Property editor of the NZ Herald

Builders ready for huge Auckland transport jobs

Construction work at The Waterview Road Connection in Auckland. New Zealand's big construction companies are welcoming massive new plans for Auckland transport infrastructure spending. Photo / Doug Sherring.
Construction work at The Waterview Road Connection in Auckland. New Zealand's big construction companies are welcoming massive new plans for Auckland transport infrastructure spending. Photo / Doug Sherring.

Building bosses have today welcomed the Government's $10 billion Auckland infrastructure plans, saying the sector was in recovery mode.

Prime Minister John Key today outlined a plan to kick-start the next generation of major Auckland transport projects, including the Second Harbour Crossing, the City Rail Link and two other state highway projects.

At an Auckland Chamber of Commerce event today, he said the Government would back the combined Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) and East-West Link, the second Waitemata Harbour crossing and the City Rail Link.

"These three projects are all identified as the highest transport priorities in the council's Auckland Plan. They have a price tag of around $10 billion and they are projects that need to be planned for over a long period of time," Key said.

David McConnell, director of Hawkins Group which owns the country's second-largest builder Hawkins Construction, said the building and infrastructure sectors had hit at an extremely exciting phase.

McConnell, also chairman of Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, said big projects like the CRL had many facets.

"From an Auckland standpoint, it's an interesting project because it's not just an infrastructure project but a catalyst for an urban renewal programme, creating new hubs around train stations with their own lives and own amenity level, so this will bring a lot of activity, amenity and interest into the inner city of Auckland. So it's not just an infrastructure project to me and it's not just a rail project but all the other projects that may come from it, including in construction.

"There will be development of shops and buildings around those new train stations," he said.

Hawkins Group is Hawkins Construction, Hawkins Infrastructure and Harker Underground Construction and McConnell said each of those was poised to take advantage of the accelerated opportunities coming out of Christchurch, the improving building market particularly in Auckland, and in the case of Hawkins Infrastructure, niche offshore markets.

McConnell said the sector had hit its straps lately.

"Construction opportunities in Christchurch are now turning into real projects and the overall building market in New Zealand is improving with Auckland's commercial pipeline strengthening. At the same time we are targeting infrastructural projects in open spaces, water and civil sectors and niche projects offshore," McConnell said.

Fletcher Building, New Zealand's biggest listed company, welcomed Key's announcement, following Wednesday's news that the Government would support a multi-billion dollar tunnelling project to improve the city's rail system.

Philip King, investor relations manager, indicated Fletcher might bid for the CRL job but the other work was hugely positive.

"Quality, long-term planning to cope with Auckland's future transport needs will allow the industry to respond effectively as projects come to fruition," King said.

"The opportunities projects like this provide are considerable for the construction industry overall, including significant job-creation. We would be interested in working with central and local government on a project of this scale and complexity," King said of the CRL project.

Another Fletcher chief has already indicated the business wanted to score big jobs.

Graham Darlow, chief executive of Fletcher Construction, said the company hoped to secure some huge deals, such as the $900 million Transmission Gully job, CRL and the $650 million Christchurch Hospital project.

"Large projects are getting bigger," he said, telling of more interest from international firms, how there was a strong push for more homes in Christchurch and Auckland, and that transport and water projects were strong.

Fletcher is already working on the country's largest infrastructure job, the NZ Transport Agency's $2 billion Waterview Connection, as well as the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative, having completed Auckland's three biggest roading jobs: State Highway 20 Manukau Harbour second crossing, creation of the Victoria Park Tunnel and the Spaghetti Junction upgrade.

On Wednesday, Key confirmed the Government would pay half of the $2.86 billion estimated cost and Auckland Council would pay the rest.

A survey conducted for the NZ Council for Infrastructure found Aucklanders were greatly concerned over the adverse impacts on them and business caused by traffic congestion: it is affecting 76 in every 100 drivers and 70 in every 100 believe traffic congestion in future will worsen.

The survey of 1061 adults in Auckland Council boundaries asked how and why they travel, their use of the motorway system and its impacts on them and the organisations they work for, feelings about tolling in general, and reactions to various options for funding the four big projects prioritised by the Auckland Council: the City Rail Link, an additional Waitemata Harbour crossing, the Auckland-Manukau Eastern transport Initiative and the East-West link between SH1 and SH20.

Fletcher targets:

*Transmission Gully PPP

*Auckland City Rail Link

*Christchurch Hospital

*Christchurch Commercial Precinct

*SkyCity International Convention Centre, Auckland

- NZ Herald

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