There are hints that the Government may consider brining forward the start date for some of Auckland’s big transport projects like the second harbour crossing.
Prime Minister Bill English says that if the Government can get Councils to take up its $1 billion housing infrastructure fund and if that works, then that would be a “test of the system”.
“And if we can bring forward those smaller infrastructure projects then it opens up the possibility of bringing forward the larger ones.”
The second harbour crossing -– estimated to cost $4 billion — is not due to begin construction until sometime in the 2030s, a date that is considered far too late by some of National’s North Shore MPs and bringing it forward was one of Jonathan Coleman’s proposals during his abortive run for the party leadership in December last year.
But there are other key projects particularly the Penlink bringing traffic off the Whangaparaoa Peninsula and a city to airport mass transit link (Rail? Light Rail?) not due to begin for at least another ten years but considered by many to be needed now.
Finance Minister Steven Joyce has also hinted that Penlink might be able to be brought forward.
Speaking in Auckland last month he said “However we are keen to have a more detailed discussion and explore further options for longer term funding for new infrastructure, including the use of private finance for certain projects, such as Penlink for example.
“Mayor Goff and I have agreed to work together on those.”
English makes the point that considerable progress has already been made and that if the Government had not intervened in the planning process for the Waterview tunnels then work on that connection between the north western and southern motorways would only be being started now.
Both English and Housing Minister Nick Smith have been quick to blame the Resource Management Act for delays in building houses, infrastructure and transport links and have been trumpeting the reforms coming through the resource Legislation Amendment Bill (which may see the light of day this week).
But political delays within its Select Committee have held the Amendment Bill up at the same time as a landmark report from the Productivity Commission which will essentially advocate a complete rewrite of the Resource Management Act, the Local Government Act and the Land Transport Act is due on English’s desk any day now.
It is likely to receive a positive welcome from the Prime Minister who agrees that there is now a consensus that will support plans for a rewrite.
“Over time – and this is the kind of long-term view this Government takes — we’ve now had four or five rounds of discussion with all the participants about how planning works and what can work better.
“That’s what has helped form this consensus, and that is a big opportunity for New Zealand that you’ve got a basis which is not too conflicted for redoing all that legislation so that it works better and we’d love to be there for that opportunity.”
He said that when he and Rodney Hide started the Productivity Commission, its first report was on planning and the coming report “was where we wanted to get to and we’re getting there.”