There were few surprises at a pre-election meeting hosted by Penlink Now in Manly recently – although the strong turnout came as a surprise to organisers.
There can be few other single issues on the Coast that would drag close to 100 people out to a public meeting on a cold and rainy Sunday.
All the Rodney candidates views on Penlink were already well publicised, most recently in Hibiscus Matters’ election guide (September 6 issue).
At the meeting, on September 10, candidates from National and NZ First promised speedy delivery of the project. A more measured tone came from Labour. Candidate Marja Lubeck said her party is putting more money into regionally significant roads, and that Penlink should be top of that list. She favours the four-lane option, saying that the two-lane road was approved in 2001 and since then there has been significant growth. She said Labour will (within six months of taking office) review Penlink along with other large roading projects and agree a new, updated 30-year Auckland Transport Alignment Project with Auckland Council.
Rodney MP Mark Mitchell made a commitment to get the project started as a state highway, within three years of being re-elected. He said that Penlink is the first project on Crown Infrastructure Partners’ ‘to do’ list and that it will be delivered as tolled road via a Public Private Partnership (PPP).
He said to get it started within three years it will need to be the two-lane version, with clip ons possible at a later date to extend it to four lanes.
NZ First’s Tracey Martin promised to deliver the full, four-lane road as a Build Own Operate and Transfer Back (BOOT) or PPP and questioned the need for tolls, saying it would be the only road in Auckland to require them and once private investment is obtained, Government should “stump up the rest”. “Why should we be the only people in Auckland paying a toll?” she asked.
ACT’s Beth Houlbrooke was focused on ensuring that Penlink allows for driverless electric cars, which take up less space and could effectively turn two lanes into three.
The meeting was chaired by Penlink Now chair Stephen Lyttleton, who said the team currently has eight members, including four who joined 14 years ago.
One foundation member, Gerry Rea of Arkles Bay, put forward a funding proposal that involves the issue of bonds for public subscription underwritten by Government. This gained a favourable response, particularly from Tracey Martin.
Details of Mr Rea’s proposal are linked here.
If Penlink is built as a two-lane highway, Auckland Transport plans to keep it that way as long as possible.
The plan is to control the number of cars using the road by raising the toll if demand gets too heavy and traffic begins to clog up.
Auckland Transport’s (AT) strategic projects group manager, Theunis van Schalkwyk, told the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board that the two-lane option is all about value for money – improving the cost/benefit ratio and increasing revenue from tolling.
“Previously the toll revenue was to be at similar levels to the Northern Gateway for a period of around 25 years after which the toll would be removed,” he said. “As soon as the tolls are removed, demand will go up, and four lanes might be needed, so the idea is to manage demand by never removing the toll and putting the price up if demand gets too heavy.”
Member Caitlin Watson asked how much the toll could be and Mr van Schalkwyk said it was originally $2.20 but could go up to $3.80 and would be adjusted every three years.
He said “demand management” would mean Penlink could remain a two-lane road for a lot longer than 25 years. It would also allow buses to operate without the need for dedicated bus lanes; he said the current two-lane design includes a shared cycle/walkway.
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