Tunnel delays raise suspicions
Auckland councillor Chris Darby says he is ‘‘suspicious’’ about NZTA’s reasons for delays behind the $1.2 billion Waterview Connection.
The North Shore ward councillor has his own theory on why Aucklanders have been made to wait until ‘‘early July’’ for it to open and it relates to another billion Auckland infrastructure project - the controversial East West Link.
Darby, one of five committee members set to finalise Auckland Council’s submission on the East West Link to a board of enquiry, said while he was willing to take NZTA at their word, the timing of the tunnel delays made him suspicious.
The East West Link is a central Auckland roading project aimed to addressing transport issues between major industrial hubs in the city.
The Waterview Connection, the final link in the Western Ring Route, was earmarked to open in April, but holdups due to a fault with the tunnel’s jet fan and water extraction pump system meant vehicles won’t be allowed in until early July.
The Waterview Connection delays were ‘‘inextricably’’ linked to the timetable of the East West Link proposal board of enquiry hearing, which begins on June 27, Darby said.
‘‘They are linked. You simply cannot look at major roading projects like this in isolation,’’ Darby said.
Darby said that the three month delay with the Waterview Connection meant traffic data that could have been collected and used at the hearing, was now not available.
Traffic modelling for the East West Link factored in traffic modelling for the Western Ring Route, Darby said.
‘‘Modelling is very limited, the best evidence is evidence and because of these delays, we don’t have any.’’
An NZTA spokesperson said councillor Darby’s theory was ‘‘simply not accurate’’ and that the reasons for the delays had been clearly explained.
‘‘The Waterview Connection has been in construction for five years and while the opening delay was disappointing, short delays are not uncommon for such a large scale and complex construction programme,’’ the spokesperson said.
‘‘Testing identified an intermittent fault in the tunnel’s jet fan and water extraction pump system which requires a change in software.’’