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Expensive Waterview Tunnel Ruled Out, More Houses To Go

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

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Wellington, May 12 NZPA - The Government has canned the idea of a motorway tunnel through the Mt Albert area saving around $1.5 billion, but probably costing it more votes in the upcoming by-election due to more houses being demolished.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce announced today that the Government had given the Transport Agency three options costing between $1 billion and $1.4 billion.

Mr Joyce said the previous government's preference for a tunnel affecting fewer households was too expensive, at between $2.7b and $3.1b.

Cabinet had ruled out stumping up more money for that yesterday, saying it was not affordable and cheaper options were more cost-effective.

The agency was to decide today which option would be followed and then immediately get in touch with around the residents of around 240 properties, whose homes will be knocked down.

Tomorrow the agency will announce the decision and the process to begin construction in 2011 and complete within four years.

The number of affected properties is larger than 240 as it does not include those already purchased by the agency, commercial properties and other land such as railway land reserves.

Mr Joyce said it was important to give certainty to those affected by the route to complete Auckland's Western Ring Route.

Mr Joyce said the path of the three different routes were different, but they all broadly followed the current Waterview alignment.

Mr Joyce said the lowest cost option was all above ground and the other two options had varying levels of "undergrounding, either by tunnelling or using cut and cover methods".

Whichever option was taken would affect around the same number of houses -- around 240 -- but they are necessarily the same houses.

National is currently fighting a by-election campaign in the Mt Albert seat after the departure of former prime minister Helen Clark.

The motorway issue is seen by many as a crucial issue and the original tunnel proposal is still backed by Labour, though Mr Joyce said this would have still affected more than 100 houses.

"This is actually about doing the best for the country and the people of Mt Albert and treating it separately from the by-election campaign," Mr Joyce said.

"I think that is the only approach to take. I think if you are saying would the Government be prepared to buy a by-election for say $1.5 billion, I don't think what be remotely responsible from the country's perspective."

Mr Joyce said there were some wild numbers about the motorway being thrown around and while it was a tough decision, it had to be taken.

"If your own property is affected... it is never something you are going to be that happy about."

Mr Joyce was not willing to discuss the details of the options -- he did have a preferred option and said he wanted to reduce the impact on the community.

The consent process would be fast tracked and limited to nine months.

Funding would all come out of the Land Transport Fund, which would also save on finance costs.

Mr Joyce said using a public/private partnership was not being proposed in this case and increases to transport funding meant it was the most cost effective way of paying for the road.

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