No Minister

National’s “promise” of a second harbour crossing for Auckland

The silly season is underway, and my erstwhile friends within National are thumping their chests over their infrastructure announcement. It is, as Judith Collins proclaims, “the largest infrastructure package ever announced in New Zealand’s history“. Infrastructure is incredibly important, and I’d prefer our taxpayer dollars are spent here instead of horse racing. However, the announcement demands scrutiny, particularly one project dear to my heart, Auckland’s second harbour crossing.

I have lived on the North Shore for 42 years. It’s an understatement to say I know the area well.  It’s also an understatement to say I have followed this issue with interest for about twenty years.  It is stating the obvious to say that Auckland needs this.  That’s not the issue.  Rather, the issue is the promises made about its rollout.

National’s plan is to commence construction of the crossing, which is a tunnel, in 2028, that’s eight years from now.  On the radio yesterday, Chris Bishop was asked by Heather du Plessis-Allan where the tunnel would go.  He said, correctly, its entry/exit points would be Esmonde Rd (that’s already been decided) and then obviously an exit/entry point in the city.  He was asked where in the city, and he replied at the bottom of town, or maybe further up, he wasn’t sure.  Bishop then said National would spend the first three years planning for that route.  Now here’s where it gets interesting.

Three years from 2020 is 2023.  Let’s assume National is in government post September 19 this year, and indeed carries through on its promise to plan the exact route and cements that route in place by 2023.

Is there anyone reading this who believes that in the space of just five years from 2023, a government, whether its led by National or Labour, can commence construction on a tunnel under a significant piece of water, the Waitemata Harbour, that includes light rail?  In giving your answer, you should consider the RMA, the Public Works Act, the likely acquisition of private properties,  MMP, local body politics in Auckland, two more election cycles, the parlous state of our economy, our shortfall of civil contractors, and please also consider the current example of the City Rail Link and its budget blowouts.

I don’t like being a doomsdayer, but one has to be realistic, because if one is not, certain politicians from the National Party who have pointed their finger at Phil Twyford over the last three years could discover promising and delivering are fundamentally different concepts.


Written by Nick K

July 18, 2020 at 4:48 pm

Posted in New Zealand

8 Responses

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  1. Nick. Trust you are well.

    Maybe it doesn’t take a competent government three years to complete the already commenced planning for a route.

    Maybe it doesn’t take five years to build the thing, using unconventional technology like concrete arches on the seabed.

    Maybe the RMA will be quickly defanged as, I think, has already been hinted.

    Maybe the people in National actually have some experience GETTING THINGS DONE.


    July 18, 2020 at 5:28 pm

  2. This is an issue I know a lot about, having studied it a lot as the North Shore MP. In fact in 1999 I did a 30 page paper on it. After looking at all the options, I went for a 4 lane tunnel in two connected tunnels. It is noteworthy that the LTA engineers ultimately went with the exact route I proposed. I reckoned a toll on both the bridge and the tunnel would be necessary. There would be enough revenue to fund the capital cost of a tunnel.

    Four things have to be done. First, the detailed design. The basic route has already been sorted. The city exit will be in the St Mary Bays area, linking into Beaumont and Fanshawe St. However, detailed design would take at least a year. Second, getting planning approval. This would be a “call in” project, so that is about 12 to 18 months. Third, getting a contractor. With a full tender process, probably a year. So far a total of three to four years. Fourth, the build, probably about three to four years. So around six or eight years all up.

    For a realistic model of all this, think the Waterview tunnel. Basically done from 2011 to 2017, with Steven Joyce driving it. A six year project. An undersea tunnel is more complicated, but not dramatically so. The big decision being whether it bored, like the Waterview tunnel or is laid concrete pipe.

    Does it need to wait till 2028 to start? No, though having said that, if that was the start of construction, that would be ok.

    Political parties should not promise major infrastructure projects where the start date is beyond their likely term in office. It has been over 50 years since we had a four term government. The standard length of an enduring government is nine years (Muldoon, Bolger/Shipley, Clark, Key/English). In the last 50 years we have also had a three year government (Kirk/Rowling) and a six year government (Lange/Palmer/Moore).

    Obviously Judith is anticipating that the Ardern government will also be only three years. It is reasonable for her to have a nine year time horizon. But to be guaranteed a tunnel, the planning needs to start before the end of the first term, or no later than the beginning of the second. Contracts should be let toward the end of the second term, say 2026, though of course if one is working on being a three term government, the contracts could be let any time up to 2028. Once actual construction work has started, a new government would not cancel it. So a construction contract let in 2028 would see the work starting in 2029.

    Wayne Mapp

    July 18, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    • Thanks Wayne and Nick as a shore boy who grew up there interesting stuff.

      Shame they could not have kept the Waterview tunnel boring machine going going north until they hit Esmond Road or there about.

      Still the Waterview tunnel has been a great success.

      Could even do a short one from Devonport to St Mary’s bay as well 🙂


      July 18, 2020 at 7:14 pm

    • Political parties should not promise major infrastructure projects where the start date is beyond their likely term in office.

      Quite. A party can promise whatever the hell it likes for multiple elections from now, and voters should keep that in mind when considering such promises.

      Psycho Milt

      July 18, 2020 at 8:08 pm

    • Good thoughts Wayne but I think you are missing an important point which is to get rid of the bottlenecks through spaghetti junction and further on. Surely, the best exit would be to come out on the Te Atatu side of Pt Chevalier so that it could link up with the Waterview tunnel and all traffic heading to the airport and south and not wanting to exit before Manukau could then take this route and free up the current SH 1 through the city.

      A lot of people do this already by exiting at the NH highway and then take SH 18 for this purpose. The tunnel is 3 lanes each way and Mangere Bridge is wide enough to cope and I believe much of the heavy traffic would take this route even if they have to pay a toll as it would mean their freight would move quicker rather than with the current bottlenecks experience on SH 1 almost 24/7. Surely the whole point of the exercise is to improve traffic flow, not make it worse which would happen if the proposed tunnel was to exit at St Mary’s Bay.


      July 18, 2020 at 9:59 pm

  3. Thank you Mr Mapp. A nice piece of perspective. A tunnel was overdue ten years ago, when I was sitting in my V8 Holden taking 40 minutes to travel from Glenfield to Newmarket.


    July 18, 2020 at 6:52 pm

  4. Whilst I have always felt a second harbour crossing is needed, I wonder if it still is in a post Covid world?

    Having said that a second harbour crossing as part of the southeastern motorway though Orakei, GI, crossing the Tamaki Estuary and joining SH1 south of Manukau, with a branch to Beachlands Maraetai would be ideal. The development out East is phenomenal but it’s pretty much gridlocked.

    As the city grows we need a motorway network.


    July 18, 2020 at 9:19 pm

  5. Teletext,

    The bottle neck problem is solved by having all city traffic going by the tunnel and all southbound traffic going by the bridge. However there will still be congestion at spaghetti junction, although these days the congestion is on the south side of Spaghetti Junction where the north west motorway merges.

    I would note spaghetti junction still runs more freely now than it did prior to 1999. The 50% increases in lanes as a result of the reconstruction in the early 2000’s has made an enduring difference.

    Wayne Mapp

    July 19, 2020 at 8:18 am

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