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Billions down the drain on roads to nowhere

Written By: - Date published: 12:13 pm, February 15th, 2012 - 42 comments
Categories: Gerry Brownlee, sustainability, transport - Tags: , ,

Gerry Brownlee has weakly attempted to fob off the decline in benefit:cost ratio of highway projects under National. ‘Sure’ he says ‘we’ve been funding projects that barely break even while high BCR spending like early childhood education gets cut, but things will turn around’. Um, no. Look at the projects National has on the horizon, more good money after bad.

Take Transmission Gully, 60 cents of benefit for every dollar spent.

Or the Puhoi to Wellsford Holiday Highway, $1.10 for every dollar spent – if you’re lucky. In generating these numbers the officials ignore peak oil, remember.

After that is the next round of ‘Roads of National Significance’, appropriately named because they would make the commute a little quicker in some National-leaning constituencies. But at what cost to the rest of us? NZTA hasn’t done the numbers officially but bear in mind these are the roads that didn’t make the first cut, so they’re going to be even more worthless.

But it’s not all about the benefits and costs, apparently. Brownlee begs us to remember that these roads to nowhere have ‘strategic fit’. I presume that means we need a good road into Northland so we can move the legions quickly if the Gauls invade. Actually, ‘strategic fit’ is just bureaucrat-speak for ‘what the minister wants’.

There’s a $15b plus hole in the transport budget over the coming two decades and National is using the money we do have on worthless pet projects. Who would have thought this is how we would face the age of peak oil?

42 comments on “Billions down the drain on roads to nowhere ”

  1. tc 1

    Is Joyce no longer mishandling this portfolio and it’s now GB’s ?

  2. Rusty Shackleford 2

    Only the same rationalizations that are used to justify the lefts pet projects.

    • Blighty 2.1

      So, what, you support billions of our money being wasted?

      • Rusty Shackleford 2.1.1

        From what I have written, what would lead you to infer that?

        • McFlock

          Well, the only alternative is that you’re arguing some sort of equivalence or indistinguishable nature between Brownlee and “the left”, which only a nutbar would suggest (even if you included the current Labour party in “the left”).

          • Rusty Shackleford

            You are right McFlock, there is little difference between Labour (the ‘left’) and National (the ‘right’). The only difference is what they like to waste billions of dollars on.

            • McFlock

              So rusty is a nutbar, Q.E.D.

            • Blighty

              Well, if you don’t support Brownlee wasting billions, why are you trying to excuse him with the hackneyed ‘they do it too’ line?

              • Rusty Shackleford

                I wasn’t excusing Brownlee. I was pointing out the hypocrisy of a left wing commentator laying on criticism for profligate spending.

                • McFlock

                  It wasn’t the amount of spending that was being criticised, it was the amount of spending for little or no net business or public good benefit.
                  Too subtle for you?

                • bbfloyd

                  don’t lie rust bucket…. you are apologising for the pie eater at maximum spin…. do you really think that you aren’t utterly transparent?

  3. tc 3

    Another example of an MSM unable to follow some basic economics, get some responses and generally hold them to account.
    Northland-AKL will always be clogged this money just moves the choke point a little further each time it’s TG that’s a head scratcher as it’s the same as just burning hunders of millions.

    • insider 3.1

      It’s as much about resiliance for Wellington’s northern access as volume of traffic. duplication is necessary to maintain access in emergency like an earthquake. The current coast road could end up like the Manawatu Gorge meaning no road access of any capacity.

  4. vto 4

    It’s not a road to nowhere, it is a road to Wellsford ………………..

  5. muzza 5

    When do you reckon we can expect some sort of treasury/RBNZ audit..

    That will clear up where all these roads lead eh!

  6. DH 6

    These big infrastructure projects have always been Nationals Achilles heel. They never added up, they seemed designed only to reward a favoured few with juicy contracts. You just don’t spend on this kind of infrastructure when your books are in the red.

    • tc 6.1

      Don’t forget the now more easily accessable land that can be carved up as a new supercity suburb and you have to wonder who owns that land and benefits.

      There’s also a watercare project around a private developments which’s being objected to, went all quiet last year now it’s back in full swing….mmmm always good to get the public paying for infrastructure required for a private development. Wonder if there’s a link between supercity and watercare.

      • fraser 6.1.1

        isnt that link mark ford? 🙂

      • DH 6.1.2

        The projects stank right from the beginning, Nationals infrastructure policy is a carbon copy from the NZ council for infrastructure development. Their members are made up largely of businesses who don’t even use infrastructure. They just build it or buy it.

        The returns to the Govt from roads are not financial, they’re economic. They also take a very long time to show results and a Govt running a deficit the size of ours just does not spend borrowed money on projects like that. The Govt gets a return via extra tax income resulting from an increase in GDP, it will take ten years before they even get enough to pay the interest (if they ever do). If this was a business the receivers would be called in long before the projects started showing any meaningful benefits.

        This is the first spending the Govt should have cut when the books went into the red.

    • insider 6.2

      I think the c/b ratios are not the important issue for these projects. What drives the govt IMO is a belief that increased capacity in infrastructure will unlock long term economic potential. Bigger is ultimately better.

      C/b is not necessaily the definer of whether you do something = that will be driven by many other strategic and political aims just like any govt decision – would investing in Kiwibank, Air NZ and rail ever pass a c/b test, or home insulation or broadband to the home? c/b around these projects is more about how you prioritise IMO as the decision to do uses other criteria.

      • mik e 6.2.1

        We will have very expensive cycle ways

      • Ad 6.2.2

        Strategic alignment (for example to a regional growth strategy such as the Auckland Plan) can and should be part of a Benefit Cost ratio evaluation.

        But in the case of motorways the whole idea of a special category called Roads of National Significance has become its own weighting code – that’s the wrongly politicized part.

        Prioritisation in transport infrastructure should otherwise be transparent throughout the Regional Land Transport Programme, effectively as bids from all regions to the National Land Transport Fund. The rigor around this is furiously tight, and through the LTMA requirement to use a Special Consultative Procedure very open to public scrutiny. This whole process will be launched around the country in the end of February.

        Those RONS should be eradicated as a category, to let the real competition on merit hold above the whole evaluative process.

    • Reality Bytes 6.3

      Indeed, and it goes against the Nat’s ‘Just let the market take care of it philosophy.’

      I do agree with the Nats that a lot of this is work will have some important benefits:
      Straight safe uncongested motorways and roads are a great thing for us to aim for, they help us to economise on limited fossil/other fuels, and improve safety etc…

      However it’s the prioritisation over other projects (that could have greater benefits) which is wrong imo. That’s what makes too much of these motorway projects a poor choice at this point in time.

      At this stage we’d see greater benefits just getting people onto more efficient methods of bulk human transport imo. Especially considering a lot of personal transport use is merely for the sake of moving a bunch of personal biomass on a daily basis to some place or other in a 2 ton steel shell. It isn’t really that practical on a per person basis when you think about it.

      It’s that lack of consideration into alternatives that is Nationals archilles heel. It’s a shame they don’t look at the options and discuss them in a public forum, and rationally consider the bigger picture with a view to minimise our transport pollution and energy requirements.

      • Colonial Viper 6.3.1

        Indeed, and it goes against the Nat’s ‘Just let the market take care of it philosophy.’

        The NATs only let the free market ‘take care of things’ when it will enrich their mates. Any other time and they are quite willing to intervene and in a big way.

      • DH 6.3.2

        “However it’s the prioritisation over other projects (that could have greater benefits) which is wrong imo. That’s what makes too much of these motorway projects a poor choice at this point in time.”

        It’s not about priorities, the corollary to that argument is the money should have been spent on something else.

        The money shouldn’t have been spent at all. They borrowed it, at a time when the country is already heavily in debt & running a large operating deficit. The interest bill on the Nats infrastructure spending will hit $1billion per year which is more than 1.5% of existing crown revenue.

    • Jenny 6.4

      DH you only need to google the words “The Well Connected Group” to identify these arrogantly self named favoured few. With their connections are able to feast at the public trough, while others go hungry.

      They have no shame.

  7. Colonial Viper 7

    Who would have thought this is how we would face the age of peak oil?

    John Michael Greer did. Its a logical response by those who are not willing to entertain anything but the continuation of endless growth and business as usual prosperity for themselves.

  8. infused 8

    Just fucking build Transmission Gully. Jesus Christ, it’s only been 50 years – just do it!

    • Jenny 8.1

      Public transport, it’s been over fifty years of dismantling. We should be the ones swearing and blaspheming. Instead of the mad roading lobbyists who have got their way every single time. Whether it is tearing up railway, or tram lines, or dismantling trolley bus overheads. Or massive motorway construction, or privatising public transport infrastructure. Fifty years of continuing assault on public transport is what makes me want to curse. Particularly when I am sitting in another endless jammed up motorway.

      • infused 8.1.1

        Yet people still aren’t using the trains in the Wellington region because they are so crap. NZ’s landscape is such that public transport really doesn’t make much sense in some areas.

        I’m not going to catch a bus or a train. The fairs are high. Buses are always late and slow. Same with the trains. The ‘express’ services are a joke. The only decent service in Wellington is the Wairarapa connection.

        What about the Auckland rail loop? That’s the biggest joke of the lot.

        • DH

          Your argument is a bit contradictory. If the reason for not using the trains is due to poor service then it follows that improving the service will increase patronage. That’s an endorsement for spending more on trains.

          • infused

            Nope. You need to read the news about the train services here. No one will use them because they are slow and expensive. That’s not going to change (service speeds).

          • insider

            Jenny is dead wrong about the dismantling of public transport in Wellington, There has been huge investment over many years be it lines upgrades, new units, tunnel work and electrification. Taking out trolley bus wires makes sense for some routes as they are not suitable for many of the narrow hill roads they used to travel.

            AS a user I think their issue is that problems seem to come in clusters and the issues have been major – people stuck for hours and it happening regularly, though the really bad failures seem to be much much less. While it doesn’t take much to shift people off them but it takes a lot to get them back, but they do come back. My local station carpark is overflowing onto wasteland. That has not happened before.

            • Jenny

              Yes I live in South Auckland, where more motorway construction has actually increased congestion.

              The $2 Billion Wiri Motorway bypass has dumped hundreds of cars that used to clog up Wiri Station Road, directly onto the Southern Motorway, This has resulted in North South commuters now being caught up in an even bigger traffic jam involving instead not hundreds of vehicles but thousands.

              Same with the 400m $Billion dollar Victoria motorway tunnel to nowhere.

              More Motorways means less money for public transport, means more people have to buy and use cars, which means that new motorways are clogged as soon as they are built.

              So what’s the answer?

              Build even more motorways!!!

        • mikesh

          This is probably true as far as it goes, but if everyone used public transport most of the time instead of using cars we would probably be able to afford a better and cheaper service. The trouble is that trying to have both options seems to increase the overall costs of both – the costs of running mostly empty buses in the case of public transport, and the costs of roading, policing, accidents, and the costs of the cars themselves in the case of private.

  9. aerobubble 9

    I have a real problem with the massive huntly bypass that runs through a high valley. They obviously knew the price of oil would continue to rise and the costs of taking this new route would be prohibitive to trucks, that would continue to run through the flat gorge route.

    Then National-ACT police toward letting cars get noisier, when you have a lot of young workers who like to rush from running the rat runs in their souped up noise carts (and avoid local traffic lights) by going through the residential back streets (from 5.30am onwards), you have to wonder what National are smoking, they obviously don’t care workers get a sleep in before work, they obviously pretty much don’t consider general environmental noise and vibrations (some are heavy trucks now). But still Nat-ACT loosen the roadworthy criteria for cars too the detriment of a National voting electorate, since they won it the road noise has increased substantially, go figure.

  10. Kevyn 10

    These RoNS are so sacrosanct that NZTA was instructed that rebuilding Christchurch was not to take any money away from the RoNS. The result is a recommendation to Cabinet to limit NZTA’s contribution to $50m pa (it collects $100m pa from Christchurch traffic), top that up with $32m pa from the $5.5bn CERF slushfund then insist that aftershocks aren’t earthquakes so that half the road repair cost is omitted when calculating that the government is contributing 82% of the road rebuild cost, all of which leaves the ratepayers with an extra $250 to pay for even though that amount could be funded by NZTA if it wasn’t diverting that amount from Christchurch to the RoNS over the next 5 years.

    But hey look on the bright side – it plays right into the blame the city councillors and replace them with commissioners (after which we’ll get CCC merged with SDC and WDC perhaps) strategy.

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