For the 80,000 people who travel up and down the Southern Motorway between Papakura and Manukau each day, progress on the triple-laning upgrade seems interminably slow.
The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) project has been a disaster. It is a year behind schedule and an expected $49 million over budget.
Hope is on our side, however. NZTA keeps sending out glossy updates telling us all that it will be completed by mid-December. Many of us don't believe that but if it happens, it will be the first time we will have been proven wrong since the start of the project.
My colleague, Papakura MP Judith Collins, and I have had several meetings with NZTA to try to get to the bottom of the delays.
The reasons are threefold: NZTA "discovered" an 80-year-old tree between Manukau and Manurewa; it then discovered land required at Takanini could not be accessed so months were spent redesigning the new off-ramp; and then when the contractors were working on the bridges at Pahurehure Inlet, it discovered the supporting piers weren't up to the job and needed to be replaced entirely.
When I last met NZTA, I described the delay as no longer being an infrastructure problem – it had now become a social issue such were the impacts of the severe disruption on commuters, businesses and communities in the south.
I think I have been blacklisted by NZTA because now when I ask questions, someone from its ministerial services team in Wellington sends me responses that don't provide any useful information.
And Transport Minister Phil Twyford doesn't seem to show any interest, although I suspect he will be at the grand opening. I won't.
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This project was one of the reasons why recently (September 18) I proposed a change to the legislation establishing the Infrastructure Commission. The commission has been set up to prepare a list of projects coming up over the next decades so construction firms can better plan (and resource themselves) for them. It also has been set up to provide specialist advice on tendering large infrastructure projects. All good stuff.
What I proposed was an extension that would have given the commission the power to review examples of good and bad projects so that central and local government can improve their procurement practices over time.
Unfortunately, after initial indications of support for my amendment, the Coalition Government withdrew its backing for what I believe were purely political reasons.
That's a real shame because poorly procured contracts, such as the Southern Motorway, should be exposed and not replicated. People make mistakes but it is how you learn from them that is important.
• Andrew Bayly is the MP for Hunua and is the National Party spokesman for building and construction