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Does NZ have $400 million+ to burn?

Written By: - Date published: 11:51 am, May 7th, 2012 - 36 comments
Categories: sustainability, transport - Tags:

The Environmental Protection Agency, bastard child of Nick Smith chaired by National crony Kerry Prendergast, has given draft approval to Transmission Gully. This billion dollar project returns 60 cents of benefits for every dollar spent. Worse than a night on the pokies. And that’s NZTA’s estimate assuming traffic growth that isn’t happening, and not accounting for $5 a litre petrol.

The Transmission Gully project, to be a net drain on the country of ‘only’ $400m, would need to start off with 21,000 vehicles a day and for that increase by 0.7% a year (and, then, it would have a design life of just 25 years before needing major repairs/upgrades). Basically, the country is being asked to fork out a billion dollars so that 10,000 people’s commutes will be ten minutes quicker each way.

Problem is, 21,000 a day is 87% of what currently passes the northern entry to the route every day – most likely, it is all the current traffic that goes from Mackey’s Crossing all the way into Wellington City. So, flawed assumption 1) Transmission Gully would take all the existing traffic off the existing coastal route. Next, that growth projection. Here’s how traffic volumes have changed since 2000:

That’s 0.14% on average – one fifth of the assumed growth rate. By the time this project is completed in the mid-2020swe will be looking at $5+ a litre petrol. That will mean in a reasonably fuel efficient car, the 27km Transmission Gully with its 180s ascent and descent in both directions will cost $10 each way every day. There’s no way that you’re going to have traffic growth accelerate to 5 times what occurred during the economic golden days of the 2000s in those conditions. Flawed assumption 2) rapid traffic volume growth in a world of $5+ a litre petrol.

Remember those flawed assumptions are necessary to keep the net loss to the country of Transmission Gully at ‘only’ $400m That means the real cost will blow out much larger.

The good news is that construction isn’t expected to begin until 2015. That means the incoming Labour/Green government can ditch the bloody thing and save us all a lot of money.

36 comments on “Does NZ have $400 million+ to burn? ”

  1. Kotahi Tane Huna 1

    “…the incoming Labour/Green government can ditch the bloody thing and save us all a lot of money.”

    And the corrupt EPA. I wonder how they organise the bribes.

  2. ghostwhowalksnz 2

    Another Holiday highway.
    Of course it will be tolled but the punters have a choice of existing highway or a good train service. What chance the numbers make any sense with those factors

  3. Gosman 3

    What is the position of the local electorate Labour MP’s on this issue?

    • Rupert 3.1

      Kris Fa’foi is opposed to it on the grounds that it divides the community up I believe.

      • Gosman 3.1.1


        Is this the same person quoted recently as stating the following?

        ‘Labour Mana MP Kris Faafoi said the board of inquiry was the biggest bureaucratic hurdle the project faced. “I think it’s a big opportunity in terms of making sure we get Transmission Gully built. Obviously there’s some bridges still to cross.” ‘


      • alwyn 3.1.2

        He must have done a very very quick flip/flop then.
        In the Dom/Post on Saturday (5/5/12) he is quoted as saying
        “Labour Mana MP Kris Fa’foi said the board of inquiry was the biggest bureaucratic hurdle the project faced. “I think its a big opportunity in terms of making sure we get Transmission Gulley built. Obviously there’s some bridges still to cross””
        That sounds to me like he is in favour wouldn’t you say?

        • alwyn

          I read the statement about Fa’foi’s supposed views, went away to track down the quote and by the time I came back and entered it Gosman had already replied.
          I tried to delete my entry, by clicking on the delete tag, but nothing happened. Is there something wrong with the delete option or was I just to slow?

  4. Janice 4

    And meanwhile the Manawatu/Hawke’s Bay districts have been told that the upgrade of Saddle Road to make a better alternative while the Manawatu Gorge is closed due to slips, will have to come out of their general roading fund and local rates as it is not a state highway. An alternative to the gorge road has been asked for, and turned down, for many years.

  5. “Another Holiday highway.”

    Not quite. The current Centennial Highway is also a main artery into Wellington itself and is, off the top of my head, the only route, for shipping and trucking into Wellington (the Rimutaka Hill being to steep for most loads – not sure about the Johnsonville route). During long weekends the route is congested and can take hours to get through, bumper to bumper. This not only slows holiday makers but also slows business and costs money. Not to mention the road is quite dangerous.

    So it isn’t just a “holiday highway” like up near Auckland – there is a real need for this road for more reasons than mere holiday makers.

    • Deano 5.1

      But those needs don’t exceed the costs, even on NZTA’s rosy assumptions.

      • Wellington is going to continue to grow and Centennial Highway will get more and more inadequate. I know cost is an issue but even now, considering Wellington’s current population, the highway is still congested, dangerous and inadequate. It’ll only get worse.

        • Deano

          And, yet, the cost of building Transmission Gully will not bring in benefits that come anywhere near that cost.

          It’s like the holiday highway. It might be nice to have for the 10,000 people a day who could use it. It might be nice a few days a year for holiday makers. But that doesn’t’ make it the optimal use of a billion dollars for the country.

          • TheContrarian

            The fact remains that the centennial highway is totally inadequate.
            If not transmission gully, what then? What is the alternative solution?

            • Lanthanide

              “If not transmission gully, what then? What is the alternative solution?”

              Wait for Wellington to go under in an earthquake, move the capital to Auckland (we should be doing this pre-emptively – it’ll be cheaper) and be done with it.

              • lprent

                We don’t want (or need) the politicians and public service here. Try Taupo (nice volcano there) or Hamilton (on the out wash from the aforementioned volcano).

                Or even better – send them to Christchurch to help with the rebuild. 😈

                • felix

                  Hamilton I reckon. Auckland really doesn’t need that sort of influx but there’s plenty of room to expand the ‘tron.

                • vto

                  That’s not very nice lprent, we already have the bozos here. What with Ecan’s Bazley and cronies, and bully Brownlee shoving himself around telling our Council what to do all the time with his implied threats, we have had it. Enough.

                  I say leave the capital where it is. It is actually well isolated, both geographically and culturally, there is little need to pass through it, and they get the worst weather. Stay put you fukkas.

                  • lprent

                    It is all L’s fault.

                    We managed to gracefully eject the government to Port Nicholson a wee while ago after the remonstrations from the rural provinces.

                    But then L started to say that this boon by the generous folk in Auckland should be reversed. Obviously Christchurch should really get some new industry and experience the joy of being the seat of government. A few decades of dithering is really is the only way to learn of its joys.

                    I do take your point about the spoiler that the undemocratic ECan and Brownlee’s embrace of the efficient pursuit of ineffectual chaos are having. Perhaps Timaru would like a chance to become the seat of government?

                    Government is useful in its place – they provide the substrate for industries to grow on. That place is with the corporate headquarters and away from innovation. Port Nicholson was perfect…

              • rosy

                Having the political and business capital in the same place is madness imo. I do believe that flying into Wellington during a southerly is good for focusing politicians’ minds. That experience cannot be recreated elsewhere 😉

          • TighyRighty

            Do you reside in Wellington or travel there regularly from the kapiti coast deano?

            [lprent: You are back early according to me. But what the hell – I am likely to be busy for the week. Removed from auto moderation. ]

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      The current Centennial Highway is also a main artery into Wellington itself and is, off the top of my head, the only route, for shipping and trucking into Wellington.

      Never seen ships or trains on the roads. I really don’t see any point in subsidising trucks when there are better, more efficient, options available.

    • rosy 5.3

      ‘During long weekends the route is congested and can take hours to get through, bumper to bumper.’

      Meets the definition of a holiday highway then.

      But seriously – the holiday traffic build-up on the way back into Wellington begins at Levin. (I’ve been stuck in it a number of times – it’s not a one-off). Transmission Gully won’t change that at all. Closing the passing lanes has had a major impact in reducing traffic delays going out of Wellington at the start of the holiday weekend.

      Joyce’s RoNS for Wellington is from Levin to Wellington route, not just MacKays Crossing so it’s well recognised the problems are more complex. Improving other parts of the road might reduce the justification for Transmission Gully.

      Added to that, when I picture the Transmission Gully length and steepness of the gradient along side the Ngauranga Gorge gradient, and the fact that it is a green-field development, I can’t see how this route is a good thing at all. Maybe it’s an appeasement to the Kapiti Coasters who are having a main thoroughfare through their towns.

  6. Adrian 6

    When Chch got hit with it’s quakes it had 4 major flat land access roads into the city, SH1 north and south, Arthurs Pass road and the Lewis Pass. Most stuff coming from the North Island went through the Lewis as slips in Kaikoura and the big bridges north needed checking. Last week I came over the Rimutaka Road from the north, in any sort of quake it will be impassable for a long time, being much like the Manawatu Gorge. The state highway north of Pukerua Bay is at sea level and very prone to slips and in a biggy, tsunami.
    To my mind a third option makes sense at the projected cost, sure it may get disturbed but in this current quake safety mania we should at least expect the bridges to exceed the standard and benefit from lessons learnt about proofing in Chch. The alternative is weeks without any land access to the main population areas of the capital. 400 or even a 1000 million looks cheap then.

    • Pascal's bookie 6.1

      I hear that. But TGully doesn’t go all the way into wellington and there’ll be lot of broken road between where it links back up, and the city. I don’t think it’ll be much of a lifeline to be honest.

      • vto 6.1.1

        Here’s how you proof it, going by the hills around Chch and what they needed and had put in post-quake…. cleared tracks, metalled and able to take service and emergency vehicles (not talking a main highway, theat’s doomed), that run along the hilltops. Avoid the bottom of the hills. Bulldoze them in now and pre-metal them with plenty provision to metal further post any quake.

        That way, when it hits you get your necessary vehicles up onto the tops and drive along them. You will probably find that various old tracks and similar already run along the best hilltops so follow these.

        edit: but I imagne that ships and boats will be the main supply lines.

      • uke 6.1.2

        Furthermore, one of the reasons TGully looks like a great route is that it sits on a long straight faultline. It’s very steep at the top of the south side and down the north side (I’ve been there) & I believe there are plans to create an elevated expressway on the east slope of the valley.
        This would be just as much a “disaster waiting to happen” as the coastal route – if not a greater risk.

  7. Kevin Welsh 7

    Its MacKay’s Crossing, not Mackey’s.

  8. Leverett 8


    Isn’t there going to be a multiplier effect at work? What about all the new jobs and spin-offs?

    Or does the author agree that the Keynsian free lunch is a bit of a have?

  9. mouse 9

    NZ does not have a billion to waste on Transmission Gully…

    NZTA can’t even afford compensation to land owners on the proposed 251 million PekaPeka to Otaki expressway…hence this section has been delayed 3+ years…

    “It appears NZTA have limited funds to acquire the properties they have blighted.”


  10. Adrian 10

    PB, that may well be true but it would at least get heavy equipment and emergency vehicles into the Wellington basin instead of being stuck in Featherston or Waikanae.
    VTO, that’s a solution, but unlike Chch Wgtn doesn’t have much if any earthmoving gear in or near the city.
    And Uke, every single valley and river in New Zealand is pretty much a faultline, there’s probably one running right under your house, but even in a big adjacent quake they don’t all move. And what ships, remember Lytleton was unusable for sometime.

    • vto 10.1

      I was meaning more for the initial period of disaster. Ships would get in to unload supplies and gear, as happenned in Lyttelton. Just not container and usual loads – all that infrastructure was rooted.

      As for earthmoving gear, there is plenty, just need to make a start. From what was learned here in Chch, access for getting food and other emergency supplies like toilets and water water water (the biggie) was the main thing. Water for cleaning as much as water for drinking. I can imagine that access failing far more massively in Wgtn for all those obvious reasons. Tell ya – check that these ermegency routes are well planned in advance. Do not just assume they are taken care of by Civil Defence. Go and check yourself with the bureaux. These simple things make all the difference in the world.

  11. Georgecom 11

    Lets simply use statements from the Government to judge the value of Transmission Gully or the Holiday Highway.

    Bill English set out a test last budget to move money from ‘low priority spending’ to ‘high priority spending’, from the ‘nice to haves if we can afford’ it to the ‘essentials’.

    The return on $1 invested for both TG & HH do not justify the investment. The HH has an averaged BCR of 0.6 (using both the NZTA report and the SAHA report prior to Joyce ordering it to be inflated).

    If we had billions of spare idle dollars to spend then maybe spendthrift roading investments could be tolerated. We don’t however. In all, the 2 roads are a crap way to spend the money the state does have.

    That is the primary reason I no longer believe English or Key when they state ‘we don’t have the money to pay for (insert item)’. Yes, yes you do John and Bill. You however choose not to afford it.

    This mentions nothing about the expected, and well flagged for most to see, increase in petrol over the next few years and the impact that will have on vehicle use.

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