Bridges, bridges and tunnels

It’s an odd time to be having a debate about Auckland’s harbour crossing. ?The Herald wades in…

Transport Minister Simon Bridges has told the New Zealand Transport Agency to start work on a precise route for a tunnel to duplicate the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Why he has done so, or why now, is not clear. The project is not a priority, Auckland has more pressing transport needs and the Government has not allocated funds for it.

It is a plan Aucklanders have been given many times over the past 40 years, usually after a selection exercise in which a tunnel is preferred over a second bridge alongside the existing “coathanger” or a bridge from Meola Reef to Birkenhead, or a tunnel from Britomart to Devonport.

The options make a lively talking point but they are of little importance to Auckland’s traffic needs.

The truth is, the existing harbour bridge is not a bottleneck.

There are no coincidences in politics. ?Especially during a close by-election. ?

Meanwhile, the Government remains unconvinced that a rail tunnel under the central city would be worth the cost when compared with the roading projects competing for the funds it is allocating for Auckland transport. A second harbour crossing is not on that funding schedule fortunately. The minister would be hard pressed to justify the $4 billion to $6 billion for a harbour tunnel ahead of $3 billion for the central rail link.

Which makes the timing of this even more absurd. ?It’s almost like the Flag debate isn’t returning sufficient positive vibes for the National government.

Mr Bridges stresses another Waitemata tunnel would have benefits beyond Auckland. It would be part of SH1, as is the bridge. But neither the city nor the country needs another expensive harbour crossing yet. Until funds are committed these plans will not be taken seriously.

Just like Simon Bridges isn’t taken seriously. ?He’s been a disappointing light-weight, and even though his boyish good looks managed to wedge Winston Peters out of Tauranga, that too may soon come undone.

There is a really odd preoccupation with roading and bridges when the voters have real concerns elsewhere.


– NZ Herald