The National Party says it would create a new Auckland Transport-like authority and green-light a second Terrace tunnel

National Party leader Judith Collins has announced National would give greater government funding for the Wellington region’s existing transport plan and for a new agency to end the region’s transport bickering.

Collins made the announcement on Wednesday at a meeting hosted by the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce. It referenced her earlier announcement on the Party’s infrastructure plans for Auckland.

National promised the region would get $4 billion in extra transport funding on top of the Government’s existing commitments under Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM).

A National-led government would take on a greater share of existing costs within LGWM by fully funding state highway improvements within the plan.

It also promised a new ‘Wellington Transport’ agency – similar to Auckland Transport in Auckland – which would be formed to deliver LGWM and eventually plan, fund and manage all transport in the Wellington region. 

Currently, management and ownership of the region’s transport is split between councils which own transport infrastructure like roads and the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC), which operate the public transport that uses much of that infrastructure.

National’s transport spokesman Chris Bishop said that arrangement had led to endless finger-pointing between councils after the city’s bus network ground to a halt after a much-maligned network redesign. 

“Transport in Wellington has been a debacle for far too long.

“We had them before the select committee [on the bus crisis]. The regional council turned up and blamed the city council, the city council turned up and blamed the regional council.

“The great virtue of Auckland Transport is it’s one body for the whole region that the Government can deal with and we’re pretty interested in doing the same in Wellington.”

LGWM is a set of transport improvements in the Wellington region to relieve traffic congestion between the airport and the Ngauranga Gorge. It includes rapid transit along the city’s Golden Mile and has been costed at $6.4b with funding split between Wellington City Council, NZTA and Greater Wellington Regional Council. 

National plans to build a second Terrace tunnel in Wellington City for $1.1b and trench part of State Highway 1, which currently runs through the middle of Wellington’s CBD.

Collins acknowledged plans for at least six tunnels had been announced by the National Party recently, including three at its Wellington Transport announcement.

“You can get through great big mountains actually with tunnels and that’s a fabulous thing.

“If you look overseas where mountainous regions like Switzerland are you see a lot of tunnels through things because actually it’s a lot safer for people and by the way it saves a lot of time and time is money.”

Roading improvements like these would be fully funded by central government. Under the existing LGWM plan, costs are shared in a 60:40 split between central and local government. However, normally state highway costs are fully funded by government. It will save the region’s councils hundreds of millions of dollars.

The expansion to the Mt Victoria Tunnel – which connects the city to the airport – was at the centre of a spat between the Greens and National this election term and will be resequenced within LGWM to be built before rapid transit.

Cabinet documents have noted a widened Mt Victoria tunnel would relieve congestion while rapid transit is being constructed, but also that the extra road capacity might not be necessary if there were a “mode shift” to other forms of transportation in that time.

National has expressed its preference for bus rapid transit over light rail. Although National’s Bishop said this could transition to trackless trams over time.

Trackless trams are a form of technology that has been described as “light rail on rubber wheels”. They run along the road and have longer carriages that can be designed to look like light rail cars.

Other major investments that have been proposed include the Petone to Grenada Link Rd (costed at $900m) and the Melling Interchange in the Hutt Valley, along with Wellington metro rail improvements ($300m).

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