NZ Govt to spend $150m on abandoned Auckland bike bridge, alternative crossing options

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RICKY WILSON/STUFF

Cycling protesters push past police barrier to ride on harbour bridge. (First published May 2021)

The Government has set aside $150 million for an Auckland harbour crossing for cyclists and to also cover sunk costs arising from last year’s abandoned cycling and walking bridge project.

In October, the Government scrapped a proposed $785m cycling and walking bridge in Auckland, just three months after unveiling it.

As of late September, Waka Kotahi had spent $51m on designs, consultants and engineering plan fees.

Now, the Government has agreed to direct $150m of the project’s original $785m budget to cover sunk costs and conduct further work to get a ferry or bus shuttle service up and running.

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Cabinet papers released on Christmas Eve show the Government re-considered the proposed Northern Pathway investment and agreed that the money set aside for the project should go towards a mix of alternative transport projects that better supported emission reduction targets, including a much cheaper Waitematā bike crossing.

It acknowledged that a walking and cycling link across the Waitematā was critical to “multiplying the benefits” of the walking and cycling investment in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland to date.

Alternative options for cyclists to cross the Waitematā Harbour that could be implemented in the short term were a dedicated ferry service or bike bus, the paper said.

Waka Kotahi NZTA/Supplied

Northern Pathway was unveiled in June 2021 and scrapped in October.

Waka Kotahi has previously investigated a dedicated ferry service operating 6am to 12am daily on a 15-minute frequency from Northcote to Wynyard or a dedicated bus operating from 6am to 12am daily on a 10-minute frequency from Stafford to Westhaven.

A ministerial briefing note from May last year said the ferry option would cost $58m to deliver and cost $6m a year to operate.

ACT’s transport spokesman Simon Court said the crossing project would now cost three times more than the Government initially indicated in September.

He criticised the Government for releasing the information on Christmas Eve.

In June, ACT said the benefit cost ratio (BCR) of the cycle bridge was estimated at 0.4 to 0.6. If a project’s BCR is less than 1, the project’s costs outweigh the benefits and it should not be considered, he said.

“Thankfully the Government came to that conclusion, but it was already so far down the track with designs, consultants, engineers and contracts that taxpayers are now footing a huge bill for the one of the dumbest ideas Labour has ever had.”

New Zealanders worked hard to pay taxes, and they expected wise decisions to be made, he said.

The Government should be careful with taxpayers’ money, he said. “New Zealanders deserve better than this sort of wasteful and irresponsible spending.”

Transport Minister Michael Wood’s office did not respond to a request for comment.