Over $8 million has been spent by the Government on promoting a series of wasteful motorway projects, according to documents made available through the Official Information Act.
“The Government has been concerned that a lack of ‘messaging clarity’ would undermine the credibility of the $12 billion so called “Roads of National Significance” spend up”, says Silvia Zuur, Smart Transport coordinator.
A huge amount of public money has been invested to try and manufacture consent for the RoNS, despite the government’s own commissioned SAHA report confirming their minimal economic benefit.
“With instructions such as: ‘Lack of messaging clarity may undermine the credibility of the programme or leave the way open for critics’ these documents make clear that the government has been preoccupied with neutralizing opposition to the RoNS, rather than evaluating their value to taxpayers and communities”, says Ms Zuur.
Instead of investing in smart transport options, the Government is wasting billions of dollars on a few massive motorway projects, which by any measurement offer a very poor return on investment.
Ms Zuur says: “These motorways, which, it now also emerges will require substantial borrowing, will be an enormous drag on the economy and divert precious transport funding away from essential, everyday transport options, which offer a far better return to taxpayers”
“Instead, the Government should be prioritizing buses and trains, safer walking and cycling, and more cost-effective road improvements” she says.
Smart Transport points out that elsewhere, regions once considered the most car-centric, are now investing substantially in smart transport projects. Los Angeles has now committed to building 1600 miles of cycleways, because of clear economic, social and health benefits.
The Smart Transport Network calls for the Minister of Transport, Gerry Brownlee to stop wasting public money trying defend the indefensible, and to start investing money into a smart transport plan that will benefit all New Zealanders.
Here are some “lines” NZTA have been spending the money on coming up with to combat – again from the media release:
From the NZTA guidelines
“The communities affected by the RoNS consistently feel well-informed and are aware of the projects and resulting economic and social benefits.”
“Ensure the NZTA staff are well-informed with consistent messages and are able to talk about the rationale and benefits of the RoNS programme and understand the broader transport context.”
“Lack of messaging clarity may undermine the credibility of the programme or leave the way open for critics.”
“Lobby groups may seek to undermine the RoNS programme by publicly criticising the projects. Local elections may become a platform for undermining RoNS”
And the spend so far, by project:
Puhoi to Wellsford $1,671,552
Western Ring Route and Waterview Connection $1,070,000
Victoria Park Tunnel $1,089,565
Tauranga Eastern Link $268,558
Wellington Northern Corridor $3,080,247
Christchurch Motorways $154,882
If anyone from Smart Transport wants to send us the OIA response in full, we’d be more than happy to upload it.