Let’s Get Wellington Moving not moving fast enough: Minister

Minister of Transport David Parker (Photo supplied)

Venu Menon
Wellington, August 1,2023

The government refused to be drawn into a debate in Parliament today around Let’s Get Wellington Moving, with Prime Minister Chris Hipkins stonewalling a query from Leader of the Opposition Christopher Luxon of the National Party who wanted to know if the transport initiative was “going ahead or not?”

Minister of Transport David Parker, responding to another query on the subject, was also non-committal.

“As the Prime Minister has said, the problem with Let’s Get Wellington Moving is that it hasn’t been moving fast enough. We’re not dumping the programme, but we are in discussions with Wellington City and regional councils as to how the programme can be progressed faster,” Parker told the House.

He said the government would announce its “transport priorities for Auckland, Wellington, and the rest of the country in the coming weeks.”

Parker stressed the government had invested $16 billion in transport initiatives, both on the public transport and the roading front. “We’ve also invested heavily in rail. We’ve finished off projects that were started by the last government but not properly funded. We funded billion-dollar cost overruns for the likes of the City Rail link in Auckland. We funded shortfalls of underfunding on Transmission Gully. We’ve cleaned up so many messes from the prior government.”

Asked if he would welcome private sector financing to fund toll roads, as set out in the ACT Party’s policy to supercharge toll road delivery, Parker replied: “In respect of whether roads are built by the private sector through public-private partnerships or funded directly by the public sector, irrespective of which of those two choices is taken, you still have to fund the full cost of the project.”

The minister said “propositions to toll” were hard to fathom since the National Party had opposed the “tolling of Penlink” [the road currently under construction to link Whangaparaoa Peninsula and Central Auckland].

Asked how many metres of Auckland light rail track had been delivered so far as part of the government’s $ 29.2 billion light rail plan, which it had promised to  deliver by 2021, Parker replied that “final investment decisions have not been taken on that project, and, therefore, no money has been spent on the laying of tracks yet.”

The minister said he stood by the Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament that “work is under way on planning for a route, including identifying the preferred route for Auckland light rail, and identifying the most desirable construction method.”

The minister said geology was a factor. “Some parts you could tunnel through and you would encounter lava throws that would put up the cost of the project probably by more than the cost overruns that we’ve seen for the City Rail Link. We’re determined to avoid those sorts of cost overruns by proper planning and investigation in the first place.”

Let’s Get Wellington Moving is the $7.4 billion transport plan aimed at linking the city centre to the south coast by light rail, constructing a new road tunnel through Mt Victoria, and a highway from Granada to Petone.

The central government funds 60% of the project.

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington

 

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