Archive | Roads

Collins raises scare about “road tax” diversion, but government fund already $½ billion in red

Former Cabinet Minister Judith Collins, now the National Opposition’s transport spokesperson, raised a scare this week that the new government would divert National Land Transport Fund money from major road projects to rail.

2 things she neglected to mention:

1, while the fund’s income comes largely (but not entirely) from road users, it has always referred to its “land transport” programme rather than to “roads”.

2, it will be a long time before the fund has any money to spend on anything. Its annual reports for the last 2 years disclose that the fund’s liabilities exceeded its assets by $497 million at June 2016, rising to a $528 million deficit at June 2017.

It had budgeted for a $40 million surplus at June 2017.

The fund’s 3 biggest spends in the last financial year were on the accelerated Auckland transport programme ($236 million), public-private partnerships (for highway development, $557 million) & Tauranga’s eastern link toll road ($107 million).

The fund’s income is derived from “all revenue from fuel excise duty, road user charges, motor vehicle registration & licensing fees, revenues from Crown appropriations, management of Crown land interest, and tolling”.

The fund uses this income to manage the funding of the road policing programme, the national land transport programme & activities such as transport planning.

The fund’s last annual report says: “The National Land Transport Fund has a negative general funds balance due to the programmes that were accelerated and current funding was sourced from the Crown. The funding received has been recognised as long-term payables, which are not due until 2-27 years from balance date.

“The fund has the option to slow down expenditure on the national land transport programme, or utilise the short-term borrowing facility of $250 million if required to meet obligations as they fall due in the short term.”

Congestion issues

Auckland – a region where traffic grinds to a halt daily – has a serious, and growing, campaign to get more people to commute by rail, reducing road traffic, but it still has to work out how to handle freight much more efficiently.

The biggest proposal for improving freight movement, the East-West Link through Penrose & Onehunga, won consent from a board of inquiry in November, confirmed by its report & final decision on 21 December. But, by then, the incoming government had canned the project.

Collins on Labour’s “pet” obsession

Ms Collins said in a release on Monday the new government’s transport minister, Phil Twyford, “has confirmed the government is considering diverting taxes paid by motorists who want better roads to rail instead, while insisting to media this won’t happen.

“This is an important principle, adhered to by successive governments, ensuring the specific taxes paid by motorists are invested in newer, safer & better roads – helping keep New Zealanders connected & safe. Road users pay taxes which are directly returned to them.

“But this now appears under threat, because of the Labour Party’s obsession with light rail in Auckland. Mr Twyford has written to stakeholders saying a number of changes to the government policy statement (GPS) on land transport are being considered. Among the proposals is ‘exploring how rail investment is incorporated within the GPS & the National Land Transport Fund’.

“This is in spite of his office telling media last week that funding for road upgrades would not be redirected to rail.

“In his rush to erroneously claim that a number of roading projects aren’t under threat because of the Government’s obsession with Auckland rail, Mr Twyford has been saying different things to different people.

“This desperate grab for more taxes is the result of this free-spending government realising how much it’s going to cost to build its pet rail line from Auckland’s cbd to the airport – so it’s looking to divert funding from regional roads as a result.

“The National Land Transport Fund is paid for by road users to be invested in improving New Zealand’s roading network and it should remain that way. The Government needs to check its priorities and ensure the taxes paid by road users are invested back in the roads they are using.

“Last week, National launched a series of petitions aimed at saving those regional roads that the Government is looking to slash funding for. Given this duplicity from the Government, I want to again encourage everyone to sign the petitions to save our roads,” Ms Collins said.

Twyford signalled his intention

Mr Twyford wrote in a column for Contractor magazine last week: “To achieve our vision for transport, change is necessary. I am interested in how we can best use existing funding tools – like the National Land Transport Fund & the Government Policy Statement (GPS) – to support a more multi-modal approach.

“The traditional way in which we finance & fund infrastructure needs to change if we are going to address the multiple challenges of urban growth, replacing ageing assets, meeting higher environmental standards & improving resilience. We believe we need to be smarter about how we use the Government’s balance sheet.”

Mr Twyford wrote that the challenges of population & freight growth in the “golden triangle” of Auckland-Bay of Plenty-Waikato “will not be solved solely by investment in the roading network. All modes can be complementary to each other.

“For example, the Government is committed to implementing a rapid transit system for Auckland, which will include light rail from the cbd to the airport and to west Auckland. Such an investment will not only make it easier for people to get around town, but it will also free up our roading network to improve freight efficiency.”

The National petitions

National MPs began launching their petitions a fortnight ago.

Whangarei & Northland MPs Shane Reti & Matt King’s petition calls for the Auckland-Whangarei 4-lane “road of national significance” to proceed as the previous government planned it.

In Auckland’s eastern suburbs, MPs Jami-Lee Ross (Botany), Simeon Brown (Pakuranga) & Denise Lee (Maungakiekie) launched their petition to support the East-West Link.

They commented: “After a decade of planning & $50 million of investigative spending, you would expect that there was a clear direction on the project. This project has been through a fine-toothed procedural process like no other. It is supported by council, iwi, and has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency’s board of inquiry.

“The current gridlock is a major barrier to commerce. This is making it difficult for people getting access to their basic daily goods. It is quite literally the bread & butter of transport projects.”

Links:
Contractor, 15 January 2018: Infrastructure & transport
National Party petitions: Save our regional highway projects

Attribution: National Party releases, Contractor.

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Ngati Whatua wants East-West Link consents buried

Auckland iwi Ngati Whatua Orakei raised its concern on Friday that the East-West Link through Penrose & Onehunga could go ahead one day, even though the current government has cancelled it.

The $1.85 billion link was intended to run between State Highway 1 at Mt Wellington & State Highway 20 at Onehunga.

The board of inquiry which heard the NZ Transport Agency’s application for it released its draft report & decision on 14 November – by which time new prime minister Jacinda Ardern & Auckland mayor Phil Goff had confirmed it would be cancelled in its present form. The board confirmed 2 notices of requirement and granted resource consents, subject to conditions.

Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust spokesperson Ngarimu Blair said: “While the iwi welcomes the stated aim of the new government to scrap the project, this does not provide a sufficient degree of certainty and Transport Minister Phil Twyford needs to formally honour the Government’s commitment to cancel the project completely.

“The notices of requirement & resource consents have a 15-year period for implementation, and will therefore outlast the current term of government. We want to ensure the East-West Link as proposed never goes ahead, no matter who is in government at the time.

“We have written to Minister Twyford asking that the Government direct the NZ Transport Agency to formally withdraw the notices of requirement and surrender the consents.

“This would avoid the danger of the current government’s intentions being undermined. We note in this regard that the NZ Transport Agency are currently proceeding with moves to implement the project as if nothing had changed post-general election.”

Mr Blair said Ngati Whatua Orakei, Te Kawerau a Maki & Makaurau Marae, along with other community & conservation groups such as The Onehunga Enhancement Society (TOES) and the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society, went to great expense & effort to stop the motorway during a gruelling 3-month hearing before the Environmental Protection Authority board of inquiry.

Royal Forest & Bird environmental lawyer Sally Gepp said the society was concerned that the decision to grant the consents & designations meant key policies in the brand-new Auckland unitary plan “have been treated as little more than words on a page.

“Forest & Bird played an integral role in ensuring that the unitary plan provides for nature as well as people. We went to the High Court to change the unitary plan – and won – and as a result Auckland’s remaining biodiversity hotspots are protected in the plan. This decision has rendered those protections meaningless.”

Onehunga Enhancement Society chair Jim Jackson commented: “There is no way to now ‘redesign’ the Onehunga/Neilson St interchange end of the East-West Link within the designations & consents supported by the board of inquiry. Those designations & consents have to be scrapped.”

Mr Blair said Ngati Whatua o Orakei opposed the link designed for freight traffic for its “enduring & significant” adverse environmental & cultural effects.

“We look forward to having real input into the Auckland transport alignment project review and will contribute proactively on future sensible options for the Mangere Inlet & Onehunga area. There must be true collaboration amongst all the parties and not a short-sighted singular focus on road building as we’ve seen in recent years,” he said.

Historic Ngati Whatua links

Mr Blair said Ngati Whatua Orakei had a deep & ongoing connection to Te To Waka, Te Papapa, the Mangere Inlet & Onehunga area: “Its direct association with Onehunga dates back to the mid-17th century, while links through marriage connect the iwi to the entire length of the Maori occupation of the area.

“Ngati Whatua resided at Mangere & Onehunga in autumn & winter and, soon after Matariki, would plant & till the extensive gardens in the area. The Rev Samuel Marsden & John Logan Campbell both visited Ngati Whatua at Onehunga and, after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Ngati Whatua Orakei with Waikato iwi were major players in the economy based around the trading port at Onehunga. The iwi moved its main base to Orakei in the mid-19th century.

“Onehunga land was ‘acquired’ from Ngati Whatua Orakei during the period of the Fitzroy waivers (1844-45), when settlers could purchase land directly from Maori vendors, itself a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi. When these transactions were later examined by land commissioners appointed by Governor Grey, the sale of only 8 acres was upheld. Of the remainder, 723a became Crown land and a further 575a were kept by the Crown as defence land – none was made available to the original owners, despite a requirement 10% of land sold was to be kept aside for the benefit of its ‘former’ Maori owners. This historic grievance was settled with Ngati Whatua Orakei in 2012.”

Links:
EPA, East-West link
About the east-west link
Draft report & decision

Attribution: Ngati Whatua release.

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Northern transport corridor works approved

The board of inquiry into the Northern Corridor improvements proposal has confirmed & granted the NZ Transport Agency’s notices of requirements & resource consents applications.

The board of inquiry produced its final report & decision on 16 November and released it publicly last Wednesday.

Parties, including submitters, can appeal the board’s decision to the High Court, but only on questions of law.

The proposal provides the final motorway connection for the Western Ring Route project. It includes direct motorway interchange connections between State Highways 1 & 18 and capacity & safety improvements on State Highway 1 between Constellation Drive & Oteha Valley Rd, and on State Highway 18 between State Highway 1 & Albany Highway.

It also includes an extension of the Northern Busway from Constellation Drive to the Albany bus station, reconfiguration of the Constellation bus station and the addition of shared-use paths along the length of the proposal area.

The Transport Agency lodged its application for 6 notices of requirement & 25 resource consents with the Environmental Protection Authority on 14 December 2016.

Links: Final report & decision
Northern Corridor improvements project

Attribution: EPA release.

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Council agrees to reprioritise land supply schedule

Auckland Council’s planning committee skipped the most pressing part of its business yesterday – decisions on refreshing the overarching Auckland Plan – but did spend time on its future urban land supply strategy.

Committee chair Chris Darby said the Auckland Plan refresh and how the council would consult on it had been deferred until Tuesday 28 March because more preparation was needed.

But the committee discussed in detail the future land supply strategy and agreed to a number of changes to sequencing.

Staff recommended advancing work on some areas and deferring it elsewhere because of infrastructure constraints. The estimate to install bulk infrastructure over the next 30 years is $19.7 billion.

Areas to be brought forward: Warkworth North, Wainui East, Silverdale (business), Red Hills, Puhinui (business), Wesley (Paerata), Opaheke Drury, Drury South.

Areas to be pushed back: Kumeu-Huapai-Riverhead, Whenuapai stage 2, Drury West stage 2, Puhinui (business), Red Hills North, Warkworth North-east & Takanini.

Public consultation on the Auckland Plan is scheduled for the period 29 March-18 April.

East-West link

The planning committee also identified a number of concerns about the East-West link project intended to run through Onehunga.

The Government identified the project as a road of national significance and referred it to a board of inquiry. The NZ Transport Agency’s applications were publicly notified on 22 February and submissions close on 22 March.

  • This is an overly short version of events at yesterday’s committee meeting – being in 2 places at once doesn’t always work. I’ll come back with more detail on the land issues and the East-West link.

Link: 
Committee agenda

Attribution: Council release, agenda.

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Warkworth-Wellsford indicative route unveiled

The NZ Transport Agency released an indicative route on Tuesday for the State Highway 1 replacement between Warkworth & Northland.

Image above: The NZ Transport Agency’s map of the indicative route. Link below is to a larger version of the map.

The route will run well west of Warkworth then head east to skirt Wellsford & Te Hana, returning to the existing highway route at Vipond Rd, a few bends south of the border between the Auckland city/region & Northland province.

3 interchanges will connect the motorway with Warkworth, Wellsford at Wayby Valley Rd and Te Hana at Mangawhai Rd.

The project is a continuation of the road of national significance that started by bypassing Silverdale & Orewa and currently returns to the old route just south of Puhoi.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said: “It will reduce the overall travel time between Warkworth & Te Hana by bypassing town centres, and avoiding the steep & winding Dome Valley. The straighter road alignment will also reduce the high crash rate through this area and reduce congestion & frustrations for motorists that often get stuck behind slow-moving heavy vehicles.”

The Dome Valley is not exactly steep but is constrained from widening, while the chosen route looks like it will cut through hillier terrain.

The 18.5km Puhoi-Warkworth section is scheduled to open in late 2021. It’s being delivered by the Northern Express Group (NX2) as a public-private partnership. The transport agency is working towards designating the 19.5km Warkworth-Wellsford section route by the end of 2018.

The route is also on the Government’s Connecting Northland strategy. Mr Bridges said: “Improving this road is part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring transport infrastructure is in place to connect communities, get people to places of work and freight to key export markets, which are all vital in helping Northland’s economy grow.”

Links:
NZTA, Ara Tuhono, Warkworth-Wellsford
Ara Tuhono map pdf

Earlier story:
28 July 2014: NZTA gets Puhoi-Warkworth consents, no standard condition 1, economic & alternative objections sidelined

Attribution: NZTA, ministerial release.

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April start for Tamaki Drive intersection upgrade

A $7 million upgrade for the intersection of Tamaki Drive & Ngapipi Rd is scheduled to start in April after an independent hearings panel approved Auckland Transport’s proposal.

The waterfront route to the eastern suburbs carries 30,000 vehicles/day.

Auckland Transport’s major capital group manager, Andrew Scoggins, said last week it was one of Auckland’s most dangerous intersections: “21 crashes have been recorded at the intersection in the past 5 years, with 13 resulting in injury. Tamaki-Ngapipi is ranked number 10 on the national top 100 list of crash risk intersections.

Image above: An artist’s impression of the upgraded intersection.Link: Tamaki-Ngapipi project overview

Attribution: Auckland Transport release.

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Northern corridor project gets closer to a hearing

The northern corridor improvements project in Auckland – providing the final motorway connection for the western ring route project – took a step towards a hearing today when the Environmental Protection Authority accepted the NZ Transport Agency’s application as complete.

The transport agency lodged its application for 6 notices of requirement & 25 resource consents on 14 December 2016.

Following today’s approval, the next step is for the Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith, to make a direction on whether the proposal is nationally significant and whether to refer the proposal to a board of inquiry, the Environment Court or Auckland Council for consideration & a decision.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said public consultation would take place early next year, and a start on construction was planned for 2018.

The project includes direct motorway interchange connections between State Highways 1 & 18, and capacity & safety improvements on State Highway 1 between Constellation Drive & Oteha Valley Rd, and on State Highway 18 between State Highway 1 & the Albany Highway.

The proposal also includes an extension of the Northern Busway from Constellation Drive to the Albany bus station, reconfiguration of the Constellation bus station, the addition of shared use paths along the length of the proposal area, direct connection of Paul Matthews Rd to Upper Harbour Highway and local road intersection improvements.

Links:
EPA, northern corridor proposal
NZTA, northern corridor improvements application

Attribution: NZTA website, ministerial release.

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PPP to deliver motorway to Warkworth

The NZ Transport Agency has entered its second contract for a public-private partnership (PPP) to deliver a state highway, this time for the 18.5km extension of the northern motorway out of Auckland between Puhoi & Warkworth. The first PPP was for Transmission Gully in Wellington.

The agency has awarded a contract to the Northern Express Group which will finance, build, manage & maintain the new motorway between Puhoi & Warkworth as a public private partnership at a net present cost of $709.5 million.

NZ Transport Agency chief executive Fergus Gammie said yesterday this section of motorway was a key transport link connecting Northland to the upper North Island freight triangle of Auckland, Waikato & Tauranga.

“The Puhoi-Warkworth motorway forms the first section of the Government’s Puhoi-Wellsford road of national significance, aimed at enabling economic growth by providing a safer & more reliable transport link for the region.

“The new motorway will extend the Northern Motorway (State Highway 1) from the Johnstone’s Hill tunnels just south of Puhoi to a point north of Warkworth.”

Northern Express will finance, design, construct, manage & maintain the Puhoi-Warkworth motorway for the 25 years that will follow the expected 5-year period to build it. Full ownership of the highway will remain with the public sector. Mr Gammie said the aim was to have it open for traffic by 2022.

The Northern Express Group is made up of firms with considerable experience in the design, construction, finance, maintenance and management of key infrastructure projects. The equity partners in the consortium are: the Accident Compensation Corp, Public Infrastructure Partners II LP (managed by Morrison & Co PIP Ltd), Acciona Concesiones SL and Fletcher Building Ltd.

Mr Gammie said the ‘net present’ contract price of $709.5 million was a ‘whole of life’ cost for Northern Express to build then operate the motorway. “Because the costs are spread over time, they are expressed in today’s dollars.”

Link:
NZTA, Puhoi-Warkworth motorway

Attribution: Agency release.

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St Lukes interchange opens

Prime Minister John Key & Transport Minister Simon Bridges officially opened the $85 million St Lukes-Great North Rd interchange yesterday, one of 7 projects that will form the $2.4 billion Western ring route, one of the Government’s roads of national significance.

The section of State Highway 16 has been widened from 3 to 4 lanes in each direction, with upgrades to on- & off-ramps and the St Lukes Rd overbridge. The north-western cycleway has also been widened & resurfaced.

Mr Bridges said it was part of a bigger regional picture to improve roading infrastructure in & around the city. The St Lukes upgrade creates greater capacity on the city side of the Waterview Connection for traffic on State Highway 16, as well as for the traffic that will use the motorway via the Waterview Tunnel when it opens next year.

“Building this infrastructure now means we’re able to support future growth & development in Auckland’s western areas to improve travel time reliability and create better freight access.”

Mr Bridges said the St Lukes interchange was a crucial building block.

Link:
NZTA, 7 October 2016: Waterview Connection project update

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Work starts on Onehunga stage of East-West Link

The first stage of the $1.25-1.85 billion East-West Link road project, the $15 million Onehunga works, has begun and was marked by Prime Minister John Key & Transport Minister Simon Bridges yesterday. It’s expected to be comleted by February.

In this stage, the South-western Motorway will be widened to 4 lanes each way between Neilson St & Queenstown Rd to provide extra capacity for the growing number of vehicles expected to use State Highway 20, and dedicated bus lanes will be added to State Highway 20 at Walmsley Rd to improve airport travel times.

Planning & consenting for the whole East-West project is also underway. Consent applications will be lodged with the Environmental Protection Authority before the end of the year. In January, the Government announced its intention to streamline the consent process to bring forward construction.

The East-West Link will link the South-Western Motorway (State Highway 20) & Southern Motorway (State Highway 1), and is also intended to tackle congestion in & out of the Onehunga-Penrose industrial area, and between the eastern suburbs & the airport.

Link:
NZ Transport Agency, East-West project

Attribution: NZ Transport Agency release.

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