Auckland transport snub riles chamber
Business leaders are fuming after the main road to Auckland International Airport was left off National’s $10.5 billion election transport package.
The party’s Roads of National Significance (RONS) plan announced last Sunday detailed upgrades to 10 major roads across the country, including high-profile cases such as the Manawatu Gorge.
However, the Auckland Chamber of Commerce head says the decision to not include an upgrade to the Auckland airport 20B route in the RONS plan was ’’shocking’’.
‘‘It’s a shocking omission that a fast fix of Auckland airport’s traffic nightmare is still apparently not a top priority,’’ Michael Barnett says.
The airport’s gridlock events late last year highlighted the urgency for upgrades to State Highway 20B, he says.
At the time, Labour’s transport spokeswoman Sue Moroney said the amount of traffic to and from the airport was a national embarrassment. ‘‘It’s ridiculous that our biggest city is complete chaos when it comes to traffic. We seem like a third world country when we don’t have public transport options,’’ she said.
The worsening congestion prompted the creation of a taskforce to tackle the problem, comprising Auckland Airport, Auckland Transport and NZTA.
But despite immediate changes, as well as long-term projects - such as the $140 million upgrade of SH20A and a new bus lane - being actioned, Barnett says the airport route needs to be included.
‘‘Where is the urgency for action?’’
The Chamber of Commerce called for the project to be declared a road of national significance last year, with Barnett saying the warning signs have been apparent for years with the root cause being ‘‘Auckland’s rapid growth success’’.
‘‘Auckland’s reputation as a modern world city will be on the line. In 2021 Auckland will host APEC and an America’s Cup defence.’’
Both the road upgrade to four lanes and provision of a busway to a modernised Puhinui Railway Station need to be completed by then, Barnett says.
The recently published updated Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) says construction of 20B is unlikely to occur before 2021.
‘‘That’s too late and unacceptable,’’ Barnett says. ‘‘[This] is a project that will benefit the NZ economy, not just the airport.’’
National’s transport spokesman Simon Bridges didn’t reply to Barnett’s criticisms directly but says the party has committed to ATAP – which in the first decade includes a comprehensive $25.9b investment.