I was on New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) when the National Party last came into power. The new Minister of Transport, Steven Joyce, handed us a shopping list called “Roads of National Significance”. This was a mis-description. It should have been labelled “Marginal seats retention scheme”.
There were some roads which made sense. Some sure didn’t. Look what Transmission Gully has cost. It still is bleeding funds. It wasn’t recommended by the professional staff. It was just on Joyce’s list. The list was, in places, fiscally irresponsible.
This experience of NZTA has caused me to be very suspicious of politicians promising the earth with roading projects.
In the last days of his leading the National Party, Todd Muller announced a commitment to build a four-lane expressway between Christchurch and Ashburton. Between the Nationally held seats of Selwyn and Ashburton. Let us consider the faulty costing on this proposed project. I am indebted to Clint Smith for the following numbers.
Estimated cost by National $1.5b. Current cost of recent 4-lane expressways $30- 35m per kilometre. That’s an actual budgeted cost of between $1.8b to $2.1b.
There are three bridges on this route which appear not to have been costed. The Rakaia is the longest bridge in NZ, at 1.7km. The current cost in Manawatu for a two-lane bridge is $100m/km. For a four-lane bridge we could expect the cost to be around $170m. The other two bridges would cost around $40m each (think how much the Ferrymead bridge cost…). So that’s another $250m, which appears to have been missed out of the calculation.
When you add all these costs up the budget before a single sod is turned will be around $2.25b. That makes the original announcement 50% out. We all know that construction costs all exceed budget estimates.
I’m sure that NZTA would support numerous passing bays on this road. It would not recommend four-laning all the way. That is until a fiscally irresponsible Government interferes with sensible planning.
These numbers make me want to have a look at some of the other roading promises. More next week.