Penlink: Bringing it forward a 'no-brainer'

A prominent business leader says it's a "no-brainer" to let a Chinese company fund and build the much-needed Penlink.

The road, which would link the Whangaparāoa Peninsula with the Northern Motorway, isn't scheduled to be built until 2028. But with 27,000 new homes planned for the peninsula, locals want it sooner.

And thanks to China Construction, they might get it. The massive Chinese construction company has offered to bankroll the $400 million project.

"We're ready to go now," Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett told The AM Show on Monday. "I want to have an answer from Government as to why we can't. It's a genuine offer."

Mr Barnett has long backed the road, which he says has been in the planning for two decades. Transport Minister Phil Twyford confirmed in April Penlink would be built and paid for as a toll road, but in June Auckland Council pushed its construction back to 2028.

Michael Barnett.
Michael Barnett. Photo credit: The AM Show

"Twyford said to us, 'Love to bring it forward, but can't - haven't got the money. If you can find the money, you can do it,'" said Mr Barnett.

"We think it's a test. We've found the money, so what we're looking now is whether NZTA are going to be prepared to bring it forward earlier than 10 years."

China Construction wouldn't own the road forever.

"They'd look to provide the funds - they'd do it as a BOOT - build, own, operate, transfer. At the end of a given period they'd hand it back to NZTA," said Mr Barnett, adding that he's found a New Zealand company willing to partner with China Construction and do the actual construction work.

"It's a funding proposition - [China Construction will] take a cut. But we've already talked to the people on the peninsula and asked them what they'd be prepared to pay, and they've suggested… between $2.50 and $3 a trip."

An AM Show poll found 60 percent of viewers have concerns about a Chinese company owning and profiting from the road for at least 25 years before handing it back to New Zealand. Mr Barnett said there's nothing to worry about.

"China Construction [is] very competent when it comes to road building and rail. They're not new in it, they're international builders. We don't believe they'd have any trouble… Does it really matter where the money comes from? The New Zealand Government can still regulate, so can Auckland Council. We set the rules."

Mr Barnett says New Zealand's population grew massively under the last Government thanks to record immigration, but infrastructure wasn't built to match.

"We're bringing forward some of the catch-up that we so desperately need."

Newshub has contacted Mr Twyford for a response.