Were there ever halcyon days when the bulk of a working person’s taxes and rates were spent delivering bricks and mortar benefits? Were governments – central and local – ever efficient, focused and frugal with the public’s hard-earned cash? Did elected representatives ever get elected because they already understood the needs of their communities without having to consult with them every five minutes?
The Hill Street debacle is just the latest example of truckloads of ratepayer money being spent on processes and procedures, which never materialise into anything solid. Plans are written, consulted on, revised to reflect feedback, peer reviewed and then left on a shelf to collect dust because there “isn’t the budget” to do the work. Then, in 18 months or so, someone will have the brilliant idea of revisiting the plan. The dust will be brushed off and, of course, the plan will need to be revised because life has moved on. So, the whole process of revisions, consultation, feedback and review starts again.
The Hill Street Intersection Single Stage Business Case report that was prepared on behalf of Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi/NZ Transport Agency in 2019 was 151-pages long. It examined the intersection from every possible angle – it looked at its history, the impacts of parallel projects such as the Matakana link road and the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway, and the 30-plus options that had been considered at one time or another. It was written with input from stakeholder groups, Maori engagement and public consultation. It weighed up the problems and the benefits, considered the risks and analysed the options. And then, finally, it came up with a preferred option costing $18.8 million. The people were satisfied that at long last a fix for Hill Street was on the horizon.
So to learn that Auckland Transport is now revisiting the design for intersection improvements is unbelievable and can mean only one thing – it doesn’t believe it can deliver the work for the $18.8 million allocated. Hardly surprising. Post-Covid construction costs are estimated to have risen by 15-20 per cent. But this is a problem of their (Auckland Transport and NZTA) own making. Their excuses for ‘talking’ and not ‘doing’ dates back decades.
So, here’s some free advice for Auckland Transport – the longer you procrastinate and pontificate, the more expensive and congested Hill Street will become. It will never, ever get cheaper. Ratepayers and taxpayers have been cheated out of a proper fix for the intersection for too long. Stop writing reports, just put a shovel in the ground and just get the job done.