Friday, January 30, 2009

Steven Joyce gets it right

He’s seen the light and has called for a review of the Greenplated Waterview extension project for SH20. Understandably so, as the previous PM pushed for it to be underground as a bored tunnel, the most expensive option, and only for four lanes. It would save hundreds of millions to make it a cut and cover tunnel, and save hundreds of millions more to make it a trenched route – and start recognising that it is not WORTH saving the local environment there. It is more important for people to be able to move freely around Auckland.

Meanwhile, the NZ Herald has called lobbyist Stephen Selwood, from the NZ Council for Infrastructure Development (NZCID), an infrastructure expert. Well yes, but what is the NZCID? It is a lobby group for road builders. He is there to promote more spending on roads, and that means more expensive options for them. He doesn’t want this “crucial” project delayed for rather obvious reasons, which the NZ Herald negligently forgot to note.

Well it isn’t “crucial”, it is desirable. Last time I saw a benefit/cost ratio for it, it was 1:1 and that was after some massaging and before the cost blowout. One way of looking at it is whether you’d rather have $2 billion spend on this single road, or on improving and widening other roads around Auckland (such as four laning SH1 from Puhoi to Warkworth), or you’d rather just pay less fuel tax and put up with delays. You see investigations on tolling indicated that if the road was tolled to try to recover a significant part of the costs, hardly anyone would pay it – which kind of proves how “crucial” Aucklanders think the road is. In short, they aren’t prepared to pay to use it to save 10 or so minutes, so perhaps it’s fine to have a motorway from Manukau to Mt Roskill.

Before you ask, no the private sector wont build it through its own accord. It’s far too expensive for the amount of likely users.

My expectation is that National can’t easily delay the project excessively, for political reasons, unless it could show transparently that it would be better spending the money elsewhere. Clarity may come when the Mt Roskill extension opens later this year, as we will see if queues develop between that stretch of motorway and the North Western Motorway at Waterview. That should then determine the priority for this project. However, in the big scheme of Auckland, I’d rather priority be given to upgrading Victoria Park Viaduct and the Newmarket Viaducts. They are choked parts of the motorway network that need addressing, but doesn’t this just show how poor politicians are at setting priorities?

1 comment:

FAIRFACTS MEDIA said...

Hi Scott

I'm in paddington now and would love to join you for a drink somewhere.
Please ring me on 0789-6730485
I'm here until 2pm Tuesday

All the best