National is promising to scrap the Government’s $14.6 billion light rail project in Auckland and spend a similar figure on seven highway and public transport projects.
If it is elected at October’s general election, National has a $13.5b package for the Super City, including extending State Highway 1 from Warkworth to Wellsford and building rapid transit from Botany to the airport.
National transport spokesman Simeon Brown said the $2.1b Botany-to-airport link could be used by buses of trackless trams, which are a version of light rail and require heavy foundations.
They don’t need rail tracks but rely on other technologies to hold them in place.
National leader Christopher Luxon said the party’s Transport for the Future policy would build key connections around the country, allowing for New Zealanders to get where they want to go faster and freight to move more efficiently.
The policy sees a return of National’s “roads of national significance” and plans to upgrade and maintain the existing road network.
“We’ve got to have some vision in this country, and part of that is making sure we have a very strong roading network,” Luxon said.
Criticism from Transport Minister David Parker included that the data used by National for the costings was “laughable at best”. Luxon replied, “No disrespect, I won’t take any lectures from David Parker on our costings.”
National had taken the most up-to-date public costings to put the policy together, Luxon said.
In Auckland, National is planning four big roading projects - continuing improvements to SH1 north from Warkworth to Wellsford, the East-West Link through Auckland’s industrial belt, the first stage of the Mill Rd four-lane highway running parallel to the Southern Motorway and a northwest highway bypassing the rapidly growing area around Kumeū.
Brown added National will also deliver more low-emission transport options by providing better public transport, including a rapid transit network in Auckland with transport corridors in the northwest, from the airport to Botany, and the full Eastern Busway.
The public transport projects National will focus on are a busway, or trackless trams, from Botany to the airport, completing the Eastern Busway from Pakuranga to Botany and building a busway alongside the Northwestern Motorway from the city centre to Westgate.
A national infrastructure agency, which National plans to create to engage domestic and offshore investors, will be instructed to procure funding to build, own and operate the busway within the first term of government.
The last National government upgraded the Northwestern Motorway alongside the construction of the Waterview Tunnel but did not proceed with plans for a busway, which those in the party privately now acknowledge was a big mistake.
West Auckland is the fastest growing part of Auckland, and a busway is seen as key to unlocking housing and improving transport choices.
With the Eastern Busway and Botany-to-airport projects in the electorates of Luxon and Brown, the National Party leader said his constituents were “absolutely not” getting special treatment.
“It is one of the most poorly served parts of the city,” Luxon said.
Brown would not confirm whether the party would keep the Te Huia train, which runs from Hamilton to Central Auckland, but did not promise to axe it either.
He said he would await a review of the project before determining whether to continue its funding.
“The Te Huia train has been a debacle over a number of years,” Brown said.
Outside Auckland, National is promising to reinstate a four-lane highway on SH1 from Whangārei to Point Marsden costing $1.3b that Labour promised in 2020 before scrapping it 18 months later for safety improvements only.
Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau blasted National’s “flaccid vision” to scrap the capital’s transport plan after Luxon said the party would “absolutely” kill the capital’s long-awaited transport plan Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) if elected.
National has further promised a 16-kilometre four-lane extension of SH1 from Cambridge to Paiarere and to upgrade SH19 in the western corridor of Tauranga with grade-separated intersections to new housing opportunities. Work is planned to start in four years on the $1.9b project.
A Government led by National will also expand the Hawke’s Bay Expressway between Napier and Hastings to four lanes.
National’s $13.4b transport plan for Auckland
- Warkworth to Wellsford - $2.2b and to start in the next four to 10 years.
- East-West Link - $1.9b and to start in the next one to three years.
- Mill Rd stage of four-lane highway - $1.3b and to start in the next one to three years.
- North West bypass highway - $2.3b and to start in the next four to 10 years.
- Northwest Busway - $2.9b and to start in the next four to 10 years.
- Complete Eastern Busway - $717 million and to start in the next one to three years.
- Airport to Botany busway - $2.1b and to start in the next four to 10 years.
Bernard Orsman is an Auckland-based reporter who has been covering local government and transport since 1998. He joined the Herald in 1990 and worked in the Parliamentary press gallery for six years.