Last week, the IMF warned that oil prices will double over and above inflation in the next decade. The Greens crunched the numbers and say that means we’ll be paying $5 a litre for petrol in 2022. Can you guess what Brownlee’s reaction was? Head in the sand and personal attacks on the Greens’ Julie Anne Genter (you know, the transport expert) for daring to suggest a handful of white elephant highways is a poor use of $14 billion, especially when petrol is only getting more expensive.
Petrol prices doubled in the last decade. That lead to the never-ending recession we’re in and saw traffic volumes peak and start to fall (we’re currently back at 2004 levels).
National’s $14 billion Roads of National Significance make little economic sense even with heroic traffic volume growth assumptions. For instance, the $1.7b Puhoi to Wellsford will break-even only if traffic volumes double in the next 15 years. They’ve been steady for years.
What happens when petrol prices hit $5 a litre? We all drive less, of course. We look for alternative transport options. We put more of a price premium on living close to where we work, shop, and recreate. The traffic growth that is being banked on even for the weak business cases for the RoNS isn’t going to happen. We are going to have traffic volumes falling. Those flash new multi-billion highways National built wind up being ghost roads.
I don’t think you’ll argue with me when I say this country isn’t drowning in cash. In fact, this government has made a virtue out of being more skint than it forecast at each turn. So why, oh why, would we chuck $14 billion at highways that no-one will be driving on once petrol hits $5 a litre?