KEY POINTS:
• $6.8b for transport projects in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Canterbury, Queenstown
• $1.1b for rail, including more than $900m for projects in Auckland
• $2.2b for new roads in Auckland, including Penlink, widening SH1 from Papakura to Drury, Mill Rd four-lane highway
• Auckland Harbour Bridge 'SkyPath' for pedestrians and cyclists confirmed

A number of big roading projects are part of the Government's $12 billion infrastructure package unveiled today.

After a two-year hiatus, the Government has given the green light to several four-lane highways, including State Highway 1 from Whangārei to Port Marsden, Mill Rd in South Auckland, widening SH1 from Papakura to Drury, the Tauranga Northern Link and SH1 from Otaki to north of Levin.

The package also includes $1.1b for rail, including electrification from Papakura to Pukekohe, a third rail line in South Auckland, two new rail stations in Drury Central and Drury West and upgrades in Wellington and the Wairarapa.

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The SkyPath will allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Photo / Artist's impression
The SkyPath will allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Photo / Artist's impression

Work on the SkyPath for Auckland's Harbour Bridge is also confirmed - a walking and cycling link between Westhaven and the North Shore. The project will cost $360m and is due to start next year.

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The SkyPath cycle and walkway over the Auckland Harbour Bridge was first conceived 15 years ago and has been subject to numerous delays and debate.

In August 2018, Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced the Government would fully fund the $67 million SkyPath project but would not give a completion date.

NZTA purchased the SkyPath design for $1.8 million in December last year after consent was granted in 2015.

The SeaPath is a 3km walking and cycling path that would run alongside the Northern Motorway and stretch from the SkyPath on the Harbour Bridge to Northcote Point and on to Takapuna.

Detailed design and consents are required for the project.

The 7km Penlink road is consented to run between Auckland's Northern Motorway at Redvale and the heart of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, reducing by an estimated 50,000 the nearly 130,000 vehicles a day that travel through the heavily congested Silverdale business area.

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In 2018, one of the world's largest construction companies, China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group, made an unsolicited bid to build and operate the $400m Penlink project and pay for it through tolls.

How today's transport funding is spread around the country.
How today's transport funding is spread around the country.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford said today: "Penlink will open up more growth north of Auckland and connect Whangaparoa residents to the successful northern busway."

The two-lane road will be tolled and will include a separated cycling and walking pathway.
Construction is set to start late next year and be completed in 2025.

The package of projects unveiled today, called the New Zealand Upgrade Programme, also includes funding for schools and hospitals.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the past decade has seen significant under-investment in crucial infrastructure, acting as a handbrake on the economy and society.

"The previous government announced a number of projects but did not commit any money to them. Some of those ghost roads we have improved, brought forward and funded."

The $6.8b in total transport spending would boost the economy and future-proof it, Robertson said.

Transport spending would target Auckland, Waikato, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

Robertson said the economy was in good shape and it makes sense to take advantage of record-low long-term interest rates.

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While Auckland is the clear beneficiary, with $3.48 billion of road and rail projects announced, Northland also made the grade with $692 million announced to expand the Whangarei to Port Marsden 22 kilometre highway to four lanes to improve freight connectivity and productivity in the region. There was no announcement in this package on a rail spur-line out to Northport, which would be expected if some of Port of Auckland's operations were to shift progressively north.

A $1.35 billion new connection from Manukau to Drury South was the most expensive road announced, followed by the revived $817 million Otaki to Levin route north of Wellington, which has the longest timeline to completion, in 2029.

More than $1 billion was set aside for rail upgrades in Auckland and Wellington, which Transport Minister Phil Twyford said was key in shifting growing freight from the roads.

While today's announcements do not cover the Auckland light rail programme, which has yet to be considered by Cabinet, they did revive the shelved Melling interchange for Wellington's Hutt Valley, albeit not a hoped-for link between Grenada and the Hutt that would ease congestion in the Ngauranga Gorge.

In a document outlining the transport projects, Twyford said freight is expected to grow 55 percent by 2042 and that moving that onto rail reduced carbon emissions by two-thirds.

Twyford said the transport projects announced were expected to create 800 to 1,000 new direct jobs in civil construction in the next 12 months as the first five projects get underway. Another 7,000 to 9,000 jobs are expected to stem from the wider supply chain.

Ardern: Once in a lifetime opportunity to invest

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the package was a once in a lifetime opportunity to invest in New Zealand, modernising its infrastructure, preparing for climate change and helping grow the economy.

The Government said in December time that not all of the $12 billion would necessarily be spent in the proposed five-year timeframe because of the challenges the increased construction programme could create for the already tight New Zealand labour market and the speed with which infrastructure firms are able to do the work.

NZ Transport chairman Sir Brian Roche said all the of the projects will be advanced over the next few months but the reality is some will not be completed for a number of years.

Transport

Of the $6.8b in transport spending, $1.1 billion will be spent on rail and $2.2 billion on new roads for Auckland.

Auckland will receive the most funding in its package with $3.48b being spent on:

• Improvements to State Highway One Papakura to Drury South.
• The Northern Pathway- a new walking a cycling link
• An almost $1 billion Auckland rail package
• Penlink- a new transport link between State Highway One and the Whangaparaoa Peninsula
• Mill Road- a new connection from Manukau to Drury South
• Northland is receiving $692m, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty $991m, Wellington $1.35b, Canterbury $159m and Queenstown $90m.

Four rail projects will be funded:

• $315 million for improvements to the Wiri to Quay Park Corridor in Auckland including construction of a third rail line to ease the bottleneck between Wiri and Westfield, providing additional capacity around Westfield Junction, and works around Quay Park to improve rail access to the Ports of Auckland
• $371 million to extend electrification from Papakura to Pukekohe of the Auckland metro network by 19km
• $211 million for improvements to the Wellington, Wairarapa and Palmerston North network and beyond, including upgraded tracks for the Wairarapa and Capital Connection lines, safety connections and refurbishment of Capital Connection carriages, and
• $247 million to develop the Drury railway station, with two new stations at Drury East and Drury West, to increase transport access and amenity value for this fast-growing centre.

Health

Health Minister David Clark said today's announcement will mean DHBs can now get to work on the detailed planning work needed to make all the planned projects and more a reality.

"That will mean better health services for New Zealanders, and a more sustainable and secure future for our public health service," he said.

The $300m investment in health will be divided into four areas:

• $83m on child and maternal health
• $96m on mental health and addiction
• $26m on regional and rural service projects
• $75m upgrading and fixing ageing hospital facilities
• Plus a $20m contingency fund.

Schools

The Government had already last year announced $400m in funding for school repairs and other building work.

In addition, up to $4.8m will be available to schools to upgrade their facilities to run on clean power.

Up to $5.2m will be available to hospitals to also make the switch.

Minister for Climate Change James Shaw said eight schools and two hospitals will be the first group of projects in the clean powered public service fund.

"Many of our schools have dirty, old, climate polluting boilers that in most cases were installed in the 1950s and 1960s.

"Because of our support, current and future generation of kids will be kept warm and dry by clean energy as we help them upgrade to using biomass instead of coal," he said.

- Additional reporting: RNZ, BusinessDesk