Auckland Chamber Letter To Cullen & Hodgson
2 June 2005
Hon Michael Cullen
Deputy Prime Minister
Cc Hon Peter Hodgson, Minister of Transport
Auckland's Strategic Motorway Construction Programme
Following a strongly positive preliminary meeting with your Senior Advisor Chris Mackenzie, we came to your office 100% solution-based and anticipating getting down to work on establishing a new relationship and partnership to resolve our mutual concerns as to why construction of Auckland's agreed state highway projects have not accelerated as a result of the Government's $1.62 billion transport package announced in December 2003.
We left the meeting disappointed, believing that we had again been misled. At an early point it became very clear that Transit Board member Mike Williams did not accept the evidence of huge slippage in Transit NZ timelines and believes work programmes have been accelerated; in short that Transit is delivering good outcomes. Nothing could be further from the truth, despite his assurances that each of the projects I listed had now begun.
The evidence of a slide in Transit NZ timelines is incontrovertible. Transit's draft 2005/06 programme reinforces our conclusion that none of the timelines for the major state highway projects have been accelerated as a result of the Government's 2003 "Investing For Growth" transport package.
The one possible exception is SH1Alpurt which had a start brought forward by a year as a result of Government's agreement to allow a toll road and a borrowing programme, but where the balance of money required was subject to an Order in Council. However the celebration of this progress has been soured by confirmation just received that the Transit Board has unilaterally suspended the proposed $900,000 in the Transit draft
2005/06 plan for an Order in Council to enable the associated Penlink Project on Whangaparoa Peninsula to proceed as a toll road.
With respect, you are suffering from the same problem we have - honesty and transparency.
From our side, we want to move forward. Auckland needs faster progress on these vital transport links. We came away from the meeting believing that you and your colleague Hon Pete Hodgson are of a similar view. We note your comments that my presentation made a lot of sense and that specific points in it would be actioned. In particular Ministers agreed:
- They want an accelerated work programme;
- To identify a work programme (gang chart) with timelines & milestones and funding for the key group of strategic/ corridor projects: (SH20, 18 & 16 Western Ring Route and SH1), including Avondale;
- To establish a credible reporting process;
- To use borrowing if necessary where it has ability to generate revenue;
- To encourage ARTA and Transit to better co-ordinate the interface between the strategic state highway programme and local roads (and rail) infrastructure requirements
- To have these initiatives in place for announcement by 30 June.
We also came away with an understanding that you have requested executive officials present to action all the above - i.e. come up with a firm package.
We would welcome your confirmation of these points, and also clarification on a number of vital process points of details that we remain very unclear about and which we believe are essential for setting a new relationship in place on this critical matter:
- How credible the reporting process will in fact be - whether it will be done by Transit Board, an upgraded Transit (ARTA) communications process, what independent scrutiny will be enabled, and what exactly Ministers themselves expect from the reporting process; e.g., expectations that milestones will be actioned on time and on budget - or else and regularly reported to you (weekly or fortnightly).
- How assertive you will in fact be to ensure Transit (ARTA & TLAs) stop the churn/re-litigation of project decisions, stop the sliding of timelines and insist that the "flat line" programme that is currently indicated will be changed to show an accelerated programme as you said you want.
- While you and Minister Hodgson agreed to the specific corridor programme having priority, we left the meeting unclear as to what process you propose to
resolve churn over the Avondale section - which route, and demarcation with rail options.
I attach a table setting out Transit NZ's Auckland state highway major project start dates published since December 2000.
The group of projects of most concern and which Aucklanders are seeking accelerated progress to advance are:
- The Western Ring Route, comprising projects to complete SH20, including Avondale, and links to SH 16 and SH 18. This will provide considerable decongestion on SH1 and other benefits that are set out in material made available to you earlier.
- The completion of the SH1 southern motorway upgrade to increase capacity in the central corridor junction through Auckland City - Harbour Bridge to City and Newmarket Viaduct.
We appreciate that you have expressed support for much of the views and solutions we have proposed to you. We strongly encourage your attention to convert them into action with some urgency. To that end, we reaffirm our willingness to continue to assist.
Michael F Barnett