Archive | Infrastructure

Ministers explain infrastructure funding deal

The Government said yesterday it would repurpose its ultra-fast broadband company to co-invest up to $600 million alongside local councils & private investors in network infrastructure for big new housing developments.

Finance Minister Steven Joyce & Local Government Minister Anne Tolley said yesterday: “Crown Fibre Holdings Ltd will be renamed Crown Infrastructure Partners Ltd [though that name has been reserved for a new entity], and bring the investment skills & experience gained through the Government’s world-leading ultra-fast broadband rollout to the job of attracting private investment in roading & water infrastructure that open up big new tracts of land for more housing development.”

Crown Infrastructure Partners will set up special purpose companies to build & own new trunk infrastructure for housing developments in return for dedicated long-term revenue streams from councils through targeted rates & volumetric charging for use of the infrastructure by new residents.

Mrs Tolley said: “This innovative new funding method will be made available to cash-strapped councils who are struggling to fund new long-term infrastructure from their own balance sheets.

“Councils will have the option of buying back the infrastructure at some point in the future, but won’t have to commit to doing so. This is all about introducing outside capital to build this infrastructure, so current ratepayers don’t get burdened with all the costs of growth.”

2 of the earliest projects to be assessed by Crown Infrastructure Partners for investment will be projects in the north & south of the Auckland region previously which Auckland Council said would require investment outside the council’s own balance sheet.

“These 2 large projects can provide an additional 5500 homes in Wainui to the north of Auckland, and 17,800 homes across Pukekohe, Paerata & Drury to the south of the city.”

Mr Joyce said the Government was prepared to be an investor alongside the private sector and take up some of the early uptake risk: “We learnt from the ultra-fast broadband programme that if we derisk some of the early stages of the investment, we can bring in private sector investors to take on much of the heavy lifting as the investments mature. We would expect the Crown’s investment in each project to be matched with at least one-to-one with private sector investment over time.

“This new model is another way in which we are helping councils in our fastest growing cities to open up more land supply so more Kiwis can achieve the goal of home ownership.

“Crown Infrastructure Partners is the logical next step in infrastructure funding following the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund, which will deliver 60,000 houses across our fastest growing population centres over the next 10 years.”

Infrastructure funding detail

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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New Crown entity will advance housing infrastructure

The Government has lodged the documents to establish a new company, Crown Infrastructure Partners Ltd, to support development without breaching local council debt constraints.

Auckland Council has been tiptoeing just below its debt:revenue ratio limit of 265%, and put the concept to the Government of a special purpose vehicle to fund infrastructure in a way that recognises those debt constraints.

Instead of the council funding infrastructure for new development, it will come from the Crown company. Auckland mayor Phil Goff said yesterday this would enable construction of 23,300 homes in the north & south of the region to be brought forward.

Mr Goff said the announcement was made at Drury, in South Auckland, because that was likely to be the first place the new funding would be used, for 700 homes.

Mr Goff said: “The initial investment of $387 million in transport & water infrastructure in Drury South & West, Paerata & Pukekohe will enable the construction of 17,800 dwellings much earlier than would otherwise be the case.

“A further major development will be around Wainui in north Auckland, with $201 million in infrastructure funding required for an additional 5500 dwellings.

“The new investment vehicle will provide capital from the Government & the private sector which will not be debt on the council’s books. It will be funded through development contributions & targeted rates within the new housing developments.

“Auckland is growing by 45,000 new residents/year and requires unprecedented levels of infrastructure growth to keep up with demand. Increasing the supply of housing is a critical part of overcoming our housing shortage and slowing price rises caused by demand exceeding supply of housing.

“The new unitary plan ensures there is adequate land – greenfield & brownfield – to meet demand, but infrastructure servicing that land is necessary for homes actually to be built.

“Special purpose vehicles are another tool in our toolbox to enable us to lift the scale & pace of new housing development.”

Attribution: Mayoral release.

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Council to rejig finances to buy 17 new rail units

Auckland Council’s finance & performance committee will vote on Wednesday on a proposal to buy 17 3-car rail units.

The independently powered electrical multiple units will cost $207 million and are intended to meet forecast patronage growth from 2019.

The council needs to approve up to $25 million in its 2017-18 budget for a deposit for the order to be made in September.

Conditions of the purchase are that the NZ Transport Agency will commit to funding at least 50% of the capital & operational expenditure, and the timing of the NZTA funding must align with the cashflow requirement of the procurement & operation.

In addition, Auckland Transport must reprioritise its capital budget to provide $50 million of the purchase funding, so the council’s projected debt:revenue ratio doesn’t exceed its limit of 265%.

Mayor Phil Goff said on Friday: “New electric & battery-powered trains will have major benefits for commuters living south of Papakura in the high growth areas of Drury, Paerata, Pukekohe & potentially Pokeno. It will also honour a commitment I made at the last election.

“The purchase of the new units, which can operate on lines not yet electrified, allows us to eliminate aging, less reliable diesel trains currently used on the Pukekohe line.

“For commuters, it means removing the need to transfer trains at Papakura, making travel quicker & more convenient. It brings in a cleaner form of transport, eliminating diesel emissions, and ensures a more reliable & comfortable trip for commuters.

“The result is a more attractive public transport system which will help tackle growing congestion levels, especially on the Southern Motorway.

“The units could ultimately be transferred to the Kumeu-Huapai line when the Southern line is electrified in 2025.

“The purchase of 17 new units needs to be made now to meet the greater-than-estimated demand for rail travel. Demand has increased by 17% over the last year, and within months will achieve a record 20 million passenger trips/year in Auckland.”

Mr Goff said the council was also examining cheaper options. One of those is to buy 15 electrical multiple units (not independently powered) for $133 million. Another is to buy units with Korean batteries for $174 million.

Committee agenda item

Attribution: Mayoral release & committee agenda.

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Tunnel dig starts on Albert St

Work began on Monday on bulk excavation for the city rail link cut-&-cover rail tunnels under Albert St in downtown Auckland.

City Rail Link Ltd project director Chris Meale said it was a milestone for the project: “This work marks a significant point in the construction process as we will start to see the tunnels taking shape. It will be exciting & challenging work from an engineering perspective, as we build rail tunnels below groundwater level, while maintaining surface-level access to Albert St for foot & vehicle traffic.

“The bulk excavation is also providing employment opportunities with about 50 people working on site. This is likely to increase to 80 by the end of the year, once tunnel box construction & waterproofing works are underway, with many being workers employed by local sub-contractors.”

The excavation represents about 10% of the 3.45km length of the twin-tunnel underground rail link, and involves digging 18m (about 5 storeys) at the deepest (southern) point, using long-reach excavators above ground and smaller machinery inside the reinforced trench. The tunnels will then be constructed with a cast concrete floor, walls & roof before the trench is backfilled.

The work will be undertaken progressively from Wyndham St at the southern end to Customs St at the northern end. Excavation at the southern end is expected to be complete by October this year and the northern by the middle of next year.

Construction of the tunnel box is expected to start late this year and be completed by late 2018.

By spring 2019, this section of Albert St will be reinstated with a new road surface, bus lanes, widened footpaths & street furniture.

For those interested in watching the big dig, CRL & contractors the Connectus joint venture (McConnell Dowell & Downer) have provided viewing windows at the Wyndham St pedestrian crossings.

Cut-&-cover construction is being used at each end of the CRL tunnels – between Britomart Station and the future Aotea Station and, later, where it connects to the western line at Mt Eden. Between Aotea & Mt Eden stations, the tunnels will be between 13-42m below ground and bored using a 7m-diameter tunnel boring machine.

The city rail link is jointly funded by the Government & Auckland Council and is expected to be completed in 2023-24. Their joint venture company, City Rail Link Ltd, took over the project on 1 July.

Image above: Looking north along the CRL tunnel route on Albert St.

Link: CRL cut-&-cover tunnel excavation

Attribution: Company release.

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Council gets $300 million infrastructure package, balance sheet-beating deal to come next

Auckland will get $300 million from the Government’s new Housing Infrastructure Fund, which will bring forward construction of 10,500 homes in north-western suburbs Whenuapai & Redhills.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff and Finance Minister Steven Joyce announced the funding package yesterday.

It will enable investment in transport, wastewater & stormwater projects which Auckland Council has earmarked as priority, fast-track initiatives.

Next up, in the next few weeks, is an announcement on overcoming the council’s balance sheet constraints.

In addition to wastewater & stormwater improvements, the $300 million will fund improvements to transport infrastructure, including an extension to Fred Taylor Drive & Northside Drive at Westgate, an update & realignment of Trig Rd, Whenuapai, and a new bridge crossing to the West Harbour ferry terminal.

Mr Goff said: “Over the last several months, I’ve met with the prime minister & other ministers to discuss the Housing Infrastructure Fund. I am pleased Auckland Council has been able to work with the Government to ensure the Government’s wider funding package for infrastructure aligns with Auckland Council’s financial constraints.”

He said Auckland’s bid for funds focused on a small number of highly development-ready areas where funding would accelerate priority projects and unlock housing growth quickly.

“Not only are we accelerating housing delivery, we are creating new centres for employment and increased accessibility across the Auckland region with improvements to Auckland’s transport system.

“Accelerating housing delivery in Auckland is a priority. I welcome the Government’s recognition of the growth challenges facing Auckland and their readiness to work with the council to address issues in our city for the benefit of all New Zealand.”

However, Mr Goff said the city would continue to need billions of dollars of extra investment to keep pace with its unprecedented growth: “Auckland has received most of what it sought from the Housing Infrastructure Fund. In the coming weeks there will be a further important announcement from the Government on new funding options for Auckland that take into account the balance sheet constraints the city faces. We have worked constructively with the Government to find innovative solutions to meet Auckland’s needs.

“The Housing Infrastructure Fund package will help significantly, but with ongoing growth and the pressing need for matching infrastructure, we will need to continue to work together to increase & bring forward investment to tackle Auckland’s housing shortage & growing congestion.”

Attribution: Council release.

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NZ infrastructure body takes lessons from Scotland

Infrastructure NZ has brought back a long list of lessons from Scotland on streamlining processes and introducing a national spatial planning framework.

A delegation from the New Zealand organisation visited Scotland in March and issued its report last week.

Infrastructure NZ chief executive Stephen Selwood said: “New Zealand can make best use of the Government’s $32 billion infrastructure commitment over the next 4 years by streamlining plans & institutions, including specialist procurement, environment & water regulation agencies, and a top-down national spatial planning framework.

“Over the last 2 decades, the Scottish have completely transformed infrastructure planning, funding & delivery. They’ve established innovative & effective institutions at the national level which support & guide central & local government infrastructure delivery.

“The UK National Infrastructure Commission, Scottish Futures Trust, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and Scottish Water are all bodies which could be employed here to rationalise & improve infrastructure planning, funding & delivery.

“Initiatives based on Scotland’s national planning framework & hub, City Deal, tax increment financing & growth accelerator programmes would each help align central & local decision-making and enhance collaboration with the private sector.

“The Scottish system is simpler, more transparent and reduces conflicts of interest across the public sector.

“The extensive infrastructure investment that New Zealand is planning over the coming years will need to be well managed if we are to tackle the growth challenge. The best elements of Scotland’s decision-making system are worth replicating.”

The key findings for New Zealand set out in the report are:

  • We could improve public understanding of infrastructure challenges and better support national investment by establishing an empowered national body charged with identifying infrastructure needs
  • Scotland’s plan-led approach gives greater certainty and better balances strategic priorities with local interests than New Zealand’s effects-based Resource Management Act system
  • We could save money and improve infrastructure performance by establishing an independent centre of expertise for project procurement, integration & public private partnerships.
  • A specialist central agency could work in partnership with local government to consolidate procurement and provide immediate & substantial benefits for water & tourism infrastructure
  • Public & environmental health could both be improved by consolidating wastewater & water supply delivery at a regional level
  • Auckland’s Watercare could be sold to fund Auckland growth with minimal impact on the cost of services and improved strategic capability
  • Dedicated independent regulators are more informed and take an outcomes-focused strategic view of the sector, which results in better services
  • Local government can be incentivised to align investment priorities with national outcomes by using the UK City Deal approach.

Link: Building national infrastructure capability: Lessons from Scotland

Attribution: Infrastructure NZ release.

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Churton warns Orakei board of declining standards from relentless intensification

Orakei Local Board member Troy Churton has questioned residential intensification at several spots around the ward in his report to the board’s meeting on Thursday, chiefly for height infringements, being out of character & resultant commuter congestion.

He’s also raised a question over the impact of cycleways on St Stephens Avenue & Gladstone Rd, which Auckland Transport is pursuing.

In his report as the board’s lead member on planning & regulatory matters, Mr Churton said that at a training day & workshop he discussed “‘triggers’ requiring planners to forward files to me for comment as to whether they should be notified or not”.

He went on to list projects where he understood the developer intended to breach the 16m height limit, notably at 29-35 & 37 Coates Avenue, Orakei, and, in one case, the quality of design on a landmark site “where the very best of design standards should be implemented”.

In his report on 29-35 Coates Avenue, Mr Churton said: “I do not accept the assessment of environment effects report at page 10 suggesting it is appropriate to disregard effects below 16m simply because a previous consent may have found there to be no more than minor effects for a 4-storey building previously applied for and of lower height.

“The receiving environment of this development is the area of Coates Avenue that currently has some multi-storeyed development. Overall the proposal is to likely to contribute to an obvious dominant high, built environment. This is said to be consistent with the future character of the area.

“It is, however, currently not the character of the area and there can be no expectation that just because a one’s set of standards enables certain types of development, that the community & landowners suddenly forego concern for the existing state of character or will seek to exploit those activities.

“The future character of the area relies on developments that are designed to meet standards and not infringe them. This proposal may, for want of being designed to meet height & height:boundary standards, therefore disrupts amenity value in the existing neighbourhood of mostly lower level surrounding residential built form & character.

“It will plainly meet many other unitary plan purposes and would not attract a notification trigger if designed to standard as to height & height:boundary.

“If the advice that I received in my training recently was that standards are to be upheld, then this matter presents an adverse effect as to height that is more than minor and should be notified.

“If, however, council planners intend on facilitating an ongoing culture of enabling developers to treat standards they are all very aware of in due diligence for a site and as measures to be willingly infringed, then there is a case to say the positive effects of the proposal in this zone & area may mitigate the potential adverse effects.”

Meadowbank Station & commuter parking

On the development proposal for 4 Koa St, Meadowbank – 14 units on 3 levels plus 10 basement parking spaces – Mr Churton said Housing NZ owned houses in the street and supported the application and the applicant wanted limited notification.

However, he questioned the adequacy of parking provision in a cul de sac which was some distance (450m) from the Meadowbank station but wasn’t exempt from commuter parking because commuters’ cars already saturated the area.

“While I have reservations about the bulk & scale, by itself in this zone it is not such an infringement as to be a special circumstance that would likely meet the requirements for discretionary public notification. However, there is a very high degree of public interest in ensuring quality built environs in this area as a number of other intensification projects are pursued, some from Housing NZ.”

Mr Churton suggested this development go to the council’s urban design panel for approval before a final decision was made on notification.

On a development proposal for 234, 236 & 236A Kepa Rd, on a prominent arterial ridgeline at the top of Mission Bay, Mr Churton said the proposed height infringement of up to 1m might seem small but, in an area where other intensification was also planned, the precaution of notification should be taken: “The cumulative effects of such a mass of multi-storey development where height infringements might be allowed for some is, in my view, a more than minor effect.”

At 9-11 Purewa Rd, Meadowbank, Mr Churton raised the quality objection: “Whilst not adverse [averse, I think] to intensification per se, the board views are to believe this proposed development will have a seriously detrimental effect on what is at present a desirable & sought-after residential area of our ward.”

He said a number of residents in the vicinity objected to “the poor design features”, drastically changed from the initial proposal “to a series of tenement-like structures with outdated features which have long been discarded in modern building practice- ie, external stairways.

“The size, and more importantly the density, of the planned construction has potential for adverse social impacts on an otherwise safe & pleasant community. This area of Meadowbank St Johns is already facing saturation problems with the increased traffic flow & parking overload on local streets from intensification, growing commuter use of the Meadowbank train station and the expansion from the nearby retirement village expansion.”

Mr Churton said the Purewa Rd site next to Hobson Bay & the railway line was a gateway to the Orakei ward via rail: “This is an example of a site where the very best of design standards should be implemented.”


Mr Churton said these cycleways on St Stephens Avenue & Gladstone Rd would eradicate onstreet parking for fringe cbd residents & workers as well as destination parking for tourism to places like the Rose Gardens on Gladstone Rd.

He said they also had “no apparent connection” to changes that might happen along Tamaki Drive or in stage 4 of the shared path crossing.

He wants the board to meet Auckland Transport to discuss the cycleways & stage 4 shared path across Hobson Bay.

Orakei Local Board agenda
12, Notice of motion, Member Troy Churton – Tamaki Drive & wider cycle route integration
25, Board member report, Troy Churton 
Addendum – examples of notification comments made as portfolio leader
NZ Transport Agency: Auckland urban cycleways programme
Auckland Transport: Cycling & walking programme

Attribution: Board agenda.

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Hamilton-Auckland commuter rail service wins support “in principle”, Panuku gets more tools

Auckland Council’s planning committee voted more strongly yesterday in favour of investigating a regular commuter rail link between Auckland & Hamilton than the tone of the debate indicated.

The committee had before it a position paper prepared last year after multiple-agency collaboration and received brief input from a lobby group chair, Rob Weir, who’d come up from Hamilton for the meeting and was invited by committee chair Chris Darby to speak.

Auckland Council staff sought committee support for a high level review to identify opportunities & constraints, but there was more debate on the value of such a study if it was unlikely to lead anywhere.

The way forward was determined by an addition by Cllr Cathy Casey to the recommendations for the committee to support the provision of a passenger rail service in principle.

While some thought it ought to be a low priority against a stack of other multi-billion-dollar infrastructure confronting the council, the “in principle” tag worked, the additional clause was supported by 18-1 and the amended recommended was approved unanimously.

That means the proposal will be studied, not necessarily resulting in a regular service.

Extra acquisition tools for Panuku endorsed

The committee also endorsed a proposal that its regeneration arm, Panuku Development Auckland, be able to use – “prudently” – statutory tools such as designation & compulsory acquisition in the areas around the region marked as “unlock” or “transform”.

  • Both the commuter rail proposition and the extension of Panuku’s ability to advance regeneration are worth a lot more attention than the few words above. I’ll write more about both in the next few days.

Attribution: Council committee meeting.

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Bike share study next stage in transport change

Auckland Transport & the NZ Transport Agency have begun a feasibility study into how a city centre cycle share scheme could operate. This includes looking at how it could be funded and what sort of bikes would be used as well as the range of new technologies available.

Auckland Transport expects the initial findings of the feasibility study will be available around the end of September. Walking, cycling & road safety manager, Kathryn King said: “If there is a strong case for a cycle share scheme for Auckland, the next step would be for Auckland Transport to talk to potential providers with a view to delivering the scheme in the summer of 2019-20. Budget is set aside for this project, but no cost is yet set as Auckland Transport expects to run a competitive process to appoint a company to undertake the study.

“By the end of next year we will have completed a number of vital links for people travelling into & around the city centre by bike. This, combined with international evidence that cycle share schemes work when they are done right, means that now is the perfect time to begin these investigations.”

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said last week: “Cycle share schemes are an important part of the transport system in more than 700 cities internationally, and they hold real promise here. The Government’s urban cycleways programme is delivering a $333 million programme of cycling infrastructure & initiatives across New Zealand, and cycling is becoming an everyday part of more & more people’s lives.”

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said: “Cycling is on the rise in Auckland. Bikes now make up 9.4% of inbound morning peak traffic on Upper Queen St, which shows just how significant this mode of transport is becoming for Auckland.”

Cycle share feasibility study
Cycle share factsheet (PDF 179KB)

Attribution: Auckland Transport & ministerial releases.

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Last preparations start for rail tunnel excavation

Auckland’s city rail link project entered the final stage of preparation works on Albert St last week before tunnel construction works begin.

The top 1.5m of road surface is being removed on the eastern side of Albert St between Wyndham & Swanson Sts before installation of the second half of the temporary steel work required to support the walls of the trench in which the future rail tunnels will be constructed.

Auckland Transport said: “Any utility services that remain in this top portion of the road will be temporarily supported on the steel work to ensure there is no disruption to local residents & businesses.”

In a few weeks, a temporary deck will be constructed over the top of these steel struts, which will provide working room over the top of the trench for excavators & haulage trucks.

“A lane of traffic will be maintained in each direction throughout these works.

“On the remainder of Albert St between Swanson & Customs Sts, work continues to tie together & brace the 20m-deep piles installed to support the trench walls.

“Excavation also began last week on the third portion of the traffic deck being constructed at the Customs/Albert St intersection. When all 4 sections of the deck are completed in September, they will form a bridge structure that spans the entire intersection, allowing all 4 traffic lanes to be re-established while the rail link tunnels are constructed underneath.”

Auckland Transport, city rail link web page

Attribution: Auckland Transport release.

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