rail specifically, which has been left to kiwirail to nominally fund out of operating profit, or more realistically through occasional crown grants. That has to change.

        1. So in other words it sounds as if Kiwirail has been deliberately hamstrung by government decree when it comes to accessing funds. This is just ideologically blinkered.

          1. When you are a hammer, everything is a nail. When you are a road-buildier (NZTA) everything is fixed with more roads. Giving NZTA the flexibility to deliver any mode of land transport (including Rail) would at least give them the right tools to connect people. It’s not a road problem, it’s not even a transport problem, it’s a connectivity problem.

          2. NZTA are too entrenced in the moar roads mindset so giving them more flexibility to deliver any mode would only mean moar and moar roads.
            I remember only too well at the opening of a moarer motorway towards Wellington the comment from the NZTA roads manager that you can’t beat the smell of fresh asphalt..

    1. So is a campaign for rail to the Shore ahead of other parts of Auckland when it already has a rapid transit buslink and ferry connections. Didn’t see too many posts or comments criticising the Greens for that.

      1. Rail to the Shore was less about rail to the Shore as it was about providing an alternative to AWHC when its spectre was haunting over us.

      2. Buttwiz, North Shore is the largest part of Auckland without rail. The populations of Browns Bay, Glenfield and Birkenhead are at least as large as Mt Roskill and are much further from rapid transit of any sort. The case is rock solid in my view.

        1. Yes, but there is rapid transit in the form of the busway. There are large areas like east of the tamkai river (150,000 people) with nothing.

          The north shores ok right now, other areas need funding

          1. Sounds like someone who has a North Shore sized chip on their shoulder. Have you actually even spent much time on the Shore??
            Economically the Shore is one of the most important areas in NZ and is currently hamstrung by car dependency (due to a lack of rail) and has some of the worst congestion in Auckland. Buses are ok as an interim measure but don’t have the capacity, speed, or comfort/attractiveness to passengers of trains.
            I would guess that if tomorrow the entire NEX was replaced with a HR line to Albany you would have double the number of users that you currently do.
            The NEX is also hamstrung by actually being mostly not on a dedicated RT route and has to fight traffic for a lot of it.

    1. Although National have never claimed to have vision. What has been National’s claim to fame is responsible fiscal management. I know that’s debatable given their penchant for tax cuts, but nonetheless that is the brand they have worked hard to create.

      By announcing boot camps and $10 billion on highways, however, National have managed to 1) shoot holes in their own brand and 2) highlight that Labour actually has a vision. You can, of course, debate the merits of Labour’s vision, but it’s nonetheless there in the spotlight.

      I do get the sense that National are under-estimating just what Jacinda means for their strategy. Offering up the same pale stale male ideas that worked in 2008 just serves to highlight that Jacinda is something different. And special.

      That’s my $10 billion cents worth anyway.

      1. Just watch the dirty politics now. If their policies aren’t sound enough to get them in, the media are always on hand to cherry pick the images and sound bites they want. And there can always be a completely untruthful yet utterly damaging “expose”. The interesting thing about Labour’s upswing is engaging the otherwise disinterested young voters, who are less at the mercy of the media establishment. Maybe.

        1. Dirty politics has a habit of backfiring in NZ thankfully. The exclusive bretheren probably cost Don Brash the prime ministership in 2005 and Dotcom backfired on the left in 2014. Also whenever Hagar releases a book the left struggle.

          1. I think Hagar’s books detail plenty of examples of how dirty politics has been effective for the right.

            Let’s see where the expose on Afghanistan leads the country – episode 1 on stuff today. I suspect defence could – or at least should – become as much an election issue as housing and transport.

  4. Matt – Terrific clear blog, thanks for those stats, Matt. Very timely reading after listening to Bill English’s RNZ interview defending this announcement. It deserves the same response as the infamous ’10 bridges for Northland’. It can only invite the same result.

    1. and English even described this as ” nation building”! It seems National still sees the most important thing in the world as – he ara, he ara, he ara – it is roads, it is roads, it is roads. Sad

  5. I was going to vote Labour
    then they got rid of an experienced leader, and didn’t select an equally experienced replacement (Annette King), so I was thinking National

    This “moar roads” bullshit has literally brought me back to Labour

    I wonder how many other votes they might lose

  6. I could get behind watered down versions of some of these projects – maybe a wire median strip along the Foxton straight, and roundabouts at the few intersections along that stretch of road.

    Full 4 lane, grade separated highways though? What a waste of money.

    1. Needs passing lanes, at least. Too many 80kmh dawdlers, too many sheeple tailgating but unable/unwilling to pass when safe to do so, to much oncoming traffic. tbh surprised traffic count is < 8000, but maybe PN traffic bypasses it.

  7. So $10,500,000,000 spent on less than 100,000 trips per day. Aucklands RTN currently carries nearly that. Imagine spending that much on Aucklands trains and busways, but *not* multiplying patronage by 10x or halving travel times by all modes across the region

  8. My first thoughts when I heard that National’s policies were : a boot camp under army control for bad teenagers, and spending $10 billion on yet more roads, was one of incredulity. How hard are National trying to lose this election? Neither of these things would be on my top 100 list of things that NZ needs to do. Quite extraordinary. So I went to their website, to see what details they were offering – and the picture that greets you is a bloke, in his 50s, on a farm, white, etc. Their target audience. Their voter base is the NZ cow-cocky – indeed, their leader is a cow-cocky. There is not a single thing in National that appeals to me. I sincerely hope they lose the election – they’re certainly aiming to.

    1. yes I thought that too. Jeepers creepers, a boot camp and $10 billion on rural highways? I like Jacinda and all, but I definitely don’t want her to sleep walk to victory simply because National have no decent policy ideas. I want her to have to fight and step up.

      It’s like National’s caucus are now using Polly the cantankerous octopus to formulate policy on their behalf. Now I do accept that octopus are relatively smart, but there’s only so much good policy that you can expect from one octopus. Seriously.

      The contrast between Labour and National was all the more stark because National’s announcement about burning $10 billion in a giant highway joint was made on the same day as Jacinda pledged to tackle climate change “head on”.

      In a nutshell: I think National’s strategy is missing the mark big-time. By doubling-down on their conservative base with policies like boot camps and highways, I think they may actually be highlighting their opponents strengths and their own weakness: Fresh ideas. And at the same time they’re also giving up the high ground when it comes to evidence-based policy.

      My, my this election is going to be interesting.

        1. While we’re on the subject of plurals, Simon Bridges just used RoN as the singular of RoNS on Twitter. “This RoN will improve economic growth and productivity”. I’m no grammar expert but I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works…

          1. 🙂 National’s expensive little babies need a name. So it’s Ron. Could have been Trev, but it’s Ron.

      1. With national wanting to spend $10billion on roads the cabinet must all have shares in oil , car dealers an trucking companies ?

  9. This is unbelievable pork barreled politics from an incumbent government desperately scared of losing the election. They are promising gold plated highways that are mostly not needed nor add any benefit or growth to regions. Just nice to have for National voting road enthusiasts.

    The East West link is already on the agenda. A white elephant is too nice of a description to use.
    Wellsford to Whangarei is a total waste of money as is SH 1 Christchurch to Ashburton and Levin to Sanson
    Katitaki – Tauranga does have some benefits due it its high crash rate.

    Napier – Hastings Expressway is also a nasty highway that should never have been classed as an expressway. And it’s still absurd that it utilises three different state highway designations while SH 2 still travels through central Napier and is bisected when it arrives in Hastings.

    I know which party will NOT be getting my vote this election.

    1. Alex, I’m interested to know why you think that the Napier – Hastings Expressway is a nasty highway. I travel it frequently – no issues with it – and the main problem I have is that some of the locals still like to travel on it at 70 kph, when it is marked as 100 kph. If you want to go 70 k then drive on Pakowhai Road instead.

      But why on earth do you say its nasty?

      I’ve read the Nat’s More Rons brochure on it, and there they say that they will turn it into 4 lanes, with a central barrier. It is unclear to me if they are planning to just upgrade the existing road, or to build an entirely new road – which is one thing that Hawkes Bay does definitely NOT need. Has anyone got any more details? Or would one of the National Party acolytes care to come on here and explain?

      1. For an expressway it does have a bad crash rate. This is because of the fact the majority of it is single lane with no median (including unusual median lines in the section north of Taradale Road) and most of it is at grade intersection (except the grade separated interchange on Meeanee Road which was once a notorious black spot).

        The highway designation is easily the right place for it. In my opinion SH 2 should be transferred to the HB Expressway and the old designation using Marine Parade and Georges Drive revoked. There is definitely no need for the state highway to continue to use central Napier.

        What is needs is better safety features including a separated median, plus a separate spur using the new link via Whakatu (towards Havelock North). I don’t believe it needs four lanes.

        1. The Napier-Hastings Expressway is pretty deserving of dual-carriageway upgrade.
          It’s got a high crash rate:
          Anecdotally, I’d say that’s because it has been designed with long, high speed curves (in recognition that it was to be upgraded to dual-carriageway at some point), but that means the sight-lines are poor for passing. There are no passing lanes (except at the roundabouts, with 50 metres of two lanes coming out of the roundabout, so some people frustrated with going 70kph behind a slow driver will try to pass here). And the vehicle numbers have exceeded 15,000vpd – which is about when dual-carriageway upgrades are needed due to congestion or conflicts.

          The population the Napier/Hastings urban area is the same as Tauranga, but the investment in the state highways in the Hawke’s Bay region is much less than in BoP, which I think is also an added reason for balancing spending around the country.

          I agree about the SH designations. The expressway should be SH2 and the local roads in napier/Hastings should just revert to the Napier City and Hastings District councils.

        2. As somebody who’s traveled that road on numerous occasions over many years, I can say that if the “Links Rd” location is correct, it’s a complete waste of money.

          The Links Rd exit is only used by a few residents, a couple of wineries and approx half of EIT’s 4000 students. It probably only carries 2500 cars per day (max). The only safety improvements possible are massive motorway styled concrete ramps.

          Also, to say that SH50 still uses central Napier is a bit rich. If taken in an Auckland context I’d agree, however when taken in the local context it’s very hard to agree with you.

          I have a hard time seeing how this road could have a bad crash rate, especially when compared to SH2. I say this as somebody who spent the best part of a decade driving 1000km per week on those roads as part of my job.

          A better use of funds would be to replace the Waiohiki bridge, oh wait – It’s not on an expressway (SH50). Alternatively, spend big bucks putting an interchange in at Evenden or Omahu Rds. Incidentally, I’ve fond memories of taking the Evenden Rd roundabout at 100ks in my youth. Not so smart, but was fun.

          @ Guy M – Locals going slow… So true. Every time I go to HB, you get to Eskdale and hit traffic doing 70-80k. Try to pass and all of a sudden they go well over 100!

          1. SH 50 still travels through Napier for Port Access, although is not as central as SH 2 via Georges Drive. Even the NZTA deemed that the Ahuriri Bypass road and Taradale Road were adequate for port traffic.

            I’m not sure abut the suitability of Pandora Road/Meeanee Quay for access from the north. Napier City Council are four-laning Prebensen Road which could become the new port spur from the HB Expressway to the port. My whole opinion anyhow.

          2. @ Alex F – I’m confused, most of Prebensen is already 4 lanes. It doesn’t make sense to carry that any further, after Tamatea Dr you’d be best to go on to Westminster Ave if you’re not a truck and all trucks would go on to SH50 @ the big roundabout…

            Mind you, I’ve not lived there for a long time, so have no idea how the mayor is…

          3. No Jon. Definitely not west of the SH 2B roundabout (Tamatea end). It would be east towards Hyderabad Road

      2. I left Hastings about 30 years ago when the population was 55,000 and there was essentially two good roads to Napier -one via Pakowhai Rd and the other via Karamu Rd. And with the population only having grown by about 14,000 since then someone thinks that another two lanes each way is necessary. It defies logic. Given the obvious lack of economic return that having an expressway seems to have produced so far, doubling the size of it seems pointless.
        Can’t this government think of an investment that will produce real returns?

        1. Pakowhai Road will become the quicker route from Havelock North to Napier once the Whakatu Link Road (a joint Hastings District Council and NZTA project) is opened, yet it’s 80 kmh the whole way down Pakowhai Road from the traffic lights interchange at SH 50 all the way to Hastings township (Heretaunga/Omahu intersection)

          1. I have as much faith in them actually starting the project, as in them actually building the Evenden Rd extension (which is now never going to happen).

            Let’s not forget that the Kennedy Rd flyover took over *30 years* to build.

    2. I wonder what will happening if the East-west link is said to fail the s104 gate? The problem with fast tracking is that it could be turned done on a planning issue

    3. Why did National not mention the Botany Murphy’s Rd highway to Papakura?
      Surely this is number 11 and high on their priorities.
      National are forgetting their projects.

  10. The Auckland traffic counts are only vehicle counts. If you added up the number of people in buses on some of those roads you will find the number of people trips is considerably higher and makes your comparison even more compelling.

    1. I wonder if the biggest difference between a 7000 vpd rural RON and a 7000 vpd urban local road turned traffic sewer is public preference. In the city we’re not prepared to give up more land, have more induced traffic, lose more pedestrian amenity, see car dependency grow. In the low volume rural situation, where induced traffic still follows the slower projectile the traffic engineers are used to, and local people haven’t yet got to grips with all the negative consequences and the better value alternatives, there’s less resistance and even enthusiasm for the roads. So the road construction industry can do their thing, make their money, keep their empires healthy without the public backlash that would harm their political allies.

      1. Heidi that is a good point, but the alternative is not a massive urban highway but a Rapid Transit System, like, you know, The CFN. $10b would so deliver that!

        In fact the answer is simply a better balance between the two; both rural highway upgrades and urban Rapid Transit. RonS means we build the former 30 years in advance and the later 30 years too late.

        Better balance is the aim.

  11. These National Party “big ten” roading proposals are somewhat less than they may appear. Nearly all have been proposed or prefigured through NZTA and would be funded in the usual way so there’s not really any extra spending. And there’s an electorate focus: a highway from Wellsford north means towards Winston Peters territory. The Hawkes Bay proposal would be expected to help in Hastings which National might lose in a Labour swing.

  12. Speaking of my local area, they also don’t make sense.

    Why would you upgrade Levin to Sanson which is for the most part flat and straight, and assuming SH1 eventually moves to SH57 to bypass Levin, then the only town to bypass is Foxton? More valuable would be bypassing Sanson and Bulls on the bit which is a combined SH1/SH3 and has more traffic (I say more valuable by comparison only – not suggesting it). Also, the main center for both population and freight in the area is Palmerston North and the approach roads are narrower and/or windier than SH1, so why wouldn’t those get attention first?

    The Manawatu Gorge needs a replacement. It is a critical west-east link that is no longer geologically feasible so a clean sheet is required. But four lanes? I don’t think so. I’d imagine you’d want uphill passing lanes, but otherwise 2 lanes would be fine (although feel free to include a wire or concrete median).

    This smacks of having far less thought than people have accused Labour’s water plan of having. They’ve basically taken existing four-lane roads and proposed extending them without an ounce of whether or not it makes any economic sense. So much for the party of fiscal responsibility!

    1. To be fair regarding the Manawatu Gorge it is the one proposed future RONS that isn’t designated as a four lane expressway in their factsheet (source https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/nationalparty/pages/8185/attachments/original/1503187125/Next_generation_Roads_of_National_Significance_Fact_Sheets.pdf?1503187125) so it will probably just be a new road through the gorge which is needed. I hope they can turn the existing (closed) road into a cycle track and walking path as its scenic. I agree completely about Levin to Sanson being unnecessary as the current road is very good and is probably the worst proposed RONS of the lot

      1. The Manawatu Gorge definitely does not need a 4 lane highway – it just needs a working 2 lane highway! I don’t know about you, but trying to clear those massive slips by digging away at the bottom of them is a colossal waste of time and money.
        http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Manawatu-Gorge-03102011.jpg

        Building a suspended highway on pylons dug into the rock lower down the cliff / near the water’s edge is the only logical way to go. Like Beca did with the Otira Gorge. Simple, elegant, impossible to wash out, and in the end, it’s the only way. Doesn’t need to cross the Gorge, but it does need to be away from the ground…
        http://www.radionz.co.nz/assets/news/20017/eight_col_otira16.jpg?1405479525

        Going through the Manawatu Gorge by train shows you just how much the existing highway is already suspended. Can’t find a decent picture to illustrate this, but it is a lot – but on a series of short piles at close intervals. NZTA need to plan for a few big new spans.

        1. Few people realise just how much of the gorge road is suspended. I remember taking a steam train through the gorge in the mid-90’s, scaring people who’ve not been through the gorge by pointing out that the tracks we were on had a lot of piling in place too.

        2. The problem with this approach is that the cliff has become so unstable that even with a road built out into the river there is significant risk from the cliff collapsing, hence why even boating activities through the gorge have been suspended.

  13. Even if National does win the election many of these roads won’t be built for a while to come. Of their 2014 transport policy (detailed here https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2014/06/30/government-announce-regional-road-spend-up/ ) I’m not sure how many of the bridge projects e.t.c. got done (from memory most of the 10 bridges promised for the Northland by-election were axed quietly after they lost the by-election). They announced to investigate and design three large projects, namely the Rotorua Eastern Arterial, Nelson Southern Link and Port of Napier access package and nothing has been heard about these projects since.

  14. In a way it is good to get this out in the open. But $10 billion?? What else could that buy? You could put LRT systems into each of Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.

    Or intercity rail. The new French TGV line from Paris to Bordeaux (L’Oceane) cost $9 billion for over 300km of new high speed track, including tunnels and trains. So you could connect up the whole Auckland Hamilton Tauranga triangle with top class high speed rail for this price. Is it really the best way to spend $10 billion?

    I suppose it doesn’t matter as long as we have ten billion spare…

  15. This is electioneering at its most pure or base depending on your point of view. Some of these projects seem good others marginal at best. However, it’s about getting votes both in the cities and the regions. Personally, I think this money could be spent better – although as noted above some of this is re-allocating existing money or renaming a project. But a lot of NZers think roads are good for their region and economy. If we here in Auckland argue that these projects shouldn’t go ahead but advocate for our own transport projects – no matter how good the economic and social benefits – we look like we don’t care about the regions. If Labour and the Greens come out swinging against these projects and, given Labour’s water policy, I think National will be very happy indeed and know they have the regional vote again.

    1. People in the regions aren’t stupid, the Waikato Expressway has led to Huntly, Ngaruawahia and Cambridge being bypassed and there has been economic downturn that accompanied that, not to mention no decrease in the Waikato road death toll. Adding Tirau, Putaruru and Tokoroa to that list will just exacerbate the problem, I’m from the Waikato and a lot of folks down here believe that regional rail would do more to reinvigorate their towns than the RONS do, and also make the roads safer by moving freight to rail. Through routes and bypasses don’t contribute to local economies.

      1. This doubles the need for Regional Rapid Rail. More towns bypassed by highways means more towns that need a shot in the arm to boost local access and rejig local economies.

      2. I never said people in the regions are stupid. However, previous voting patterns would seem to indicate that roads are popular and vote winners. Whether this continues we shall see. My point is that promising large projects to regions will gain votes.
        I would also challenge the notion that by-passes caused the economic downturn in places like Huntly. That town has been in terminal decline since I can remember.

        1. I don’t recall writing it was the sole reason behind Huntly’s economic downturn but it will contribute to it further, no through traffic isn’t going to help and you don’t have to have a doctorate in economics to see that. Regional rail would help far more, it’s probably why Winston has regional rail as a platform and a Marsden point connection to counter the RONS National policies.

          1. The only way I can see regional rail helping Huntly is if it because a dormitory town for Auckland or Huntly. However, in the scheme of things I would rather let these places die.

        1. How does that justify motorways everywhere? Those roads already exist, safer intersections, truck weights, and town speed limits with traffic calming would do more to reduce deaths. Maybe you should look up the word nuance in the dictionary Vance, and multi-modal as well 😉

        2. Roads are not the be all and end all of commerce and trade. The industrial revolution managed just fine with canal barges and railways.

          1. Since you brought up canal barges and railways – they were the super-highways of their time, and its fair to say that they both changed England for ever, and also ruined countless lives. There is masses of evidence about how people / companies pouring money into those ventures went bankrupt in their efforts to out-do each other – witness two lines to Scotland, multiple termini (not octopi) in central London bang smack right next to each other, and large swathes of properties getting demolished for the plans of the industrial barons. Think Kings Cross, St Pancras, and Euston all in a row, some largely redundant before they were open – or Waterloo, Charing Cross, Blackfriars, Cannon St, etc – arguably all would have benefited from a clearer train of thought from their backers. Loss of capital was intense.

            In this case, it is the government gambling out money on our behalf. National would be creating massively more debt, which arguably would be paid off over 50 years instead of 10, due to the low BCR. I’m….. not convinced any of this is necessary. On the other hand, new investment in Public Transport clearly is.

        3. Agree, but these projects are sucking up money that could be used on improving the wider road network, which trucks need to use as well.

          1. Precisely. The big loser from RONS has been local road network. Which as matt notes in the post often carries considerably more vehicles than these rural highways.

      3. Are you suggesting we should all add an extra 30 minutes to our journeys to keep those towns afloat?
        I can’t believe the expressway hasn’t decreased road deaths – I remember the old road 20 years ago being lined with white crosses where people had died.

    2. Fair point Adrian, so Labour have to do two things. First explain why these projects will not benefit regions as claimed. Their economies will not grow from them any more than they did last time. The real winners are big roading contractors.

      Second is to offer regions better alternative spends. More road maintenance funds for regional councils would see better quality local roads and employ lots more locals. The saving could go to regional public housing and school projects which would be much better spends.

      1. I believe Labour is announcing their regional policy today so we shall see what they unveil. However, I think it will take a bit of convincing; maybe a “Greater Waikato” advocacy group. But given how long that took Auckland to where we are at basically a consensus point (timing is now the only issue really) might be a while yet before there is consensus on roads in the regions.

  16. I had no idea there was a plan to extend the Waikato Expressway to Tirau. This is the first I’ve heard of it . How far then is it expected to go?

    1. It seems like a reasonably sensible place to end the expressway (for a while at least) as some traffic will then head to Rotorua and some to Taupo.

      1. Yeah, I’ve been struck by the same thing last time I drove through there. The junction of state highways 5 and 1 feels like a good terminus for the Waikato Expressway.

    2. I was unaware of any plans but it doesn’t surprise me.
      My take is that there seems to be a de facto plan of eventually upgrading all of SH 1 to a four lane expressway with a link to Tauranga/BOP and probably Rotorua and Palmerston North so that most of the major NI cities will be linked up.

  17. We are a country with great potential with wind farms hydro and geothermal and yet National keep pushing a fossil fuel future, haven’t they looked at the rising dept levels in the oil industry and the depletion rates of some of the worlds major oil producers on top of which we have a world with rising CO2 and methane, we can’t do much about the rest of the world but we could be doing something to give us a resilient future using our electric power as the main driver, unfortunately if we leave it until the energy rug is pulled out from under us we wont have the energy resources to build it.

    1. Truck lobby very powerful: Votes National. Sheep farming lobby also very powerful. Votes National. Having a clean, green country, with less dairy farmers, all powered by hydro, solar and wind power, no votes in there for National.

      1. Sheep and dry stock farmers are beginning to turn on national and go for NZF due to the shifting of water pollution responsibility from dairy to hill country farms in regards to fencing off waterways. Dry stock farmers can’t afford to do this due to larger land area nor do they use urea or high fertiliser rates, but they’re a small and shrinking demographic so were thrown under the bus to protect dairy.

        1. Yes, and factory farming dairy at that. Feeding cows more food than your land can grow creates more effluent than the ecology can process. Water quality being just the most obvious fallout of this. Interesting if the farming community gets split on this.

  18. Turning the Christchurch to Ashburton route into a double laned motorway is unnecessary. What would be better would be more bypassed roads. For instance, Ashburton/Tinwald is a ridiculous stretch of state highway. It is something like 10 km of 50km/hr zoned urban road. What is needed is a new bridge and bypass going around the whole township. That would make Ashburton a more cohesive/live-able urban area while giving long distance travelers/freight operators etc the speed/time improvement.

      1. If they were really serious about safety outcomes, that would be the solution to build. But it is half the cost, so it does not satisfy the “give billions to roading contractors” objective.

      2. Good idea. Maybe if Canterbury’s SH1 road south of Christchurch was a 2+1 road then the savings could be invested in a proper bypass of Ashburton. Or better yet in starting a congestion free network for Greater Christchurch -starting with getting commuter rail back up and running……

        P.S here is a 2+1 link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2%2B1_road -I had to look it up to find out what a 2+1 road was : )

  19. I personally think most of those projects sound pretty sensible. Try driving on some of those roads as they currently are. I know for example that the Napier / Hastings road seems to always have people driving at stupidly slow speeds for some unknown reason, so there needs to be a safer way to overtake them. It also needs to have a hard median like many roads in NZ.
    I’ve always been happy for investment in roads between cities and in small cities, as lets face it, there never will be a business case for any other form of transport. But in Auckland (and maybe Wellington and ChCh), it does seem silly to spend money on roads.

    1. Yes but remember that in many cases, smaller, more targeted improvements such as Operation Lifesaver for Puhoi to Warkworth could have got most of the benefit, much sooner and for much less money than the high-specced replacement roads National has pushed and continues to push.

      That and, in the golden triangle area, the population and population density is now such that inter-city regional rail is now feasible and likely for more economic than just spending more and more on roads.

      The analogy with transport within Auckland is clear: the (regional) roading network is now (also)mature. It’s time to invest complementary networks which give people an alternative to avoid the inevitable congestion which comes when there is only one transport mode available.

      No more RoNS. Time for regional rapid rail.

    2. But Jimbo – $10.5 billion? Ten point five BILLION ??!!? That’s the part that is not sensible. There are so many better ways I can think to spend $10.5 billion.

  20. How’s that Waterview Tunnel that was much maligned by lefties working out.
    You know……all the tales of gloom
    Seems it’s already bringing substantial benefits to the Auckland region.

      1. I’ve used the tunnel 4 times. One trip to the airport at 6am saved 5 minutes, another trip at 7:30pm saved 5-10 minutes, other two trips were to/from Hamilton on a weekend and any time savings were lost in congestion between Mangere Bridge and Manukau.

    1. Have a look again this time next year, I’ve got no doubt it will be just as congested as any other Auckland motorway. It takes a while for travel pattern changes to bed in.

    2. I’ve yet to experience the delights of the Waterview tunnel, and I’m actually looking forward to it – despite being a “leftie” – although if the bus from the Airport to the centre doesn’t go that route, I’m honestly not sure if I ever will go that way. But, so, you claim it is already bringing “substantial benefits to the Auckland region”. Could you outline what these benefits may be?

      If one of your claimed benefits is: faster travel times, less congestion on that route etc – then let’s play that scenario out shall we? Less congestion may look good now, but what effect will it have in the long term? Will it:
      A) encourage more people to take the bus or the train?
      B) encourage more people to drive their car?

      Do you see the problem yet?

      1. Freight businesses have also reported they are saving 40 minutes on average on a round trip from the wharf to the airport. – TVNZ

        One operator I spoke to was previously making five trips between the ports and Mangere every day. He now does seven. A 40 per cent increase in productivity.” – Stuff

        1. Vance – We all know that motorways are at their most efficient when they are brand new.
          That is before ‘induced demand’ kicks in and they become as clogged as the last ‘new’ savoiur motorway which was going to fix things and didn’t.

          The gains are short term and illusory.

        2. If that 40% increase is the case, then no need for taxpayers to subsidise the E-W Link, as they have done for Waterview. There is a direct economic benefit attributable to the trucking companies, according to you, so they won’t mind paying. Tomorrow.

        3. There is literally no other road that can complete the Auckland motorway network. The connection that Waterview makes is not repeatable. These expensive roads out in the countryside cannot have any similar effect.

    3. Waterview tunnel definitely changed the way traffic flows along SH16. Morning peak (citybound) definitely got better, but in the afternoon the causeway westbound tends to be stationary from 4pm onwards, much earlier then in the past, and that’s despite being 5 lanes wide at that point.

  21. It is regional voter’s bribery from national.

    Since regional also pay tax, some resource needs to go there.

    For small towns, public transport hasn’t reached the critical population to make operators economically feasible. Therefore investing in rail would require careful business analysis.

    1. Kelvin,

      Yes, if you look at the short-term effect of linking small regional towns (e.g. Mercer, Huntly, Te Kauwhata and Ngaruawahia to Auckland) then the population may or may not justify a certain level of service.

      But if you consider the dynamic effects, regional rapid rail enables cost-effective and stress-free commuting to Auckland. Small towns such as the above suddenly become attractive to live in and commute from. Families move in, in which one breadwinner may commute, but others live and spend money locally.

      Towns which used to be economically sluggish are revitalised, bringing in people, consumption spending, rates income etc., leading to more amenity and viable businesses for the people who were already there. And of course, the rail service itself becomes more viable and makes more money.
      This is sustainable regional development in action (and it has been successful in many places overseas, such as Asian countries, in Victoria…)
      This is what the RoNS view of the world does not consider.
      This is why NZ needs a different approach.

    1. That didn’t take long, eh? Congratulations GA. This election is getting more and more clear cut. We have a choice: Morons or Change. As for English:

      “Rail has its merits, but extending rail through provincial New Zealand looks expensive and unnecessary… We have to get the roads built because that is what the freight uses, that’s what the overwhelming majority of the public use,”

      Oh duh! He can’t imagine another reality, eh? I have the dubious history of having voted for four different political parties over my time. It certainly ain’t going to be National this time! The only change they are offering is climate change.

  22. As far as I see, this is a bribe for the region’s. Now us up hea in Auckland will know better. but for those in Napier Tauranga Hamilton and Whangarei PT is for old people and a shiny bit of 4 lane tarmac is sure to be the most exciting thing to happen in town even if it is not needed.
    But in reality I don’t turn on the news to see “Hamilton gridlocked” or “Whangarei commuter mayhem” unless its Xmas.
    So vote them out Auckland.

    1. Unless places like Hamilton wake up and learn a lesson from what has happened in Auckland. Basically stop investing all the money in roads and start investing in and building PT networks, then one day you may turn on the news and see those headlines.
      I actually moved from Auckland to Hamilton last year, One of the changes that took me by surprise is that congestion has turned out to be more of an issue than I was expecting. Basically I didn’t pay much attention to it in Auckland as I commuted by bus along the NS busway.
      In Hamilton I experience congested roads driving to and from work each day.

  23. Matt L

    Re reading the link provided in this post to the Tauranga Easter Link it seems to read the same as when I originally read it. However as pointed in that post in the comments your vehicle numbers are out by half (one way traffic not both) which must have an effect on the both the payback period you calculate and your conclusion of that post ?

  24. With the bidding war for the major projects ratchetting up its easy to forget the very small spending that would make an almost immediate
    difference. For example in Kapiti its almost impossible to get new bus stops installed. So while traffic whizzes through on the new expressway the ageing population of the region stands in the rain (very frequent at the moment) waiting for a bus. School kids get their first taste of public transport standing in the wind and rain. And a bit of money would buy better quality long distance buses – with wheelchair access and onboard toilets. That would be useful to a group of people in the regions.

  25. Today’s announcements very interesting and, I would say, scarcely believable just 6mths ago. Transport as a core election platform.

    Labour, Greens and NZ First all having PT, particularly rail, at the core. National the outlier, pushing roads, (albeit roads they have largely already approved, funded, so not offering much at all?).

    Going to be interesting if it is, in fact, a deciding factor.

  26. Not more roads for long distance freight trucks. The $10.5 billion can upgrade the under utilized national rail network by knocking the kinks and lay track that can take heavier freight loads and higher speed for efficient regional , inter-regional and long distance passenger and freight train services, fix the Manawatu Gorge problem once and for all and upgrade existing roads to be safer within the regions.

    I like the comment from the Road Transport Forum. they want dedicated truck lanes within the Auckland region. More interesting is Patrick Reynolds comment saying “The concept of dedicated freight lanes was worth examining. It certainly isn’t an irrational idea. Speeding [trucks] up has a high worth for the economy. The thing holding them up is that there are so many single occupant private vehicles.”

    Paul, I thought you are more supportive about getting at least the 3rd, possibility the 4th rail track in the Auckland region to reduce the number of freight trucks on Auckland’s main arterial roads and getting the under utiilized national rail network upgraded for more efficient, higher speed regional, inter-regional and long distance freight and passenger services.

    1. Of course, I could say the bleedin obvious: we already have some dedicated freight lines that speedily take freight through the Auckland region. They’re called railways.

      It would be interesting to see how popular a specialist freight line would be through Auckland, and exactly how they would stop smaller vehicles like cars getting onto their special piece of tarmac. Perhaps, if Dominion Road is going to have a dedicated Public Transport route down the centre, then maybe Manukau Road would be the right route to put a dedicated trucks-only route down. I’ll be watching keenly to see how that proposal goes down with the local residents….

  27. A fast train service would be a winner for many people who don’t have a drivers licence , older people who don’t want to drive Ak to Tauranga return in a weekend and those who want a stress free trip where they can spend time on their mobile phones
    or talking to their friends

  28. Are the RONs announced all to be publicly funded or are they going to be PPP’s and tolled?

    What affect will the new ETS have on the use of cars?

    What provisions are we making for the purchase of Carbon Credits for the period of this construction and increasing Carbon emissions that result from our increased reliance on this form of transport?

    What happens if the PT system starts to really take people out of cars, will that affect congestion?

    Are we going to see a continuation of the single person capsule on the roads as our population increases or are we going to start using public transport?

    When the 3rd and 4th main trunk lines are operational will we still have the trucks moving containers to the inland ports?

    Will we be able to implement the “Congestion Free Network”?

    The way that Europe has dealt with these problems needs to be looked at with a view to reducing our Carbon emissions.

  29. These projects are about propping up the economy by pumping billions into the road construction industry, with a fairly even spread through the nation to ensure industry coverage. The flow-on of this money is significant.

    I was told some time back the road building isn’t ever going to stop, for the simple reason that it can’t. The economy has become reliant upon it.

    Ever wondered why every time major motorway projects near completion, major new ones are announced, and can even be out of the blue with no previous history of being proposed?

    They have to keep going or thousands get laid off and hundreds of companies and contractors go out of business.

    The government probably doesn’t want to admit this, because it would be acknowledging the economy ain’t that great.

    1. money can be spent in lots of ways, and lots of ways that generate more “flow on effects” than highway construction.

      1. Absolutely. Far more efficient Keynesian economics would be to pump this money into the NZDF and NZ Police – the same $$ spent would employ more people for greater social benefits

          1. Capital intensive nature of construction would reduce the direct employment benefits though
            Opex intensive like police, defence, maybe even primary healthcare (more GPs!) best

          2. +1, healthcare was by other favourite idea. I think housing is a better idea though because New Zealand has too little housing and the housing we have is a really poor quality, plus guaranteeing construction jobs in an economic downturn guarantees construction employees in a boom and employs young people in skilled trade.

    2. There are still alot of regional roads need some serious upgrading and the money being pumped to RoNZ Ver 1 and 2 is taking money away from upgrading regional road, especially those regional roads that are used by international tourists and upgrading our under utilized national rail network to be more efficient.

      1. Yes, remember that the current government has cut funding of local road maintenance (even before thinking about building new ones) in order to pour money into their over-engineered and costly RoNS programme. The opportunity cost of the RoNS is enormous and under-appreciated. Remember that the next time you hit a pothole on a local road.

        We could do so much more with the same investment if, as Kris points out, it was directed into more cost-efficient road and rail projects.

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