Infrastructure is too important to leave to politicians

Andrew Dickens writes

The Waikato expressway is amazing. Well, the completed bits are.

However, the absence of a motorway through Hamilton is a shocker. A bypass is on the way but, Hamilton, that’s a fail. Why weren’t you planning for the future?

All was good until Taupo, and then we hit the Taupo/Napier road. It’s a beautiful road but that’s when we hit the super trucks hogging the single lane carriageway, often exceeding their speed limit. It was worse from Napier to Woodville.

The dependence on trucks, the railroading of railways and the lack of capable roads make those roads a killer. (I have one friend who nearly lost both her parents on that road to a truck.)

Wellington was more clogged, even on the weekend, than Auckland. It’s like no-one thought people lived and worked south of the Beehive, which is where everyone works. We witnessed the full horror of the Island Bay cycleway. What used to be a broad safe boulevard is now a skinny death trap.

Coming north, we checked out the new MacKays to Peka Peka expressway. $630 million for 18km of Rolls-Royce grade road. It’s beautiful. So beautiful that Otaki MP Nathan Guy promptly said he wants $2 billion to extend it to Levin – even though south of MacKays is about the worst roading on State Highway 1.

Coming through Hamilton again, I saw diesel locomotives parked under overhead electrification. What a waste of money that project was – we lost the courage to carry it through.

Arriving home, I discovered the $1.4 billion dollar Waterview tunnels will be immediately congested, need traffic lights and have insufficient ventilation because of some misguided cost cutting. It’s the four-lane harbour bridge all over again. What a cock-up.

So here’s where I’m at. When we get it right, it’s lovely. But half that journey was a nightmare. Huge trucks on tiny roads. Rail nobbled. I saw one freight train in the whole four-day journey.

Massive roads, but not built in the right order. Ridiculous cost-cutting in some places. Massive over-spending in others. It’s a hotch-potch. It’s actually a national shame – up there with leaky houses. We can’t get infrastructure right.

This week, National mooted an Urban Development Authority. I’d like to moot a non-partisan, nationwide, expert and practical Infrastructure Development Authority to come up with a 50-year plan that actually works.

Sounds good, except it would take 45 years for the plan to be agreed on, and then it would be out of date.

At times a country benefits from having a benevolent dictator. ?John Key could have used up some of his political capital that way, especially if he was thinking about quitting.

Running the bigger stuff by committee is an exercise in… well, just look out there. ?It’s a mess.