Labour leader Chris Hipkins says Government's million-dollar spend on consultants for Wellington long tunnel not justified

  • 12/06/2024

Labour leader Chris Hipkins says the Government's investigation into a long tunnel in Wellington is not justified and unlikely to come to fruition despite $1 million being spent on consultants so far. 

The Opposition Leader is parking it up there with the failed Auckland Harbour Cycling Bridge. 

During his weekly AM appearance, Hipkins called the Government's investigation into a Wellington long tunnel "absolutely absurd." 

"I think it's one of those kinds of flight of fancy, that is unlikely to ever happen, I park it up there probably with the cycle bridge across the Auckland Harbour," Hipkins said. 

"Frankly, you'll spend a lot of money on investigations and consultants only to conclude that it probably wasn't a great idea in the first place." 

Hipkins said the initiative has already been looked into before however it was rejected due to being too expensive.  

The long tunnel was considered as part of Let's Get Wellington Moving, a joint initiative between Wellington councils and the NZ Transport Agency.  

Let's Get Wellington Moving was scrapped by the Coalition not long after it formed a government. 

In April, the Government announced it was considering twin two-lane long tunnels, four kilometres in length, from north of the Terrace Tunnel to Wellington Road to fix the city's congestion problems. 

In response to a written Parliamentary question by Labour's transport spokesman Tangi Utikere revealed on Tuesday nearly $949,349 had been spent on consultants to investigate the tunnel as of May 24. The investigation costs are funded through the National Land Transport Fund. 

"I think it's just not justified," Hipkins said. "The reality is we do need to improve connections across Wellington city, there are undoubtedly a lot of cheaper ways to do that." 

It comes after the National Party promised to stop the "gravy train" of consultants. 

"Labour has created a gravy train for consultants through its obsession with working groups, wasteful spending and expensive public sector restructures that are a boon for partners at the big consultancy firms, but are not delivering better results for Kiwis," Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said before the election. 

The Government has slashed public service spending, with thousands of 'back office' jobs cut. 

Hipkins said we need to look at how we can grow in-house capacity for big infrastructure projects. 

"Big infrastructure projects in New Zealand are absolutely swamped with consultant and contractor fees, that's not new, let's be clear about that, that's happened over successive governments," Hipkins said. 

"We've lost our internal capacity to manage big projects like this probably at least since the 1980s… I think that's something we need to look at, I'm not sure that it is the best value for money spend that we have."  

Watch the full interview above.