Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dunne full of it on Transmission Gully

Remember his only policy? Well, setting aside the debate about the Western Corridor plan – which exists. Peter Dunne has told a few porkies about the State Highway forecast just released by Transit. Check out the Wellington section (42kb) or the whole document (3.5mb) to see that I am right.
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He says “the Gully route is now at the top of Transit New Zealand's Wellington roading construction programme” No it’s not. Table 2 of the Forecast indicates that next year $5.12 million is being spent on investigation of this project. It also indicates that the Dowse to Petone Interchange on SH2 is at the top of new projects for construction – in fact it is the only major new project that is likely to get construction funding in 2006/07. So Dowse to Petone is at the top, followed by Basin Reserve interchange, then investigation and design for Transmission Gully. They are listed in priority order. There is no construction funding in the next ten years. Why? Because there isn’t the money for it, and Transit wont know the costs with enough certainty until it has finished the $10 million investigation phase.
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He confirmed with Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen in Parliament today that it was the confidence and supply agreement between United Future and the Labour-led Government that enabled the Government to set aside the necessary funding in the last Budget.” That funding was $80 million for investigation and design – not construction, except the finishing of the environmental tree planting to avoid runoff, but as I said, that was approved five years ago – United Future wasn’t part of the government then. The necessary funding for construction does not exist.
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Dr Cullen further confirmed that the Wellington Regional Council's view that there would be no decision on constructing the Gully motorway for at least five years was not consistent either with the confidence and supply agreement nor Transit's announcement.”
Actually it is consistent with Transit’s announcement. Read the 10 year State Highway forecast Peter, there is nothing in there specifically about construction of Transmission Gully – and given the size of the project, it will take about five years of investigation and design to get a billion dollar motorway costs and specifications sorted out to go to tender. Although Transit has said “The construction of Transmission Gully Motorway has been included in the corridor plan, but is subject to a funding plan being finalised by the region. Funding for investigation and preliminary design has been included in the 10-year forecast. Initial work on this will begin immediately but full development will be contingent on a funding plan being approved.” The tables do not show a construction symbol within 10 years. So you will be waiting at least that long.
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Sorry Peter, Transmission Gully wont be getting built at the next election, and it wont be built at the one after that. It certainly is impossible to get it started within five years, as this would be the largest most expensive roading project in the country’s history – and the big risk is cost. It is $1 billion now, what if, as is likely, it is $1.5 billion in 5 years? Then the current level of funding will only buy you a third of it – and tolls 5% of the cost. Then what Peter? Might you start to admit that your single highest profile policy obsession needs rethinking?
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Oh and by the way Peter, the regional council has next to nothing to do with this, unless you want it to raise regional rates or be responsible for introducing congestion pricing - and if it that happened, why would you need Transmission Gully?

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