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The BulletinJuly 31, 2023

Let’s Get Wellington Moving? Let’s can it, says National

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The controversial transport project will be cancelled entirely if there’s a change of government – and the capital will get more roads instead, writes Catherine McGregor in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

Let’s Get Wellington Moving hits a big blue bump in the road

For Let’s Get Wellington Moving’s supporters – who just weeks ago were celebrating a vote that appeared to put them on a glide path to completion – today’s announcement will come as a blow. For the project’s vocal opponents, the news that National plans to cancel the entire project offers the prospect of a last-minute reprieve. The cancellation of LGWM, reported by Andrea Vance at The Post (paywalled), is a key plank of National’s transport policy, to be released in full later today. The $7.4b LGWM package is a “toxic mess of a programme” says National’s Chris Bishop, who developed the transport policy alongside colleague Simeon Brown. Two of LGWM’s most significant individual projects are the introduction of light rail to the capital and the pedestrianisation of the Golden Mile precinct, which is due to begin in September.

We’ll build a second Mt Victoria road tunnel, National promises

Despite promising to abandon LGWM, National still has big plans for Wellington transport – namely, roads. It is committing to building a second road tunnel under Mt Victoria, and will revive the mothballed Petone to Grenada highway project. National says it “will open up land for more than 5000 homes, and a cross valley link to ease congestion across the harbourside suburb and Lower Hutt”, writes Vance. The new Mt Vic tunnel will be built beside the existing one, carrying two lanes travelling east; the original tunnel would carry two lanes of traffic towards the city. “A pedestrian and cycleway will be built above the road, separated from traffic in the new underpass,” Vance adds.

Doubts raised over stated cost of Whangārei to Tauranga highways

The plan for LGWM follows National’s announcement yesterday that it plans to build four, four-lane highways linking Whangārei and Tauranga. National says the cost of the whole project will be $6 billion, and will not require raising excise taxes. Transport minister David Parker calls that “laughable” and “breathtakingly misleading”, and says “the cost will be many hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars more than they are admitting”. Official figures obtained by 1 News appear to back Parker up. “For example,” Jessica Mutch McKay reports, “National says Warkworth to Wellsford will cost 2.2 billion, and officials say it could be up to 4 billion.”

Who’s to blame for our pothole problem?

Part of National’s transport policy that has already been announced is its plan for a “pothole repair fund” to double the current rate of roading renewals, halve the pothole response rate from two days to 24 hours, and give local authorities and Waka Kotahi $500m over three years to address road damage. That announcement a fortnight ago was accompanied with a lot of finger pointing, with National blaming Labour for the current state of the roads and Labour arguing it was still trying to recover from major maintenance funding cuts under the previous National government. Greater Auckland’s Matt Lowrie has done a deep, deep dive into the data in an attempt to come up with the true culprit. Spoiler: “Both Simeon Brown and David Parker are correct, each picking numbers to suit their narrative.”

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