Second Auckland Harbour crossing: Construction expert warns it could become 'political football'

The proposed second Auckland harbour crossing is likely to unite Auckland, but a construction professor warns it could divide those in Wellington and become a "political football".

There are five possible options for a new crossing over Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour, connecting the North Shore to the city side, including both tunnel and bridge options.

Whichever plan gets the green light, the crossing will be one of the most significant infrastructure projects Aotearoa has ever seen. 

AUT Professor of construction management John Tookey is a "great believer" in investment in infrastructure, and told AM "I'll be happy if any of them get built".

On Thursday, Transport Minister Michael Wood revealed the five proposed options for an additional Auckland harbour crossing, with the final design to be confirmed in June. 

The timeline of construction was brought forward with work expected to begin in 2029, in that time, Aotearoa would have been through two elections and Professor Tookey says it will "inevitably" "become a political football"

"Because as and when the numbers come in, and if they commit for two crossings, a bridge and a tunnel, this is a huge investment and the numbers inevitably are going to escalate over a period of time as different factors emerge."

Tookey "couldn't even put a finger in the air" on how much the project is going to cost, but told AM it's "literally multiple billions".

And with the shovel expected to hit the ground on the project in 2029, Tookey says it's "totally achievable".

"There's a lot of preliminary work that's been done. That having been said, you know, even with six years, there is an awful lot of running off the ball that needs to be done in order to get everything lined up to make it happen," Tookey told AM.

"The key issue, the devil's in the detail. It's going to come down to the finance of the whole exercise."

The second harbour crossing has been welcomed by the National Party, but on Thursday the party's transport spokesperson Simeon Brown questioned Labour's "ability to deliver given their track record".

He pointed to the cancellation of the Auckland Cycle Bridge and delays to light rail, which the Government said this month will be rolled out in stages. 

Brown also said the announcement appeared to be a "desperate attempt to distract from their failures".

The ACT Party wants to know what's changed to prompt the Government to get on with the project now. 

"No one will deny another crossing over the Auckland Harbour would be a great thing," said leader David Seymour on Thursday. 

"But what have they done to make an early crossing possible other than wishing? When did they start working on this change? If it is possible, why didn't they do it earlier?"

Watch Tookey's full interview above.