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Billion dollar highway not fiscally responsible

16 May 2012

Billion dollar highway not fiscally responsible

The National Government needs to explain why it is pushing ahead with uneconomic projects like the four-lane highway from Warkworth to Wellsford, while crying poverty and cutting services in the coming Budget, Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said today.

The New Zealand Transport Agency recently announced the Warkworth to Wellsford route would cost $1 billion with benefits worth only $620 million. Newly compiled data show that traffic volumes along the route are stagnant and that traffic growth of 3.5% is needed for the costs of the project to ‘only’ exceed the benefits by $380 million.

“New Zealand cannot afford for the National Government to waste a billion dollars on an unneeded motorway,” said Ms Genter.

“The Government needs to make responsible choices with the public’s money, now more than ever.”

An IMF paper, The Future of Oil, released last week shows that real oil prices will double by the end of this decade, pushing petrol prices here to $5 a litre.

“We will be paying $5 a litre petrol in a decade’s time, well before this highway would be completed. Traffic volumes are already down and are only going to fall further, leading to an even larger blow-out in the net cost of this highway,” said Ms Genter.

“It is critical that investment is built to be suitable for a future of high petrol prices.

“It's smarter to direct our resources where we get the most bang for our buck.

“That’s in better buses and trains, safety upgrades and maintenance, and targeted projects to help freight.

“National is cutting funding to all those areas to pay for highways that don’t make economic sense.

“If National was serious about maintaining important public services while getting its record debt binge under control, it would axe wasteful projects like the billion dollar Warkworth to Wellsford highway,” said Ms Genter.

Supporting information: Benefit-cost and traffic volume data on the planned Warkworth-Wellsford highway

ENDS

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