Written By: - Date published: 8:51 am, June 30th, 2014 - 130 comments
Categories: Environment, john key, national, same old national, transport - Tags: nick smith, polity, pork barrel, roads, transport blog
National’s announcement yesterday of $212 million for 14 roading projects around regional New Zealand hits a lot of bad notes. I think it is a strategic mistake.
First, New Zealanders value their environment, take climate change seriously, and worry that National are reluctant environmental stewards at best. This announcement of roads, roads, and more roads does not help that impression one bit.
Second, New Zealanders are not used to pork-barreling as naked as this. All but two of the projects are in National-held areas, and those other two are on National’s target list in September. Also, many of them are in areas where the Labour campaign is a threat (for example Hawkes Bay, Rotorua). This is as cynical of an election bribe as we’ve seen in some time, and the media called it that straight away:
Third, some of the projects are complete clunkers. For example, the new State Highway in Nelson has been a pet project of Nick Smith’s for years. It re-routes SH 6 away from rich houses near the coast, and instead ploughs through more modest neighbourhoods, including backing a State Highway onto multiple schools. Here is what the Environment Court concluded about the proposal:
We see the proximity of two major schools and kindergarten to such a State Highway as undesirable and disabling to both the pupils and the teachers. We are unable to see the significant benefits from switching State Highway 6 from its existing route to the Southern Link, especially if heavy diesel vehicles were to be banned… Our key concerns relate to the proximity of the schools to the route, potential effects on pedestrian safety, and issues of social coherence… Fundamentally this is the wrong place to put a State Highway.
Ouch. And yet the National Party is ploughing on with this unsafe, unnecessary, expensive roading project. I sure hope the other roads have more evidence to support them than this one.
lprent: Also see Matt L at TransportBlog looking at some of these projects. His take on many of them in response to some of the twittering from John Key is that
It’s completely disingenuous to say that good roads are good for public transport. None of the roading projects pushed by the government over the last 6 years have had any benefit to public transport and many (like those in Wellington) will actually work against the PT system. What all of the projects have primarily been about is moving bigger and heavier trucks.