SkyPath construction partner pulls the pin
The major construction partner for the $34 million SkyPath pedestrian bridge over Auckland harbour has pulled out, due to the complexity of the project.
Downer Group New Zealand has left a public-private partnership (PPP) with Auckland Council and the SkyPath Trust, because it no longer agrees with the fixed price set for the construction work in July 2016.
SkyPath Trust director Bevan Woodward said negotiations are under way to either alter the PPP, so Downer can stay involved, or find an entirely new builder.
‘‘Downer certainly said that SkyPath is a complex project, so they weren’t comfortable doing it on a fixed price because they are working on an old bridge,’’ Woodward said.
‘‘You’d always get a few surprises, most of them unwelcome, when you’re renovating something that’s a little bit old.
‘‘If Downer is involved they would be the builder but it would be under slightly different terms than what was proposed by the PPP, which is a financial model and requires the builder to do it for a fixed price.’’
Woodward said there had been no financial cost for Downer pulling out as the SkyPath construction partner.
‘‘In many respects, it’s been valuable their [Downer’s] involvement, because they’ve checked the feasibility of the design work and reviewed the whole project. They’ve done that at their own cost, so there’s no cost to the SkyPath project itself,’’ Woodward said.
Auckland councillor for the North Shore ward Chris Darby said the competitiveness of the Auckland construction market has seen Downer drawn to more lucrative projects.
‘‘Downer were going to be a construction partner. They’ve backed out. They’ve been in the mix for a while but they’ve seen better pickings on other projects around Auckland,’’ Darby said.
However, former Auckland councillor, and current Devonport-Takapuna Local Board deputy chair, George Wood said Downer pulling out raises ‘‘alarm bells’’ about the project’s financial viability.
When the SkyPath project passed its final legal hurdle against a residents group appeal in the Environment Court last November, Woodward said ‘‘optimistically’’ construction could begin mid-2017.
He now estimates construction beginning early 2018.
The planned SkyPath would be a tube-like structure suspended beneath Auckland Harbour Bridge for use by for pedestrians and cyclists.