More cash for Transmission Gully

A road freight industry representative says a new announcement that negotiations will be extended - again - is further confirmation that something is not right with the project

An announcement that a new cash payout will extend negotiations and 'winter works' even further than first thought is being heralded as a sign Transmission Gully is years away from being completed. 

NZTA has announced the winter construction programme that saw the Wellington Gateway Partnership and the CPB HEB joint venture building the road paid out $14m in May will be extended by four more weeks at a further cost of $5m. 

In theory, such advance payments shouldn't be needed at all. The $1b road is being built through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement where construction and financial risks are borne by private parties rather than the Government.

Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett said NZTA's announcement was both a positive sign the agency planned to communicate more clearly with the public about the road's future and a more worrying one that the road's completion was further behind than first thought.

"This is essentially treading water until those relationships are sorted and the signal of a $5m payment to me is of further concern because the fundamentals of the construction and the agreement already in place are obviously not working."

The winter construction period for the road officially ended on July 10 and the new extension was a sign that construction might need to stretch into spring. 

"There's certainly been a lag which I think is due to the issues that have been covered about the lack of workforce and the lack of clarity around relationships between the Gateway Partnership and the road builder."

Those issues were triggered by Covid-19, which gave parties the right to trigger a clause that would allow them to walk away from the agreement altogether. The parties have been locked in discussions ever since. 

"Obviously there is the potential for the termination of that relationship and that's what we need to know as soon as possible so that the road freight industry and members of the public have clarity," Leggett said.

Newsroom understands further layoffs have been pushed through at Transmission Gully, a sign of further issues at the site.

NZTA transport services general manager Brett Gliddon said he understood that people were keen to know when the road would be finished, and said the agency was keen to see it open at the earliest possible date.

"The extension of the winter works programme while negotiations continue will help minimise further delays.

"Waka Kotahi [NZTA] must take a considered approach to making any decisions that involve taxpayer money and that is why an agreement on the new opening date and associated costs is taking time."

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