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Auckland Council’s submission on Puhoi-Warkworth

The next meeting of Auckland Council’s Transport Committee is at 1.30pm next Tuesday in the Reception Lounge of the Town Hall. Compared to past meetings, the agenda for this one is fairly small – not surprising given that they had a meeting just before Christmas and most of the time in between has been holidays. There is one particularly important item on the agenda though – and that’s the Council’s submission to NZTA on the Puhoi-Warkworth section of the “holiday highway”. For most people, submissions on this close tomorrow (so get yours in), but the Council has a small extension to ensure that the submission can be given ratification by the Transport Committee.

The agenda for the council meeting is quite difficult to follow, as various items are spread across three different files. So I’ve simplified the documents on the agenda that relate to Puhoi-Warkworth for greater ease of access. A couple are submissions made by former councils (Rodney District and the ARC) that were lodged around September last year to a more general call for feedback that NZTA made at that time.

  1. The agenda item itself – which summarises the draft submission.
  2. The ARC’s submission – which was supportive of improvements to the road more along the lines of what is proposed by Operation Lifesaver.
  3. Rodney District Council’s submission – which unsurprisingly was generally supportive of the holiday highway.
  4. The draft Auckland Council submission, which of course is the most important document.

The draft submission generally takes a neutral viewpoint on the road – not generally supporting or opposing it. However, the submission does identify a large number of shortcomings in the information that NZTA has provided so far in relation to the project and certainly provides NZTA with an awful lot of work to get on with. An overview of the submission is shown below: Reading between the lines a bit, it’s very interesting to note that the submission stresses that the council supports cost-effective improvements to safety and travel reliability along the road. It also wants to see all the matters raised in the submission adequately considered so that the fundamental question of whether a new road should be built or whether the existing road should be upgraded, can be properly answered. It also points out a few tricky issues like whether there should be a Puhoi/Mahurangi access point, how the new road would tie in with the existing road network and that there are serious concerns about the project’s environmental effects.

The draft submission talks a bit about timeliness and cost-effectiveness further in, when discussing the merits of an offline versus online solution: There are a couple of things that I think the submission could highlight more clearly in this section. The first is that surely NZTA must settle on a particular cost benefit ratio for the project. The SKM Business Case from December 2009 noted a BCR of 0.8-1.1, but a review of that by SAHA International found the BCR to be only 0.4.

To refresh our memories, this is what SAHA said about Puhoi-Wellsford: Maybe the council submission could ask NZTA to clarify what the BCR of the project actually is, given that different reports have indicated different numbers.

The second thing that the council submission could make clearer is the need for urgent upgrades along bits of the road. There is an urgent need to bypass Warkworth, there is an urgent need to undertake safety improvements through Dome Valley in particular and there’s also probably an urgent need to undertake a deviation near Schedewys Hill. As Operation Lifesaver pointed out, if we can solve 80% of the problem for 10% of the price, surely that’s a good thing. With the Warkworth-Wellsford section of the upgrade put off potentially until 2030, I don’t think it’s acceptable to have another 20 years of people dying in the Dome Valley before there’s any improvement.

Another interesting thing the draft submission notes is the potential for the highway to increase the demand for countryside living around the beaches east of Warkworth at a faster rate than previously envisaged – potentially undermining growth strategies that Auckland has (or will soon have in the form of the Auckland Plan): The submission goes on to talk about environmental concerns, which for this project are pretty significant. There’s also mention of potential concerns about traffic impacts of the proposal on the existing Northern Motorway: particularly the congested parts as the motorway extension could lead to more demand on those sections of motorway.

All up I think it’s a good submission – which could become a very good submission if the Transport Committee makes a few little tweaks. If anyone can make it along to Tuesday’s meeting it will be great to know what happens.

11 comments to Auckland Council’s submission on Puhoi-Warkworth

  • Matt L

    Considering that the NZTA seem to have dropped the Warkworth to Wellsford section, they should surely release a BCR for that part alone as it will be different to the initial one. They should also be required to do a study of all of the alternatives like what the benefit would be to helping improve the rail line north of Auckland with the idea that if it can get a large portion of the freight off the road then we might not need the sections talked about to be at motorway standard which would help save a lot of money.

  • Watcher

    Please can I find a wizard to turn me into a native skink – my habitat might then be better protected! Looks like humans are at the lowest level of everyone’s thought processes.

    • Bob Scott

      As Chris Wedding the Ecologist from SKM says, they have managed to identify Native Mistletoe and change the indicative route to avoid it. Shame they can’t seem to identify 55 homes that will be affected and avoid those.

  • The thing about submissions is that they get reported as either “in support” or “does not support”. To have any real effect, AT needs to firmly come down in the latter camp, with the proviso that a parallel toll road could be supported if all other alternatives have been fully considered.

  • tuktuk

    From the Herald:

    ‘Also this week Labour announced an economic policy – a $5000 tax free threshold. The Government has criticised the move saying Labour has no way to pay the $1.3b cost of that.’

    The answer to funding Labour’s tax free threshold scheme is……ditch the Puhoi-Wellsford holiday highway and end up not only covering the $5000 tax free threshold cost, but also enjoy the benefits of having $300 million contingency left in the kitty. Who knows – that kitty might easily pay for Marsden Point rail, and a down payment on a job creating timber processing plant and mill at the port there. A scheme that will create real jobs for Northland. Time to call Hone Harawira for some real leadership on Northland issues?

    • KLK

      Ditching the $1b Pu-Ford would cover the cost of the tax free threshold for one year. What about every year after that…..

    • Matt L

      Kiwirail have costed the Marsden Point line at $80m and an additional $240m to get all of the lines up north up to an acceptable standard. They also believe that if they got the funding to do all of that work the line would be sustainable.

      My preference is to perhaps spend $200m on the rail lines to get the link built and the worst of the work out of the way so it can at least start to be competitive and then spend another $300m on bypassing the towns, improving safety and easing curves. Some of that rail work would actually be in Northland so would help the economy up there more than P2W will which is entirely in the Auckland region.

  • tuktuk

    @ KLK…..OK fair enough.

    Point being that there are far better ways to spend $10 billion than the Highways of National Perty significance.

    Specifically for Northland, a focus on seed-funding the development of high value job intensive industry that can be exported out of Marsden Point has to be a good alternative. Use of railways to help reduce the number of big logging trucks travelling along our Northland tourist highway network has to be another good call. Whangarei is a promising city in a location close to a coastline with outstanding scenic values. It really has the potential to entice a range of high value industries.

  • TerryB

    Another very informative post, thanks.

    I like the idea of upgrading the rail network north of Auckland. Doing so would have have been one of the easier ways of opening up Whangarei’s potential.

    I don’t know whether it’s been mentioned elsewhere on this blog but an enhanced rail network would be attractive to overseas tourists, especially those from Europe. Tourism is a big earner for NZ whether we like it or not and not everyone wants to troll around in a camper van/car.

  • TerryB

    My submission to NZTA (I tried not to crib too much from yours so that it couldn’t be dismissed a “form submission”

    In summary I do not support the proposed project. Its cost-effectiveness is uncertain with the estimates varying too widely to allow such a major project to proceed without clarification of this point. I would like to see a consistent BCA measure used for all projects so that like can be measured against like.

    The project would also delay solutions to existing issues such as the bottleneck around Warkworth and overall road safety particularly around the Schedewys Hill area. The project if proceeded with would delay resolving the Warkworth bottleneck for up to eight years which seems an unnecessary delay.

    I therefore support diverting a portion of the funds proposed for the project to be used be more swiftly and efficiently deployed in fast-tracking the Warkworth bypass section of the road and improving safety with concrete median barriers in the most accident prone areas of the Puhoi-Warkworth section of SH1. A relatively small amount spent here could go a long way and quickly.

    In conclusion I believe this project needs to be reconsidered and priority given instead to a Warkworth by-pass and safety improvements to the existing road.

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