South Auckland local politicians slam Government for loss of road funding

The second stage of the Papakura to Drury SH1 upgrade has been scrapped. Photo / Dean Purcell

South Auckland leaders are scathing of a Government decision to axe a four-lane highway and partly scrap a motorway project.

In a rare move, Auckland Council has given elected members a voice on its news website, OurAuckland, to criticise the Government’s decision to end plans for the Mill Rd four-lane highway and scrap the second stage of an upgrade on the Southern Motorway.

On June 4, the Government cited climate commitments and a cost blowout from $1.3 billion to $3.5b on Mill Rd for keeping it at two lanes with a focus on safety improvements.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Transport Minister Michael Wood had further bad news for the south – the Government was scrapping the second stage of upgrading SH1 from Papakura to Drury.

The Government is still proceeding with electrification of rail from Papakura and Drury and has increased the number of new train stations on the route from two to three at an all-up cost of $870 million.

Rejigging projects in the south away from roads to public transport comes alongside plans by the Government for a walking and cycling bridge across the Waitemata Harbour at an “estimated cost” of $685m. The announcement came shortly after cyclists “liberated” the bridge to push their case for a harbour crossing.

Manurewa-Papakura councillor Angela Dalton. Photo / Dean Purcell
Manurewa-Papakura councillor Angela Dalton. Photo / Dean Purcell

Manurewa-Papakura councillor Angela Dalton said this decision raises questions about funding disparities for the south, given the public perception that cyclists broke the law one week and were rewarded for it the next with the announcement of a cycle and pedestrian bridge.

The other Manurewa-Papakura councillor, Daniel Newman, today agreed saying: “South Auckland has been sold down the river by the Government while the lycra clad self entitled cyclists from North Shore and St Mary’s Bay are rewarded with a $685M cycling bridge.”

In the article, he said climate change is being used as an excuse.

Franklin councillor and deputy mayor Bill Cashmore said he understood costs had ballooned for Mill Rd but said residents are unhappy at the loss of one of the city’s top transport plans.

He said about 5000 truck trips a day haul aggregate and produce north, saying eastern Manurewa residents will have to continue watching trucks trundle their way to the SH1 on-ramp.

It also meant rising carbon emissions and more stress and uncertainty for those with property adjacent to Mill Rd.

Thousands of new homes are being built at Drury in the vicinity of Mill Rd. Photo / Greg Bowker
Thousands of new homes are being built at Drury in the vicinity of Mill Rd. Photo / Greg Bowker

“They can’t sell, buy or borrow against an unknown value. It’s a tragedy,” said Cashmore.

With about 22,000 houses due to be built in the vicinity of Mill Rd around Drury over the next 30 years, a council report going to the finance committee on Thursday says the new 10-year budget cannot afford all the infrastructure in the area.

To meet the shortfall, the council is looking to a new tool set up by the Government to help fund infrastructure for housing and urban development.

Manurewa Local Board chairman Joseph Allan said the south will not be able to reach its potential and economic opportunities without an alternative corridor to the Southern Motorway.

Neighbouring Papakura Local Board chairman Brent Catchpole said Government plans for more trains, walkways and cycleways in the south are welcome but there are a lot of areas with poor public transport.

“It’s not the city where a bus goes by every 10 or 15 minutes,” he said.

This view was echoed by Franklin Local Board chairman Andy Baker who said more remote communities rely on vehicles.

“The new stations on the electrified rail network will be great but most people will need fit-for-purpose roads to drive to big park and rides,” he said.

Manurewa Local Board chairman Joseph Allan.
Manurewa Local Board chairman Joseph Allan.

Auckland Mayor and former Labour leader Phil Goff supports the Government’s changes in South Auckland. He did not contribute to the Our Auckland story.

He said given significant increases in land prices and construction costs which resulted in a large price increase for Mill Rd the Government faced the reality of having to pare back some projects, coupled with the need to reduce carbon emissions.

Goff said there will still be some spending on Mill Rd to improve safety and enhance capacity, and welcomed extra money on a third rail station in the Drury area.

A council spokeswoman said the council publishes stories and opinion pieces from time to time on OurAuckland that outline the council or elected members views on government projects and announcements.

“On some occasions our politicians welcome government funding, plans or initiatives and on other occasions they take a different view.”