The draft indicative business cases for two major projects in Let's Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) are behind schedule by up to eight months.
Tender documents state drafts were due on the second Mt Victoria tunnel and mass rapid transit by the end of this month, but enquiries made by the Herald have confirmed they're now scheduled for early to mid-next year.
One project partner has conceded it's not a good look, while another has refused to give an interview on the subject.
Programme director Andrew Body has put the "slight delay" down to the complexity of the projects and the rigour of analysis being done.
Contributing factors also included the Covid-19 pandemic and the general election being moved, Body said.
"The later date for business case approvals does not impact on the next stage of work which involves a more detailed investigation in to options and pre-construction work including consenting", he said.
The technical component of the business cases is now on track to be completed by October 31 this year and will be shared with partners before Christmas.
Then, early in the new year, consultation will begin.
"We'll be talking to those people and groups who may potentially be impacted by the options including local iwi, property owners and other stakeholders", Body said.
The public will then get to have a say leading to preferred options being included in the draft indicative business cases in early to mid-2021.
Partners then have to sign off on the documents to finalise them.
LGWM is a joint initiative between Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.
Regional council chairman Daran Ponter said the delay wasn't entirely unexpected, but it was frustrating.
"Wellingtonians have had the Let's Get Wellington Moving carrot dangled in front of them for quite a long time now and I think we all want to see the projects actually moving."
Ponter said it "certainly wasn't a good look" but noted other significant transport
infrastructure projects in the region like Transmission Gully have also been subject to delays.
"Let's Get Wellington Moving is a complicated project with many moving parts and obviously we've had Covid thrown into the middle of that, but I am frustrated nevertheless. We have been expecting those indicative business cases this side of Christmas."
Ponter said he could "only hope" it was true that next stages wouldn't be affected by the delays.
Mayor Andy Foster refused to be interviewed on the subject and directed the Herald to the statement issued by Body.
The second Mt Vic tunnel has turned into a political football heading into Election 2020.
National has promised to build a second one within its first term, if elected, and would legislate for it to happen if necessary.
Labour has maintained that partners will have an evidence-based discussion on the timing of the project after the business cases are completed.
Yesterday the Greens announced their own version of doubling the tunnel and pitched to build a dedicated walking and cycling tunnel through Mt Victoria.
LGWM was light on detail when it was announced, leaving the door open for such toing and froing over the likes of the tunnel, but the detailed business cases should put all that to bed.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford said LGWM was making good progress regardless of what stage the business cases were at.
"I'd always like projects to move faster, but you have to take the time to get major infrastructure projects right because you don't get a redo."
He noted safer speeds in the central city have already been rolled out and improvements to the Golden Mile were currently being consulted on.
The business case delay comes as three independent reviewers have been appointed to probe how LGWM is tracking.
The internal review will focus on governance, performance, people and culture, and systems and processes.
Draft findings are due to be provided to the partnership board this month with a final report due in early November.
Twyford said one would expect a 20-year multi-billion dollar programme to have regular health checks.
Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter hoped the review of LGWM would ensure the structure was able to start delivering transformational benefits to the city next year.
She agreed with Twyford that it was important to have thorough analysis to get the bigger projects right.
"However, that is no reason to delay the early wins like bus priority and safe walking and cycling, which can be delivered relatively cheaply and will make a huge difference to people living in and trying to get around the city every day", Genter said.
National's transport spokesman Chris Bishop said the situation indicated LGWM was quickly becoming a debacle.
"Now we've got a delay in the business cases for the two critical components of the programme, we've now got the whole project under review with independent assessors coming in to look at it.
"It just seems ridiculous that we're going to go through yet more consultation, yet more report writing, yet more analysis. Wellingtonians just want the projects started, they just want them finished because congestion is choking the city and we simply have to get on with the job."