Roading contractors are the winners in the Government’s $6.8 million spend, with $2.2 billion targeted at new roads in the Auckland region, and another $4 billion on transport infrastructure in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Canterbury and Queenstown.
Another $1.1 billion is set aside for rail network upgrades.
Projects, announced on January 29, were selected on the basis of how quickly they can be built and funded, although the previous Government had already approved and funded many of them.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford says; “The significant package is designed to give the construction industry certainty and confidence about future work.” Some projects have also been redesigned, he adds, and future proofed to include provision for public transport and walking and cycling.
“Our decision to fund these projects by taking advantage of historically low long-term interest rates means this programme will free up funding in the National Land Transport Fund and Auckland transport budgets.”
Highlights include the immediate tendering of the Penlink link connecting Whangaparoa, costing $411 billion with a 2025 completion date.
The upgrade of Mill Road connection to four lanes connecting Manukau to Drury will cost $1.35 billion, while the widening of SH1 from Papakura to Drury, $432 million.
Elsewhere, the Melling interchange has the go-a-head as an extension of the Kapiti expressway from Otaki to north of Levin, with construction in late 2022 and completion in 2026.
Civil Contractors NZ chief executive Peter Silcock says the wide range of projects was welcomed by the country’s road builders and civil construction companies.
“Planning for many of these projects is well advanced as they have been on the drawing board for a long time.
“This selection will start to address the country’s infrastructure deficit, but it will be interesting to see the shape these projects take, and when they hit the ground.”
Silcock says timing is critical for civil construction companies as projects like Transmission Gully, Christchurch Motorways and Waikato Expressway begin to wind down, and he hoped these new projects would not get bogged down in bureaucracy. Many of the projects announced have been ‘pretty much ready to go’, but any radical changes could cause significant delays, he warns.
He also lauded the Government’s investment in improved rail networks, which would build continued long-term rail construction capability. Rail spend includes $371 million on the extension of Auckland’s rail network, from Papakura to Pukekohe, and $211 million for Wellington’s rail network.
“The Government has re-prioritised many projects towards improved road safety and multi-modal transport, so it will be really interesting to see how these projects have changed under the lens of their current policies,” says Silcock.
The newly-created New Zealand Infrastructure Commission provided an opportunity to further de-politicise the infrastructure decision making process, he says, and seeking a more impartial way forward would be a ‘wise choice’ to reduce the boom-bust nature of construction work that was currently easily influenced under the three-year electoral cycle.
Silcock also expressed concern around projects proposed for the South Island, or a lack thereof, as the programme seemed heavily North Island-focussed with sparse detail on proposals for Queenstown and underwhelming investment in the rest of the South Island.
As well as ‘playing catchup’ in areas with high growth, it was important to stimulate growth across the wider country using infrastructure as a means of regional economic development and making much-needed improvements to the southern transport network, he says.
Road Transport Forum (RTF) chief executive Nick Leggett says the announcement is well overdue. “We are only sorry a couple of years has been wasted in getting on with building and improving the vital arterial roads.
“It’s not rocket science to understand that with the base of our economy in tourism and exports, and growth in our major cities, we need roads that are fit for purpose.”