Champagne corks popped and tears flowed at the announcement a north Auckland roading project 40 years in the making would finally get funding.
Penlink, a seven kilometre connection bridging the Weiti River to connect the Whangaparāoa Peninsula to State Highway 1, was first mooted by United States forces in New Zealand during World War II to enhance the supply line to its operations at what is now Shakespear Regional Park.
This was denied and then in the 1980s the former Rodney District Council began planning the building of the road. Despite triennial promises from vote seeking political parties, funding never came for the project.
For those in north Auckland, Penlink became a swear word pulled out when talking of empty promises, poor future transport planning and rising congestion.
In 2010 Auckland Transport inherited the project. Since, it has quietly worked in the background to put finishing touches on plans, gain consents and purchase all the necessary land.
Janet Fitzgerald, left, who has spent 15 years advocating for Penlink celebrated the government’s announcement with bubbly.
All that was needed was funding so an elected official could put a ceremonial spade in the ground and set the project in motion.
Longtime Penlink advocate Janet Fitzgerald cried on Thursday morning when Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced $200 million would be allocated to the road to build it within 10 years under a funding package to ease congestion on Auckland’s roads.
Fitzgerald said she wanted to give Twyford a hug when she heard the money was coming for a two lane toll road, future proofed for four lanes, from Whangaparāoa Rd in Stanmore Bay, to SH1 at Wilks Rd in Dairy Flat, to bypass a constrained Silverdale interchange and allow for future growth.
It’s been talked about for decades, but Penlink will finally be delivered to the Hibiscus Coast within 10 years.
As she listened to Twyford’s announcement “tears were rolling down my face and phone was going bing, bing, bing”.
“My phone has just gone mad because people know I am just so passionate about Penlink.
“I’m even crying now – I am so excited. We have already cracked a bottle of champagne.”
Penlink Now members John Davies, left, and Stephen Lyttelton have been pushing for Penlink for more than a decade.
Hibiscus and Bays Local Board chairman said the news of funding was ‘excellent’, but was more excited about its timing, and the fact the road would be future-proofed for four lanes.
“In the past Penlink has been has become a little bit of a political football in the parties have announced it in the last year of their term in office, so it has been very difficult to get off the ground.”
But the announcement in the first year of the latest government’s term made it more concrete, Parfitt said.
Dancing with the Stars contestant and ex-bachelor Zac Franich will be stoked with the announcement, having supported the project during the election.
The local board and Penlink Now both preferred a four lane road, but news of future proofing was welcomed, she said.
At the board’s April business meeting, Auckland Transport, who identified the need for a bigger road due to growth in 2013 and bumped the project up to four lanes, told the board Penlink would only be two lanes with no future proofing.
Parfitt said the shape and form of the final road would be determined by the perspective partners of the Public Private Partnership who built the road.
She and Fitzgerald both acknowledged all the other people who helped advocate to get Penlink built, such as NZ First Cabinet Minister Tracey Martin, Labour list MP Marja Lubeck and the Auckland Chamber of Commerce which joined the fight for Penlink in 2016 after concerned transport planners approached it, and congestion began to affect north Auckland businesses.
Chamber head Michael Barnett welcomed the announcement.
“Penlink … should have been done years ago, but to have it ticked off now, in my mind, is a really good thing.”
Labour’s Marja Lubeck said the funding for Penlink would go a long way to addressing the congestion issues faced by businesses and residents in the Rodney electorate.
“The benefit-cost ratio has shown us that two lane highway announced today is the most sensible option but the highway will be future proofed to allow for the expansion to four lanes as Rodney continues to grow.”
Lubeck said the project was just one part of part of what will be New Zealand’s largest ever civil construction programme.
Albany Ward councillor John Watson said the funding commitment was a massive win for the Hibiscus Coast and it, and other planned public transport improvements represented the most significant transport initiatives to occur in the area since the Northern Motorway extension.
“When Penlink and the public yransport projects are added to the $700 million Northern Corridor Improvements project that is happening right now, this area’s transport needs are going to be met for decades to come.
“This is a stunning combination for the Hibiscus Coast that will simultaneously deal to congestion and look to the future of public transport provision in a fast changing city.”
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