Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has dispelled any notion the Government should ease off infrastructure spending in Auckland because of slower than expected population growth.
Speaking yesterday before starting up the cutting wheel on the $1.4 billion Waterview motorway project's giant tunnelling machine, Mr Brownlee noted an indication from the latest Census that "perhaps the growth here is not as fast as we expected".
But, to the relief of Auckland Mayor Len Brown and others present at a ceremony in a deep trench in Owairaka before the 2800-tonne machine starts a two-year journey next week to Waterview and back, the minister dismissed any suggestion the Census should prompt the Government to take its foot off the spending pedal.
"I take the view that that sort of information is interesting, but if you actually have the infrastructure that makes life easier for people, then you will get that population growth and you will be ahead of the curve for that population's needs," he said.
Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson last month suggested that Census data could prompt a revision of Auckland's infrastructure plans such as an increase in high-rise apartments and construction of a $2.86 billion underground railway.
Census results showed the number of Aucklanders had risen by 8.5 per cent in the seven years since 2006, to 1,415,550 people, accounting for more than half of the country's total population growth.
Mr Brownlee said the Waterview project would make a huge difference to the life of Auckland and the economic well-being of New Zealand.
"Auckland has for decades had a plan to have the city better connected and not a lot's happened in any great or continual sequence," he said.
"It's all been done a bit piecemeal, so this being part of our roads of national significance is a significant step forward for Auckland."
The Waterview project consortium has yet to announce when next week the machine will kick off from a heavy steel "shove frame" on its subterranean journey saying it still has final training schedules and commissioning work to complete.
Yesterday, 10-year-old Branden Hall, of Manukau, who won a school competition to name the machine Alice, joined Mr Brownlee to push an ignition button to turn its 14.46m excavation wheel, ready for next week's launch.