Some in the Labour Party might well be regretting their aspiration to be regarded as the party of infrastructure. They seem to have succeeded in making a hospital pass to themselves.
The cycling and
walking bridge over the Waitematā - an idea that came from nowhere -has proved widely unpopular with anyone who doesn't cycle or live in Auckland. It hasn't been officially canned, but it's on shaky ground.
Light rail between the airport and the Auckland city centre is looking wobbly as well. Michael Cullen, ex-finance minister and Labour Party heavyweight, has been writing columns in the NZ Herald against it.
The 22km stretch of four-lane highway south of Whangārei has been axed.
If you throw in a lack of houses built at speed, then any claim to be "the party of infrastructure" is questionable.
To be fair to Labour, a few factors make their strategic mistake understandable.
The nature of ruling the country means taking votes from the other major party in that contested centre. So talking big on infrastructure was a calculated attempt to get into National's turf.
Upgrading rail and even building a new line (pushed by New Zealand First) was signalled early. The pivot to improving the safety of roads rather than building new superhighways, as promised by National, was made. Cue scepticism and outrage in some parts.
But then Covid-19 hit, and governments of the world have all looked to spend to keep the economy afloat.
With the word out, public purse strings loosened and borrowing big back in again, our politicians and ministry bureaucrats have been imagining what they could build.
In this heady atmosphere, there have probably been lots of behind-closed-door meetings at the Beehive about building a bridge here, a road there, a rail line here, and why not a pumped hydro dam at Lake Onslow.
You could see how a cycle and walking bridge could get swept up in the discussions over tea and biscuits.
The problem is, building big showy infrastructure has rapidly gotten very expensive. It's a global problem. How much this is a hangover from Covid or something more lasting is as yet unclear. The price of oil has been creeping upwards. The price of steel and concrete has skyrocketed.
The wishlist of infrastructure projects was getting out of hand, mainly because of a little word: and. We'll build this and this and this and this.
A local manifestation of this lack of realism, was new Labour MP for Whangārei Emily Henderson supporting the infrastructure demands of Kia Kaha Northland, as voiced by Northland's mayors.
The five big infrastructure projects were: a ship repair dry dock and Royal New Zealand Navy base in Whangārei, a major Northport expansion, a four-laned highway from Whangārei to Auckland, and a double-tracked rail line from West Auckland to Whangārei.
Too much. Whatever the merits of the other proposals, the cost of a four-lane highway to bypass or go under the Brynderwyns would be astronomical.
Henderson must have felt that supporting the demands of Kia Kaha Northland were consistent with Labour's strategy at the time.
However, with cost realities becoming apparent, the overhyping of infrastructure expectations should have been laid to rest by Labour.
But maybe not.
Under pressure over the unpopularity of the cycle and walking bridge with most of New Zealand, Finance Minister Grant Robertson couldn't resist using the "and" word.
The messaging had been wrong, he claimed. It should have been a cycle bridge and a tunnel under the Waitematā.
The latest costing for a tunnel is a whopping $15 billion. The business case analysis puts the economic benefit at 0.2 (a return of 20 cents for each dollar spent).
I don't know how they work this out, but I suspect even this low economic benefit is optimistic. Because I doubt the calculations do more than project current economic realities into the future. If you think those realities are going to hold in a world beset by multiple economic, material, energy and environmental crises, then you're not paying attention.
This probably means that a tunnel under the Waitematā should never be built, and we remain content with keeping the current Harbour Bridge safe and functioning for as long as possible.
In general, it might be wise to upgrade our attitude to infrastructure in line with some of the R words used to encourage sustainability: repurpose, reuse, repair, rethink, refuse.
It might be time to accept that grand infrastructure dreams are getting beyond a small country not well-endowed with energy or mineral resources.
We could then get on with the task of maintaining, repurposing, repairing what we've got.
• Northern Advocate columnist Vaughan Gunson writes about life and politics.