Auckland Council’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee has decided not to support the current $56 billion plan for a secondary harbour crossing.
During today’s meeting the council’s Principal Transport Advisor Elise Webster highlighted problems with the draft business case for the Waitematā Harbour Connections project, which is due to be presented to the NZTA Waka Kotahi board in February next year.
The “preferred option” listed in the Indicative Business Case involved two underwater tunnels, one for traffic and one for light rail, to run alongside the Harbour Bridge.
“Staff have identified a number of issues... these relate, in particular, to the affordability and value for money issue,” Webster said.
“At $56b it is equivalent to more than double the government’s total 10-year investment in Auckland’s transport system.”
Webster asked members of the committee to clearly oppose the plan.
“Council staff are recommending that the committee does not support the recommended option,” she said.
Mayor Wayne Brown immediately accepted Webster’s advice.
“I totally support your recommendation, and I’ll be horrified if we don’t [all] support this,” he said.
“With the size of our economy, it’s a wonder that grown-up people who can feed themselves and walk could come up with such a stupid number.”
He said there was no possible way the $56b plan would survive a cost-benefit analysis.
“I’m shocked that it hasn’t been dumped by the [new] government.”
North Shore Councillor Chris Darby jumped at the opportunity to second Brown’s movement to accept Webster’s recommendations.
“$56b is an enormous number... the benefits are really struggling to outweigh the costs on this project as it currently sits,” he said.
“[The road tunnel is] 10 general traffic lanes, that is not a climate future solution. That belongs in a different century.”
He said the money would be better spent elsewhere.
“I just cannot imagine 10 traffic lanes crossing over, under, around the harbour. I can envisage active connections for pedestrians and cyclists, and rapid transit... that’s the future that I see.”
Darby said he looked forward to seeing lower-cost alternatives to the tunnels.
The committee almost unanimously agreed to accept Webster’s recommendations, aside from IMSB Member Billy Brown who abstained due to a previously declared conflict of interest.
The new local government minister said his party will work closely with Auckland Council to deliver the infrastructure the city needs.
Brown has been vocal about having more autonomy to meet the needs of the city.
He released his manifesto for Auckland earlier in the year, saying he and his councillors cannot make the fixes needed for Auckland unless Wellington moves out of the way.
Local Government Minister Simeon Brown said he and the mayor would meet on a regular basis, and stay in touch on important issues.