National’s infrastructure announcement

New leader Judith Collins announced the first chunk of National’s infrastructure policy yesterday – $30 billion to be spent over 10 years on roads, rail, buses and tunnels, with about half in the top of the North Island, particularly addressing congestion in Auckland, and including a full four lane highway from Whangerei to Auckland and to Hamilton and Tauranga.

They also plan on scrapping the currently dysfunctional RMA and replacing it with something that doesn’t restrict anmd slow down development so much.

National had been criticised for not having much policy, but after this announcement the pressure is now very much on Labour to respond.

While I have my doubts about some of what is in the policy I think there’s a lot of worth\while projects to consider.

Opponents were quick to criticise the emphasis on roads and car congestion, including Green Minister Julie Anne Genter, but the simple fact is that road congestion is a major problem in the north and cars won’t suddenly disappear.

A big problem with the Green led push to walk and bike is that it is happening slowly and is limited. In Dunedin most commuter cycle lanes are barely used. Recreational walking and biking is becoming more popular, but weekday congestion is still a huge problem and won’t be fixed by disrupting traffic flows with more cycleways and footpaths, especially when noot separated from cars and trucks.

A big point of difference with Labour is that instead of putting light rail lines down a busy road in Auckland they will branch the existing railway line to the airport. Seems a sensible option.

The National announcement won’t make me suddenly be a supporter of them this election, but it is a welcome bit of beef that should force Labour and other parties to front up with substantive policy of their own that we can then decide on.

The announcement (edited):  Delivering Infrastructure – Upper North Island

Today’s infrastructure announcement is one part of National’s Plan to Get New Zealand Working that we released last week. Today I intend to focus on transport infrastructure.

In the coming weeks, you will hear more about our plans for schools, for hospitals, for water storage, and broadband. But today is all about transport.

There is a congestion and infrastructure crisis in Auckland. It is a crisis caused by decades of short-term thinking and expedience. And that same congestion and infrastructure crisis extends to much of the rest of country.

National’s approach to infrastructure is simple: Make decisions, get projects funded and commissioned, and then get them delivered, at least a couple of years before they are expected to be needed. That is the approach that transformed the economies of Asia from the 1960s.

Today, though, being in Auckland, my focus is on transport – including within Auckland City, and across the whole upper North Island.

This city is broken by congestion. Every Aucklander and every visitor to Auckland knows it. Congestion costs Aucklanders over $1 billion per year. That’s the strict economic loss. It represents lost production, lost productivity, lost opportunity.

But congestion is far worse than that. Congestion means unreliable journey times. It means frustration at sitting idle on the motorway. It means goods being delivered late to our ports. It means Mum being late to pick up the kids from rugby practice. It means a tradie only doing two, rather than four, cross-town trips per day. That’s fewer jobs for him; less income, and less economic activity.

Upper North Island Transport Package

First, National will build a four-lane expressway network from Whangarei in the north to Tauranga, connecting 50 per cent of the country with high-quality and safe expressways.

Second, we will complete the Auckland Rapid Transit network, including massive new investments in busways and our rail network.

Third, we will build a second crossing across the Waitemata Harbour in Auckland.

These things can’t all happen at once. But we will also begin immediately, by pumping $300 million into digger-ready projects in Auckland and throughout the country in 2021 – like fixing potholes, roundabouts, and crash corners.

Together, our plan, which you can find in detail on our website, is a 20-year vision for transport infrastructure in Auckland and the upper north. Our total funding for new transport projects across New Zealand will be $31 billion over the next decade. Around half of that – $17 billion – will go to today’s Upper North Island Transport Package for the half of the nation’s population who live here. To fund our overall $31 billion package, we have allocated $7 billion from the Government’s $20 billion Covid Fund.

In addition, National will change the way major transport projects are funded, from “pay-as-we-go” to an intergenerational approach. NZTA will be allowed to borrow significantly more on its own balance sheet, using the $4 billion it collects each year from fuel taxes and road user charges to service the debt. Initially, we will allow it to borrow up to $1 billion a year more.

Some of what I am announcing today will also be joint ventures with Auckland Council. The renegotiation of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) will begin with Phil Goff in our first two weeks in office. The first thing you’ll see, as previously announced, is that the Auckland regional fuel tax will be abolished.

Looking further ahead, if we and Auckland Council ever look at congestion charges in the future, my Government will insist they are only ever revenue neutral, with other fuel taxes reduced to compensate.

Upper North Island Expressway Network

The first project I am announcing today is to connect Auckland, Whangarei, Hamilton and Tauranga with four-lane expressways. This will also include Marsden Point. We will also build the Hamilton Southern Links project to connect the southern part of Hamilton to the Waikato Expressway. And we will build a four-lane expressway from Tauranga to Katikati. Desktop work to get the four-lane expressways underway will begin immediately upon us forming a Government.

National will seek also to improve the rail networks between Auckland, Whangarei, Hamilton and Tauranga. National will extend commuter rail to Pokeno, beginning in 2024. That will then allow the possibility of proper commuter rail to Hamilton to be considered.

Auckland Rapid Transit

The second project I am announcing today as part of National’s Delivering Infrastructure Plan is Auckland Rapid Transit. We will measure our progress against those goals, of 30 minutes to get to work and one hour to get across the city.

We don’t support light rail. National believes light rail will be to the 2020s what monorails were to the 1980s. We do support completing Auckland’s existing train and bus system.

I am announcing, therefore, that there will be rail to the airport from Puhinui, starting in 2026, and then up to Onehunga, to create a rail loop. This was the plan for Auckland for decades, as Mike Lee will tell you.

Rather than just doing a third main rail line Quay Park to Wiri, we will do the third and fourth at the same time. This will allow the separation of commuter and freight traffic, and for express commuter services and regional rail.

Additional Harbour Crossing

I am announcing today that National’s Plan is that the crossing should be a tunnel or tunnels. Our Plan is that it should be for both road, rail and new public transport technologies that come on line. And, yes, the new tunnel will be tolled – but the existing bridge never will be.

In terms of a timeline, I am announcing National’s Plan is to fast-track the consenting so that work can begin in 2028.

In terms of cyclist and pedestrian access across the harbour, National is sceptical of the $360 million Labour plans to spend on Skypath 2. Unlike the Dominion Road Ghost Train, I am not announcing today that Skypath 2 will certainly be cancelled. But, the likelihood is that we will want to work with the experts on a more cost-effective way for cyclists and pedestrians to get across the harbour.

Resource Management Act Repeal

Aucklanders, and all New Zealanders, are sick of:

  • The diabolical processes and never-ending but insincere consultation.
  • The endless cost and delays the RMA gifts to seemingly every development.
  • Good projects falling-over in Court.

It has to stop.

…I am making a very firm commitment that the National Government I lead will repeal the RMA altogether. It won’t be “reformed” – it will go.

We will replace it with two new pieces of law: an Environment Standards Act, setting our environmental bottom lines; and an Urban Planning and Development Act, giving clarity and consistency. We will begin this work in our first 100 days. We will introduce new legislation by the end of next year.

That process, though, is too slow for the projects I have announced today – and those we will announce in the next few weeks. The RMA fast-track legislation passed in response to Covid-19 provides a useful interim framework.

National will make far more extensive use of the fast-track Act. New Zealand is facing an extraordinary jobs and economic crisis; and it demands a proportional response. We simply cannot let the RMA stand in the way of urgently needed infrastructure development. In Auckland and right around the country, we will work with local government to try to make existing RMA procedures more efficient.

But I want to tell you all right now, we will legislate for our projects if necessary. We will be respectful of local government and local stakeholders, most particularly mana whenua, and the likes of NZTA and the Infrastructure Commission.

More detail:

You can view National’s Auckland Transport Plan here

You can view National’s Transport Funding Summary here

You can view National’s Upper North Island Infrastructure Package Q & A here

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  1. John J Harrison

     /  18th July 2020

    Pete, Paula Bennett is NOT Nationals leader.
    Whoops !
    The fact that Genter and her very Green Party is distraught about this wonderful, bold policy means it is the answer to our prayers.

    • Blazer

       /  18th July 2020

      ‘New leader Paula Bennett announced the first chunk of National’s infrastructure policy yesterday – $30 billion’-yes it is hard for even [deleted, false] to keep up with Nats musical chairs leadership.

      [Yep, I made a mistake, but no, you don’t get to make false accusations. PG]

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  18th July 2020

    It’s good. Be interesting to know how it was developed and shaped given the leadership changes.

    • Blazer

       /  18th July 2020

      Pity Duker isn’t around to show this is just old,tired Nats policy reheated for the election.

      • David

         /  18th July 2020

        Unfinished business with some add ons, lets face it Labour spent 2 years with no clue and then Twyford just adopted Nationals previous policy after outright rejecting it. Either Twyford is just lazy and a bit useless or Nationals plans were good ones…or both.

        • Blazer

           /  18th July 2020

          2 yrs with no clue vs 9 years with no clue!

          • David

             /  18th July 2020

            Different perspective from here Blazer, we had most of the city rebuilt, everyones house got fixed or replaced, the motorway system was done, 2 new hospitals, loads of new schools…all sorts of things got done about 45 billion dollars worth and sadly we have seen absolutely nothing from Labour, not even sure they remember we still exist.
            Ardern promised 300 million at the last election for a Chruistchurch project and I guess she will re announce it for this one.

  3. David

     /  18th July 2020

    Its bold she aint mucking around. Not only is a lot of it needed for a first world country (and we will transition to electric vehicles) it highlights how hopeless Labour has been in delivering anything.
    4 laning Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga is long overdue as is Christchurch-Ashburton these are very busy roads. Thank god they are ditching the tram to the airport, did the trip twice in a taxi last week and there is literally no congestion on that trip. Heavy rail will remove a lot of containers off the road and link up two major distribution hubs.
    Masterclass in taking over the leadership of a party.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  18th July 2020

      Don’t leave off Whangarei. Even the extension to Warkworth has promoted huge growth and the present inadequate road is strangled by slow trucks and traffic.

      • duperez

         /  18th July 2020

        Smooth trip to Whangarei? I know things change and we move on but the Brynderwyn tunnel was a dream, over many years for some. A feasibility study was in more recent times, but still some years back. Shelved. Don’t be stupid. Can’t be done. Too expensive, too difficult technically …. well too everything.

        Over more recent times years the plans to bypass Brynderwyn have been talked about. You probably know people who were canvassed about their land being involved. Fancy that it was in pre-election talk in 2017.

        The same people who had us on the baked beans road forever served us better fare in election noises. It’s election year again and suddenly it’s Michelin star quality we’re going to get. What’s the go? How did that dream so quickly appear from way back on the long winding road to be at the front table? At the hands of the same people.

        I have to say some of the explanations and rationalising are going to be good to hear. Those who said decent rail into and out of Northland was not a goer because a few existing tunnels couldn’t be modified to fit containers. Not possible technically, we don’t have the money, too hard, etc.

        Now they tell =us that a super tunnel can be constructed. It had all the reasons against it, wasn’t feasible, not cost effective and so on. Like magic it is the thing. Election year again.

    • Blazer

       /  18th July 2020

      With the Christchurch rebuild one may wonder why the roads there were not…addressed!

      • David

         /  18th July 2020

        They have been, they are in the finishing stages of the motorway network that bypasses the city and links up the fast growing surrounding towns. Quite impressive network and completing it down to Ashburton would be great, lots of accidents on that busy route.
        Gerry Brownlee has left quite a legacy.

        • Blazer

           /  18th July 2020

          Hasn’t he just….plenty of court actions yet to be…resolved.

          Good appointment though ,getting an ex-woodwork teacher to…rebuild Christchurch,with the help of Key and English donning their nail belts too…of course.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  18th July 2020

            Straight to the personal attacks again, B? No squirrels?

            • Blazer

               /  18th July 2020

              no squirrels …a trail of road kill though…..possum.

            • Poor old Blazer. he’s jealous of Gerry Brownlee now., as well as John Key and Bill English. One has to feel sorry for him.

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