The Eye of the Fish

December 15, 2009

Trannie Gully

Wonders will never cease. According to the newspaper front headline today, Transmission Gully will go ahead, and will be announced today, along with the so-called “Improvements” around the Basin Reserve.

“Transmission Gully is expected to get the green light from the Government today as part of a $2 billion upgrade of State Highway 1 from Levin to Wellington Airport. An announcement will be made at midday by Transport Minister Steven Joyce, who is likely to approve the Gully project as well as a Kapiti expressway, improvements around the Basin Reserve and new Wellington tunnels. The entire Transmission Gully project will have a price tag of about $2 billion. The latest cost for the new highway was pegged at $1.025b.”

Now at least one of us here at Eye of the Fish has been publicly dissing the likelihood of that Transmission Gully ever happening, since, ooh, way back. And although it looks like I am onto a hiding to nothing, I’ll stick my head out again and say again: not gonna happen. It’s just not. It’s a ludicrous waste of money, justified apparently by the reputed 89% of respondents of a survey that supported it. And at some stage, someone will cancel it again. Probably that Bill English bloke, seeing as he has even cancelled money for night classes, says we cannot afford tax cuts, and is set to sell off anything that moves in 2 years time. Yet we see this statement in the paper:

“With all the funding coming from central government, it also ends speculation that the highway could be funded through tolls, a road tax or a private-public partnership. The decision to build Transmission Gully instead of upgrading the coastal highway follows months of investigation by transport officials on the merits of both plans…. … The Gully is not a panacea to the region’s roading woes. It would shave only 10 minutes off a peak-time trip from Kapiti Coast to Wellington, and would add to congestion in the capital. Transport Ministry documents show it could take longer to reopen after an earthquake than the coastal route, and ministry officials told Mr Joyce this year that the economic benefits were low.”

So tell me again why anyone wants to build it?

Seamonkey Madness
15 - 12 - 09

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong…..

Have they magically conjured up the shortfall in money to turn the first sod? I would be very interested to know which Peter they have robbed to pay this Paul.

Funding questions aside, the whole premise of Transmission Gully is abortive.
Lengths of road as steep as Ngauranga, but 3 times as long? Critical infrastructure built?

I’m sorry, but I would dearly love to read those 89% of submissions from respondents who think that this epic fail of a road should go ahead.

Joycey, so much hard work undone in just one media release…

Seamonkey Madness
15 - 12 - 09

Critical infgrastructure built…over faultlines?

15 - 12 - 09

Well, Joyce is “Minister for Transport Lobby”, so this should come as no real suprise.
As for the sense of it, well this is politics so facts are a general inconvenience to the process.

The article suggests that they will build “new wellington tunnels”… Mt Vic and Terrace duplications? That’ll get the greenies warmed up.

15 - 12 - 09

i think the 89% of those submissions were probably tick box questionaires from respondents in Kapiti…. There is also comment on this over on the Arch Centre blog:
where they point out the shame of announcing this new proposed road while JK is at a Climate Change Conference….

15 - 12 - 09

Monkey man, you’re right – I hadn’t spotted that. Tunnels, with an S, implying more than one. I don’t really mind tunnels as they are big, exciting projects, and are out of the way of my walking, cycling or swimming around.

But: tunnels. It could be as simple as Terrace Tunnel duplication and Mt Victoria tunnel duplication. But let’s think for a minute, before they come and dash all our hopes away, what else it could be.

Tunnel under the Basin Reserve?
New tunnel for Light Rail?
Jervois Quay in a tunnel?
Karo Drive put back into a tunnel?
Second Bus Tunnel?
Another tunnel for Karori to let the people out more than one route?
a tunnel to Eastbourne, as one wag / idiot suggested here once….

‘Ullo John, got a new motorway?
15 - 12 - 09

“It could be as simple as Terrace Tunnel duplication and Mt Victoria ”

That’s exactly what it is. I’ve seen the full Project Summary Statement, which should be out of embargo by now.

One should also note the following, in section 2.3 of that document:

“the objectives of the Wellington Northern Corridor RoNS are:
• To enhance inter regional and national economic growth and productivity
• To improve access to Wellington’s CBD, key industrial and employment centres, port, airport and hospital;
• To provide relief from severe congestion on the state highway and local road networks;
• To improve the journey time reliability of travel on the section of SH1 between Levin and the Wellington airport; and
• To improve the safety of travel on State highways”

Anything about “to reduce emissions, to improve community health, or to prepare for future oil shocks”? Nada. Zilch. Sweet fuck all. Ah, but of course, emissions reductions are for poor countries:

15 - 12 - 09

Going to have to start an I hate Steven Joyce facebook group. T-shirts anyone?

How can NZ make such poor investment decisions, especially in the face of what is now common and well supported knowledge. It worries me just how much our lack of preparation will cost us, both our economy as the transition begins to bite, and our debt burdon as we have to spend lots of money to fix the poor planning. (Debt that my generation and those following me will unfortunately have to stump up for somehow.)

I’m working in Trinidad & Tobago right now, it’s been really interesting to see how a corrupt banana republic runs. But its sad when I see parallels to my home country.

15 - 12 - 09


I have wanted to see Transmission Gully built for years! Finally it looks like it will be going ahead.

I think their proposed upgrades (in the PDF on the NZTA site) will do wonders for the region and will make trips in and out of Wellington an utter pleasure.

Good on them!

‘Ullo John got a new motorway?
15 - 12 - 09

“will make trips in and out of Wellington an utter pleasure.”

And being IN Wellington much less of one, due to all the extra traffic this will generate. And in the meantime they’re going to reduce funding for public transport and make it more expensive:

Enjoy your trip out of Wellington, Mechaniker. Don’t hurry back.

15 - 12 - 09

makes me glad i don’t own a car… but wait, they’re taking away our malls too.

i imagine in this case (probably similarly to the inner city bypass), most of the positive submissions come from commuters who live in paraparaumu, waikanae and further north. there are some thousands of them, and after commuting from there for 3 years when i was younger i can appreciate they do have a valid gripe when talking about the roads between wellington and the coast. monday morning and friday evening traffic can stretch a 35 minute commute into a 2 and a half hour nightmare.

then there’s the long term coast residents who remember when this road was first discussed back in the 60s or so, and they’re simply happy that something is getting done, even if it’s the wrong choice… road improvements happen slowly in wellington.

to a degree the anti bypass crew (including me) have been proven wrong with the bypass – it has improved cross town drive times, and hasn’t killed upper cuba street. indeed – the bypass has made it a lot easier to walk across town too which i didn’t for see. so i’m prepared to hold my tongue on this.. i’ll look on disapprovingly, but wont actively try to stop it.

15 - 12 - 09

How exactly does improving roads generate more traffic?

Seamonkey Madness
15 - 12 - 09

Mechaniker – they’re not improving roads, they’re building a whole frigging new highway!

Will it be an utter pleasure going up and down a section of road that is the same grade as Ngauranga, but three times as long? And then you get to hit the next bottleneck?

Oh, and now apparently we will be partially funding it with tolls. Goodness gracious me, they can’t even make up their mind about that…

15 - 12 - 09

Awesome, the PR says they’re going to spent at least the next three years thinking about it some more (“planning and designating”).

So they’ve already spent north of $100 million on study after study, yet they’re still not ready to go?

‘Ullo John got a new motorway?
15 - 12 - 09

Mechaniker: you can’t be serious?! You’ve never heard to induced traffic?

Put simply, people who currently say “Bugger this traffic, I’ll take the train” will instead say “Ooh, a shiny new road! Now I can drive from my garage all the way to my office and never have to interact with a human being again.” Homeseekers who now say “Well, it costs a bit more to live close to town , but I can’t stand the commute” will say “Now it’s a breeze to drive 70km a day!”. Developers who now say “I’d love to do something with this useless old farm and ecologically important wetland, but I can’t sell sections because the access is terrible” will say “McMansions! McMansions! Get yer lovely McMansions here!”

…and then 10 years down the track you’ll be back where you started, but with more land ripped apart for motorways, subdivisions and car parks; more disconnected, unwalkable sprawl; more pollution and emissions; more traffic in the CBD; and an even more run-down and underinvested public transport system.

Yay indeed! Good on them!

15 - 12 - 09

Transit’s Q&A sheet says:
At this stage it is estimated that the construction of the improvements will fall into three distinct phases. Note, this order may be subject to changes depending on how the projects progress:

Phase 1: Construct Aotea Quay to Ngauranga and Basin Reserve within Wellington and progress the Peka Peka to Otaki section, followed by the Mackays to Peka Peka section.

Phase 2 Linden to Mackays crossing (Transmission Gully).

Phase 3 Construct the remaining projects as follows:
? Mount Victoria Tunnel duplication and Ruahine St widening;
? Otaki to Levin; and
? Terrace Tunnel duplication

>>To be perfectly honest, I see a few problems with that. Stage 1, fix the Basin. Stage 3, duplicate the Mt Vic tunnel. Stage 2 therefore equals almighty fuck-up on traffic for years till the new overpass can intersect with the new tunnel.

That’s just silly.

15 - 12 - 09

mechaniker, unfortuantely for you, exactly the opposite is true. The more roads you build, the more traffic you get, and the worse traffic congestition gets. Sad, but entirely true, and proved by myriads of studies all over the world. Look at Auckland for a start – they’ve been building motorways for 20 years or more, but the congestion is worse than ever.

Remember that Transmission Gully is NOT an ENTIRELY new road into Wellington – it is just a branch off an existing one, which will stilll be used – and so therefore if you do get more cars on the new bit, where the two streams merge together you’ll just get more congestion than ever before…..

15 - 12 - 09

Disproving my own point, I notice that the Q&A sheet says:
Q:Does the Mt Victoria Tunnel need to be duplicated in tandem with the Basin
Reserve Improvements?
A: The Basin Reserve improvements do not need the Mt Victoria Tunnel duplication to
be effective as they are stand-alone improvements to separate the conflict of
east/west vs north/south traffic flows.

Basin Reserve
Will the community and stakeholders be consulted?
Yes – two phases of public consultation have been planned. The first will start in February 2010 when the project team will have a number of options ready for public consultation. The second is hoed to be in the latter part of 2010 after a preferred option has been selected. There will be several public open days during each stage.

15 - 12 - 09

sorry to be ignorant but … how much light rail can we get for $2 billion?

15 - 12 - 09

At last count, by LTSA own figures, a Light Rail system for Wellington was costed at $145million.

So you should be able to get 13.8 Light Rail Systems for the $2billion figure.

15 - 12 - 09

Well, just the one will be fine for now thanks. Not sure where I’d stick the other 12.8 Light Rails.

15 - 12 - 09

Yes let’s have one of those

15 - 12 - 09

I dream of a day when people suddenly realise that Wellington has this crazy landscape with steep hills, and that it’s much easier to commute by public transport than to muck around, stuck in traffic on SH1.

15 - 12 - 09


What a waste. If only there were some way that legal action could be taken – an injunction or court order maybe to give a chance for cool heads and objective analysis to prevail!!!

16 - 12 - 09

Everyone I know in my circle of friends and co-workers think this whole project is fantastic…

I believe there is only a small minority that disagree with this project.

Am I the only person who reads this blog who thinks improving New Zealand’s roads is a good thing?

16 - 12 - 09

Quite possibly, yes

16 - 12 - 09

We went in to all this in previous discussions – but I’m happy to set out my concerns again. My prime concern is that it a massive expenditure of money, which we don’t have, which needs to be borrowed, and all for something that really isn’t going to help much, and for a means of transport that has a limited length of usable time ahead of it. Personally I would far rather have investment into some form of decent public transport that will last long into the forseeable future – yes, a good train service would be far more preferable than wasting money on more roads.

Investing money in roads means that large earthmoving companies and infrastructure companies do quite well for a short while – Fletcher Construction for instance will make a profit for a few more years – but then after that the road is just a drain on resources. Roads do fill up with traffic – the junction points where it rejoins other areas will clog, as does the bottom of Ngauranga and Hutt Road at every single peak time at present – this will not change a single thing about that.

And as ‘Ullo John says, “…and then 10 years down the track you’ll be back where you started, but with more land ripped apart for motorways, subdivisions and car parks; more disconnected, unwalkable sprawl; more pollution and emissions; more traffic in the CBD; and an even more run-down and underinvested public transport system.”

The whole thing is a pointless waste of time and money to everyone who lives and works in the inner city – it will have not the slightest advantage to my everyday life, except on those 4 days a year when I want to drive north out of Wellington, and get into a traffic jam. However, it will still cost me in the pocket, as this rabidly right wing government sells off yet another part of New Zealand to pay for the borrowing to fund it.

16 - 12 - 09

Anyone who thinks this project is about traffic is a fool. Motorways are and always have been a land development tool and historically it had been the developers who were promoting their new subdivision who paid for the infrastructure to get people to and from their profit making venture. Then at some point we got suckered into subsidising loss while privatising gain, and all have to pay for massive projects that substantially profit the few and minimally affect some. Amazingly people who work hard will excitedly pay 5 dollars to drive and the new pretty motorway that helped a developer make another 100 million dollars.

These types of projects should not only be toll roads, but should be completely privately financed by the landowners who stand to profit from the subsequent development, because that’s what it’s for. Believing that it to somehow aid traffic is foolish thinking. We have a good 30 years of traffic studies that prove that building new highways creates more congestion and does nothing in the long term to reduce travel times.

There are a few areas along the coast that could do with some work to reduce congestion, which does not require a new motorway. As for “traffic” in wellington city… what traffic? When I first arrived here I heard people complaining about the traffic and all I could see is normal conditions for a large town. The “traffic” in wellington can’t even be considered consistent with city traffic. The only conclusion i could reach is that for the average kiwi driver having to wait at a traffic light or see another car in front of them is a horrible affront to their road entitlement. If this is you, perhaps you should not come into the “city” anymore and find a nice deserted rural road to call your home.

I know understand why New Zealanders are afraid of bold decision making, because when it occasionally happens it is senseless and catastrophic.

16 - 12 - 09

Mechaniker – “Am I the only person who reads this blog who thinks improving New Zealand’s roads is a good thing?”

I’m with you.
I think it’s great.
I have been spending a bit of time in Asia recently and over there if they need something they build it. They don’t all sit around with heads up thir arses saying “ooh it’s too expensive…”, “oooh, I’ll have to drive uphill for a couple of k’s…”, “oooh, I’ll never use it, so I don’t want it….”, “oooh it’ll make more traffic….”

In order for New Zealand to get out of the Third World we need to spend money on infrastructure.
Having to crawl in or out of Wellington on a single carriageway is a national shame.

16 - 12 - 09

Mobsta – they also don’t worry about pesky little things like the environment, when they make those decisions. Which is why parts of Asia are the most polluted on earth….

When they decided to build the new airport in HongKong, they started almost as soon as it was formally annopunced, and just bulldozed a mountain into lumps and pushed it into the bay, until they had a flat area to build on. Admirable gung ho spirit and that sort of stuff. They also infilled between Kowloon and StoneCutters Island – a mere half kilometre or so – and again, who gives a shit about the environment. They were also seriously thinking about infilling that annoying bit of water between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island …

16 - 12 - 09

No, the national travesty is that new zealand is ready to commit the same foolish errors as the US, except 30 years later and with full knowledge of the disastrous results.

16 - 12 - 09

Three Gorges Dam, anybody? Here in NZ we don’t forcibly displace 1.5 million-plus peasants without compensation to build major projects.

16 - 12 - 09

I was saddened by this small minded comment by Kapiti Mayor Jenny Rowan:

““I rest in the knowledge that a majority of Councillors, and Council staff have done their very best to stand by the intentions of the Community Plan and vision and listen to the concerns of iwi, environmental, business and community groups who wanted a bridge over the Waikanae River, a local road built through the centre of the District and a low impact sustainable urban eco development – not a four-lane highway ”

I and everyone else I have talked to wants a four lane highway. If I want to go north I do not wish to go through all these little towns. I want four lanes and 100Kms.

16 - 12 - 09

@Mechaniker Only 100Kms? You big girl ;) Throw in autobahn speed limits and you’ve got my vote!

@jayseatee; you’ve lost your mind. maybe the US screwed their roads up but take a look at other “well” established countries with decent roads (just remove US from this discussion please). Take germany and other parts of europe for instance. The roads rule, they are like well oiled machines in their own right. If we follow these examples we should be right for the future!!

What is more of a problem are the stupid wind turbines going up everywhere. They hurt my eyes!!! And the land they are built on is ruined!!! We urgently need to find a way to destabilize the land to prevent in prime sites. Stand up and say NO to more 1970’s technology crap going up on our hillsides. The sooner this backward little country wakes up the better. If our governments really gave a rats ass every home in the country would have solar panels and there wouldn’t be any arguing!!

So there. Here here for Nuke power and Solar!!

16 - 12 - 09

there’s 1.5 million people living in Transmission Gully that are going to get displaced with no compensation.

my apologies.
I had no idea….

16 - 12 - 09

that’s funny… you want to remove the US from the discussion, but NZ is following the exact model. The reason that roads work in europe is because there are other options. The whole world has recognised the importance of multi-modal transportation, even the US. 8 billion dollars this year alone for high speed rail. The problem is the past 30 has been spent on dismantling passenger rail and building cities around cars, which is exactly what NZ is doing.

I love to drive, I love cars, and I used to love driving fast (have since come to my senses for various reasons), but the one thing that the selfish drivers don’t seem to get is that providing transport options for those who would rather not drive, means they aren’t on the road. But their single minded attitude only serves to undermine what the desire – which is an open road with little traffic.

16 - 12 - 09

So anyways, would anyone like to take bets on whether either of the two tunnels will actually be built?
They have been placed towards the end of the plan. This is immediately suspicious to me. Coupled with the fact that they say this whole plan will be done ‘within ten years’, (which is a nice round arbitrary number, and three more election cycles away), I’m betting it’ll never happen.

16 - 12 - 09

I’m all in favour of the announced plan.

A lot of the opposition seems to be people not seeing this as part of a national plan, and wanting to replace it with disjointed local improvements. Like the discussion of light rail above, where the fous is on moving people around Wellington city. Or Kapiti DC, who want to use the route to build a local road so that local people can drive to their local shop. (“There’s nothing for you here!”)

Cities don’t stand alone. NZ needs to join up cities in to a coherent national economy. It is hard to do this when moving people and goods around the country involves stopping for traffic lights at Aotea Lagoon. And then a long queue for a roundabout. And then driving along a suburban street in Plimmerton. And then queuing for 30 minutes to merge at Pukerua Bay. And then crawling along a single track 1940-vintage road behind a pensioner or a caravan. And then queuing for 30 minutes so that you can interact with people shopping in Waikanae. Etc etc etc. This is part of an Auckland to Wellington plan that will benefit both cities, and also make Palmerston North, Wanganui, and every other provincial center more viable and sustainable.

Rail was a useful technology in the 1800s and is still well suited for point-to-point transport of bulk goods like trees or coal. But it isn’t viable in a NZ context for most personal transport outside of urban commuting. Or for supporting a modern just in time economy. It isn’t and can’t be an alternative to modern national road transport.

I think the benefits of modern infrastructure are clear. Our dodgy roads, electricity supply, and other infrastructure probably cost us 20% of our potential GDP. That’s about $30bn a year that we should be earning, but can’t. That would easily pay for a few roading projects, as well as the other modern services that countries with lots of motorways (Europe, North America, Australia, and every other developed country) have access to.

16 - 12 - 09

I’m a supporter. For the reasons well articulated by DavidP.

16 - 12 - 09

davidP – 20% huh? Can you substantiate that?

I believe it is vital to realise that we cannot, nor should not hope to, emulate fully developed countries with large population bases. We have a large country with a tiny population – our roads are “dodgy” because we cannot afford to have the more expensive, non-dodgy ones.

Much as anyone / everyone dislikes waiting in Aotea, Plimmerton, Pukerua etc, the fact is that even with 2 lanes you will still get jams at peak times, and it will still cost more than we can afford. If the people of Plimmerton are happy to pay $5 each way, each day, each time they come to town (on both coast and inland roads, or else it won’t work), then they can do that. Unfortunately the rest of the cost comes back onto the rest of us who have no interest in Coastlands….

16 - 12 - 09

JCB>Can you substantiate that?

It feels about right. We lag most other developed countries by more than that. If it turns out to be 10% or 30%, then the benefits still far outweigh the costs.

You’re still looking at this route as a way to take people to Coastlands. It isn’t, it is to take them to and from the entire North island. And to help connect the North and South Islands, since a large proportion of Wellington ports freight is coming or going from the other side of Cook Strait. You might not travel north of Porirua often, but just about every product and foodstuff you consume comes from outside Wellington city, and roads are how most of it gets to you.

If having a tatty single lane road with driveways leading on to it is such a great idea for the primary road in and out of a capital city, then why aren’t other developed countries rushing to emulate us? Why aren’t the Dutch saying that their motorways were a tragic mistake, and the one joining Amsterdam and Rotterdam should be dug up and replaced with a single lane road leading through the center of Aalsmeer? I’ve seen better motorway-grade roads in the Canaries than in the lower North Island, for goodness sake.

16 - 12 - 09

davidp, couple of quick points.

1. These wonderful European countries have much larger economies than us, much greater density. The Netherlands is a tiny spec on NZ. They can afford to finance such infrastructure. We have to be more frugal with our spending.

2. You’ll also notice the incredible public transport in the Netherlands. A fair comparison would be to take a country with these great roads like the Netherlands or Germany, and compare dollar for dollar their private and public transport spending, then argue that we should spend the same proportion here. I imagine if we made such a comparison, then to justify TGM we’d also have to spend something more like $2 billion on public transport in Wellington region at the same time (maybe more even if you look it up please let us know).

3. It is fine to say that TGM may have a good business case and so therefore should be built as it will bring benefits to NZ (although it doesn’t actually have a good business case, but that aside). The thing of it is, if you have a fixed amount of money to invest, you need to maximise the return on that investment, so if you have the option to invest in company A, which alone has a good business case but only returns 10% on your investment, or to invest in company B, which returns 20% on your investment, where should you put your money? That’s how the Govt should be allocating public money don’t you think?

16 - 12 - 09

David P:
New Zealand and Old Zealand (ie the Netherlands) are not really that comparable.
At 268,000 km2 we are about 6.5 times the size of the Dutchies 41,500 km2, and yet our population is only a quarter of their 16.5 million people. Consequently we have a density of about 16 persons per km2, as opposed to the Dutch density of 396 persons / km2

Coupled with that, our GDP is only $30,000 US per person, while the Dutch have a GDP of about $52,500 each. Coupled with the fact that their density is 24 times greater than ours, and you have a situation where they can afford both good motorways, and one of the world’s best rail systems. 24 times more people per kilometre, and $22,500 more per person,

That means, overall, that the Dutch have, ooh, err, about a half a million more dollars to spend, per person, than us on roads and transport. Proportionally.

What the National government has effectively said therefore, is that we can’t spend up large on both roads and rail at the same time. The roads lobby is massive in NZ (and until recently, completely owned the rail to boot) and so they’ve been talking in Joyce’s ear to say: more roads will solve all your problems.

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any city in the world that has been improved by more roads.

16 - 12 - 09


The trouble is it is hard to find ANY developed country with roads as poor as NZ’s. So either we’re absolutely unique, or we’ve been missing the plot. Is Ireland a close enough analogy for you? It has about the same population, and its economy used to be similarly sized to that of NZ. Except that their economy has had enormous growth over the last 20 years and they’ve developed their infrastructure in order to enable this growth. They have dual carriageways all over the country, and are planning more…

I’d like to develop your point that NZ needs to prioritise its infrastructure spending… I don’t think NZ is able to support both modern roads and a national railway system. Commuter rail in Auckland and Wellington seems to work, but national rail passenger and goods transport is a giant suck hole for money that will never be sustainable. It always has and always will require ongoing subsidy and periodic bailout. Increased subsidy can only divert freight from the more efficient and environmentally friendly coastal shipping, and I have no idea why you’d want to pursue that as an objective.

The idea that you can divert more than a tiny percentage of travelers from cars, intercity buses, and aircraft to trains is a fantasy. So is the idea that retailers and distributors are going to wind back their modern just-in-time inventory management to the methods used in the 1950s. So if we prioritise, then the best thing we can do is scrap the non-commuter railway system. If we ripped up the tracks and sold the real estate, then we could invest in useful infrastructure. It’d also make it impossible for a future Cullen to blow more money on the next rail bailout. And the one after that. And the one after that, ad infinitum.

16 - 12 - 09

A point to note from Mechaniker’s / ‘Ullo John’s reference to Induced Traffic – the Wikipedia article has this to say:

“A classic example of induced demand was the construction of an orbital motorway around London, the M25, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the short term (almost from opening), the motorway became extremely busy and often congested (as planners underestimated the level of demand, because some was induced, and thus the road did not have high enough levels of capacity to accommodate it). In the long term (over a few years), new development occurred around the new motorway and people adjusted their home and work locations to depend upon it, further increasing demand.”

At last count, the M25 was up to something like 5 lanes wide in places, yet is still congested. The traffic has simply expanded to suit the increased road available.

And that’s one of the issues with a road like Trannie Gully. It will probably be done by a PPP, and tied up with tolls. It goes through an area that is completely devoid of traffic / human life at present, and so if there were no exits off it for the entire length, it would remain as speedy at one end as it was at the other. But my guess (refer back here in 20 years time to see if i was right) is that there will be additional growth around the road (new subdivisions will spring up in what is now rural land, big barn retailing / out of town depots will be parked conveniently close, and little side roads will gradually make their way onto the scene). The additional growth will, over time, cause congestion… etc, and on the story goes.

16 - 12 - 09

Max>Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any city in the world that has been improved by more roads.

Modern roads are essential to support a modern thriving economy. The only exception that I can think of is Venice, which uses water transport as an alternative and supports an economy that is mostly based on tourism. If you don’t have roads, then you’re likely to have an economy to match and you probably wouldn’t want to live there.

So I’ll contrast London and New York with Kinshasa. All have about the same population. London and New York are both connected to their countries by a large number of motorway quality roads. Both are good places to live and to visit. Kinshasa is connected to its country by bad roads and has an economy and standard of living that reflects this standard of infrastructure. It isn’t, by all accounts, the sort of place you’d want to live.

16 - 12 - 09

Hmm, Ireland a close comparison? No, again: not really at all. It is approximately twice the size of Netherlands, (84,000 km2 vs 41,500 km2) and has a population only 50% larger than NZ’s, but that still gives it a density of 71 persons / km2 – which is about 4.4 times denser than ours.

You may not want to hear this, but countries with a similar sort of density level to NZ (16.1 persons / km2) include the following:
Vanuatu (19)
Solomon Islands (18)
South Ossetia (17)
Zambia (17)
Finland (15)
Sudan (15)
Paraguay (15)
Angola (14)
Algeria (14)
Papua New Guinea (14)

Yes, that’s right – all pathetically backward countries with bad roads – except for Finland, I imagine.

Finland of course is the home of Nokia, and so while it is the most sparsly populated country in Europe, it is also one of the most prosperous, and ranks at No 1 on the world ranking of desirable places to live. It is slightly larger than us, at 338,000 km2.

Wikipedia notes that while there are lots of accidents due to moose strikes….
“The extensive road system is utilized by most internal cargo and passenger traffic. As of 2005, the country’s network of main roads has a total length of 13,258 km and all public roads 78,186 km, of which 50,616 km are paved. The motorway network totals 653 km. Road network expenditure of around 1 billion euro is paid with vehicle and fuel taxes that amount to around 1.5 billion euro and 1 billion euro.”


“The Finnish railway network consists of a total of 5,794 km of railways built with 1524 mm gauge. Passenger trains are operated by the state-owned VR Group. They serve all the major cities and many rural areas, though railway connections are available to fewer places than bus connections. Most passenger train services originate or terminate at Helsinki Central railway station, and a large proportion of the passenger rail network radiates out of Helsinki. High-speed Pendolino services are operated from Helsinki to other major cities like Joensuu, Kuopio, Oulu, Tampere and Turku. Modern InterCity services complement the Pendolino network, and the cheaper and older long and short distance trains operate in areas with fewer passengers.

The Helsinki area has three urban rail systems: a tramway system, Helsinki Metro, and the VR commuter rail system. Light rail systems are currently being planned for Turku and Tampere, two of the country’s other major urban centres.”

Sorry for the ramble – anyway, I find that interesting. We’re a combination of Helsinki and Port Moresby. No wonder we’re fucked up.

16 - 12 - 09

your comparison of Kinshasa and New York / London may be the first in the world to do that.

Somehow, and I just might be wrong, the difference is not down to having better quality asphalt in one place than the other.

16 - 12 - 09

You’re not seriously comparing Kinshasa are you? If you are: a quick check of the Congo’s GDP reveals a measly $185 US dollars per person per year.

England has about $44,000 pp/year and the US is about $47,400 pp/year – some 250 times more prosperous than the Congo.

Of course, if we wanted to get all political, we could, and note that the reason the Congo is so poor and that Belgium has such a good road and rail network is that King Leopold and his chums systematically raped the entire country of mineral wealth…. …but that is getting a bit too far astray from the subject of Transmission Gully. Perhaps.

16 - 12 - 09

The point is that London and New York are great cities because they have a first world economy. A first world economy REQUIRES modern roads. If these cities didn’t have modern roads, then they might not be quite Kinshasa-like. But they wouldn’t be the centers of world finance, culture, industry, commerce, art, and tourism that they are. They certainly wouldn’t be erecting the sorts of cool buildings that Fish-readers like, because their development would have stalled and no one would have the money or the reason to build anything new.

You haven’t seen any city improved by building more roads. I’ve seen hundreds. Including these two.

Arguing that the Congo doesn’t have decent infrastructure, including roads, and is consequentially a miserable low income shit hole of a place is just my point. Thanks for reiterating it. They have enormous mineral wealth and should have incomes the size of Australians.

Speaking of which… I’ve been in Melbourne this month. Australia has a population density that is a fraction of NZ’s. And the Victoria State Government is boasting about the motorways it is upgrading and constructing. They’re ambitious for the future. NZ is, unfortunately, resigned to live in the past a lot of the time.

16 - 12 - 09

We’ll have to disagree then.

Oooh, Australia: if you’re going to compare us to Oz, try to keep the comparisons to Tasmania, which is smaller, wetter, greener, hillier, and sheepier. And less roadsier.

Anyway (and not wanting to stop any discussion – I’m enjoying this!) I have a slight digression. There was a really interesting article in the paper the other week about using electro-magnetic loops in the roadway to provide propulsion, and there was a comment in it that Transmission Gully may have the loops inbedded (not an actual proposal i think, just on someone’s wish list). Does anyone have a date for the Dom article on that? Or even better – a web ref to the article? Stuff doesn’t seem to have it on line…

16 - 12 - 09

I should also add that London & New York were already immensely powerful cities long before the motor vehicle entered the mass market.

Regarding Australia, it’s also a lot costlier to build a road on jagged hills, and we’ve long ceased to have financial backing from the British Empire.

I’m neither for nor against the Gully motorway. The real issue is, what is the tipping point between car accessibility and car cocainism? Cities like Los Angeles and Auckland have already crossed that tipping point to their detriment.

16 - 12 - 09

PS. Also, it helped that London & New York were, and still are, major seaports as well.

16 - 12 - 09

Interesting that davidp brings up Melbourne…
A study was done a couple of years ago by an Australian group about the roading systems in Auckland, Wellington and Tauranga (being the fastest growing area of New Zealand which is fast outgrowing it’s roads).

Part of the conclusion of the report was a criticism of Transit’s method of approving and funding roads.
A road had to show an economic benefit of 2.6 (?), 3 (?) times it’s cost.
Therefore Transmission Gully would have to show an economic benefit to Wellington and NZ as a whole of some 3 billion dollars (worked out through some complex formula I can’t even comprehend….)

Anyway, it said that if this criteria would have been applied to the new motorways outside of both Sydney and Melbourne then those roads would never have gone ahead.
Both of these motorways are now considered the lifeblood of those cities.

All it takes is someone with vision to see past the (large) numbers and to not be afraid to make these type of decisions.
Steven Joyce is obviously that person. Kerry Prendergast is obviously not.

17 - 12 - 09

NZTA is promising that the new four-lane expressway will run from Levin all the way to the airport – which means it’ll be cutting through the centre of Wellington between the two new tunnels. The idea is so outrageous that they haven’t yet announced which parts of the city they’ll choose to demolish to make way for speeding cars. They haven’t included this section in their ten-year schedule. And they haven’t taken a stab at costing it, as they’ve done for all the other sections. Perhaps it’ll be an expressway with traffic lights and pedestrian crossings.

Sam B
17 - 12 - 09

I don’t really give a shit whether they build Transvestite Gully or not, but I am concerned that they are doing things arse about face. Surely if you were building a motorway you would do all the stuff in town first, then work your way out?

Not much point at all doing work outside the city if the inner city roads can’t take it….

17 - 12 - 09

Lindsay and Sam, there is already 2 lanes each way right through the city in the form of the inner city bypass and the Vivian St off ramp. With the small exception of the Two Tunnels themselves. The main bit of road still to be two-lanes is the strip on the other side of Mt Vic, ie Haitaitai and Wellington Road. Apart from about 20 odd properties who lose their front lawns, it’s a pretty simple job.

The last remaining prickle in the rose bush is the Basin Reserve of course. Ooh yes, a battles coming up over that one….

17 - 12 - 09

So it’s going to be an expressway with traffic lights and pedestrian crossings and a speed restriction. When is an expressway not an expressway?

60 MPa
17 - 12 - 09

Thought Paekaekariki values would go up.

I’m all for a decent roading system in a long skinny mountainous country. Rail and sea can look after freight.
Would you all prefer to spend 8hrs in a train o 1 in a plane to fly here to Auckland?

I agree that public transport including light rail would be great for Wellington and burbs but if you want to go to Waikanae Beach or Te Horo you drive.

Might I point out that even after peak oil and petrol prices have gone through the roof there will still be electric and other (eg hydrogen) powered vehicles around. I don’t think that cars per se are dead but they will change in form, if not in function.

Personally I think that rolling through Pukerua Bay and doing a clip-on to the existing seaside dtretch would have been a better bet cost wise and seismically – a few waves don’t matter.
Cutting a road through the bottom -or near it- of a valley has inherent problems and an Opus guy I know who worked on it said that there were more rock fractures than first thought but there you go.
Which way isn’t as important as getting it done – next I’d like to see Gray’s Rd at Paremata join SH1 properly and Lincolnshire Farms provide another cross-route from the valley to the Rua rather than Haywards.

Speaking of Haywards – ever notice how much broken glass there is at that intersection? Must be lots of crashes. Surely they’ll put an elevated roundabout like the new SH2 one up there soon and solve that damn hill approach by the substation.

Next holiday time you folks are sitting waiting for the jam into Otaki to clear for an hour, don’t just curse ribbon development – roads can be rather useful things too.

18 - 12 - 09

What makes me laugh is if the govt had said they were going to upgrade the coastal route rather than do Transmission Gully, then people would be up in arms about ruining the coast line.

You cannot please everyone.

18 - 12 - 09

In case you’re interested, over at the Arch Centre we have just published an article on the Basin Reserve and possibilities for it as proposed over the years.

18 - 12 - 09

There is a highly relevant comment here:
But is Wellington a “city primarily set up for the state sector “?

18 - 12 - 09

Yes, indeed, Liberty Scott doesn’t hold back:

sample text:
“So Steven Joyce has just made a political decision to piss your taxes down a hole to subsidise the building of the Transmission Gully motorway. He’s bought a series of arguments that are sheer bullshit. Why? Because I saw the evidence a few years ago when they were rejected then. Firstly, there is the nonsense that somehow Wellington needs a motorway with a huge viaduct to “connect” it to Kapiti and Horowhenua in the event of a major earthquake. Quite what Wellingtonians will gain from this is unclear when:
– There is only one bridge over the Waikanae River;
– There is only one bridge over the Otaki River;
– There is only one route along a faultline from the Hutt to Wellington city;
– Transmission Gully itself is on a faultline.
$1.5 billion is an expensive insurance policy.”

18 - 12 - 09

Green Part’s view on this:
The Government’s decision to spend $2.4 billion on the Wellington Northern Corridor road project will have devastating effects on the sustainability and liveability of the region, the Green Party said today.

“The National Government’s plan to bulldoze a new four-lane motorway from Levin to the Wellington airport is plain stupid,” Green Party Wellington Transport spokesperson Sue Kedgley said.

“It makes no sense economically. It makes no sense environmentally. It doesn’t even provide Wellington with a secure alternative route in the event of a major earthquake,” said Ms Kedgley.

The Government’s plan involves building a second Mount Victoria tunnel, a second Terrace tunnel, a fly-over around the Basin Reserve, a motorway through Hataitai, and another through the heart of Kapiti. This will bring about a meagre 10 minute saving for commuter drivers.

For every dollar invested in the Transmission Gully project, there are forecast benefits of only 36-50 cents. The historical cost benefit ratio for major road projects in New Zealand is 12 times greater than this at $6.10.

“The economics of the project simply don’t stack up. Add to this the fact that volumes of traffic on our State Highways have been falling for the last two years and you’re staring into the eyes of a $2.4 billion white elephant.”

One of the main justifications the Minister gives for building Transmission Gully is that it will enable a second route out of Wellington in the event of an earthquake. But the Minister admitted in Parliament that sections of the route will be built on an earthquake fault, and would take longer to clear in the event of an earthquake than the Coastal Highway.

“It’s madness to build a new motorway on an active earthquake fault, and the Minister knows it,” said Ms Kedgley.

“This project will sever Kapiti, destroy communities, and make Wellington a congested, unliveable city like Auckland. Our rail corridor should be moving these peak volumes of traffic and freight.”

“The Auckland solution of building more motorways to solve congestion was a failure. Why do we suddenly think it will work here sixty years later?”

Green’s alternative plan for Wellington’s transport problems:

18 - 12 - 09

From what I know, LS hails from the City of Snails, of course he’d be preaching to the choir in more ways than one.

20 - 12 - 09

I spent most of my life in Wellington.

Quite simply, I support efficient road building. Projects with a good benefit cost ratio should go ahead. From this package I can observe the only good projects are bypassing Paraparaumu and Waikanae, and four laning from Peka Peka to Otaki. Kapiti has been appalingly served by its councils and a safer state highway is positive, but…
1. There is no capacity problem between Pukerua Bay and Mackays Crossing worth addressing. Paekakariki has an intersection problem, but that should be addressed specifically.
2. Pukerua Bay ought to be bypassed on its own.
3. Mana/Paremata has no real congestion issues anymore with the recent upgrades. The case for a bypass is modest, but would be so expensive as to be a low priority.
4. Aotea Quay-Ngauranga Gorge hard shoulder running would be cheap and worth considering, but perhaps best as toll lanes. That’s too innovative for New Zealand today.
5. A second Terrace Tunnel and second Mt Victoria Tunnel are only worth proceeding with if the old Tunnellink Urban Motorway extension is built. Frankly I’d do all of that ONLY if congestion pricing is also introduced to finance it, to significantly pedestrianise the CBD and narrow Jervois Quay.
6. Basin Reserve flyover should be part of a proper bypass, until then it’s a small patch up job.

I hoped for far better from the Nats.

I know there are far better road projects in Wellington with the Petone-Grenada link road and in eliminating all traffic light based intersections on SH2 from Upper Hutt to Melling, but that’s what you get when a “road of national significance” is announced.

The solution of the Greens is naive and makes no better sense, the real solution is to have a peak time only cordon around Wellington’s CBD and to make progressive upgrades to SH1 as the cost/benefit analysis justifies. The congestion charge would substantially boost the viability of public transport.
Time to go back to BCR thresholds of 2.5/1 for roads, sadly the Nats (and Labour before them) threw away economic efficiency.

20 - 12 - 09

Liberty Scott, can’t fault your logic one bit. It is interesting how absolutely little anyone in Wellington cares about this – because, as I say, it affects most of us / them so little on a daily basis. People who live here are not the truck drivers whio have to drive down the coast every day, and who may feel more inclined to support the Gully.

Actually, even that’s not quite right – the route is so steep, and likely to be reasonably tortuous on truck gear boxes, so we’ll probably find that the truckers still use the coast, which will be much smoother flowing once the pesky car-drivers have left it.

But you are right when you talk about the cost benefit ratio – I can’t for the life of me see how the costs stack up into anything other than a giant Boondoggle for the mad little tyrant Peter Dunne of Ohariu. He’s been so quiet of late – Nats have got him well muzzled, which is just as well as, like all little terriers, he’s bound to bite an ankle or two. I suspect, that like you say, this scheme is the payoff for Dunne.

There are so many disadvantages in the scheme as well though, that people don’t seem to realise at this point. Jenny Brash, Mayor of Porirua, thinks its a great scheme, possibly because her constituents are going to be supplying labour and gravel for the project. 10 years of work in the vicinity can’t be too bad. But there will be massive crappy side effects for her richer constituents, along Pauatahanui Inlet, as the poorer cousins drive along what is currently a very narrow little road. How long before they start to complain to her?

And most of all, it makes me wonder who owns all the land now that the Gully route is planned to go on?

21 - 12 - 09

Maximus, I believe quite a few property buy-outs are being done as part of the project, although in most cases its only portions of property.

I also cannot fault scott. The lack of congestion charging in Wellington puzzles me. Especially given how easy it would be to implement. More on this later perhaps…

21 - 12 - 09

You’re not wrong there Philip – Wellington must be one of the easiest cities on the planet in which to install a congestion charge for out of towners, seeing as there are so few routes in. I’ve been thinking just the same myself over the last few days – because I still just can’t see a toll on T Gully only working. As I noted above, its quite possible that trucks will use the other route anyway. To make it work, they either need to physically close down the old route and force everyone onto the new route, or put a toll on both routes.

And as unpleasant as that may be to those Paekakarikians, Pauatahnuians, Plimmertonians and Paraparaumuans, the simplest means is to put a numberplate reading camera on every road out of town, and charge them a fee.

22 - 12 - 09

There are a couple of letters to the paper today that i find interesting, so am just going to post them up here (in case i ever want to refer back to them later. You know, meticulous filing system and all that…)
“Transmission Gully has the go-ahead – what a marvellous decision. It’s been so long coming that I can hardly believe it. And even some of the doubters have been won over, including Wellington’s mayor. Of course the Greens will rant and rave about bicycles, public transport and walking. None of those modes can cope and, of course, funding is already being spent on them. They will still fall way short of what’s needed to meet Wellington’s, and the region’s – let alone the country’s – requirements for the long-term future. I hope these improvements will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s great, too, to have some really good news for Wellington after Auckland has hogged so much of it recently. Let work start.”
Peter Graham, Paparangi.

Max says: where the hell is Paparangi? Is it up the coast? Or at least as far as Johnsonville?

22 - 12 - 09

and another one, with a contrary viewpoint:

“The one thing that your five pages of glowing coverage of the Transmission Gully decision failed to mention (Dec 16) was the project’s benefit-cost ratio of less than one. This means that, for every dollar spent on building the new road, only 36c-50c in benefits will result. Put another way, the road doesn’t make economic sense.

Does it make sense for other reasons, such as resiliency? Perhaps, if it weren’t being built along a fault line, didn’t involve a mode of travel vulnerable to oil-price rises, or add significantly to our greenhouse gas emissions.

Transmission Gully isn’t smart thinking. It’s a 60-year-old solution that will cost us more than it will benefit us, leave us $2 billion poorer, and no closer to having a better, more sustainable alternative.”


8 - 02 - 10

I can understand this Mr Ashe not being interested – Muritai is a fair bit away from the Gully. But its a bit different for those who live further north and who have need to come into the city (for whatever reason – Picton Ferry, for example).

Comment has been made (re. the Gully route) on readying the inner city roading first – a valid comment in my opinion. Anywhere and everywhere any road is improved to this level just shifts the traffic jams to a new or at least different place. For those who live in Horowhenua or Manawatu and travel to WGTN on a regular basis (or avoid doing so for similar reasons), the trip between Paramata and Otaki can be diabolical. Transmission Gully will only improve a small part of their trip.

I’m more interested in the light rail idea for Wellington city. A decent system will encourage more of those out-of-towners to use the existing trains.
I suspect what many people are thinking of is a modernised version or extension of last century’s rail system that pours thousands in and out of Wgtn every day.
But what if the muted light rail were more like a glorified fairground rail (think Ghost Train and/or Roller Coaster)? Let’s face it – we’re already a decade into another century. Why can’t we think futuristic and design a system of programmable cars which, on activation will join a set rail track and take passengers to preprogrammed destinations. It dosn’t have to be a ring system either (though that may be a starting point) – with modern technology I don’t see why this idea should be a problem. Then you build a massive car park near the central railway station and close off the CBD to ALL traffic unless they purchase a special pass. A ring road would allow bypass to skirt the city for those travelling to the airport or for those who live in the eastern suburbs (though the light rail could be extended out to the eastern suburbs if it were proving successful).

To some extent, at least, it should relieve the need for some of the other roading projects currently being discussed even if just scaled back a bit..