Auckland cycle bridge missing from Government's $24 billion transport funding package

The Auckland harbour cycle bridge proposal is missing from the Government's $24 billion transport funding package, which could indicate it's in the scrap pile.  

The Government intends to spend a record $24.3 billion on transport through to 2024, nearly double what it did in the last three years, and with 30 percent going to Auckland.

Of the $7.3 billion for Auckland, $1.4 billion will go towards maintenance and operations, $2.8 billion for public transport, $1 billion for the NZ Upgrade Programme, $298 million for road safety, and $290 million for cycling and walking. 

Some familiar investments are highlighted, such as City Rail Link which is expected to be finished by 2024, and the light rail rapid transit corridor from the CBD to Mt Roskill and Māngere. But there is no sign of the $750 million cycle bridge. 

Due to its absence from the funding package, Newshub reached out to Transport Minister Michael Wood's office for clarification. A spokesperson said: "Further announcements on that will be made in the future."

The crossing, which would run parallel to the Harbour Bridge, was controversial since it was announced in June. The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll found 81.7 percent of voters opposed it, including 75.5 percent of Labour supporters

The cycle bridge was touted as a solution to complaints from cyclists about there being no way for them to cross the Waitematā Harbour. 

Wood said in June geotechnical investigations and testing found that adding a structure to the existing bridge was not possible, because the piers could not take the extra weight. 

The proposed Auckland cycle bridge.
The proposed Auckland cycle bridge. Photo credit: File

"A stand-alone structure is the safest option that will not only provide a walking and cycling option for commuters but creates an outstanding piece of tourism infrastructure," Wood said at the time. 

But with Waka Kotahi-NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) bleeding $40 million per week during lockdown, Wood was urged during a meeting of Parliament's Transport and Infrastructure Committee last month to ditch the idea

National's new transport spokesperson David Bennett said the cycle crossing could still be included in the NZ Upgrade Programme funding. 

"We need confirmation that it's been taken out of there. But it appears that it's just a matter of time before they announce they're not going to go ahead with it," he told Newshub. "At this stage we don't anticipate there's any chance that it will be approved."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Transport Minister Michael Wood.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Transport Minister Michael Wood. Photo credit: Getty Images

He said there's "definitely a need" for a second harbour crossing. 

"We want to investigate what the options are there and progress that rather than the approach the Government's taking of just prioritising walking and cycling and public transport over other forms of transport as we've seen in the Land Transport Plan announced today. 

"It's very ideological and based on their priorities around public transport, walking and cycling. It doesn't take into account the importance of state highway networks and growing our economy. 

"This is a vital infrastructure spend at an important time in New Zealand;s economic recovery from COVID and we need to use that money on activities that actually growing our economy and deliver a more prosperous future, and this Government has taken the approach of focusing on emissions rather than the economic growth that would come from a state highway network."

National's new transport spokesperson David Bennett.
National's new transport spokesperson David Bennett. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Greens, on the other hand, say not enough funding has gone into public transport, walking and cycling. 

"We are fast running out of time to address the climate emergency, and right now we must be focused on investing in low-carbon transport options," said transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter. 

"Too much money is still going on expensive urban fringe motorways that will incentivise more car travel, increasing congestion and carbon emissions."

It's understood the Government will turn its focus to an additional harbour crossing, but underground, and perhaps only for public transport. 

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson told reporters last month he "recognises criticism" about the cycle bridge idea, but wouldn't confirm plans to ditch the proposal. 

He confirmed there were plans "underway" on a second harbour crossing, with about $50 million of funding already put towards a business case. 

The construction of that crossing, which is expected to cost up to $10 billion, is not scheduled to begin until the 2030s. 

Robertson said the Government was doing the "planning and work and looking at the geotechnical issues around" a second harbour crossing, and that it is "something that if we can bring forward, we should". 

A 2011 business case prepared by the NZ Institute of Economic Research and PricewaterhouseCoopers, estimated it could cost $7.9 billion for an underground tunnel, compared to $6 billion for a new bridge. 

The need for an additional harbour crossing was highlighted late last year after a truck was blown into a steel support pole, forcing urgent repairs and closing several lanes for a prolonged period, sparking traffic chaos. 

The current Harbour Bridge was opened in 1959 and clip-on lanes were added a decade later. 

Waka Kotahi-NZTA's Auckland transport spending plan can be found here.