You’ve got to hand it to Judith Collins, who yesterday forced Jacinda Ardern to die in a ditch defending the silly bike bridge that her hapless Transport Minister, Michael Wood, dreamed up in a rush.

It is smart politics to force the Prime Minister to continually defend the bike bridge, and at the same time hold her to account over her other broken transport promises.

Hon Judith Collins: Does she still believe, as she stated in January 2020, that “New roads in Auckland will help unlock the chronic gridlock the city faces.”, and, if so, what is her Government’s higher priority: addressing chronic gridlock or a cycle bridge tourist attraction?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: To answer the first part of the member’s question, yes.

Hon Judith Collins: What is the estimate she has been given for how many cyclists will use the bridge each day?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: My recollection is it’s in the order of 3,000. We know, at this point in time, that, of course, we do not have the ability to connect the CBD and the North Shore through alternative modes of transport. I note that previous members of the National Party have supported creating that link; I notice the National Party has now changed its position.

Hon Judith Collins: What advice has she received on the risk of structural issues in the current Auckland Harbour Bridge that are posed by heavy freight – moving trucks?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The only reason we’ve put forward the alternative to what was originally proposed as SkyPath was because of advice that it was not possible to pursue that project. That was based off the advice of engineers. Our view has been, therefore, that an alternative needed to be found. I note that the member, again, has backed future investment in additional harbour crossings that rely on tunnels. That, of course, does not solve the issue, therefore, of how we add additional modes to enable people to move around our city. So this is a solution to that. I’d be interested in whether or not that means the member is now abandoning the idea of there being any cycle or walking connection between the North Shore and the central city.

David Seymour: Would the Prime Minister continue to support the Waitemata Harbour cycleway if the cost per cyclist per day was over 10 bucks a crossing?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, what we’re supporting here is the ability for people to use multiple modes of transportation across Auckland city. And the idea that, currently, we don’t have any ability for walking or cycling, there has generally been good support for creating an option there. We now have discounted the ability to do that through an attachment to the harbour bridge in the form of SkyPath; engineers have said that’s not going to be possible. The question is, does that mean we therefore abandon the idea of linking the two sections of the city? My view is that we need to give people options. We’re in an environment now where public transport, but also the ability to walk and cycle, should be something that we’re able to facilitate. At the moment, this is the best option we have to do that.

David Seymour: Does that mean that her Government is committed to building the cycleway across the Waitemata at any cost; and, if not, what’s the limit?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, at this stage, we have estimates but they are just that over the likely uptake: 3,000 possible cyclists, 2,000 possible pedestrians. But I don’t think we should limit ourselves on what future usage would be, when I expect that Aucklanders will increasingly, as we make it safer for people to cycle around the city, take up those opportunities.

Hansard

Both David Seymour and Judith Collins have hooked into problems that the Prime Minister seems blithely unaware of. NZTA has already acknowledged that the current bridge is knackered, and they will have to start reducing traffic on the bridge, in particular where and when heavy transport vehicles can travel. Michael Wood knows this, but seemingly the Prime Minister does not.

That traffic is not catered for in either reduced services on the current bridge and of course not even for the new bike bridge, despite the massive costs of such bridge.

David Seymour has set up Ardern for when the eventual analysis of the bike bridge plans are roundly criticised by Treasury and MBIE. There is no way in hell that they will ever get 3,000 cyclists, or 2,000 pedestrians a day using the steep and exposed bike bridge to travel between the North Shore and the City. Sydney Harbour Bridge gets just 2,000 cyclists a day and the Prime Minister is suggesting a business case of 50% more than that a day for the Auckland Bike Bridge. And although the Auckland Harbour Bridge is 100 m shorter than the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it is much steeper.

What Labour are really wanting us to believe is that the steeper, longer, more exposed Auckland Harbour Bridge will have a 50% higher cyclist utilisation than Sydney which has nearly four times the population of Auckland.

While Labour are building, or not building as the case may be, the bike bridge, the rest of Auckland will be choking in a morass of gridlock after Labour’s other transport pledges were cast aside to buy an expensive bike bridge.

Judith Collins then went on to point out that the existing bridge is stuffed, and wondered how on earth a bike bridge would solve those problems. Again the Prime Minister was unaware of her minister’s own advice, nor of how a bike bridge would solve that.

Hon Judith Collins: How will a cycle and walking bridge affect the structural integrity of the existing Auckland Harbour Bridge, which estimates show will not be able to continue to take freight for another 40 years?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The assumption the member is making is that it’s somehow structurally the same thing to allow a truck over as it is to somehow build an entire structure in addition to the harbour bridge, and I don’t think it’s fair to make that assumption.

Hon Judith Collins: No, no, the existing bridge.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is my point. The assumption therefore is that a truck moving over the harbour bridge is the same structurally in terms of impact as attaching the SkyPath to the bridge. I’m not an engineer but I do place a lot of weight on the advice that we’ve received. If we’re told it is not a structurally sound decision to make, then we need to look at an alternative. The suggestion has not been that that means the harbour bridge itself is unsafe.

Hon Judith Collins: So who is proposing SkyPath if it’s not that Government’s previous Minister; certainly not us?

SPEAKER: I think there was a question there at the beginning.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I think the member seems to almost have answered her own question. Of course, we have supported SkyPath. The advice that we have from engineers is that that is not a project that we can continue to safely pursue. The question I put back to the member is: we’ve taken our position—

Hansard

Either Ardern is just plain thick, or she is deliberately being obtuse. She surely knows that the existing bridge is rooted, but is now dying in a ditch to suggest that building a bike bridge will somehow solve the issues of the existing bridge.

Hon Judith Collins: Will hundreds of thousands of South Aucklanders face more or less chronic gridlock due to her decision to reduce funding on the widening of State Highway 1 and Mill Road?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Our view is that we can continue to provide transport options to an area that is high growth. We’ve an additional train station to that area, and at the same time our expectations around housing growth remain too. The issue that we have to factor in all of these decisions is: how do we ensure that we both have the capacity in terms of housing but also provide multimode transport options and not allow ourselves to simply say that if you design new housing areas the only option for transport is cars. We need to provide alternatives.

[..] Hon Judith Collins: What advice has she received about how many tradespeople are going to be travelling on the cycleway with their tools?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The suggestion there that somehow the harbour bridge is simply disappearing is ridiculous.

Hon Judith Collins: You’ll be falling into the foam. You’ll be falling into the ocean.

Hansard

The brown working poor of South Auckland will be delighted to know that roading improvements for them have been traded away for one new train station and a bridge for the lycra-clad, liberal elite, mostly white people North Shore bike brigade by an uncaring Prime Minister.

When they say they are a government for all of New Zealand, what they really mean is if you are poor and brown you can catch the train, we’ve got more important things to do with that money like building a bike bridge for the better classes.

Labour have shown that they are going to die in a ditch over the bike bridge. I say let them.

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Dying in a Ditch over a Silly Bike Bridge
Cam Slater

Cam Slater

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news,...