The truth behind the slogan

Labour and the Greens refer to the the proposed Puhoi to Wellsford SH1 upgrade as the Holiday Highway. They would have people think it is a little used road, that only gets a bit crowded on Friday nights. In fact it is far more than that.

The road between Puhoi and Wellsford is part of SH1. As a two lane road, motorists will know that traffic flows at the speed of the slowest vehicle on it. We must be one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t have at least two lanes each way on our major highway.

That road actually has more people use it every day, than use the entire train network in Auckland. Around 28,000 people a day use that highway, and 27,000 use Auckland trains (UPDATE: In recent months this has increased to 33,000). Is Labour really claiming 28,000 people a day are off on holiday? Also, let us look at where the road is.

Now I am not sure about you, but I don’t think many people go to Wellsford for their holidays. Those driving north to holiday have generally left SH1 well before Wellsford. So why is the Govt looking to make it two lanes each way, instead of single lane? Three reasons.

  1. Better connectivity between the main producing activities in Northland, particularly dairying, forestry and mining, and the major markets for these activities in areas lying to the south of the region and overseas accessed by the ports at Auckland and Tauranga.
  2. Reducing the costs of commodities transported to Northland from the south for consumption or for input to the manufacturing industries in the area, so making Northland a more attractive place to live and to develop employment activities.
  3. Making tourist destinations in Northland more accessible to the large market and population in the Auckland region.

This is all about economic growth for Northland. Northland is one of the poorest areas of New Zealand, despite having significant resources. One of the reasons for that is the woeful links.

The projected economic benefits from the road are:

  • Journey Time Reliability $8m
  • Time travel benefits $352m
  • Vehicle operating costs $35m
  • Accident cost savings $133m
  • Wider economic benefits $159m

That’s $688m in net present value. The business case said:

“Taking these two components tourism and forestry into account, an indicative estimate of the value of increased economic activity that might result from the improvement of SH1 between Puhoi and Wellsford would be of the order of $30-35 million per annum and possibly doubling by 2031.”

Scrapping the highway upgrade to fund the Auckland CBD loop will be robbing (poorer) Paul to benefit (richer) Peter. Auckland (including their metro funding) already gets 45.7% of the National Land Transport fund and metro funding.  If Aucklanders want a CBD loop, then they should fund it from Aucklanders through rates and user charges, not from the rest of the country that already subsidises their system.

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