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Collins' Comments June 2021

The government has announced that six transport projects from the NZ Upgrade Programme announced in January 2020, will not go ahead.

Mill Road four lane widening has been cancelled. This project was progressed under a National government so that it should have broken ground in the last quarter of 2017 with full funding. After being reinstated in January 2020 and consulted on and scheduled to start in 2022 Labour has cancelled it again. The three and a half years that the Labour government has delayed this project has put the cost out of reach they say. Even though the land needed has largely been purchased and the consultations and court hearings have been done too.

This is bad news for many who have moved out from Auckland central to new more southern subdivisions in Takaanini, Flat Bush, Pokeno, Paerata and Karaka. The daily commute on the Southern Motorway is very slow on many stretches of State Highway One north of the Manukau interchange and cancelling the Mill Road four lane widening will mean this continues.

Whangarei to Port Marsden that would have been 22 kilometres of a main road widened to four lanes with cycle and walk lanes added to it, has been cancelled. This is part of a major upgrade of roads to Northland which are narrow and known to be dangerous high crash zones.

As recently as November 2020 the NZTA website proclaims that “these projects aim to improve safety, build greater resilience into the transport system, and improve the connection and access to Northland.” But not now.

Recently it was announced that the widening of the Southern Motorway from Papakura to Drury South awarded to Fulton Hogan, has been begun. Lanes have been moved to accommodate work in the centre of the Highway but the extension to Drury South has been cancelled.

This will impact all who drive from south of Drury and specifically the people who might have bought into the Stevensons Quarry development, Paerata Rise and other new housing and business developments in the southern parts of Auckland.

Three new railway stations for Drury were proudly announced on the Kiwirail website in November 2020. Creating these new stations is another crucial step to support future growth in southern Auckland which is estimated to be 120,000 people moving to 40,000 new homes. By opening up the area to really efficient rail services and encouraging more people to make use of convenient, low-emissions public transport, traffic congestion on the roads will not become worse.

Now one of these three stations has been cancelled.

Te Puna to Ōmokoroa in Bay of Plenty which would have been a 4 lane 14 km expressway is cancelled now. Previously on the NZTA website it said “Once complete, the Takitimu North Link will significantly improve safety and accessibility, build resilience, support growth and provide more transport choice for communities. The project is a key part of the region’s SmartGrowth strategy.”

Now improvements to this very dangerous road are cancelled.

Why is it that at the SH1/SH29 intersection in Piarere, a new roundabout that would have improved safety for those travelling between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga has been cancelled? It would have future proofed the extension of the Takatimu North link expressway at a lower cost than will ever apply in the future.

How can the government believe all of these projects can be cheaply tweaked to provide the same level of safety and travel efficiency that the fully completed projects would have achieved?

While announcing these cancellations, the government has confirmed plans for a brand-new cycling and walking bridge across the Waitematā Harbour at an estimated cost of $785million.

It is so much better for all the people in the south of Auckland Northland and Bay of Plenty that a brand-new cycle and walking bridge will be built across the Waitemata Harbour isn’t it? How is that going to speed up train travel and stop the endless traffic holdups on State Highway 1?

Can we wait five years or more to see if thousands of people will use this new crossing to walk or cycle to work? And when the existing harbour bridge is no longer fit for use, what then?

All of this shows you can't trust Labour to deliver transport. It is quite clear the Labour Government can’t count, can’t control costs, and hates cars and even rail commuters.

What would National do?

We would immediately give the green light to all the cancelled projects because the money has already been put aside for them.

We would prioritise a second crossing for the Waitemata Harbour to support the needs of Aucklanders and indeed all of the North Island. It would cater for all road vehicles.

It would be future proofed for use well into the future at a cost of up to $2billion but done once and done well so that Aucklanders will not be suffering gridlock for decades to come.

We would prioritise this project over the $10 billion the Government says it is going to be spending on a slow tram down Dominion Rd (light rail). We would also put in more train lines for freight and express train travel to other city centres, as we promised in 2017.

Covid-19 Vaccinations Delay

New Zealand is about out of Covid-19 vaccine but the PM has announced more will arrive for June and July in mid-July. A million doses is due that will double the number of vaccines in the country. My maths says that 1 million doses is enough for 500,000 people not 5 million less the 3 percent who have been vaccinated to the beginning of June.

We are receiving complaints about the booking and IT systems that show there aren’t enough staff to answer the phones and the systems are poor for people trying to book a vaccination online. The Government’s reporting is short on facts about the number of vaccines delivered and the future timetable but we know the roll-out is very slow. And yet, this Government is constantly telling us everything is going to plan.

Nurses’ Pay

So the government is offering to lift pay for nurses on the bottom salary bands by 4 to 10 per cent.

Meanwhile the more experienced, highly trained nurses are receiving next to no increase but Minister Andrew Little says pay parity and a one off payment will narrow the gap.

Nurses were calling for up to 17 per cent more pay but the Government says it is strapped for cash to meet this.

I say that the Government is more focused on restructuring the health system, for which $486 million has been set aside in Budget 2021, than valuing the very people that make the health system work.

Has Labour’s Finance Minister scored an own goal by spending money so freely last year during and after the lockdowns? Has he over-borrowed and now our frontline workers especially in health are going to pay?

The government was in charge of the finances last year and while we have had fewer tourists in the country, our significant food exports and other products exports have not slowed down and the milk prices have gone up so where has this cash strapped position come from?

The Government is likening the Covid environment, to the GFC, and blaming it for making it financially constrained now.

This is a blow for the infrastructure spending they promised and for the government employees who provide health, education and other essential services like policing.

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