Penlink, a proposal dating back to the 1980s start to development of Gulf Harbour at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, is an integral feature of the urban development of the Hibiscus Coast, 30-40km north of downtown Auckland.
Image above: The Auckland Transport/NZ Transport Agency map of the north-eastern infrastructure plan. Penlink is dotted line 3 at right.
Gulf Harbour has progressed, thousands more houses have been built on the peninsula, new business areas have sprung up at Silverdale, at the start of the peninsula, and the Millwater subdivision has spread from there across to State Highway 1.
But that integral link – once to have been 2 lanes each way from Redvale, across Weiti Forest land and over the Weiti River to Stanmore Bay – was again deferred in June, when Auckland Council pushed it back to 2028 in its long-term plan. It also shrank from 4 to 2 lanes.
The 7km Penlink road is consented and would reduce, by about 50,000 vehicles/day, the nearly 130,000 vehicles/day that travel through the nearby Silverdale business area to get to-from the motorway.
The one concession to the rising traffic congestion that has been a consequence of deferred action has been to introduce peak-hour use of the median strip at the start of the main peninsula road to double main-direction flow.
3-year campaign by Barnett
Enter Michael Barnett, chief executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, who has campaigned for 2 years to get Penlink built, after an approach from the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board.
Mr Barnett won an assurance from Transport Minister Phil Twyford in April that, if money could be found outside the coffers of the Government & Auckland Council, the toll road could be built.
Last Friday, Mr Barnett said it could be done: “An unsolicited bid by an international group to establish a joint venture with a NZ construction company to undertake the Penlink toll road project as a BOOT – Build, Own, Operate, Transfer – has been lodged with the NZ Transport Agency.
“The offer is to provide the majority of the estimated $400 million capital needed to build a 4-lane tolled Penlink road – including bridge over the Weiti River, busway, cycleway & possibly park-&-ride – recovering all revenue on an extended concession and transferring back to Auckland Council for free at the end of the concession.”
The proposal is from China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group Co Ltd, a subsidiary of China Railway Group Ltd, which in turn is a subsidiary of China Railway Engineering Corp, a company listed in Hong Kong & Shanghai and controlled by the Chinese Government.
In June, Mr Barnett wrote: “It’s crazy that Auckland Council can give a low priority to a project that has one of Auckland’s highest benefit:cost assessments – 3.5 for a project costing $348 million – meaning that for every dollar spent it will generate nearly $3.50 in economic benefit.”
“It shows we have a flawed system. Here we have a new government wanting more public transport, walking & cycling, but then goes for a 2-lane option. Our recent survey which government & council are well aware of shows that the public want a 4-lane road with a public transport option.
“Meanwhile the announcement bringing forward Penlink has already fuelled property development in Silverdale & on the Peninsula, with a number of long-delayed apartment projects towards Gulf Harbour now underway.
“And gridlock on Hibiscus Coast Highway continues to get worse, with 10km traffic queues between the interchange with State Highway 1 & Orewa and also along the peninsula to the Whangaparaoa shopping centre.
“Construction & engineering consultancies have advised me that there is a construction void in the market; they have little or no work and which ‘ready to go’ Penlink is ideal to fill.”
The next move is up to the NZ Transport Agency.
The agency & Auckland Transport have had Penlink in their sights for years, and produced a presentation on their websites last year showing its role in diverting traffic away from Silverdale.
Disclosure: I live on the peninsula, right where Penlink would start.
Attribution: Chamber of Commerce releases, NZTA & Auckland Transport.