The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) welcomes a draft decision by the Board of Inquiry to grant the NZTA consent to construct the Waterview Connection - the first ever roading project to be considered using the new national consenting process.
NZTA State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland Tommy Parker says the draft decision marks an exciting and important milestone towards completing the Western Ring Route and unlocking Auckland's potential for economic growth.
"This is great news for both Auckland and New Zealand. The NZTA is delighted that the draft decision released by the Board is to give us consent to construct the Waterview Connection. This will be the country's largest and most complex roading project to date, and it will deliver significant benefits to New Zealand.
"Building the Waterview Connection and completing the Western Ring Route will create a transport solution for Auckland that will improve our state highway network and boost our national economy."
Completing the Western Ring Route includes constructing the Waterview Connection - which includes two three-lane tunnels - as well as widening and raising the causeway and other capacity improvement works from St Lukes to Westgate.on the Northwestern Motorway (State Highway 16).
The NZTA's application for designation and resource consent to construct the Waterview Connection was lodged with the Environmental Protection Authority in August last year and referred to a Board of Inquiry soon after. Hearings to consider the application began in February, where the Board considered all the evidence and submissions on the project from the NZTA, local authorities, the community and other interested parties.
Mr Parker says the NZTA welcomed the opportunity to present its case.
"This is a large and complex project, the first of its kind for New Zealand and the NZTA. We have worked hard over many years to prepare an application that delivers many benefits, the best value for money and offsets the impacts of the project on the community.
"We have worked hard to engage with the community and affected residents on how we can mitigate the effects the project has on the community, and the Board of Inquiry has provided the proper forum for those concerns to be considered," he says.
As part of the Board of Inquiry's draft decision some changes have been made to the NZTA's proposed set of conditions. These changes - which include moving the location of the ventilation buildings and stacks and additional open space requirements - reflect the Board's considerations of the effects of the community.
Mr Parker says that this signifies the careful considerations of the Board of Inquiry.
"The Board was tasked with considering detailed investigations and evidence provided as part of the NZTA's application as well as taking into account the community's concerns. The Draft decision clearly incorporates both of these important factors. We will continue to work with the community as the project develops.
The NZTA now has 20 days to review the draft and provide feedback to the Board, before the Board releases its final decision on 30 June. In parallel with this process, the NZTA is also nearing the completion of the tender process to construct the Waterview Connection Tunnels and Great North Road Interchange.
"We began the tender process in July last year. Running this process in parallel with the consenting process will enable us to save up to a year in the construction timetable as well as enable us to make the most of favourable market conditions to get best market prices.
"We remain on track to awarding the construction in late August and construction will begin shortly after."
The Waterview Connection Project is a crucial component of completing the Western Ring Route. It is one of the seven 'roads of national significance projects identified by the Government as key to unlocking the New Zealand's potential for economic growth. Other components of the Western Ring Route are well underway or complete. The Hobsonville Deviation and Brigham Creek Extension Project is scheduled to be completed this year, six months ahead of schedule. Once completed the Western Ring Route will provide a 48km alternative to SH1 and will help to ease congestion and travel times for both freight and people.
For more information about the draft decision visit www.epa.govt.nz/applications/waterview/report-and-decision/docs/waterview-boi-draft-report-volume-1-may-2011.pdf.
For more information about the Waterview Connection project visit: www.waterviewconnection.co.nz.