Financial and Social Impacts




Financial and Social Impacts.

The Minister of Finance, Bill English, has recently launched a campaign aimed at cutting out low-value spending throughout the public sector  – an aim we can support given that we, through the Government, are borrowing $240 million a week to support the economy (and expect a deficit of $250 billion by 2014).

Given the need to judiciously prune spending that produces little value, it is unbelievable that Cabinet should have agreed to fund the proposed Sandhills Expressway through Kapiti on any kind of economic or social criteria.

Even NZTA, the government agency charged with justifying and building roads, can only find a benefit from the road compared to its cost of 0.6 (to a maximum of 0.9).  Normally to get a road built at all requires a ratio of at least 2.0.   What the Kapiti ratio means is that if we take the  Government borrowing per week, for the $240 million they put into the road, they get a maximum of $216 million of value out, and more likely closer to $144 million.  Imagine having $240,000 of your own to invest (perhaps from the sale of a house): would you knowingly invest it in a scheme where you could guarantee to get back as little as $144,000?

The overall cost of the proposed Sandhills Expressway is presently conjectured to be $500 million; so we, the people of New Zealand, will have casually thrown away $200 million.  Of course the Government has just added another $11 million to the price by increasing GST.

The reason the Government are not sure what the actual ratio might be is that the cost of the road is still uncertain.  But an architect and urban planner at Victoria University of Wellington , Robert Ferris,  has estimated that because the route of the Expressway is largely peat and sand and lacks good foundations, it would be wise to double the cost estimate..   And we all know that estimated costs are kept to a minimum. to make the case for approval more attractive.  So it’s cloud-cuckoo-land to think that the benefit to cost ratio will improve.

Do we actually need this proposed Sandhills Expressway?   Unfortunately for the Government case, the statistics from GWRC show that there is spare roading capacity through Kapiti, even with the present roads.

This diagram shows the Southbound morning peak does not exceed the road capacity

Southbound Peak Traffic

Southbound Peak Traffic

As above, this diagram below shows the Northbound morning peak does not exceed the road capacity

Northbound Peak Traffic

Northbound Peak Traffic

Build a local road and improve SH1 to get rid of delays at traffic lights and for a fraction of the cost and time of a new Expressway both the residents of Kapiti and those hurrying through, will have ample space on the roads for the foreseeable future (and that’s without any consideration of fuel price rises and their effects).

What of the social agenda? The new proposed Sandhills Expressway will certainly speed up access through Kapiti by up to a whole 4 minutes – but it does it at the cost of our community on the coast. The division of Beach areas of Kapiti from their communities inland was examined in the earlier piece.  Further, it is unlikely that the new Expressway will be of any advantage to Kapiti residents.  We will be left to use the same roads as at present but with the added disadvantage of having to get up and over the Expressway.  And it will do nothing to resolve the issue of access to Waikanae railway station or the community to the East of it, when the trains run frequently from there. 

What it will mean, if the Expressway built as planned, is the likely loss of a school, (Te Ra), businesses that rely on passing custom going under, lots of houses with a 24 hr noise motorway passing their backs, noise and light pollution and degradation and destruction of our health and environment.   It will involve destruction also of land mainly peat lands and lagoons that other parts of Government are struggling to protect for the benefit of New Zealand as a whole.

Look at what depends on passing motorists – Lindale, struggling at present due, some say, to the present road layout, will almost certainly go under, deprived of passing traffic Coastlands will have a hard time if there is no close link to the Expressway.  Waikanae New World and Woolworths are vulnerable, as is the whole of Mahara Place;. Nga Manu will have an Expressway at its entrance but no close means of access from it, so it will receive all the pollution and no advantage.   Conversely, of course, wherever there are on and off links to the Expressway we can expect to see commercial building spring up – petrol stations, burger bars and the like to serve those hurrying through to Auckland or Wellington.

The KCDC, which is now part of the Alliance to build the Expressway, itself calculates the projected cost to the local economy of not proceeding with their proposed two-lane Western Link Road plus modified SH-1 option but developing the Sandhills Expressway option, is in the order of at least $300m by 2026

The case for the road is, in short, financially disastrous, socially destructive, environmentally unsustainable and politically dangerous.

So what is the answer?  See the next piece.

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