I’m all for modeshift. I bought my electric bike three years ago and recently invested in an electric scooter. I love my electric bike and am a confident cyclist – I zoom around Auckland’s city centre, take my e-bike with me over to Waiheke Island, and it even accompanies me on the ferry to the Coromandel. However, I still cannot fathom why the government thinks spending $785 million on a walking and cycle lane across the Waitemata Harbour is a good investment, especially at this time when the government has either downsized or culled some other committed projects.
Last month, Transport Minister Hon Michael Wood announced the Northern Pathway Westhaven to Akoranga project as a dedicated walking and cycling link between Central Auckland and the North Shore. The preferred option is a stand-alone bridge alongside the existing Harbour Bridge.
Perhaps I’m experiencing a different reality in Auckland and New Zealand than whoever came up with this idea, but I really cannot understand the logic behind this project. The Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) is estimated at 0.4-0.6 – yes, for every dollar spent, there could well be a loss of up to 60 cents.
I cannot help but question this project’s priority at a time when:
- there is a significant infrastructure deficit in areas such as the health sector
- we have nurses striking over their pay during the COVID-19 pandemic
- we have over 100,000 New Zealanders stating they are homeless
- over 100,000 people have presented a petition to Parliament asking for more funding so New Zealanders can get access to modern medicine from Pharmac, because the $200 million extra funding allocated over four years in this year’s National Budget is insufficient.
Why not just get on with a multimodal harbour crossing instead?
The government is rightly copping flak on the issue, with the National Party stating the whole fiasco – including the earlier clip-on version – has already cost $37 million, with $20 million spent on consultants alone over the past two financial years. The ACT Party’s David Seymour has stated the announcement breaks the government’s original 2018 statement that it would fully fund the cycle crossing only if the business case for it stacked up.
Minister Wood believes the BCR would improve once a more detailed re-assessment was done. To me, that suggests fudging numbers to artificially make a project appear beneficial. If the numbers do improve substantially, it would be useful to review the methodology and apply it against projects that have not progressed due to an unfavourable BCR.
All this announcement tells me is that if you have the means and create noise, this government will give you what you want when others without a voice are not getting what they need!