The NZ Herald reported yesterday that the Puhoi-Warkworth section of the Puhoi-Wellsford Road of National Significance is likely to have its consent fast-tracked through the same Board of Inquiry process to that used by NZTA for the Waterview Connection project. This is of course no surprise as all the Roads of National Significance are going through the same process. Of particular note is that it seems the primary reason why Puhoi-Warkworth justifies being considered as a project of ‘national significance’ (the statutory test for whether something can be sent to a Board of Inquiry or must go through the normal consenting process) is the level of environmental effect generated. The article details these effects:
Massive earthworks carving through difficult country for Auckland’s next highway will dwarf excavations for the Waterview motorway tunnels.
A report for Auckland Council consideration today says the $760 million first stage of the Puhoi to Wellsford tolled highway – one of the Government’s seven “roads of national significance”- will need more than nine million cubic metres of ground moved from its 18km path to Warkworth.
That is almost seven times what is being dug for the Waterview motorway, and the report warns significant and irreversible environmental changes are likely.
The project will also pass through some pretty sensitive environmental areas:
Despite the council report’s warning of environmental challenges such as to the ecologically important Puhoi Scenic Reserve, it recommends the project go under fast-track consenting provisions, for the Government’s Environmental Protection Authority to hold hearings through a board of inquiry and issue a decision within nine months of notifying applications.
Looking at the plans for this project, I don’t think that it will be a straight forward “rubber stamping” exercise for Puhoi-Warkworth to get consent. The sheer environmental impact of the proposal is massive and it will fundamentally alter the environment in a pretty sensitive and previously fairly untouched area – due to the rugged terrain a motorway standard route will be slammed through.
For some reason, Cameron Brewer seems to think that agreement by the Council that the project meets the legislative definition of being of “national significance” (which as I noted earlier more relates to its level of environmental effect rather than its scale of supposed benefit) justifies Labour and the Greens withdrawing their opposition to this project. As we’ve noted many times before on this blog, something needs to be done to State Highway 1 north of Auckland – but this proposal is just complete overkill with most of the benefits likely to occur if we do a few key parts of it (Warkworth bypass and a Schedewys Hill deviation) plus quickly get onto safety upgrades.
That’s a sensible way to move forward. I thought Cameron Brewer supported being careful when public money gets spent? I guess, like so often happens, that principle goes out the window when it comes to flash new motorways.