18 Feb 2024
This is an exciting day for Wellington and the Hutt Valley. Can I acknowledge local MP Chris Bishop who is also National’s spokesperson for Transport and Infrastructure.
Chris is passionate about the Hutt and he is passionate about getting this region moving. We are also joined by National MPs Nicola Willis, Brett Hudson and Jo Hayes, as well as National candidates Mark Crofskey and David Patterson. They are here with Chris and I this morning because transport is the number one issue facing the Wellington region.
This region is choked by congestion. Wellington has the worst traffic in Australasia for a city under one million people. Wellingtonians spend more time sitting in traffic than people from Brisbane, a city five times its size.
My Government will fix this.
Today I am announcing that the next National Government will deliver the biggest transport investment the Wellington region has ever seen. Our comprehensive plan will deliver where past governments – particularly the current one – have failed.
We will build a second Mt Victoria Tunnel.
We will build a second Terrace Tunnel.
We will fix congestion in Wellington’s CBD by undergrounding State Highway 1 through Te Aro.
We will fix the Basin Reserve.
We will build rapid transit through Wellington’s CBD to the airport, smashing congestion and making it easier to get around.
We will build the Petone to Grenada Link Road and the Cross Valley Link here in the Hutt Valley, which will become a new state highway known as the Seaview to Grenada Link.
We will build the Melling Interchange.
We will upgrade the State Highway 2 intersections at the Kennedy Good Bridge, and four-lane the highway from Silverstream to Whakatiki St, including a new Moonshine Bridge
By 2035, there will be no traffic lights on State Highway 2 from Wellington to Te Marua.
We will massively boost the Wellington metro rail system, delivering new trains and expanding rail to Ōtaki, and we will investigate extending the Melling rail line further north to Kelson and Belmont.
Our package is a 20-year integrated and comprehensive transport plan for this region.
And we intend to deliver it.
Before I go into a bit more detail, let me briefly discuss our approach to transport infrastructure investment.
About two weeks ago, in Auckland, I outlined the biggest transport infrastructure package in New Zealand history. Over the next ten years we will spend $31 billion on top of what the current Government is spending in transport.
For years, New Zealand has had a “just-in time” approach to infrastructure. We build things when we need them, and, generally, we do it on the cheap.
In practice, a “just-in-time” approach to infrastructure means “too late” – sometimes much too late. It was forecast in 2004 that New Zealand’s population would reach five million by 2050. Instead we reached five million in 2020. That means all our infrastructure plans 16 years ago, when Helen Clark was Prime Minister, have been out by 30 years. I don’t plan to make the same mistake.
In Auckland I outlined three transformational projects the next National government will build: a four-lane expressway network from Whangarei in the north to Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga; a road and rail tunnel as a second harbour crossing across the Waitematā Harbour; and completing Auckland’s rapid transit network, including rail to the airport.
Labour’s response to our announcements was incoherent. They said it was just a vision. Well, I don’t need lectures from this Labour Leader about visions.
About the only thing you could say about this Labour Leader is that she has good intentions. But good intentions don’t translate to delivery, as we know all too well from the debacle that is Auckland light rail, and KiwiBuild, and child poverty.
We have a vision, and we have a plan. But, most importantly, we know how to get things done.
Let’s Get Wellington Moving
So, let me talk about this region.
This region has talked about transport for far too long. The time for endless and interminable squabbling is over. It’s time for action, and my Government will deliver it.
There’s no real point in re-litigating the past. Everyone in this room knows what happened between 2010 and today. While the rest of the country was working with central Government to unlock investment in world-class expressways and high-quality public transport, Wellington was going backwards.
The endless debate over the Basin Reserve Flyover led to total paralysis.
This region is broken by congestion. Chris tells me that the Petone Esplanade, just out here, is regularly choked up; not just in the morning and evening peaks but throughout the day.
Every Wellingtonian can tell you about the endless frustration of trying to drive around the Basin Reserve and merge into a single lane through the Mt Victoria Tunnel, which hasn’t really changed much since 1931.
Congestion means unreliable journey times. It means growing frustration while you sit idle on the motorway. It means goods being delivered late to our ports. It means Mum being late to pick up the kids from rugby practice. It means a tradie only doing two, rather than four, trips per day. That’s fewer jobs for him; less income, and less economic activity. We all suffer when congestion bites.
In 2016 after the Basin flyover debacle, National started the Let’s Get Wellington Moving process to get consensus about what was required to get fix this city’s congestion problem.
A lot of positive, constructive debate with the people of Wellington followed, and the report that was produced was a good one. But then Phil Twyford and Julie Anne Genter got involved.
The infrastructure package that the current Government eventually endorsed end up missing a whole series of critical projects.
There’s no Terrace tunnel.
No trenching under Te Aro.
And construction of a second Mt Victoria Tunnel was pushed out to 2029 or later – if it happens at all.
As we now know, the years of delay added to that tunnel was the direct result of a secret letter from Julie Anne Genter to Phil Twyford.
We’re all still waiting for that secret letter to be released; and Wellingtonians are still waiting for that second Mt Victoria tunnel.
We can’t make her release the letter, but we can deliver the tunnel. And we will.
The other major problem with Let’s Get Wellington Moving is that it ignores the Hutt Valley and the northern suburbs. Wellington isn’t just Wellington city itself, important as it may be.
This city I’m in today, as Chris tells me so often, is a critical part of the regional economy. A city of small businesses, medium and high-tech manufacturing, with good industrial land.
Today I’m announcing an exciting transport plan for Wellington and the Hutt Valley.
Our package consists of an extra $4 billion in spending over the next twenty years, on top of what the Government is spending through Let’s Get Wellington Moving and the New Zealand Upgrade Programme.
In total, government transport spending alone will top $12 billion over the period with National in office – a massive increase.
Let me run through the core details of the package for you.
First, we will deliver a suite of multimodal state highway projects that the current Government left out of Let’s Get Wellington Moving for ideological reasons. Let’s Get Wellington Moving was designed as a package. It should be implemented as a package, and National will make sure that it happens.
So today I am confirming the next National Government will bring forward the construction of a second Mt Victoria tunnel.
The extra Mt Victoria tunnel, along with a widened Ruahine St and Wellington Rd, will contain new dedicated and separated walking and cycling connections to create a higher-quality, more reliable connection for all modes of transport.
The new tunnel will deliver more reliable travel times between the CBD and Wellington’s eastern suburbs, as well as the airport. It will reduce traffic volumes on Evans Bay Parade and Oriental Parade. It will enable rapid transit to be delivered by reducing traffic in Newtown. It will improve walking and cycling connections to the eastern suburbs.
In short, everyone wins from a second Mt Vic tunnel.
Second, we will deliver a second Terrace Tunnel and underground State Highway 1 under Te Aro.
About 28,000 vehicles travel along Karo Drive and 22,000 vehicles use Vivian Street each day. Both of those streets are big choke points. Undergrounding the state highway will remove traffic through Vivian St. This will aid urban regeneration and beautification of the inner city, connecting to walking and cycling links.
In terms of paying for these projects, my Government will fully-fund them. State highways have always been fully-funded by central government. Ratepayers will not be expected to pick up the tab for them. This will save Wellington ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Thirdly, we will deliver rapid transit for Wellington.
National buys the vision of a multi-modal transport system that moves more people, goods and services reliably, with fewer vehicles. That is why we will invest in high-quality rapid transit and bus priority into, and through, the CBD to the hospital and the airport.
Unlike Labour and the Greens, we are not wedded to light rail. We think bus priority and bus rapid transit offers much more flexibility for Wellington, and value for money. In time, that may mean trackless trams.
Now I’d like to talk about the Hutt Valley.
Chris and I chose this spot here in Lower Hutt deliberately. Just over there is the Petone Esplanade and the Petone Interchange with State Highway 2. It is a major choke point and overdue for an upgrade.
An increasing amount of traffic travels down State Highway 2 every day through to Wellington’s northern suburbs, including freight from Seaview and Gracefield in the east of the Hutt Valley.
The Ngauranga Triangle is a major economic hub but suffers from a lack of resilience.
Just a few weeks ago, a small rock fall on State Highway 2 cut off the Hutt for hours.
The Wellington Lifelines Project said the Petone to Grenada Link Road was a top priority.
National was advancing the Link Road to connect the Hutt with Wellington’s northern suburbs, but Labour’s $5 billion cut to the state highways budget saw the project put on the back burner. No work has been done in the past three years.
My Government will build the Petone to Grenada Link Road. We will also declare the Cross Valley Link road here in the Hutt a state highway, and build it contemporaneously with Petone to Grenada.
The Cross Valley Link has been talked about for decades. It’s time to get on with it. We will fully fund it and work with the Hutt City Council to deliver it.
The new road will likely be a new east-west multimodal transport corridor on Wakefield St to Whites Line. It will feature bus priority lanes on the Esplanade once in place, a new or upgraded Ava Rail bridge, and new active mode connections.
Together, the Seaview to Grenada Link will be transformational for the Hutt and for the north of Wellington, driving economic growth, reducing congestion, and opening up new areas for housing.
But that’s not all for the Hutt.
We will, of course, build the Melling Interchange that the Government wanted to delay until at least 2028 but was strong-armed into funding by a relentless campaign from Chris.
And we will build a new intersection at Kennedy Good to cater to the growth in Kelson and improve safety along a dangerous part of State Highway 2.
Further up the valley, we will four-lane the road from Silverstream to Whakatiki St, and upgrade the bridge at Moonshine Rd. They call it “death bridge” for a reason. In time, we want to four lane the whole road to Te Marua, and grade-separate the Silverstream intersection.
Our aim is to make State Highway 2 to Te Marua free of traffic lights by 2030.
Finally, we recognise the important role that the metro rail network plays in this region.
On Monday I announced we will extend commuter rail to Ōtaki by electrifying and double-tracking the rail line. Today I am announcing that we will invest $300 million by buying new trains for the Greater Wellington Regional Council to operate on the Manawatū and Wairarapa train lines.
Rail patronage is rising, and by 2025 it is estimated commuters will be packed like sardines on Wellington’s trains.
So we will work with the Regional Council straightaway to buy new longer-distance rail rolling stock. Commuters can expect more reliability, increased frequency, and an easier commute.
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you’ll agree that the package we’ve announced today is a sizeable investment into the future of this region.
National is serious about redressing our infrastructure deficit.
Today’s package will unlock growth in this region, decrease congestion, improve safety, drive economic growth and jobs, and get this region moving.