Two new tunnels, highway under the city: National Party reveals Wellington transport vision

The National Party's transport vision for Wellington includes a second Mt Victoria Tunnel, a second Terrace Tunnel and an underground highway through the CBD to ease traffic congestion. 

If National triumphs at the September election, it says it will carry on with all of the current projects committed by the current Government, including the Let's Get Wellington Moving package and the NZ Upgrade Programme.

But National would allocate an additional $3.9 billion to the Wellington region from its proposed $31 billion for transport nationwide. That would bring transport spending in the Wellington region over the next 20 years to at least $12 billion. 

"Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you'll agree that the package we've announced today is a sizeable investment into the future of this region," National leader Judith Collins said in a speech in Petone on Wednesday. 

"National is serious about redressing our infrastructure deficit. Today's package will unlock growth in this region, decrease congestion, improve safety, drive economic growth and jobs, and get this region moving."

Where would the $3.9 billion go?

  • $400 million for a second Terrace Tunnel
  • $1.1 billion to underground SH1 through Te Aro in the CBD
  • $900 million to construct a link road between Petone and Grenada
  • $160 million to construct a road linking the east of Hutt Valley to SH2
  • $50 million to upgrade the intersection at Kelson and Kennedy Good Bridge
  • $100 million to four-lane Silverstream to Whakatiki St, build new Moonshine Bridge
  • $300 million to upgrade the Wellington commuter rail network

Amended Let's Get Wellington Moving

The Let's Get Wellington Moving project (LGWM) was started in 2016 by the previous National-led Government alongside local government in Wellington. 

It wasn't released to the public until May 2019 under the current Government - a $6.4 billion package spanning two decades - but what was announced differed from the Recommended Programme of Investment devised by the working group after surveying and consultation. 

A second Terrace Tunnel was missing from the package, as well as undergrounding SH1 in the CBD. Both were recommended by the LGWM working group. 

A second Mt Victoria Tunnel was included in the package as recommended, but it was set for completion between 2030 and 2034. The original LGWM proposal planned for a second tunnel to be built between 2024 and 2029.

It was later revealed that the second tunnel had essentially been pushed back at the behest of Associate Transport Minister and Green MP Julie Anne Genter by way of a still-unreleased letter to Transport Minister Phil Twyford. 

The letter has never been released, but both Twyford and Genter were told to explain the contents of it to the public by order of the Ombudsman, and they all but admitted it was her pressure that led to the tunnel being pushed back. 

The National Party wants to go ahead with the second Mt Victoria Tunnel, as well as the second Terrace Tunnel and the underground highway bypassing the CBD. 

The Terrace Tunnel in Wellington.
The Terrace Tunnel in Wellington. Photo credit: Supplied

What could Wellingtonians expect?

National is promising to start work on a second Mt Victoria Tunnel "as soon as possible" if it's elected, aiming for work to begin in 2023 or 2024. 

Genter has raised concerns about sufficient funding available for public transport if construction of the tunnel goes ahead. She wanted work on rapid transit prioritised ahead of the second tunnel. 

Rapid transit to the airport in Wellington has been allocated $2.2 billion in the LGWM package - work which is supposed to start from 2024 onwards. The National Party's preference is bus rapid transit over light rail. 

As for the second Terrace Tunnel, National has believes it would cost around $400 million - but don't get too excited, because work wouldn't begin until 2029. 

National would fully fund the project, rather than cost-share with local government. 

The $1.1 billion underground highway under the city also wouldn't begin until 2029, but National thinks it's important because currently SH1 runs right through the centre of Wellington causing congestion.