Getting closer to getting somewhere

If you live in northwest Auckland, you will be familiar with traffic jams. This is an obvious problem where the infrastructure has not kept up with the huge population growth over the past decade.

According to Bayleys Northwest general manager Brendan Graves, more than 300ha of land in Auckland’s northwest has been identified for near-term development. Over the next two decades 30,000 new homes will be built within the Whenuapai and Redhills precinct. This will create 20,000 new jobs cementing the region’s status as the city’s most important commercial, industrial, and residential growth node.

This means that demand for safe and efficient transport connections is only going to increase. The Coalition Government has produced a draft General Policy Statement on Land Transport which sets out priorities for investment over the next three to ten years. The previous Labour government plan insisted on a “mode shift” away from cars to walking and cycling everywhere, and where cars were allowed, slowing the traffic down to a snail’s pace. Apparently, that was going to make people want to catch the bus more. “On yer bike” said Kiwis to that lot.

Instead, the Coalition plan makes building major transport projects like the North West Alternative State Highway a priority. This is a proposed new connection between a new interchange at the current Brigham Creek roundabout and State Highway 16 to the west of Huapai.

According to the Supporting Growth Alliance set up to deliver the project, “It will move the existing state highway traffic out of the Kumeu-Huapai town centre and enable a wider range of travel choices for the growing number of people who will call the north west home over the next 30 years. In Kumeu-Huapai alone, the population is anticipated to grow from 3,400 residents to around 25,000.”

It’s not just four-lane roads – the Northwest Rapid Transit project is intended to run alongside SH16 from Brigham Creek to the city centre. According to NZTA, “Rapid transit is fast, frequent and reliable public transport that carries large numbers of people, on dedicated corridors separated from other traffic. This means it is unaffected by general traffic congestion – like the Northern Busway on the Northern Motorway (SH1).”

Knowing the growth is coming, and that roads and transit have to be built, the next problem to solve is how to pay for it.

In my role as Under Secretary to the Minister for Infrastructure, I am looking into infrastructure funding and financing tools, including use of public private partnerships, value capture, road tolls, lease backs and other potential new tools.

Taxpayers and ratepayers are feeling tapped out, so we have to look further away and further out to find the money. International investors still see New Zealand as a safe place to put their money, and Kiwis as reliable and hard workers who can afford to pay for good infrastructure over a decent length of time.

The Coalition government has committed to lowering the barriers to overseas investment on the basis that strict tests continue to keep out organised crime and other baddies. By signalling that New Zealand is open for business, we are a small step closer to getting somewhere when it comes to infrastructure.

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