New National leader Judith Collins is promising that, if elected, her government would fix Auckland's congestion crisis and transform the Upper North Island into the most dynamic region in Australasia.
In a major speech in Auckland this morning, Collins said National would spend $31 billion over 10 years on what she described as "the biggest infrastructure programme in New Zealand's history".
"It's time for boldness and a long-term vision," she said, adding that Aucklanders have been waiting for such a plan for "generations".
More than half of the $31b, some $17b, would be spent on projects in the upper North Island, including Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Whangārei.
But the focus of the package is Auckland – a city that Collins said is currently a "collection of disconnected villages".
The other $14b, which has yet to be allocated to specific projects, will be spent on transport and infrastructure projects across the country.
Major promised projects include:
• A four-lane expressway from Whangārei to Tauranga (including tunnels under the Brynderwyn and Kaimai mountain ranges) to be completed in 2040.
• An additional Auckland Harbour crossing in the form of a tunnel for road, rail and public transport (work to be started in 2028).
• A bus rapid transit from Onehunga to Auckland's CBD.
• A rail link loop connecting Auckland Airport to Puhinui and Onehunga.
• Upgrading Auckland's ferry services.
• Building the Northwest Rapid Transit Bus Corridor.
Collins said the significant spending package would fix Auckland and the Upper North Island's congestion issues and transform the region into an "economic powerhouse".
In fact, she went as far as promising to transform the Upper North Island into "Australasia's most dynamic region".
Auckland, Collins said, is "broken by congestion".
National's plan comes with a hefty price tag – the additional harbour crossing alone is expected to cost at least $5b.
National has ruled out any new fuel taxes and this morning also promised that, if in government, it would repeal the Auckland Regional Fuel tax.
The money to pay for the $31b worth of projects will come from more borrowing, future budgets and the Covid-19 recovery fund.
A National government would allow the NZ Transport Agency to borrow more money than it currently does.
In addition to the NZTA borrowing, $7b from the Covid-19 Response package – announced by the current government but close to $20b remains unallocated – will be used to fund projects.
The rest will come from future budgets.
Meanwhile, Collins said National would go ahead with all of the Government's so-far-announced transport plans in Auckland.
That is, with the exception of the light rail plan and, most likely, the $360 million "Skypath 2".
Collins said that one rough definition of a city is a place where people can get from one side to the other in an hour, or a place where getting to work takes roughly 30 minutes.
"National will measure our progress against the goals of 30 minutes to get to work and one hour to get across the city."
The mooted four-lane expressway would connect Whangārei, Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga and would tunnel through the Brynderwyn and Kaimai mountain ranges.
Collins said cars would pay a "small toll" to use the tunnel, while commercial vehicles would pay a bit more.
And it's the same story for the additional Auckland Harbour crossing, which Collins said would be tolled as well.
"It will be New Zealand's biggest ever infrastructure project," she said, adding that the eight years it will take before work can begin was "ambitious", given the scale of the project.
Although Collins said some of the projects will take a while to get up and running, her government will start spending money quickly.
Some $300m will be spent on digger-ready projects, such as fixing potholes, roundabouts and crash corners, next year.
Collins also announced that a government she leads would repeal the Resource Management Act (RMA).
It would be replaced by two new laws: an Environment Standards Act and an Urban Planning and Development Act.
Those laws would go before the House at the end of 2021.
Summary of National's proposed Projects:
• Bus Rapid Transit from Onehunga to the CBD will cost $1.2b and work will begin in 2023/4.
• Northwest Rapid Transit Bus will cost $2.4b and work will begin in 2025/6.
• Fourth main line Rail will cost $200m and work will begin in 2021/22.
• Puhinui to Airport Rail Link will cost $1.5b and work will begin in 2026/7.
• Electrification of rail line to Pōkeno will cost $300m and work will begin in 2023/4.
• Extension of rail to Huapai via diesel shuttle will cost $65m and work will begin in 2022/3.
• Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing Decade 1 Road/Rail will cost $5b and work will begin in 2028.
• East West Link will cost $1.55b and work will begin in 2022/23.
• Expansion of Auckland Ferry Services will cost $300m and work will begin in 2021-2031.
• Expand Park and Ride Network Multi – this will be funded through the government's Baselines.
• Auckland Local Board Priorities Multi will cost $240m and work will begin in 2021-2031.
• Onehunga to Airport Rail Link will cost $3.5b and will work will begin in 2030.
• Avondale-Southdown Rail Line is currently uncosted but work will begin in 2030.
• Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing Decade 2 Road/Rail is currently uncosted but work will begin in 2030.