375 Kauri In Path of Puhoi Warkworth Toll Road

With the recent story about the 500 year old kauri in line for the chop, the following tweet has gained a lot of interest.

If you are looking for some background, you’ll find it on page 47 of the final report of the Board of Inquiry

“NZTA’s Terrestrial Ecology Assessment Report envisages that up to approximately 375 kauri trees, many young, would need to be felled or topped to accommodate the eco-viaduct. Additionally it was proposed that the Mahurangi River be diverted for approximately 200m through a new open channel.”

“The Board’s initial reaction during a site visit, expressed by the Chairman during an exchange with a witness, was that it was indeed a bold move in this day and age to destroy kauri trees to accommodate a viaduct carrying a motorway. The effects on both the river and the forest stand would largely be avoided if the designation was shifted approximately 150m to the east…”

“The Board is satisfied that, as a matter of jurisdiction, it has no power to move the designation to the east in the manner tentatively contemplated.”

The “many young” comment is arguable. Later on in the document they say “It is thought that these trees range in age between 75 – 100 years.”

The Campaign for Better Transport submitted against the toll road through the Board of Inquiry process last year. This is documented in a series of posts over at TransportBlog.

Probably most concerning is that the toll road has not been the subject of a business case, which until now has been standard procedure on any project of this scale.  NZTA had a budget of $600,000 for expert advice in relation to their application, but none of this was spent on conducting a cost benefit analysis in accordance with their own Economic Evaluation Manual.  This is covered in a bit more detail in this post at TransportBlog.

The economics behind the project are likely to be poor.  The new toll road route, between Puhoi and a point 2km north of Warkworth is just 700m shorter than the existing route, with a predicted travel time of ten minutes, just three minutes faster than today.  Also, because the junction is to the north of Warkworth, few Warkworth residents are likely to use the road.  The Government is yet to provide any indication of how much the toll charge will be for using the road either.  The map below shows the designated route (with north to the right, click to enlarge).

Puhoi Warkworth Toll Road

It should be noted that a further extension of the toll road from Warkworth to Wellsford is unlikely due to the difficultly in finding a cost-effective route brought about by the the geographical challenges of the area.

The CBT was disappointed that the Board chose to approve NZTA’s application, and we believe that the decision sets a bad precedent for future RMA related decisions as effectively the economic impacts of the community can be ignored, let alone the impacts on the environment. You can read our closing submission, which covers all of these points and more, here.