Steven Joyce has announced plans for a motorway from Puhoi to Wellsford at a cost of $2 billion ($1.4 billion in today’s money).
The route is used by just 15,000 cars a day (and that has been falling the last few years) and is estimated (optimistically) to save just 15 minutes off the travel time. The New Zealand Transport Agency charged with building the thing says it will deliver just 80 cents of benefit to the country for every dollar the Government spends on it. That means we would be richer as a country if we left the money under a mattress.
Jarbury, who for my money is the best transport commentator out there, has excellent analysis of the so-called “holiday highway” and sums it up like this:
If this is allowed to continue National can quit calling itself the party of economic sense and change it’s name to the ‘We Let Steven Joyce Destroy NZ’s Wealth Party’. As we’ve seen with the approval of the Transmission Gully project he isn’t afraid to write $1.1 billion dollars out of the NZ economy with one stroke of a pen, what is a paltry $400 million dollars compared to that?
Much like Transmission Gully, this monsteriously expensive motorway is meant to clear congestion that simply doesn’t exist most of the time. The only time there is congestion is on the 27th of December and 2nd of January. Even then we’re only talking 22-23,000 cars a day. It might be nice to relieve some of the congestion that exists on one or two days a year for a few thousand people but it simply isn’t worth $2 billion and there are things we could spend the money on that return benefits many times greater than the cost.
This road is basically a way for the rest of us to subsidise a few people heading up the coast to their bachs in summer. We pay, they get a few minutes off their travel time, the country ends up $400 million worse off. Now, who has holiday homes that they could drive to on this new motorway? Why, Steven Joyce and John Key. What an amazingly happy coincidence for them.
[Update: a commenter notes that this motorway will be in Rodney electorate. Lockwood Smith is likely to retire from the seat next election and Joyce is lining up to replace him. Pork barrel politics at its worst]