Tun­nel open­ing a ‘few weeks away’

Auckland City Harbour News - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - HAMISH MCNICOL AND HAR­RI­SON CHRIS­TIAN

The coun­try’s big­gest-ever road­ing pro­ject could fi­nally be open in ‘‘the next few weeks’’, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Steven Joyce says.

The $1.6 bil­lion Water­view Con­nec­tion was orig­i­nally set to open in April, but stalled af­ter it was re­vealed the mo­tor­way tun­nel’s fire sprin­klers and ven­ti­la­tion fans were faulty.

The 2.4km twin-bore tun­nel and ring road will con­nect Auck­land’s north­west­ern and south­west­ern mo­tor­ways and is ex­pected to re­duce in­ner-city traf­fic. Doc­u­ments ob­tained from the New Zealand Trans­port Agency (NZTA) un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act redacted the tun­nel’s new pro­posed open­ing date.

An NZTA spokes­woman said the dates were ‘‘pro­posed tar­get rather than ac­tual dates,’’ so had been re­moved on the ba­sis of be­ing free and frank dis­cus­sions.

‘‘The is­sues iden­ti­fied dur­ing the test­ing and com­mis­sion­ing phase have now been re­solved and a full sys­tem test of all the equip­ment and sys­tems is now un­der­way,’’ the spokes­woman said.

At a post-Bud­get break­fast in Auck­land on May 26, how­ever, Joyce said Water­view would be open­ing in the next few weeks.

‘‘I’m wait­ing for NZTA to give us a fi­nal date and I’m look­ing for- ward to, as I’m sure many Auck­lan­ders are, look­ing for­ward to the first op­por­tu­nity to use that par­tic­u­lar piece of in­fra­struc­ture.’’

In late March it was re­vealed the tun­nel’s del­uge and ven­ti­la­tion sys­tems weren’t work­ing prop­erly. In­fra­struc­ture New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive Stephen ed­i­tor Matt Lowrie said he be­lieved the Con­nec­tion wouldn’t open un­til the school hol­i­days in July, when traf­fic would be lighter, to pre­vent it be­ing con­gested from day one.

‘‘I think they’re fear­ful of the im­pact con­ges­tion’s go­ing to have on the nar­ra­tive of the tun­nel,’’ he said.

DAVID WHITE/FAIR­FAX NZ

The $1.6 bil­lion tun­nel was orig­i­nally set to open in April.

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