Transfund Stalls Auckland’s Roading Programme
11 July 2001
Transfund’s restrictive funding criteria for road construction is stalling development of Auckland’s roads network and sentencing the city to unnecessary congestion for years to come, says Councillor Catherine Harland.
The benefit/cost ratios used by Transfund - the government agency thatallocates funding for state highway construction – came under close scrutiny at the Transport and Roading Committee of Auckland City Council today.
Councillor Harland, the committee chairwoman, said the Council is frustrated at having agreed plans with Transit New Zealand to progress the upgrade of Grafton Gully, only to have Transfund “lift the bar” when it came to qualifying for funding.
Councillor Harland said: “Lifting the benefit/cost cut-off from 3.0 to 4.0 for construction funding means the first stage of the State Highway 16/Grafton Gully improvements, expected to begin early next year, will now not happen.”
The first stage of the threestage programme is to have a bridge built from Wellesley Street across Grafton Gully to join up with Grafton Road, with on-ramps to the southern motorway.
Last month, the Council’s Transport and Roading Committee agreed to the three-stage programme for the State Highway 16/Grafton Gully upgrade, which met Transfund’s benefit/cost ratio. With that agreement, construction on the first stage could begin early next year.
But last week, Transfund released its National Roading Programme and advised the benefit /cost ratio had increased from three to four.
Councillor Harland said the eleventhhour funding stumbling block by Transfund compounded the city’s ability to solve its traffic problems.
“The Council and Transit are frequently criticised for the city’s traffic problems, but Transfund’s restrictive funding policies have stymied this and other projects,” she said.
“This is particularly frustrating for the State Highway 16/Grafton Gully project.
“It’s taken years of hard work and considerable cost to get to the final agreed solution and then to have its immediate progress scuppered by Transfund at the last minute is all a bit much.”
Councillor Harland said the Grafton Gully upgrade is an excellent solution to one of the highest priority traffic problems Auckland needs solved as quickly as possible.
She said that as the road carries New Zealand’s export goods to Auckland’s wharves, it has a major national, as well as regional and city-wide, impact.
“I fail to see how this nationally significant strategic roading project can be dismissed so easily,” says Councillor Harland. “It reveals what a nonsense it is to rely solely on the benefit/cost ratio for roading investment decisions.”
The committee asked Councillor Harland to write to the Transfund board and chief executive, the Prime Minister, the Minister and the Associate Minister of Transport and Minister of Finance, outlining Auckland City’s concerns and requesting that State Highway 16 be given immediate priority for construction funding. It also requested that Parliament’s Select Committee on Transport be briefed.
The committee has asked the Regional Land Transport Committee to support a higher benefit /cost ratio for the project.
The committee resolved that council officers continue to work closely with Transit New Zealand to speed up the State Highway 16/Grafton Gully upgrade and that priority be given to the planning notification and subsequent hearing procedures for the project.
To improve communication and project co-ordination, the Committee requested quarterly updates from the regional manager of Transit on the progress of state highway projects within the city’s boundaries.
In addition, the Council would support Transit with any requests made to the Environment Court for urgency in dealing with appeals related to State Highway projects in Auckland City.
In another move to help try to speed up progress on roading construction, the committee has asked the Auckland Regional Council to alter its winter ban on earthworks to enable major roading projects to proceed.