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$760m Puhoi - Warkworth 'holiday highway' gets the big tick

A board of inquiry has given the go-ahead on the $760 million Puhoi-to-Warkworth highway.

Dubbed the "holiday highway" by its political opponents, the $760 million project will extend State Highway 1 beyond the toll road between Albany and Puhoi, north of Auckland to improve traffic flows to Warkworth, the gateway to the Northland region and weekend get-away destinations for Aucklanders.

The decision is the second this week involving a major roading project. Another board of inquiry, administered by the Environmental Protection Authority and appointed by Environment Minister Amy Adams, rejected a $90 million flyover proposed as a solution to congestion around Wellington's historic cricket ground, the Basin Reserve.

In its draft decision released today, the board approved the first stage of NZTA's proposed Ara Tuhono Puhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance. The four-lane, 18.5 kilometre stretch of road, extending SH1 from its current end point at the Johnstone's Hill tunnels to the Kaipara Flats Road Intersection, north of Warkworth, is estimated to cost $760 million, an NZTA spokesperson told BusinessDesk.

The proposed Puhoi-Wellsford connection was singled out as a road of national significance by the National government in 2009. The more direct route is intended to cut down travel time and boost the regional economy, not only during its estimated five-year construction for the first stage, but also from increased traffic between Northland and Auckland.

"Cut three minutes"
It has been opposed by both the Labour and Green parties, with both slamming the decision as a waste of money and bad for the environment.

Labour Party transport and Auckland Issues spokesman Phil Twyford said the road was "a duplicate gold-plated toll road that would only cut three minutes off the travelling time between Puhoi and Warkworth, on a road that outside of the summer holidays carries less traffic than many suburban arterials".

Others have been more pro-development. "You can forget the 'holiday highway' nonsense — it's a vital road link that should have been upgraded years ago," regional development advocate Paul Brislen wrote last year.

46 land owners
The 673 hectares designated for the Puhoi-Warkworth stage cuts across 46 different landowners, including 18 Crown-owned parcels.

The proposal was notified in November last year, receiving a total of 187 submissions. Of those, 62 percent supported the project either in full or in part, 25 percent opposed it in full or in part, while the remaining 13 percent were either neutral or had alternate views.

In its draft, Priestley noted the submissions received, particularly those from affected landowners and residents opposed to it, but ultimately found their concerns "largely subjective", and didn't override that "social and economic benefits undoubtedly flow from New Zealand's roading network."

Landowners and residents were "in the board's view, not motivated by 'nimbyism' but instead by an abrupt and unanticipated fracturing of hopes and dreams," Priestly said. "None of the disappointments and fractured dreams which affected land owners and residents have placed before the Board would justify it, for the reasons stated, refusing the application."

However, the board did find that, during construction of the massive earthworks and bridge piles for the project ran the risk of "adverse effects" in the Puhoi River and the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park "particularly during high rainfall events".

"The discharge of stormwater from the motorway surfaces once it is operational may also affect the marine environment."

The board imposed numerous conditions on the project, which it accepted would create "significant and irreversible changes to the environment", which would soften with time as "mitigation planting becomes established and views are screened".

The board's final decision is due with the EPA by Sept. 4. The NZTA said construction is anticipated to start between 2015 and 2019 and be completed between 2020 and 2025.

The board of inquiry comprised retired High Court Judge John Priestley chairing, with Michael Parsonson, Alan Withy, Bronwyn Hunt and David Chandler.

What do you think? Should the $760m Puhoi - Warkworth 'holiday highway' have been approved? Vote in our BUSINESS PULSE poll.

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Comments and questions

Cut three minutes off the travelling time between Puhoi and Warkworth or fund a second international cable? What a decision.

Can't wait to hear your views on Len's train set.

Len's "train set" as you call it has had numerous MoT and Auckland council studies (at least one which the Minster subsequently disowned because it called for a build now) showing the many benefits of the build of the city rail link and associated development across the network. Have a look at the CCFAS for a little light reading.

The holiday highway has had not any rigorous BCR or economic justification. How the right of centre parties can marry their views of being prudent managers of the treasury benches and the holiday highway I don't know. Younger people (who'll be paying for this for the next how many years) are driving less, getting their driving licences later and would rather be on a smart phone than stuck in traffic. Remember that if you are stuck in traffic, you are the congestion.

If it follows overseas experience as demonstrated by a serious study of 44 urban rail projects it will have a cost overrun of 45% and the number of passengers will be half those predicted.

I think this outcome is very probable. Already, the Onehunga railway is carrying a fraction of the predicted passengers and the cost overrun was something like 100%.

They also studied roading projects which had lower cost overruns and, on average, underestimated traffic by 10%.

Brian next time you checking out your railway stats have a look at Britomart. When Christine Fletcher built it back in 2001/ 2002 the predicted numbers for 2021 were reached in 2011. It shows Aucklanders will use a decent service if provided. For the Onehunga line I've yet to see those stats but Onehunga and Manakau lines need improved frequencies to allow for true turn up and go. The city rail link will allow Aucklanders from across the city to see improved frequencies. Those out west will gain 10 minutes into the cbd too in addition to the gains for electrification once Kiwirail ups the speed.

For the holiday highway, if any northlander can explain to me how 3 minutes saved on a road in the Auckland council area will help you grow the pie it would be appreciated.

There doesnt seem to be alot of objectivity in this article.

$760 million could be spent on things that have a much wider benefit. Aucklands innercity being one. It would reduce urban sprawl, thereby reducing our dependency on imported oil, reduce pollution, enhance efficiency of Auckland and its 1.5 million people and enhance New Zealands trade surplus.

While this highway may benefit some, the main benefactors will be the road construction companies (which are few) and the overseas oil cartel. This looks to me as another gift to US interests by yours truly Jonkey.

Don't worry too much about the imported oil. Thankfully we'll be drilling plenty of our own very soon.

Puhoi to Warkworth is about 18k. At a 90kph average it would take 12 minutes at present. Knock off 3 minutes and you've saved 25% of the journey time, as well as making the road safer and presumably creating savings from the lesser journey time. Do the same with the Wellsford leg (which would probably have even greater savings because of the appalling Dome Valley and its 80kph speed limit) and suddenly there's a better reason to go North. There's more to this country than Auckland's inner city.

Hear hear. The Auckland-centric view of Labour and the Greens aren't doing them favours North of Auckland. Kelvin Davis has interpreted the views of Northlanders correctly.

Once again little NZ misses a trick. The obscene sum indicated is as usual destined for a blowout, but even so its so high simply due to the roading contractors and subcontractors, consultants and the legion of parasites all clipping the ticket. Lets not even get onto some Taniwaha protection for the usual $.
In more progressive countries the government could quite easily fast track and compensate the land owners double possibly triple what the mean spirited public works act theft will apportion, then some international crews will arrive from Asia and the thing will be built in double time. All far cheaper than the usual construction nonsense run by the usual big boy names everyone knows.

Many on the left hold strongly to the view that the Northland rail line and Dargaville branch should be redeveloped for general freight and heavy container freight from Marsden Point. However a 240km rail trip on the existing route for containers by rail from Marsden Point for be a very indirect route involving multiple handling compared with the more direct road route and this new highway extension to Warkworth.
While the more viable parts of the NZ rail freight system, remain scandously undeveloped- Auckland - Tauranga, the failure to complete Wellington-Palmeston North electrification and provide a sealed off rail coal route from Lyttelton to Wesport, ie with overbridges or road underpasses thru Christchurch remain a scandal, so does the lack of a full modern motorway between even Auckland- Hamilton and Levin and Wellington.
My own view is the Gisborne line and the Stratford -Taurmaranui rail line should have been closed in the mid 1970's and the Northland, Rotorua and Northern Wairapa line retained, purely for 40 years 1975-2015 largely as passenger lines with modern railcars for locals and tourists, with on the Northland line only 7 rail freight sidings between Henderson and Opua/ Russel. Muldoon and Helen Clark failed to make the necessary cuts and modernisation and Fay and Richwhite appear to have been largely conned and used by rail staff to retain useless sections of rail like Gisborne' link and Stratford to Taumaranui , surely all rail traffic at that time should have been concentrated on the newly electrified main trunk .
I remember riding the overnight bus from Auckland to Wellington in the twilight in mid 2003 and between Auckland and Wellington and I have never experienced such a dangerous goat track and continuous dangerous car racing and overtaking on the appalling piece of roadway, by local drivers from Auckland and the Waikato.

Why not close down the Auckland to Whangarei railway and turn it into an expressway for trucks?

I remember back in the 50’s, when we had the railway. Then we were promised to fix the road from Auckland to Whangarei – especially through Wellsford [becomes a dust bowl in summer], the Dome Valley and Brynderwyn’s.
It’s now 2014 – over 60 years. We’ve had patch-up’s – especially the Dome Valley and Brynderwyn’s – and many promises from Politicians.
By now, you could have built oodles of highway’s.
“Puhoi-Warkworth gets the big tick” - how many board’s of enquiry does it take?
And “The 673 hectares designated for the Puhoi-Warkworth stage cuts across 46 different landowners, including 18 Crown-owned parcels”. Glory be. How many pockets of bureaucrats and lawyers is the taxpayers lining?
So much for the RMA? Just scrap it. Turn the clock back, speak to resident’s and get the job done!

So the logs get to port 3 minutes quicker and the $760M gets spent entirely in the Auckland council area.
Northland's regional roads directly don't benefit (I think the number $100M is banded about for the total roading bill in Northland) and you get dumped in a field north of Warkworth and still get hamstrung by the hill street intersection as you head to the bach at Matakana.

Auckland-Whangarei takes a heavy load of trucks and tourists either in buses or camper vans. Four lane dual carriage way allows fast traffic to overtake slow traffic and prevents tourists causing head on crashes by driving on the wrong side of the road.

This is just another necessary segment to achieve this. Urban greenies should have no say.

If you want growth in the regions, and I support that, then a faster safer road between Auckland and its nearest economic centers is a must. Freeway / Highway between Hamilton and Whanagarei is the end game.

Two lanes where trucks and cars can co-exist safely at their respective (different) speed limits. Great to see the next stage underway, at least Len Brown hasn't tried to extend his train set dream, which with luck will be scrapped after he loses his next erection.

All wrong.

Learn from Hamilton - throw in some [very big] roundabouts to get rid of the traffic lights at Warkworth, & the pedestrian crossing in main-street Wellsford - problem solved.

You only need to witness these 2 northbound bottlenecks at peak times [when travelling south].

All for $1.50, perhaps a little more..