The SkyPath shared cycle and walking path over the Auckland Harbour Bridge could be funded by the Government.
This follows a series of setbacks since the project got resource consent last November, including Downer Construction pulling out from building the path in February and the SkyPath Trust withdrawing support this week from the public-private partnership (PPP) to build and toll it.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges and National's Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye told the Herald today that if the project is technically feasible and supported by a sound business case it can be considered as part of a future Urban Cycleways Programme.
Kaye said she had been advised there is still a process occurring with regard to Auckland Council and the PPP that will consider potential funding models.
"I am a strong advocate of this project as I believe we should be able to have people walking or cycling over the bridge. I will continue to work will relevant stakeholders to support the project," she said.
SkyPath trustee Bevan Woodward said the PPP was a dreadful deal for Aucklanders that could now be built by the Government as a toll-free path at no cost to ratepayers.
The council sponsor for SkyPath, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development(Ateed) chief executive, Brett O'Riley, was disappointed the trust had withdrawn support, saying its vision has excited Aucklanders who looked forward to it becoming a reality.
"SkyPath is a missing link in our walking and cycling infrastructure, and it will give people greater transport choices," O'Riley said.
He said the council, alongside its PPP partners, Wellington-based investment firm Morrison & Co, remain committed to delivering the project.
Morrison & Co echoed the council view, saying it was disappointed to learn of SkyPath's withdrawal and committed to working with council on the project.
"The team behind the SkyPath Trust have championed this project for many years and in doing so have made a significant contribution to making it possible.
"We look forward to being part of delivering this complex, innovative and exciting piece of infrastructure, which has wide community support for its potential to contribute to the liveability and appeal of the city," the company said in a statement.
Woodward said the PPP approach would mean 25 years of tolling SkyPath users and annual revenue underwritten by Auckland Council. The PPP would cost about $248 million over 25 years, including repayment for construction costs, operations and maintenance, fees and profits.
He said the construction cost was about $45m. Other costs were $12m to strengthen the bridge and $7m from council for works at either end.
"It would not be unusual for the Government to fully fund SkyPath. Given it is part of New Zealand Transport Agency's State Highway such an asset would ordinarily be fully funded by central Government," Woodward said.
SkyPath will connect to the $33m SeaPath cycleway along the motorway to Esmonde Rd and Takapuna, which is expected to be funded by NZTA.
Woodward said he met with Bridges on March 31, who told the trust he wanted to see if the PPP could be made to work and, if not, it could be funded in the next round of the Government's $333m Urban Cycleways Programme.
A spokesman for Bridges said: "I can confirm that in all discussions the Minister has had with Bevan that he has been very clear, if the project is feasible it could be considered part of a future Urban Cycleway Programme."
Said SkyPath Trustee Andy Smith: "With the PPP having foundered we see Minister Bridges' offer to fully fund SkyPath as the best way forward."