On Monday the government announced Penlink would be tolled. This was far from certain given the government shied away from also tolling Puhoi to Warkworth and Transmission Gully and that Waka Kotahi consulted on this well over a year ago.

Transport Minister Michael Wood has announced the decision to toll O Mahurangi Penlink to futureproof the vital connection in Auckland’s transport network.


“The road will not simply support the surrounding community through more lanes for cars, it will provide safer and more sustainable transport choices – becoming a key public transport route while also promoting walking and cycling on a separated shared path.

“This additional route will reduce travel time to North Auckland by about 20 minutes during peak hours.


“However, beyond the Government’s upfront investment the road will cost $3 million each year to maintain.

“The road will mostly serve specific communities, and so the Government has decided the fairest option is for drivers who will use the road to contribute through its ongoing maintenance costs through tolls.

“By using a tolling model the community can be assured the road will be maintained to a high level as there will be guaranteed income that will only be used to maintain this road,” Michael Wood said.

The initial toll for a light vehicle that passes through both tolling points will be $3 during peak congestion periods and $2 during interpeak periods. Heavy vehicles will pay double this rate. Public transport operators and cyclists will not be tolled. This price is aligned with other toll roads in New Zealand

Toll camera points will be installed at two locations, one near State Highway 1 and the other just east of the Weiti Bridge.

“Based on community feedback we reduced the tolls for peak trips by 25 per cent to help address concerns that the toll rates were too high. We also removed a third proposed toll point at the Stillwater interchange to improve the efficiency of the tolling scheme,” Michael Wood said.

I do find the claim that this will be maintained to a high standard due to the funding, how will it be different to any other major road?

As for the toll itself, Waka Kotahi modelling estimates that traffic volumes at opening in 2026 will be somewhere around 9,000 vehicles per day, rising to just under 14,000 per day in 2048 – though that it the 50th percentile outcome so could be a bit higher or lower. At the original proposed amount of $4 at peak and $3 off-peak, and accounting for estimated transaction costs of 70c per transaction, this would have generated a net annual revenue of $7.44 million, rising to $11.24 million by 2048 – this will now be lower.

That might sound like a lot but that’s before the $3 million annual maintenance costs and doesn’t come close to covering the $830 million construction costs.

With the announcement some of the media have clearly tried to drum up opposition to the toll, using language such as “Government to slap toll” and quoting locals saying it’s unfair.

However, the project has been suggested as a toll road since at least 2001, well before the project ballooned to $830 million. 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“.

Stuff’s own online poll showed nearly 70% support for tolling the road.

The middle toll point has been dropped

Tolling is also fairer for New Zealand. There are only around 10,000 homes and about 28,000 people on the Peninsula that might benefit the most from the project. The project is therefore providing around $83,000 of investment for each household. Asking them to pay a small toll to help cover operational costs and manage demand seems like a pretty good deal.

This is a case of locals demanding the road and saying they support a toll, then as soon as construction started demanding there be no toll. Perhaps a lesson for the government here is that it should make projects like this conditional on tolling, and set the rates for the toll as part of the project approval process rather than after the diggers start and opening themselves up to pressure not to toll.

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    1. 50-50 on that. Removing the toll is in effect spending more govt money on penlink. They could probably buy more votes by promising some other project. Particularly if it were cheaper per km projects that you got a lot of km/s out of.

    2. Yup. Good(ish) call by Labour, but way too late, and now it will be just another political football.

  1. I can see Simeon lining it up. Looks like he is pitching to be the Minister for Emissions already.

  2. Mmmm Toll roads, I really do think any new major project should be tolled.

    But 70c transaction fee? That is quite literally “highway” robbery.

    1. That’s not a transaction fee, that is the admin cost – setting up and maintaining the tolling system and cameras, identifying who drove the route, sending out late notices, enforcing payment etc. It might be cheaper if we had a nationwide tolling system of which this would just be a local node, but we don’t. So there’s costs. These get higher in percentage the smaller the toll is.

      1. It is indeed a high admin cost. I can’t understand why a transponder system is not considered.

      2. We do have a nationwide tolling system, but there are very few toll roads, so the administration costs are spread over very few transactions.

  3. What are the main considerations when deciding on whether a road should be tolled or not? Why are there only 3 (?) stretches of toll road in NZ? Why isn’t Transmission Gully, for example, tolled?

    1. Yep, why wasn’t Transmission Gully taxed, and the Waikato Expressway, and the Northern Motorway extensions? The government spending going into roads beyond what is collected through petrol tax is putting pressure on other government services.

      1. Transmission Gully I think should’ve been taxed. The Northern Motorway extension (Puhoi to Warkworth) is essentially tolled as there is no exits that allow you to avoid the Northern Gateway tolls – just allows them to have political cover.

      2. Transmission should have been tolled as there is a suitable alternative (tolls can be waived if the alternative is blocked) and it provides a big shortcut.
        Puhoi-Warkworth is in the same boat and should really have just been an extension of the existing toll road.

        The Waikato Expressway however is a crucial piece of infrastructure that has mass benefits to the whole country so shouldn’t be tolled.
        An extension south to say Taupo on the other hand perhaps should be tolled especially if it helps bring the project forward.

    2. Historically it has been when money is borrowed to fund a project rather than just out of existing fuel tax. However, Transmission Gully and Puhoi to Warkworth are not being tolled despite effectively being paid for by loans.

      The reason I understand for TG is that too many would use the existing free route if it were tolled, which begs the question of how valuable the route actually is. Around 25 % of trucks use the old route as they use less fuel than driving over TG.

      1. Should have just tolled both routes really. Simple. There is no third route… make all the people up the Kapiti Coast pay for it.

      2. Is there functionally any difference with Puhoi to Warkworth and tolls? Like, if the route was tolled, there would be no difference to at present in terms of toll infrastructure, given everyone who uses the route has to go through the Northern Gateway tolls given the exit layouts.

  4. It should be capitally taxed on all the property that is owned by those that will use this regressive piece of extrastructure!

  5. In the back of their minds, as a result of the exponential growth in EV imports, WK must be modelling a significant reduction in tax income from fuel in the future. The only way to keep their coffers topped up will be to toll more roads.

  6. “Government to slap toll” is such a stupid, inaccurate, clickbait-generating headline.

    It’s infuriating when news editors turn a pretty boring fact (“toll road will have tolls”) into “The Government Is Coming For YOUR Money, And They Want YOU to Pay For It.”

    If any news editors are reading this, I have a request: PLEASE talk about what a good deal it is, for example. Talk about the new connections. Talk about better access to the peninsular. There are lots of interesting news angles to take. What does it mean for the city?

    1. How is it a good deal? Did you read the actual post? Have you seen the BCR?

      ‘There are only around 10,000 homes and about 28,000 people on the Peninsula that might benefit the most from the project. The project is therefore providing around $83,000 of investment for each household’

      So if any news editors are reading this PLEASE talk about the true cost of adding moar roadz over and over..

      1. Seems like quite a lot to spend on just 10,000 homes. Is it a popular holiday spot as well, I wonder?

        I mean, I have driven up there and it is a horrible road, but there can’t be a real need for it for less than 30,000 people, unless there are some politicians who have weekend beaches up there, perhaps?

        1. It’s not just the 10,000 homes that will benefit.
          Firstly there is a lot of development and redevelopment going on so there will be more homes there (as well as Stillwater).
          Secondly it takes a HUGE load off of Silverdale providing big improvements for people living and working there (it’s also a high growth development area) and further benefits to places like Orewa which won’t be subjected to motorway blockages at Silverdale where queuing cars are blocking the motorway trying to exit there.
          All up it probably benefits at least double if not triple those numbers.

        2. It might have been fine when it was a bit of a backwater and mainly the retirees of the word living there, but it’s a fairly intensely developing area considering how far out of the CBD it is and the access road runs along a ridge, so little can be done about improving that in many parts without serious engineering. As people have moved there in search of cheaper housing and to be closer to beaches etc they wouldn’t afford in the city, it’s become more and more of a mess. Arguably it should never have gotten to this stage to begin with, but it is, for better or for worse.

        3. I get it that you like the road, but if it was as good a project as you believe, they wouldn’t have to fudge the modelling to make a favourable business case.

          Even with the change in behaviour that they do model (that is, assuming the road will create a reallocation of how people travel but that the number of “person-trips” and land use patterns will be unaffected by the road) they found the increase in congestion on SH1 will increase travel time to the point that it completely ruins the business case.

          Their solution? Including in the modelling that SH1 would be widened… without that having been approved, and without including its costs.

          As for the calculation of how emissions will change after Penlink! Whereas it’s hard to change how traffic modelling is done and projects are evaluated due to inertia and “convention”, emissions calculations are pretty new. There’s simply no excuse for basing those off the traffic model as well. It’s worse than a joke.

  7. ” maintained to a high standard ”
    That’s BS
    Check out SH29 Takitimu Drive – it so full of potholes it looks like the rest of SH29 that is untolled

    1. No it’s not. This toll is for the maintenance, the current tolls are to pay back loans to bring construction forward. The three other toll roads will cease to be tolled for this reason once the amount borrowed is paid back. For Penlink, the toll is for the life of the road.

  8. If this toll is only to pay for maintenance, we are all paying to build it – to service a limited peninsula with no planned significant increase in development. Maddening waste.

    1. There’s plenty of planned (and ultimately more currently unplanned) development to go in on the peninsula itself. Add in Stillwater and you’ve got even more.
      Then the big thing is that it takes huge pressure off of Silverdale and the Silverdale exchange which then enables more growth in Silverdale, Orewa etc as well as whole new suburbs like Milldale. This project is effectively facilitating tens of thousands of new homes and businesses.

      1. What it doesn’t do is create a compact urban form, so it doesn’t follow the plans Council has been narrating to residents for many years now. Tens of thousands of new homes and businesses in places like Silverdale, Orewa, Milldale will increase:
        – congestion throughout the city
        – vehicle km travelled
        – the average trip length and number of vehicle trips
        – driving mode share
        – carbon emissions
        – social isolation
        – youth anger at adults being so irresponsible.

        All those homes and businesses provided in central mid-rise developments, on the other hand, would provide more passengers for bus services, more users of active mode infrastructure, more clients for central businesses, cleaner air, better proximity for everyone and much better social outcomes.

      2. You can buy a lot of busway extension and local cycleways for that amount of money, facilitating the same moderate growth but in a sustainable way.

        1. The road is literally going to have bus lanes on it and it shaves 20 minutes off bus journeys.
          Also given how expensive the extension to Albany has been for the busway, no you don’t get a lot of busway for that money.
          If you’re lucky you might get the busway halfway to Silverdale.

        2. It is a two-lane bridge without PT lanes. And I’m sure someone here has estimates of extending the busway from Albany to Silverdale. Doubt it is more than $800m.

  9. What you share has a lot of useful information, very useful to me and good for the community in general. Please let us know what’s going on. special thanks!

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