Waka Kotahi have kicked off consultation this week on a proposal to toll Penlink the $830 million, 7km new road between SH1 at Dairy Flat and Whangaparaoa.

Waka Kotahi is asking for public feedback from next Monday (17 January) about a proposal to toll Penlink, the new transport connection in north Auckland being built to support people living and working in Silverdale, Whangaparāoa and the Hibiscus Coast.

Tolling Penlink would help provide more reliable journeys and pay for the ongoing maintenance and operation of the road.

When it opens in 2026 Penlink will provide people in Auckland’s north with a vital new connection that allows for more transport choices to help people get where they’re going safely.

Part of the New Zealand Upgrade Programme, the Government’s $8.7 billion investment in growing areas across the country, North Auckland communities can look forward a two-lane road with a shared path for people on foot and on bikes.

Public consultation will run between Monday 17 January and Sunday 13 February 2022, with people able to submit their feedback on our online survey site.

Every time a new state highway is built in New Zealand Waka Kotahi carries out an assessment to see if it meets the criteria to be tolled.

“Findings from our assessments on Penlink show that tolling would help to provide more reliable journeys by reducing travel times. It would also contribute to the cost of maintaining the road so it remains safe and resilient,” says Mark Kinvig, Waka Kotahi National Manager Infrastructure Delivery.

“Government funding for the Penlink project has been provided for the planning and construction of the project only, so the ongoing costs of maintaining and operating the road need to be found from other funding sources.

“Tolling revenue from Penlink and future new state highways could be used to pay for their maintenance and operations rather than trying to find funding from the National Land Transport Fund, which is under increasing pressure to fund transport improvements across the country,” Mr Kinvig says.

The tolling proposal includes different toll prices for peak and off-peak hours, also known as variable tolling. Charges vary between $1.00 to $4.00 with heavy freight paying more than light vehicles.

Variable tolling helps people make choices about when they travel, and therefore the toll price they pay. It will also reduce travel times on Penlink during peak hours.

Surely first question is why is tolling even in question.

The project has been suggested as a toll road since at least 2001. In more recent times the 2015 business case by Auckland Transport says “The Project is set to be constructed as a toll road” and “This Project is intended to operate as a toll road“. It notes that feedback from the community in the past has strongly supported tolling

Consultation has also been undertaken for the Project in respect of tolling. In 2006, a door-to-door survey and individual interviews of nearly 700 residents and workers was conducted to identify how these residents would be affected by proposals to toll Penlink. Also in 2006, the Council sought feedback on the proposed Tolling Strategy. Of the 1,400 responses received, 90% supported Penlink being tolled

In the 2018 version of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) it is called the “Penlink toll road“. Finally, when the project was announced as part of the NZ Upgrade Package at the start of 2020, the government explicitly called it a “two-lane, tolled, 7km state highway with a separated shared walking and cycling“.

Given the history, I wonder how much of this consultation is really just a box ticking exercise.

As for the tolling proposal itself, there are some notable differences here compared to our existing toll roads and the two the government rejected recently – Transmission Gully and Puhoi to Warkworth.

Covering Operational Costs

Whereas on other roads the toll is to help support paying off a loan for part of the cost of building the road, construction costs for Penlink are being entirely funded by the government through the NZ Upgrade Programme (including the $419 million cost blowout). So the toll here has been proposed to cover the maintenance and operational costs of the road as they’re not currently budgeted for from the normal NLTF funding source. One thing notable about that is it means tolling will be needed in perpetuity rather than ending once the construction debt has been paid off.

Variable and distance based tolls

All other toll roads in New Zealand use a flat rate for using them, in part because those roads only have one entry and exit point. On Penlink that will be different and multiple connections to local roads along its length. Waka Kotahi are proposing that the amount paid for the toll will vary based on which parts of the road drivers use. a section in the middle of the route will also be free to use as Penlink will replace and existing local road.

Waka Kotahi are also wanting to charge different rates for peak and off-peak travel to help manage demand. Peak hours are proposed to be 6am to 9am and 4pm to 7pm Monday to Friday, but presumably these could be changed in future based on how the road is used.

Interestingly in their FAQs they mention that without tolling, by 2038 congestion would add 22 to 26 minutes to travel times. That’s notable because locals are already calling for lower or no tolls saying “could put people off using it“. Putting people off using it is part of the point so that it doesn’t just become another traffic jam.

Of course, while Penlink may save some travel time for those willing to pay, uses will still have to deal with the congestion that occurs on SH1 south of where it joins in.

Waka Kotahi also talk up how fewer cars using it would mean there are fewer emissions and the road would be safer though it would be interesting to compare that to not building Penlink.

The proposed toll amounts for light vehicles are shown below with heavy vehicles proposed to pay double the amounts

And the map showing the indicative locations of the three tolling points that are proposed

One thing that’s also noticeable from that map and the tolling info is Waka Kotahi are proposing a connection to East Coast Rd. In Auckland Transports 2015 proposal they had dropped this given how close it is to SH1. I wonder if that means we’re going to see some quite gnarly design proposed here.

For some more information, see the proposal brochure, the FAQs and of course the Waka Kotahi project page – there are also a number of open days and online sessions for those interested

Note: The feedback form is very straight-forward and only asks a handful of questions.

At $830 million we’re not supportive of Penlink, especially given there are only around 26,000 people, including children, living in the areas that may directly benefit from the project. There was also relatively low growth expected based on the Unitary Plan, though that may change with the government’s recent housing policies. But if we are going to build it, we support it being tolled to help manage demand and cover costs.

Also worth noting is that previous plans from Auckland Transport suggest they will use Penlink to get NX2 buses to Whangaparaoa. Managing demand on the route will be critical for ensuring those buses are able to operate reliably in the absence of any bus lanes.

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60 comments

  1. It would be interesting to see what the cost-to-benefit ratio would be if Penlink was only a busway with cycling and walking amenities. That would be a real alternative – you can either take your car and drive all the way to Silverdale or you can take the bus and save a lot of time.
    Also, 7km at $830m seems ridiculously expensive. How come it’s going to cost only a tiny bit more than the proposed cycling bridge over the Harbour?
    If it’s going to be built, it should be tolled. Definitely. This warrants a broader question – perhaps we should move away from taxing petrol to making the majority of roads tolled so that everyone chips in for the maintenance? Since it would come as a separate bill to pay, it would be much more visible how much driving actually costs. With taxes embedded in petrol, it’s not that obvious.

  2. The Herald runs a campaign against providing active mode access across the harbour bridge and the government drops it, meanwhile this costing more and simply entrenching auto dependency, sprawl and emissions is proceeding with no questions at all. Transport planning in NZ is massively broken.

        1. Yes Harry we are years behind. You know it can work because you have lived in Britain, and it can work in Auckland. Life will be different, but it is always changing.
          I had the good fortune to spend some time in Vienna which has 26% car mode share. It has a vibrant city centre with people largely travelling by train, tram, bus and on foot. The city has a much greater GDP than Auckland. We just need to think differently. We have to think differently because we have run out of the resources to do things as we have always done.

  3. Someone needs to call out the level of analysis here.

    The analysis from Greater Auckland is little more than: cars bad means tolls are good.

    Is this site more about analysis or advocacy?

    I’ll sit back and wait the hate mail and pile on from the blinded advocates.

    1. Interestingly in their FAQs they mention that without tolling, by 2038 congestion would add 22 to 26 minutes to travel times

      I think for the NZTA it boils down to this, if they don’t toll it, theres little point in building it.

    2. Nice one Bob. Put words in someone’s mouth and then ask them to defend it.
      Intellectually dishonest.
      Have a look at your own prejudices.

    3. Well said Bob.”Greater Auckland” is basically a cycling lobby group with a few extras. An in depth analysis of the amount of emissions caused by “traffic calming” would be a more worthy project. AT just build them but have done absolutely no testing.

    4. Bob, for most on this site they have read the analysis and perhaps they don’t feel they need to repeat it with each comment.
      Most people start from the premise that NZ needs to reduce emissions and in Auckland about 40% come from transport so that is an area to focus. Most people also recognise that Auckland has to reduce congestion and one way to achieve that is less trips. AT research has shown that increasing parking prices is the best influencer of this, but tolls help.

      Perhaps it is the modest level of tolls applied in NZ that it has a lesser effect. Countries like Italy have had outstanding success in reducing longer distance car mode share with a mix of significant tolls and very good trains.

      While you may not like it, or accept it, NZers will drive less as we strive to reduce emissions. If you have a view that will just replace ICE vehicles with EVs and drive just as we are, respectfully I think that you are wrong. We can already see the headwinds that EV producers are encountering: the significant protests against Rio Tinto and their proposed lithium plant; the substantially increasing price of lithium; the declining supply of many metals so that many miners are considering seabed mining; and the not often talked about issue that EVs have substantial amounts of embedded carbon.
      Many people talk about the need for drastic transport change because they realise the enormity of the climate crisis. It is long past the stage where it will be fixed by people taking an occasional walk or bike ride to their destination. So yes tolls are definitely on the table, and perhaps the question is, why aren’t they everywhere?

  4. I think if it does get built, one of the core things to advocate for is good bus provision.

    An NX2 station at the Whangaparaoa end and at least a few km of local bike paths to feed it.
    Bus lanes on the ramps, so that if it has onramp lights, they get to queue jump the ramp lights.
    Somehow fanagle the stations along the way so there are minimal lights and zero queues for the buses. Such that they don’t have that much time penalty vs vehicles that stay on the road. Perhaps median stations.
    At the either end, especially the SH1 end there will inevitably be a tailback as cars wait to get on there. There really needs to be bus lanes to jump this queue.
    Good bus provision from Albany station to the interchange. This section of SH1 will be terrible, the NX1s going north also need a way to skip it. This should really be a dedicated busway extension, if only they had made the Albany entry bridge make more sense.

    The core point is that buses can’t be held up in the end (2050+ etc), we don’t want a repeat of the northwest (i admit a less important one). The only decently successful (long term) project on that corridor has been the northern busway. It’s the only thing they’ve built that actually has the capacity for the future. Surely they cant ignore it now.

    After all that, they say they are building a “state highway”, I’ve only just realised they might not do grade separated interchanges at all. Who knows.

    1. The relative silence on PT priority should be immediately concerning.

      One of the main pieces of detail should be how buses (amd if necessary, later, rail) will be given priority. Firstly, with the dedicated lanes you mention and then what provision there is for enhancement or expansion. This must be planned for on all new roads. The lack of mention of a bus interchange for NX2 shows this isnt a priority.

      This just looks like the NW motorway all over again, though just not on such a large scale.

      1. Very concerning indeed.
        Very surprising that given such an opportunity, seeing the history of such projects that the NZTA is still so apprehensive about bus expansion. They even weren’t going to do the busway extension up to Albany in the northern corridor expansion stuff.

        And on this one, I’m not even talking about huge bus infra, just some basic priority to get them out of the car traffic. Seems like craziness to not do it given it could have a big impact.

        1. Yep, and that’s what new roads like this – all new roads – should have as part of their business case:

          Phase 1: what is the basic bus priority including, where required, interchange facilities with RTNs

          Phase 2 (where required): how the route is future proofed for enhancement or expansion for its own RTN route (BRT first, rail later).

          You won’t always get to (2) but chances are if you provide adequately for (1) you’ll be successful and need to progress eventually and have at least planned for that.

          Or maybe that’s the problem? The busway shows that quality bus infra from day one drives more ridership and leads to a need for (2)? Are NZTA trying to avoid that first-world problem?

        2. This is the way that WK do things, build the road and then think whether PT is necessary.
          I will never understand why, with the Northern motorway extension around Albany, that the busway didn’t come first. Albany station comparatively has had poor patronage. Would being kms from anywhere with poor feeder services and poor bike, walking access affect this?
          What traffic reduction impact would a busway that connected to Albany Mall have had in reducing traffic demand.

          Why didn’t a north western PT service come first?

          WK seems to be rooted still in a 1900’s time warp. A leader who says that Wellington deserves Transmission Gully doesn’t inspire confidence.

    2. A NX2 line there would be nice, but…

      Would that actually be the most used line? It is more than 10 km to even reach Albany. If you consider Whangaparaoa to be a suburb, it makes more sense for it to be a suburb of Orewa. The most important PT line would be the line to Silverdale or Orewa.

      1. You are probably right, Roeland, but I think it was NZTA that floated the potential for it to be an NX2 line. Of course, they did that without thinking of what that might actually mean for bus priority.

      2. It doesn’t have to be the most used line, but its a simple extension through new suburbs. Currently all NX2’s start at albany, we could simply start some of them at Whangaparoa. If there is good bus priority there wont be any ill effect on the existing service / purpose, just benefits (more frequency supportable etc)

        The NX 1 from Silverdale will still exist (and might go through dairy flat etc one day) and might extend to Orewa. This is the main trunk, but the NX2 interlining service could go further than it does.

        The difference in downtown destination will matter even less when the CRL is done and NX2 transfers to HR at Aotea are an option.

  5. Am I reading that process diagram correctly, that the creation of a toll road needs to go all the way to the Governor General?!

    1. Yes Michael, it is a similar process to onroad carpark removal, that requires a majority vote in parliament and the approval of the queen.

      1. Bryan, I think you overlooked the decision to either apply priced car parking, or the subsequent raising of prices. And the removal of verge parking.

  6. The old “one more lane will fix it”,building a new road,then putting a filter(toll) on it to limit the traffic,so that it works,is baffling. Obviously recognizing the fact that new roads = induced demand, but the other old , traveling faster,so reduced emissions.
    It must be difficult being a road building advocate at present, you have to become very creative at justifying your existence,this project is right up there. Of course ,once this is finished,they can then set their sights on Northern Motorway,as that turns into a larger carpark,presuming the Penlink/Motorway interchange will get the traffic light treatment.

    1. “traveling faster, so reduced emissions”
      Takapuna is about to lose it’s bus lane based on this premise. And it’s a widely held belief it seems. Certainly held by our local councilors, Derby and Hills. Well at least I think that is their view because this is what they said to us.
      It is so disappointing that decisions are made on premises like this, while ignoring other aspects. In the case of the removal of the bus lane, apparently emissions will decrease by 7% because of cars travelling faster/without stopping. For some unexplained reason there will be no induced demand. Although Lake Road/Esmonde Road is badly congested the freeing up of a lane will, miraculously, cause no extra traffic. It seems strange, because in every other location around Auckland that extra lanes are added it does cause induced demand.

      I struggle to have any degree of respect for AT because they are intellectually bankrupt. (Yes I accept that most of the above discussion has been about WK.)

  7. Tolling for O & M only is equivalent to Turnpike. Previous tolls have been for construction of new roads only, where an alternative route exists. It opens the question of Turnpike funding for other existing roads. For example, lesser tolls on Whangaparaoa Rd would make choice of mode rather than choice of route the issue. Difference in toll relating to travel time would influence time and route choice – in other words, congestion charging for travel demand combined with O & M costs. Targeted rates could then balance the equity of Transport contributions. Remember that the purpose of Penlink is to take the Peninsula traffic off Hibiscus Coast Highway and Silverdale Interchange to avoid capacity upgrade there.
    The principle is interesting to think of, when looking at South Island tourist routes, especially local roads rather than State Highways. It raises some wider issues on O & M funding, Transport equity and travel demand that need including in the whole picture, as well as urban/rural and discretionary/essential trip differences.
    Previous consultation has been “You won’t have Penlink unless you have tolls. ” Now the question is “You’re going to get Penlink. How do you want to pay to use it?” I wonder what the answer will be?

  8. It should be noted that the capital funding (NZ UP) doesn’t include funding for a busway station on Whangaparaoa Peninsula. There is a need for a small scale busway station on the Peninsula to enable transfers between local buses and the NX2.
    I note that they only suggest the toll be used for operations and maintenance of the road. The toll should be used to fund the extra operating cost of operating of the bus services in the area. This is the real alternative to the tolls.
    The tolls should cover at least 50% of the total cost of operating the public transport north of Albany. The remainder of the funding should be via standard formula of fares covering some cost and the rest split between Council (rates) and NZTA (petrol tax).
    For the public transport to be useful and offer an alternative, the NX1 and NX2 both need to be made Frequent until midnight to the Hibiscus Coast Station and the new Whangaparaoa Station respectively. There is also a need to improve the local service feeding the stations include making some of these Frequent.

    1. Thats a real shame about the bus situation, thats basically the only long term capacity value that penlink can offer, tossed out the window.

      1. Have there been any analysis or reports of buses if Penlink is Built?
        If they have been it would be useful to know where they are. If they have not been done, why not?, as a significant percentage of people using Penlink will be on buses ( especially if the service is good)

  9. At least the plan does include a separated shared path for pedestrians and cyclists. Although you will probably end up abandoned at either end, a complete network is the key.

    1. At least they got that bit right.
      I suspect that the Te Araroa trail will be re-routed to use that path from Whangaparaoa to Stillwater too.
      Currently they have the few 1000 people a year walk down East coast road, then down Duck creek road, which is (imo) the worst section to walk in the country.
      Hair raising stuff with utes zipping past trying to do 80 km/hr : https://goo.gl/maps/fyCnbtB7VQvTMVdr6

      1. You should try cycling down East Coast Road from Whangaparaoa to North Shore.

        One of the reasons I moved out of Stanmore Bay as that bit of road is open road – 100km/h and people of course move faster.

        I was literally blown off the road one day by a large truck and trailer unit moving at speed. These days, when recreational riding the bicycle I try to avoid that road even if the old Albany highway is a long way around to Orewa

  10. “Substantial growth is forecast in the Whangaparāoa Peninsula, Weiti, Orewa, Silverdale and surrounding areas. As an example, in Silverdale-Dairy Flat, around 15,000 new homes are expected to be built over the next 30 years, with 6,000 of these built over the next decade.”

    From the NZTA Penlink page. How does growth in the Silverdale-Dairy Flat area affect the case for a new road to the Whangaparoa peninsular? Where much less growth is forecast.

      1. This is a growth road. It doesn’t make much sense to build it without suburbanizing on the northern side of this road to get the most use out of it.

        1. I could see this road actually triggering a lot of demand in Whangaparoa, together with the new planning rules allowing for intensification in what was previously a largely single house zone.

          This road will drastically cut drive times and decent bus provision would add to the appeal too. Because of access issues, property is pretty reasonably priced for Auckland (quality is a separate issue). We need to be setting the right tone from the outset that buses (and maybe a rail spur later) will be competitive with the car.

        2. The capacity that the cars offer is pretty minimal though KLK. You might get 1000 to 1500 more people in cars being transported, that would all immediately held up at the SH1 interchange.

          So you build another couple 1000 houses and then what? Thats not big growth by any stretch of the imagination.
          A solid BRT solution would provide that growth legroom, but that isn’t really whats on offer here.

        3. I guess that’s my point. If people know there is bus priority in/out – with the carrot that one day it might be rail – more than 1000 new dwellings might be needed.

          If I knew it was a guaranteed 35min trip into the CBD and I skipped congestion, while also being able to live within a 15min walk of numerous beaches, I’d probably give it a thought.

    1. Reason is that currently a substantial number of people commuting from Whangaparaoa all have to drive through Silverdale and mix with traffic to/from Orewa, Millwater and Silverdale etc

      The Whangaparaoa traffic will presumably now join the motorway at Dairy Flat so reduce congestion around Millwater/Silverdale/Orewa

      Argument is that it will allow for more growth centered around Silverdale, but if those people are still going to be commuting into Albany or further, then I see the bottleneck will just move from around Silverdale to a bit further south where the penlink on-ramp will join the motorway

  11. As you say, box ticking

    The legislation on tolling requires that consultation occur, if it doesn’t then the Minister is forbidden from tolling the road

    Land Transport Management Act 2003
    48 Procedure for recommending making of order under section 46

    (1) The Minister must not recommend the making of an Order in Council under section 46(1) unless he or she is satisfied—

    (a) that the relevant public road controlling authority or authorities have carried out adequate consultation on the proposed tolling scheme; and

  12. Tolled yes.
    Tolled for the motorway ramps to/from SH1 – East Coast Rd? No. That’s ridiculous (and adds to the cost and complexity of the system). There was originally plans for a Redvale to East Coast Rd ramps that got deferred when the motorway was built.
    The new Weiti development should however be tolled (as that actually uses the new road rather than just the on/off ramps).
    As for the project itself, dilly dallying from council/government is the reason why it is now going to cost triple (for a 2 lane road) what the original proposal was going to cost for a dual carriageway only a decade ago!
    The project doesn’t just benefit those on the peninsula either. It benefits those in Stillwater (which will have more development soon) as well as freeing up Silverdale and adjacent areas for further development. So a combined population of approximately 50,000 (and soon to be 70,000+ in the coming decade or so).

  13. Question.
    Do you support polling for Penlink?
    Answer.
    Not if the alternative is using it for free.

    What a stupid question, but aren’t most “consultations” cynically carefully crafted stupid questions to support the promoters desired outcomes?

    1. DonR, YES.

      And additionally most of the material that supports the consultation is inadequate and often mindless drivel.

      I’m over a government and government organisations that are paying scant regard to emissions reductions.

  14. F$cking brilliant idea- don’t build penlink and build PUBLIC TRANSPORT+walking /cyccling bridge across the harbour next to current harbour bridge. Toll all motorways to pay for more PT and have congestion charging.

  15. Look at the map – the only people who will use Penlink live to the east (and a few to the west very near the connection to Whangaparaoa Road). The catchment is completely constrained – a peninsular with strict controls on the number of houses that can be built there. So there will be no growth of toll paying traffic.

    The toll will exceed the car running costs saved so it will be a quick short cut only for the rich. Kiwis are frugal.

    Penlink is not needed to relieve congestion and it opens up another green area for housing when the present buffer between the North Shore and Stillwater is needed.
    It doesn’t stack up asa toll road – never has done never will do.

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