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Government Spending Priorities

The Government has set aside $150 million for an Auckland harbour crossing for cyclists.

In October, the Government scrapped a proposed $785m cycling and walking bridge in Auckland, just three months after unveiling it.

After a huge public outcry the Government came to the conclusion that the proposal was unjustifiable and therefore scrapped it, but it was already so far down the track with designs, consultants, engineers and contracts that taxpayers are now footing a huge bill for the one of the dumbest ideas this Labour government has ever had.

As of late September, Waka Kotahi had spent $51m on designs, consultants and engineering plan fees.

But that is only for money spent up to the end of September 2021, and the agency has not put a figure on any further costs that may come, especially those associated with unwinding a private sector contracting team.

Now, the Government has agreed to direct $150m of the project’s original $785m budget to cover sunk costs and conduct further work to get a ferry or bus shuttle service up and running.

Alternative options for cyclists to cross the Waitematā Harbour that could be implemented in the short term were a dedicated ferry service or bike bus, Cabinet papers released on Christmas Eve said.

Waka Kotahi has previously investigated a dedicated ferry service operating 6am to 12am daily on a 15-minute frequency from Northcote to Wynyard or a dedicated bus operating from 6am to 12am daily on a 10-minute frequency from Stafford to Westhaven.

A ministerial briefing note from May last year said the ferry option would cost $58m to deliver and cost $6m a year to operate.

New Zealanders worked hard to pay taxes, and they expected the Government to be careful with taxpayers’ money. New Zealanders deserve better than this sort of wasteful and irresponsible spending.

Particularly at this present point in time where we are in the middle of a pandemic that has caused an economic crisis, where government spending has raised public indebtedness to unprecedented levels. In 2019 our indebtedness was 18.6% of GDP and in 2021 it was at 51.97% of GDP.

In the middle of this economic crisis and pandemic we have the government encouraging the population to get vaccinated against Covid as there will not be enough ICU health care facilities available to handle a major outbreak of the disease yet they are prioritising spending approximately 150 million on a dedicated transport system for cyclists to cross the Auckland harbour, when in fact there are already buses, ferries and a road crossing available.

This has to be just another example of a government that has no connection to reality.

Surely in the current health climate taxpayers funds should be prioritised towards either ICU beds, ICU staffing or a combination of both rather than some feel good project that will benefit a very small section of the total population and score the government some brownie points with that same section of the population.

Or is this proposed spending announcement just a way of covering up another government blowout in costs for a project that has already been admitted as unjustifiable and was scrapped because of that?

Given the timing of the release of the cabinet papers (on Christmas Eve 2021) which set out this proposed funding for a cyclists harbour crossing, I question the current Labour government’s motives behind this proposal.

Any way that it is viewed this proposed spending can, in my opinion, only be seen as coming from a government that has no connection to reality and very little actual experience of the economic realities of government.

© Scoop Media

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