PM defends $685m spend on Auckland Harbour Bridge for cyclists

By Jessica Tyson

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended her government's decision to spend $685 million on a cycling and walking harbour bridge to be built beside the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

The new plans were announced last week as part of the government’s $12 billion New Zealand upgrade of major transport projects, first unveiled in January 2020.

This morning on Tapatahi Ardern said the government was committed to resolving the problem that people don’t have the ability to walk or cycle across the Harbour Bridge.

“We committed to resolving that issue last year. The original version of that plan was called Skypath," says Ardern. The Skypath was to be attached to the bridge. However, engineers have concluded that it isn’t technically possible to attach it to the existing bridge without putting the whole structure at risk.

Transport Minister Michael Wood said a stand-alone structure was the safest option that would not only provide a walking and cycling option for commuters but also create an outstanding piece of tourism infrastructure.

Mill Road gone

However, it comes as the government is cancelling additional infrastructure projects including the Mill Road motorway upgrade through southern Auckland from Drury to Manukau.

The motorway would have been in the location of residents made up of more than 50 per cent Māori or Pacifika peoples. The project was expected to support significant growth in the area, with an extra 120,000 people expected to live there during the next 30 years.

Ardern said deciding to axe the new motorway but building the Harbour Bridge cycleway didn’t mean she was turning her back on South Auckland in favour of CBD cyclists.

“I couldn’t push back harder on that. We’re seeing of course still a commitment to investment in a number of projects that we know will make a difference to people’s ability to get around the city. No one wants any of our residents, including our residents in high-growth areas, to be stuck in gridlock. That’s why we are investing in particular in some of those new areas within South Auckland.”

She said there would be a new rail infrastructure and an additional train station in the area.

“At the same time, one of the proposed roads was going to knock out 700 houses so we have to keep in mind housing affordability and making sure that we’re housing all of our people at this time as well so lots of competing issues and we’re trying to manage all of them.”

The government hopes construction of the new cycle and walkway can begin mid-2022 and is expected to take five years to complete.