27 Sep 2021

Porirua Mayor questions Transmission Gully delays

8:35 am on 27 September 2021

Porirua's mayor says she's frustrated by a lack of information from Waka Kotahi about what is holding up Transmission Gully.

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The cost of constructing Transmission Gully has gone from $850 to $1.25 billion and it's still not clear when it will be completed. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The 27-kilometre highway was supposed to open today, but it won't be due to delays caused by Covid-19.

It was not the first time the promised due date had failed to deliver.

Anita Baker said the delays had cost the city money, and the lack of explanation was frustrating.

"I feel like they're not telling us the whole thing. I know that it's tough for [Transport Minister Michael Woods] and they just all want the road open but just come out with a realistic date... even if it gave us something that was longer than it was actually going to be.

"Because we need something to aim for - at the moment we've got nothing."

The delays had also caused headaches as the city tried to sort out its congested local roads.

"We can't do work until we've had the link road open for six months ... because we need to see how the traffic will change on that road.

"So it just delays everything - it just bumps everything along."

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Porirua Mayor Anita Baker. Photo: SUPPLIED

Locals were disappointed about the delay, and it would be easier to stomach if people knew what was behind it, she said.

"It was only Covid for three weeks down here so, I was expecting another delay of maybe three weeks."

Transporting New Zealand chief executive and former Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett said the delays were unacceptable.

"We should demand our country's ability to build major pieces of infrastructure. I don't think we're there yet and I don't think we do it enough because this is one of many big chunks of infrastructure that the country needs and it's not just roading either.

"So we do appear to have a problem."

He agreed communication had been poor.

"We drew attention - in about July last year - to the delays that were occurring on Transmission Gully ... nobody wanted to talk about that.

"Since then we've had a bit more information and Waka Kotahi have made an effort but more generally I think the group should be more upfront about where things are at."

The highway will connect from north of Paekākāriki through to Linden, north of Tawa.

It was pledged by the then National government in 2014 and was to be built via a public-private partnership. Construction began the year after.

Its budget of $850 million has since blown out to $1.25 billion.

The contractors CPB HEB joint venture have also been fined for unconsented earthworks and discharging sediment.

Two big questions remain for the behemoth project - will the private company face fines of up to $250,000 a day for these latest delays, and when will the road actually open.

Both Waka Kotahi and Wood declined to be interviewed but the government has promised a report into the project once the road is completed.

A Waka Kotahi spokesperson said the latest delay was due to Covid-19 and there were works still to be completed as well as safety and asset quality assurance work, and compliance checks before the road could open.

With regard to the penalty fees, the spokesperson said it could not comment until commercial negotiations had been finalised.

"We can confirm that work has resumed onsite and the builder is working hard to complete the project as fast as possible."

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