Save Kapiti, a community group fighting the Expressway, says Transport Minister Steven Joyce is suppressing news about big costs increases until the election is safely out of the way
Jonathan Gradwell, of Save Kapiti, says he understands from several sources that the project has hit significant cost over runs — around $200 million — which would bring the total cost to $750 million.
Save Kapiti asked the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) early last month for updated provisional costs of the MacKays to Pekapeka section of the Expressway under the Official Information Act (OIA).
NZTA quotes 2009 costs
On 28 October 2011, Jenny Chetwynd, Regional Director Central for NZTA, advised Save Kapiti by letter under the OIA that the indicative cost was $550 million and ‘this cost estimate was calculated in 2009 and has not been updated since that time.’
She also said updated costs were due to be released within the next few months.
But Mr Gradwell has now called on the Minister of Transport to front up to the public with the updated costs before the election, not after it.
Mr Gradwell says: “With the election around the corner, we now challenge Minister Joyce to front up to the public with an update of estimated costs of this project.
“We understand that Mr Joyce receives a briefing on this project every week from the project ‘Alliance’ team, and we think he will be well aware of the current estimated costings.”
Voters need to ‘make an informed judgement
“We have approached Mr Joyce’s office and asked for the estimated costs to be released urgently to allow the voters to make an informed judgement before the election.
An application for the project to be ‘called in’ is due to be lodged with the Environmental Protection Agency in the next few months. The application must include ‘turn-out costs,’ that is the costs of construction and all mitigation measures proposed to meet the requirements of the Resource Management Act.
“Significantly, this date puts it after the election and around the Christmas/New Year holiday period.” Mr Gradwell says.
“In the interests of transparency and accountability, it is imperative that the minister provide this information to the public during the election campaign.”
Formerly ‘the cheapest’
Mr Gradwell adds: This route was originally chosen because it was estimated in 2009 as being the cheapest (at $380-500m) of the three options under consideration.
“The cost/benefit analysis of the route will be significantly downgraded from its already low rate of return if costs have over run to the extent we understand from sources close to the NZTA project team.
“NZTA have been in the process of investigating and designing this route for nearly two years now and to say that there are no updated estimated costings since 2009 is frankly, beyond belief.”
“If this information is not provided to the public of NZ before the election, that will mean that both in 2008 and 2011, the public will not be given the chance to scrutinise the real costs of this government’s RONS against the rationale for this huge infrastructure spend.”