National Party associate transport spokesman Christopher Luxon has called the planned $785 million cycling and walking bridge over Auckland's Waitematā Harbour an "ideological vanity project".
But Transport Minister Michael Wood has hit back, saying the project is a "missing link" in Auckland's walking and cycling network.
Earlier this month, the Government confirmed plans for a new cycling and walking bridge, a standalone structure to be built next to the existing harbour bridge.
The new bridge is to become part of the Northern Pathway, which would extend cycling and walking routes to Esmonde Rd on the North Shore, with connections to Northcote and Takapuna.
National's Christopher Luxon said the $785m price tag of the new project was "eye-watering" and costs could balloon even further.
"So far the planned cycle bridge has cost $37 million, with $20 million spent on consultants alone over the past two financial years.
"The cycle bridge now has a price tag of $785 million and today Transport Minister Michael Wood could not rule out the final cost being significantly higher."
Luxon said Aucklanders were stuck in gridlocked traffic, rural roads were in disrepair and NZTA and councils didn't have enough money to maintain the country's roads.
"Meanwhile, the Labour Government is throwing the better part of a billion dollars at an ideological vanity project that the majority of New Zealanders oppose."
Wood disputes this - saying more than $31 billion had been put towards helping ease congestion in Auckland, which was a "stark contrast" to the National Party who "left a $5.9 billion hole in Auckland's transport budget with no plan [to] tackle congestion."
He said the previous National government had frozen road maintenance funding and did nothing but watch regional roads get run down.
The Northern Pathway was "the missing link" in the city's walking and cycling network, he said.
"It's a shame the National Party are continuing with their ideological crusade against walking and cycling, rail and public transport.
"Everyone including the National Party have said we need to take action on climate change, but every time we propose a policy to reduce emissions, they oppose it."
A cycling and walking bridge across the Waitematā Harbour was conceived by transport planner Bevan Woodward in the early 2000s.
The SkyPath Trust obtained resource consent for SkyPath in 2016 and in 2018 the project was taken over by the NZ Transport Agency / Waka Kotahi.
In May 2019, NZTA announced new plans for a 5m wide path and viewing platforms with the aim of starting construction in late 2020.
Following more work on the project, the agency ditched this design and earlier this month Wood announced the Government would fund the new standalone walking and cycling bridge alongside the existing harbour bridge.
A poll commissioned by the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union and conducted by Curia Market Research showed nearly two-thirds of the 992 respondents surveyed 'oppose' or 'strongly oppose' the project.
Eighteen per cent "support" or "strongly support" the cycle and pedestrian bridge.
The union has an active petition against the bridge which has been signed by 57,000 people so far.
Luxon said his party had no confidence Labour would be able to build the new bridge.
"It couldn't deliver SkyPath in its first term and National isn't convinced the latest version will even make it off the plans, wasting more taxpayer money.":
"The Government should shift its focus from forging ahead with a deeply unpopular cycle bridge and telling people what cars they can and can't 'legitimately' drive, to investing in projects that will boost productivity or meaningfully improve the lives of New Zealanders.
"Labour continues to show it is completely out of touch with the priorities of Kiwis."
Last week The Herald reported on new figures showing the cost of the planned bridge could far outweigh the benefits.
Wood didn't provide the benefit-to-cost ratio (BCR) for the $785m project when it was announced earlier in the month, but it had since been revealed that the initial assessment by Waka Kotahi was only 0.4 to 0.6.
That means for every dollar spent on the bridge, there would be effectively a 40 to 60 cent loss.
Wood said at the time Waka Kotahi believed the figures would improve once more detailed re-assessment of the BCR was done.
The agency had told him it did not believe the traditional method for calculating it took into the full benefits of the new proposal. He also noted the former National government had gone ahead with roading projects that did not stack up on paper.
"The previous government had never seemed to have any problem with signing off projects with lower BCRs, like the Mackays to Peka Peka section of the Kapiti expressway with a BCR of 0.2 and the Puhoi-Wellsford highway which one analysis had at 0.4," Wood said.
- Additional reporting Bernard Orsman