Archive | Infrastructure

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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West Auckland’s new bus network arrives in June

West Auckland gets its turn at a new bus network, starting on Sunday 11 June.

Auckland Transport said today everything about the network would change, including new bus routes, new route numbers & new timetables.

After consultation at the end of 2014, Auckland Transport tendered for new bus contracts, and new services were introduced for South Auckland, Pukekohe & Waiuku last October.

Auckland Transport said benefits of the new network for the west included:

  • a single, all-day, high-frequency route (to be operated with double-deckers from August) along Great North Rd between New Lynn & the city centre, replacing multiple current routes and improving access to Auckland Zoo & Motat for residents & visitors
  • an all-day service for the first time on the North-western Motorway from Westgate to the city centre
  • frequent all-day service between Westgate, Lincoln Rd, Henderson & New Lynn via Great North Rd
  • more direct & more frequent all-day service between Henderson, Westgate, Hobsonville & Constellation on the North Shore
  • easy-to-understand, more regular local services feeding the rest of the network at New Lynn, Henderson & Westgate.

Link: New network for West Auckland

Attribution: Auckland Transport release.

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Bike network addition at New Lynn planned

Auckland Transport is seeking feedback on plans to extend cycleways in New Lynn. An open day will be held on Thursday 11 May from 3-6pm at the New Lynn Memorial Library and consultation will close on Sunday 21 May.

An off-road cycleway is proposed along Seabrook Avenue from the Willerton Avenue intersection, joining up with the existing shared paths on Margan & Rankin Avenues.

The proposal would entail changes at 3 intersections along the cycleway and also to the intersection of Clark St, Rankin & Totara Avenues to improve access & safety for pedestrians & cyclists.

Auckland Transport’s walking, cycling & road safety manager, Kathryn King, said today this route was identified as the first cycleway priority for New Lynn because of the links to New Lynn Train Station, which is the third busiest station in Auckland.

“We have a lot more in store for the area, both in our current programme of work which runs until 2018 and then as part of our planning for 2018-21.”

NZ Transport Agency regional relationships director Ernst Zollner said these additions under the urban cycleways programme would make it easier to access the station and also ultimately link into the Te Whau pathway, the New Lynn-Avondale & Waterview shared paths and the North-western cycleway, which he said was one of the most popular in Auckland.

Whau Local Board chair Tracy Mulholland said: “New Lynn has been undergoing a major revitalisation transforming it into a sustainable urban centre, with high density housing close to the town centre. The completion of New Lynn’s world-class transport interchange in September 2010 was the first step in the area’s regeneration project. This work to begin developing the walking & cycling facilities takes us another step forward as an area.”

The links to New Lynn project has $2 million of funding from the Government, NZ Transport Agency (also Government) & Auckland Transport through the urban cycleways programme.

Link: Cycle network feedback

Attribution: Auckland Transport release.

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Joyce lifts infrastructure intentions and talks new operating mechanisms

New finance minister Steven Joyce (pictured early in his career as a sod-turner) looks to have increased the annual allocation to capital infrastructure spending from $900 million to $4 billion for the 2016-17 financial year, with the promise of upping the budget for the following 3 years by $4.3 billion.

Mr Joyce took over finance from Bill English in December, in the reshuffle following Mr English’s appointment as prime minister. The country goes to a general election on 23 September

Under the more conservative English programme, the allocation to capital infrastructure over the next 4 years was $900 million/year. Mr Joyce said yesterday the focus would be on the infrastructure that supports growth, and those annual allocations would rise to $2 million in the 2017-18 financial year and $2.5 billion in each of the following 2 years.

Both the Property Council & Infrastructure NZ focused on the $11 billion figure Mr Joyce waved in front of them, which included the $3.6 billion already budgeted.

Property Council chief executive Connal Townsend said a lot of the country’s infrastructure was at the end of its useful life and he expected asset replacement would feature prominently in the Budget: “Government’s announcement is a recognition that houses & commercial properties do not exist in isolation but need to be supported by infrastructure such as roads, schools & hospitals….

“Under-investment in infrastructure creates significant deadweight losses for the wider economy. Property Council is pleased that Government recognises this. Infrastructure spending must be seen for what it really is. It is an investment in our cities and a productive input into the wider production process, rather than a mere cost.”

Infrastructure NZ chief executive Stephen Selwood said: “This is a massive increase and the largest capital investment commitment by any government since the 1970s. But it must be said that New Zealand’s growth challenge is the highest it has ever been, and meeting population demands requires the services for a city larger than Nelson to be added every year.

“Added to the growth challenge is New Zealand’s historic under-investment in infrastructure. The reality is that it would not be difficult to spend $11 billion in 2017 alone.”

Mr Joyce said: “We are growing faster than we have for a long time and adding more jobs all over the country. That’s a great thing but, to keep growing, it’s important we keep investing in the infrastructure that enables that growth.”

“We are investing hugely in new schools, hospitals, housing, roads & railways. This investment will extend that run-rate significantly, and include new investment in the justice & defence sectors as well.”

Mr Joyce said the budgeted new capital investment would be added to the investment made through baselines & the National Land Transport Fund, so the total budgeted for infrastructure over the next 4 years would be about $23 billion.

He said the Government wanted to extend that further, with greater use of public-private partnerships and joint ventures between central & local government & private investors.

“As a country we are now growing a bit like South-east Queensland or Sydney, when in the past we were used to growing in fits & starts. That’s great because we used to send our kids to South-east Queensland & Sydney to work, and now they come back here. We just need to invest in the infrastructure required to maintain that growth. Budget 2017 will show we are committed to doing just that.”

Mr Joyce will give details of the initial increase in the May Budget.

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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3 shortlisted for city rail link lines tender

3 companies have been shortlisted to tender for linewide systems integration, testing & commissioning for Auckland’s city rail link (contract 7).

Project director Chris Meale said on Monday there were 8 expressions of interest from international parties for the work and 3 had been selected to move to the phase of request for tender.

They are:

  • John Holland NZ Ltd
  • Laing O’Rourke Australia Construction Pty Ltd, and
  • RCR Infrastructure (NZ) Ltd

They’ll have 3 months to tender. Mr Meale said that, following evaluation, the successful company was likely to be appointed in the last quarter of this year.

The contract will be for the systems that include tracks, power systems, communications, controls, ventilation & signalling from Britomart, through the city rail link and connecting to the western line at Mt Eden Station.

Attribution: Auckland Transport release.

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Silverdale bus station completion a year away

Earthworks are underway for the redesigned Silverdale bus station on Hibiscus Coast Highway, just along from the Northern Motorway ramps, but the station building will only be erected next year and an extra 127 parking spaces still have to be consented.

The existing bus station lost temporary parking recently because it was on a neighbouring development site, and work started on the development. However, the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board has made temporary parking available at the site of the former Nippon Judo Club, on Hibiscus Coast Highway, just past the Silverdale War Memorial Park.

Auckland Transport said it would maintain 200 spaces in the existing commuter parking area – but ban parking on verges to facilitate construction work – until the main new parking lot is complete, scheduled for February 2018. 484 new parking spaces have been consented so far.

The new parking will be on a levelled site, and the bus station will be built next to the Hibiscus Coast Highway. It will have ticket & top-up machines, toilets, secure cycle parking and waiting areas that will be well lit & protected from the elements.

The whole project is scheduled for completion in May 2018.

Auckland Transport has asked commuters to use connecting bus services in the meantime.

Attribution: Auckland Transport release.

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Upper North Island councils’ “alliance” reaffirmed

While Auckland Council wonders about where it should have a port – or whether it should have one at all – it & 6 other councils in the upper North Island quietly committed last Friday to a strategic alliance for another 2 years.

UNISA (the Upper North Island strategic alliance) was formed in 2011 by the territorial authorities from Whangarei District, Hamilton City & Tauranga City; the Waikato, Bay of Plenty & Northland Regional Councils; and Auckland Council.

The idea was to get collaboration between the councils on boosting economic growth, in place of the antagonistic rivalry between the ports of Auckland & Tauranga in particular.

PricewaterhouseCoopers produced a report for them at the end of 2012. Since then, the rivalry has remained firmly in place, there’s been little evidence of progress toward harmonised freight infrastructure; and the public disclosures of UNISA’s existence certainly don’t emanate from Auckland Council.

The Hamilton City Council & Waikato Regional Council both said last Friday they’d affirmed their commitment to the alliance for the next 2 years – after a meeting in Auckland.

The 7 councils also released an infographic, The Upper North Island Story, a report showing how life could change for the more than 2.5 million New Zealanders living in their regions. The Waikato Regional Council, at least, owned up to knowing about this document. Auckland Council kept its hands clean – a search of its website discloses nothing on UNISA or the strategic alliance.

The Upper North Island story infographic
UNISA agreement

Earlier stories:
22 August 2016: Auckland port responds to Tauranga’s helping hand
19 August 2016: Port of Tauranga pays back shareholders after expansion – and offers Auckland hand to overcome constraint
1 April 2015: Council to bring forward port precinct study
7 December 2012: Super-city reduces magnanimous ports study to parish pump
30 November 2012: Ports study appears to miss fundamental point: cannibalism
20 June 2012: PWC gets ports study job
27 April 2012: Council alliance seeks technical study on freight & port needs

Attribution: Hamilton City Council release, documents.

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PSA survey highlights social harm of high housing costs & congestion

57% of Auckland respondents to a Public Service Association survey have said they’d considered moving out of the city because of housing costs and 39% over commuting.

The association – New Zealand’s largest with 62,000 members, 18,000 of them in Auckland – sought members’ view in response to Auckland mayor Phil Goff’s taskforce on housing supply: “In the space of 2 hours we received close to 1500 responses and by the time the survey closed this number had grown to 2512.”

The association said of the response: “The speed of our members’ response and the heart-breaking stories they shared with us was powerful evidence that our members are deeply affected by the housing crisis. Our members also provided many suggestions for how things could be improved, ways to increase housing supply, bring down the cost of housing and improve the quality of housing.”

  • 58% of respondents in single-income households with dependents pay at least half their income in housing costs, 22% pay two-thirds or more
  • 51% of double-income households with dependents spend more than half their pay on housing costs, 24% spend two-thirds or more

Both home-owners & renters told of the budgetary stresses arising from high housing costs. In addition, renters told of the high levels of fear & anxiety associated with renting.

Many respondents reported living in housing that’s too expensive and often very poor quality: “They report having very limited choices about the housing they can afford to live in and the quality & location of the housing. Many would like to leave Auckland but can’t get jobs out of the city. Others want to be able to stay close to their children’s school or to family members, which often meant having to pay very high rent, often for sub-standard housing.

“Some older respondents reported they would like to downsize and move to other parts of Auckland but that they can’t find affordable housing to shift into, or this would lead to change in the quality of their lives.”

Some of the many points made:

  • No laws support a long-term renting culture
  • Auckland would benefit from having a mix of homeowners, long-term & short-term renters, equally respected socially and by the law
  • The council needs to take an integrated approach to planning and ensure that affordable & quality housing is available across the city, so people can afford to live near their work, schools & their communities
  • If more new housing was smaller and in a good location (with reasonable amenity and near good transport links), much of the buyer market would gravitate there instead of expensive 5-bedroom standalone houses on the peri-urban fringes
  • Members expressed frustration about the complexities & difficulties in getting permission to build a small/tiny house, or live in housing structured in ways other than traditional subdivisions – such as communal/eco housing.

Mr Goff launched his taskforce on 20 February. It comprises council & central government officials and representatives of the private sector, and its objectives are to identify barriers & constraints to building more homes in Auckland at a pace & scale which meets the demand created by population growth, and identify options and make recommendations to overcome those barriers & constraints.

Mr Goff said Auckland was growing by about 900 people/week and needed 13,000 extra houses/year, but was building only about half that number.

The taskforce will make its recommendations public in May.

21 March 2017, PSA submission to mayoral taskforce on housing supply

Attribution: PSA survey.

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Clochemerle lives again – in Tekapo

It was a grand event on the scale and with the gravity, pomp & national importance of Clochemerle, the opening of a public urinal in a French village made famous by a 1972 BBC television series, and it came with a grand Government media release headed, New Tekapo toilets open for business.

The narrator in that television series, the multi-talented Peter Ustinov, would have done the opening of the new Government-sponsored public toilets in Tekapo proud, but he wasn’t available, having died in 2004. So the job of officiating fell to Associate Tourism Minister Nicky Wagner, there to espouse the benefits to humanity of the Government’s Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund, which co-funded Tekapo’s 2 new toilet blocks, one near the Church of the Good Shepherd and the other in the Mackenzie country township.

She may have proudly muttered “Every second longdrop is ours” on her way to this splendid event, but I can’t confirm that as I was safely ensconced in the Auckland Town Hall listening to the debate & presentations on council long-term plans for even more magnificent infrastructure.

The Mackenzie District Council received $405,000 from the fund last year for the construction of the Tekapo toilet blocks – manna from an outfit which, to me, seems to have been ever so slightly tightfisted in parting with any largesse arising from the growing gst windfall it’s received from New Zealand’s rising tourist numbers.

Ms Wagner told her audience: “Tekapo is an iconic Kiwi location, but this little town of around 400 people receives in excess of 100,000 visitors/month in the summer season, and we were seeing high demand for new facilities.

“It’s great to see this fund in action, helping smaller communities like Tekapo respond to growth in visitor numbers by developing new & enhanced infrastructure.

“There is no doubt tourism benefits the area — international & domestic visitors spent around $723 million in South Canterbury in the year to January, an 8% jump on 2016. Tourism drives growth & job creation in this region, as in so many others around the country.”

The Government developed the Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund as part of its tourism strategy “to help regions benefit from growth while managing the pressures it places on communities & infrastructure”.

The Government allocated $12 million – over 4 years – for the fund in its 2016 Budget and announced an additional $5.5 million this month. The Tekapo toilets are one of 14 approved projects from the first funding round, held last year. A second funding round is open until 12 April.

Deputy Prime Minister & Tourism Minister Paula Bennett flushed most of a $1.4 billion council wish list for tourism-related projects down the toilet 2 weeks ago, saying most of the listed projects were “either already funded by other areas of Government, are not considered a priority or should be funded by local councils”.

She recognised that tourism had become a $14.5 billion/year export earner and that these visitors “are incredibly important to our economy, particularly in the regions.”

But the return to those regions trying to cope with record tourist numbers is a drop in the bucket, on Local Government NZ president Lawrence Yule’s count. He said the gst contribution to the Government from international visitors rose from $950 million in the March 2015 year to $1.5 billion in the March 2016 year.

Local Government NZ & major tourism organisations want a national tourism infrastructure levy which, between the industry and matching Government contributions, would generate $130 million/year to fund local tourism infrastructure needs.

Clochemerle was a 1934 satirical novel by French author Gabriel Chevallier on the conflicts between Catholics & Republicans during the French Third Republic, which ran from 1870 until it collapsed at the start of the Second World War.

Grant fund

Earlier story:
16 Mach 2017: Bennett rejects councils’ tourism infrastructure funding list

Attribution: Ministerial release, Wikipedia.

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Goff raises funding question as airport mass transit corridor agreed

Auckland Council & the Government have agreed to start route protection for a mass transit corridor between Auckland Airport & the city centre. The route will be along Dominion Rd.

The NZ Transport Agency & Auckland Transport worked together to develop a joint solution that will progress from bus services to a light rail transit solution.

The study found an advanced bus option could provide a credible solution over the next 30 years that could progress from the current bus-based system to a long-term solution.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said on Friday: “By drawing on international expertise, they have identified a range of opportunities for bus travel through a separated corridor, using innovative technology & customer-focused solutions.

“In the medium to long term, this will make it possible for a staged, integrated transition to light rail along the preferred ‘airport-city’ route based on future demand & capacity.

“This work follows the Auckland transport alignment project that identified the future pressure on mass transit corridors and the need for route protection to ensure future economic growth & productivity.”

Mayor Phil Goff welcomed the agreement: “With nearly 18 million passenger arrivals/year at Auckland Airport, a mass transit alternative to growing gridlock is critical. And the growth in employment in the airport precinct, adding further pressure on the roads, also makes a public transport option important.

Goff: many issues to resolve

“This report recognises the problem of ever-increasing congestion on the route between the airport & the city, the 2 fastest-growing employment areas in Auckland. We need immediately to protect routes for the bus rapid transit/light rail option, including from the airport to Manukau & Botany. Future-proofing our city is vital.”

But Mr Goff said many issues still had to be resolved: “Work should begin on identifying triggers for making the transition. Bus lanes are consistent with later conversion to a light rail service. However, if light rail is needed within just a few years, there is a question as to why we shouldn’t just move immediately to that solution. Secondly, bringing forward a mass transit route to the airport adds urgency to the need to find new revenue streams to fund it.”

NZTA director outlines workstreams

Transport Agency Auckland regional director Ernst Zöllner said: “Further work will be done to assess key operational elements, required trade-offs, flow-on effects, transition impacts & network resilience issues.

“The agency & Auckland Transport will work together with Auckland Council to determine an integrated approach that enables a progression from the current bus services & bus lanes to improved bus services in the short-term. This will potentially be followed by higher capacity buses and a dedicated bus mass transit right of way, before a transition to light rail transit could occur.

“The timing for this transition will be based on demand, capacity & funding.

“The most recent advanced bus solution study commissioned by the NZ Transport Agency is a useful input into existing data and builds on previous studies such as the central access plan, the south-western multi-modal airport rapid transit study and the Auckland transport alignment project with Auckland Council.”

Mr Zöllner said the transport agency had also taken immediate measures in the 2015-18 national land transport programme to deliver improved public transport solutions around the greater airport area, which supported a package of short-term improvements being developed to address urgent access issues.

Auckland Transport chief executive David Warburton said: “The agencies have agreed and confirmed through various studies that Dominion Rd is the preferred route, and we all acknowledge not only the importance of the airport precinct & the city centre, but the public transport access & connectivity that is needed along the route.

“Any transition plan needs to consider the lead time required for transition steps such as construction timeframes, and the continued operation of the network in delivering the best value-for-money option.

In parallel, work will be undertaken to progress route protection of the south-eastern connection from the airport to Manukau City Centre and east to Botany to ensure good connections to the airport & its surrounding employment zones.

“The NZ Transport Agency & Auckland Transport will also continue to work with Auckland Council & Auckland International Airport Ltd to jointly develop & implement a package of short-term access improvements to the airport.”

Attribution: NZTA, mayoral, Auckland Transport releases.

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