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NZTA disarray threatens Auckland transport projects

Some major Auckland public transport projects are at risk of delay because of what Auckland Transport calls the “opaque” situation at NZTA.

The agency is in disarray and under review by the Ministry of Transport over its regulatory function, and its problems are now having a ripple effect.

Fears over the likely holdups surfaced at a council finance committee meeting on Wednesday looking at the organisation’s quarterly figures.

AT chair Dr Lester Levy told the committee the question of what was happening – or not happening – at NZTA was a critical one, “and an area of current concern. We need the whole eco-system there to be at the highest level of momentum and there are changes there that are quite distracting for us.”

CEO Shane Ellison said the situation was “quite opaque. We’re not getting a whole lot of visibility and the relationships that we had (at my level) are not what we had previously. Obviously we have an interim CEO (former Chorus head Mark Ratcliffe) and obviously they’re dealing with a number of different things. We’re trying manage that as best we can … but the key issues are, business cases and funding requests are not being approved in a timely way.”

Ellison said five instances where projects are being held up have been included in a letter sent to NZTA.

“These are critical projects such as Puhinui (Airport to Botany rapid transit) … and Papakura to Pukekohe electrification, which we have escalated.

“We sense that we are getting the cooperation we can from NZTA … but we’re being told that the NLTF (National Land Transport Fund) is oversubscribed we’ve also come to the conclusion that unless there are some different funding mechanisms we are going to struggle to get to 50/50 funding of ATAP.”

ATAP is the 10 year, $28 billion Auckland Transport Alignment Project that will overhaul the city’s transport infrastructure. It gave Auckland a major jump in NZTA funding after the government agreed to pick up its public transport responsibilities for the congested, growing city.

Ellison said AT is looking to escalate those issues. “It may present some challenges in terms of our capital programme for next year.”

The council has previously voiced its concern to NZTA before over the lack of information or a business case coming out of the agency on light rail.

Councillor Mike Lee asked Ellison what this council could do politically to “bring some focus to this matter”, saying the people of Pukekohe and Franklin were being treated as second-class citizens when it came to the delayed electrification project.

“Any voicing of your concerns to clear some of the blockages we are having, with some of your political colleagues in Wellington, would be appreciated,” said Ellison.

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