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Nats quietly pushing back unaffordable motorways

Written By: - Date published: 11:18 am, June 12th, 2012 - 34 comments
Categories: transport - Tags:

People are driving less because of high fuel prices. That means less road tax for the government – a $120m shortfall in the last two years -, which pays for the transport budget. The biggest slice of  the transport budget – the uneconomic roads of national significance. So, National is quietly delaying the RoNS until after they know they’ll be out of government.

New Zealand Transport Agency documents show the timeline for the RoNS being pushed out three years – to finish in 2023-24, rather than 2020-2021. Crucially, they show start dates being delayed beyond 2014.

That means that when the Labour-Greens government comes to office in 2014 it won’t be locked into spending. There won’t be a bunch of half-built motorways sitting around, which it would be more economic to finish than scrap. This will give the new government a much freer hand to direct transport money to where it actually delivers value for money, rather than pouring billions into motorways with costs that exceed their benefits.

Of course, National isn’t going to come out and say that they can’t afford to build the RoNS anymore. They’ll pretend it’s all on track. In fact, they’ll add more stupid motorway projects to be built in the never-never.

And when they are booted out, National will still be able to kick and scream when the new government scraps the programme.

But politics aside, this is great news. We have this one last chance to get a future-proof transport system in place, or as much of one as you can buy with $12 billion. To have squandered that money on motorways that only a handful of people would use would have been a massive tragedy.

34 comments on “Nats quietly pushing back unaffordable motorways ”

  1. Jimmy 1

    Wicked, and people will keep dying due to poor roading.

    • felix 1.1

      I thought the story was that these roads were so congested the traffic was standing still and that’s why it was oh so important to turn them into superhighways for superproductive supertrucks.

      Make up your mind Jimmy.

      • Carol 1.1.1

        He’s confused. The poor roading is in lower socio-economic areas like Waterview, which no-one cares about unless they want to displace the residents and run a motorway through it for the more mobile and wealthier classes.

    • Deano 1.2

      actually, people will die because National is channeling money to the RoNS rather than safety and local roads.

    • Jimmy 1.3

      To all of the above:


      Page 18 shows that the so called “holiday highways” between Puhoi to Wellsford, Wellington Northern Corridor as well as the Waikato Expressway are all high risk roads.

      But hey, as long as National wants to do it, it must be a bad idea.

      • mickysavage 1.3.1

        Feck Jimmie

        You could make that motorway safe by spending about $200 million, not $2 billion and you would have it quicker.

        This has been stated repeatedly.

        Keep up please.

        • Jimmy

          It’s disturbing how often fatalities are reported on the Wellington Northern Corridor




          If we all got out and walked I’m sure we’d all survive too. The problem IS that these roads are too heavily trafficked for the current infrastructure.

          • mickysavage

            Yep so put in a barrier.  There is one closer to Wellington and it does wonders.  You could do this instead of Transmission Gully and save hundreds of millions.
            How about you actually reply to the point Jimmy?  Or are you going to keep posting links and pretend that RONS will actually improve safety?

            • Jimmy

              The RoNS will increase safety and traffic congestion. No they aren’t cheep, but this is a problem that needed dealing with years ago. Putting our heads in the sand and saying the money is better spent on the here and now is like saying globe climate change is a problem for future governments. Super is a problem for down the track. Child poverty is a problem to deal with when they grow up.

              This is one of the few issues that National are trying to be long sighted on.

              My links were purely to illustrate how bad that stretch of road is. A central barrier would help, but as most of the crashes are at intersections it will not solve the problem. A high flow road with on/off ramps is needed. Sounds like the RoNS plan that is place doesn’t it?

              • Draco T Bastard

                This is one of the few issues that National are trying to be long sighted on.

                Can’t be long sighted when looking in the rear-view mirror as NACT are doing.

    • True Freedom is Self-Governance 1.4

      No, people will keep dying due to poor driving. As long as there are idiots on the road thinking they are bulletproof and the only person on the road who is important, it doesn’t matter how ‘good’ the roads are.

      • McFlock 1.4.1

        I dunno – a subtle reverse-camber in the wet that they didn’t see because of poor lighting, with a power substation at a natural trajectory point on a tangent from the corner – well, that stuff helps too.
        Crashes have multiple causes, only some of which are driver-related. 

        • True Freedom is Self-Governance

          Of course there are always surprises such as stock or spills on roads, or black ice, or tractors, or, yes, structural defects in the road itself. My personal observation though is that a lot of New Zealand drivers don’t drive to the conditions, or have much patience on the roads, making it unneccessarily dangerous for everyone else. Just because the speed limit is 100 doesn’t mean we need to aim to drive that speed or more even in a torrential downpour on a pothole -riddled road while tailgating and texting.

          I think it’s a cultural thing that’s come about since New Zealanders became more driven and competitive in most aspects of life. Don’t get me wrong, roads need to be maintained, but I can think of better uses for that money. Even if only half of it was used to upkeep existing roads New Zealand-wide, and the other used to improve public transport and rail freight, I believe it would be more beneficial to more people.

          I guess my original point wasn’t so much that bad driving causes all crashes, but that there’s a lot we can do to help reduce the road toll by changing our mindset without even having to spend a dime. It just takes will.

          Bad roads dont kill people. Cars dont kill people. Even guns dont kill people. Remember that cheesy, overused saying 😉 ?

          • ghostwhowalksnz

            This is closer to the truth.
            Check how many intersections with lights have green arrows everywhere, the drivers cant be trusted to make safe turns.

            • True Freedom is Self-Governance

              So, the million-dollar question is “Are we such bad drivers that we need all those green arrows, or have we become so used to the green arrows telling us when to go that we’ve lost any ability to judge that for ourselves?” I wish I knew……

  2. Dr Terry 2

    Oh, National is suddenly becoming quiet on a few controversial issues. Add the Convention Centre to the matter of motorways, for one! I guess they are pulling their horns in, waiting for it all to pass over, depending on short memories, and ultimate “obedience” from their faithful..

  3. Jim Nald 3

    “And when they are booted out, National will still be able to kick and scream when the new government scraps the programme.”

    Or when they are not booted out or if Nat Lite comes in, either can just push back the dates some more. Apply ‘pretend and extend’ to the road lobby groups.

  4. ghostwhowalksnz 4

    Its an Australian trait- Promise grandiose planes which never come to fruition. Even for public transport projects.

    Ive lost count the number of times ‘fast rail’ between Melbourne and Sydney or beyond has been promoted.

  5. ad 5

    Being able to swap the Puhoi-Wellsford for Auckland’s Central Rail Link would be a great start.

    Definitely a race against time to see which contracts are actually let before the next election.

  6. tsmithfield 6

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the RoNS were put back. As I recall, the rationale for bringing them forward was for stimulus at the start of the great recession. However, since then we have had the Christchurch earthquake. The rebuild of this should have the stimulus effect of new roads, and more. So, the stimulus provided by new roads isn’t such a priority now.

    Also, the ChCh rebuild is sucking up plenty of government money, so there probably isn’t the planned funding available for all the RoNS now anyway.

  7. tsmithfield 7

    From the article you quoted, I think the RoNS, might have been this:

    Transport – $142.5 million of spending, spanning five large state highway projects and a programme of smaller, regional roading improvement projects.

    • Deano 7.1

      yeah, and the RoNS are a $12 billion project. A small part of the RoNS (actually, motorway projects consented under labour that National brought under its RoNS label) was brought forward. That has nothing to do with the apparent moves to now push out for years and years the bulk of the remaining RoNS programme.

      • insider 7.1.1

        Not consented in Rma terms. Most if not all were in long term roading plans under labour and some much older than that. That’s the nature of roading – nothing is done quickly. Water view is a good example. Under labour it was proposed to be a much cheaper surface motorway but it wasnt acceptable to the govt as it would have taken a big chunk out of goff and clarks electorates – so the political process rightly kicked in and it became a tunnel (no talk of cost benefit then funnily enough). So it got turned into a tunnel. It is the design and consenting process that has been accelerated.

        • NickS

          And you conveniently ignore the public opposition in the area to the surface road way…

          My, how unsurprising.

  8. lostinsuburbia 8

    Traffic counts have not been growing over the past few years too – another problem with the business case for these roads.

    While there is no doubting that some of our highways need improvements, the money needs to be spread around to provide a variety of transport options including road, rail, and coastal shipping.

    • And the BCRs are calculated primarily through time saved per trip.  With reduced congestion you get the benefit without the expenditure.  In any event as peak oil hits and people drive less the “benefits” will be totally illusory.
      And our children and grandchildren will curse us for being so stupid.

      • lostinsuburbia 8.1.1

        yep motorways could become the Easter Island statues of our civilisation. Absolute monuments to folly.

  9. captain hook 9

    if God had meant us to ride around in cars he would have given us wheels instead of feet!

    • ad 9.1

      “The City is the supreme work of man.” I think that was Jacques Ellul. Meaning, a profane rather than sacred order.

    • mike e 9.2

      ch and if god wanted you to come up with something intelligent he would have given you a brain.
      stick with never never land.

  10. Dr Terry 10

    mike e, I like this! You make a real point, yet at the same time it is an hilarious response!

  11. captain hook 11

    hey mike e. I dont like cars very much. I prefer horses. they can take a joke! you can talk to them and the manure is good for the garden. and if necessary you can eat them and get another one.

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