The "holiday highway" tag dreamed up for the Northern Motorway extension to Warkworth by Auckland councillor Mike Lee has enjoyed widespread currency. Critics of the Prime Minister lapped it up. Yet, it always owed far more to rhetoric than reality. Anything pertaining to John Key's Omaha Beach holiday home pales into insignificance when compared to the extension's significance for a rapidly developing district. It is commendable that an Auckland Council committee has acknowledged as much.
The regional development and operations committee was asked to make that judgment in relation to the consent process for the extension. It voted 16-4 for effectively fast-tracking the project through a Government-appointed board, rather than dealing with it locally under a process open to Environment Court challenges. The strength of the vote entailed some left-leaning committee members looking through the rhetoric - and past summer traffic jams at Warkworth - to see that this is, indeed, a road of national significance.
Rodney councillor and former district mayor Penny Webster summed this up when she noted that "this is about the umbilical cord to the north". The road is already heavily congested. The possible use of tolls carries its own commentary on projected demand.
These factors justify the committee's decision to vote for a consent process that will occupy a maximum of nine months.