SkyPath con­struc­tion part­ner pulls the pin

Central Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - TOM DILLANE

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.

SUP­PLIED

The planned SkyPath would be a tube-like struc­ture sus­pended be­neath Auck­land Har­bour Bridge for use by for pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists.

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