Wellington Scoop

The historic opening day that hasn’t arrived

gully 2
The official party turning the first sod seven years ago for Transmission Gully

There was “great excitement” seven years ago when politicians led by John Key and Gerry Brownlee marked the start of construction of Transmission Gully. They said they were looking forward to “another historic day in 2020” when the road would be opened. It didn’t happen. And this week the opening date was postponed indefinitely, with no opening date in sight.

The politicians also congratulated themselves on the public private partnership which would be completing the road in five years at a cost of $850m. But in the last seven years, as delays stretched into a third year, that cost has gone up to more than $1.25 billion.

News from NZTA -September 8, 2014
Today’s official construction start on the Transmission Gully Motorway marks a major step towards a safer and more resilient transport link in and out of Wellington.

Transport Agency Deputy Chair Dame Patsy Reddy says the Transmission Gully project has been talked about since 1919 – even before the invention of penicillin and parking meters – and the start of work is the culmination of a decades-long effort to make the project a reality.

“Today marks a historic day for the Wellington region, and it is with great excitement that we look forward to another historic day in 2020 when we can take our first journeys on Transmission Gully.

“An extraordinary amount of work has gone into this project to get it to the starting line. Planning a 27km motorway might not be as physically demanding as building it, but it’s just as labour intensive.

“The project has a significant number of structures and geotechnical challenges, and construction of Transmission Gully will involve cutting edge construction techniques, state of the art safety technology and the latest innovations in environmental mitigation.”

Dame Patsy says the Public Private Partnership (PPP) contract to deliver the project was also ground-breaking with its strong focus on delivering specific outcomes, providing strong incentives for private sector innovation to drive greater value for money.

“The conditions of the PPP contract include clear incentives for our private sector partner – the Wellington Gateway Partnership – to deliver consistent outcomes over the 25-year operating period – including high and sustained safety performance, reduced travel times, travel time reliability, route resilience, and high levels of customer satisfaction.

“Importantly for the Transport Agency, the PPP will allow the transfer of innovative solutions and better ways of working across the wider transport network, which means all New Zealanders will enjoy the benefits.

“This investment will also benefit businesses and communities throughout the lower North Island by making it easier and safer people and goods travelling between the North and South Islands – making their journeys more efficient and resilient.”

Dame Patsy says the project’s support among Wellingtonians is unparalleled for a project of its kind.

“Generations of Wellingtonians have advocated tirelessly for Transmission Gully, and getting the first spade in the ground is the result of many, many years of dedication and passionate community support.

“There are so many reasons Wellington has gotten behind Transmission Gully, but in short, it provides a transport link that is befitting of a modern, productive and dynamic capital city.

“In 2020, when Transmission Gully opens, we can look forward to a future of safer, easier, reliable, and more efficient journeys.

“While we have worked hard to improve the safety of the Coastal highway, it has remained a challenging road for motorists. When Transmission Gully is open, it will usher in a new era of safety for Wellington travellers. The road will also provide Wellington with a northern outlet that in the event of a major disaster can be restored within weeks, not months, and will be far less prone to the frequent disruptions we have on the two-lane Coastal route.”

Dame Patsy says the project is well complemented by a rail system that has been continually upgraded over the years with unprecedented levels of investment on improved infrastructure and a new rolling fleet.

Another benefit of the project is it would be a great boon to communities currently living along the coastal route.

“Thousands of vehicles a day, including hundreds of heavy vehicles, pass through communities such Mana, Pukerua Bay and Plimmerton. The Transmission Gully motorway will take those vehicles off their hands. This means those communities can start to look ahead to creating more liveable environments, and safer, user-friendly facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

“This project is designed to deliver huge economic dividends once it’s open for business, but it will also provide years of additional economic activity while it’s being built.”

“Together with the Kapiti Expressway, this project will create a huge economic boost for the Wellington region.

“Local suppliers will be in demand, jobseekers ranging from manual workers to managers and highly skilled specialists will have fantastic new career opportunities, and the economic benefits will filter down to the property market, retailers, and even the pie shops.”

Dame Patsy recognised the dedication of all those who had toiled to get these projects underway, including local councils, community advocates, and Transport Agency staff and the many groups of professionals who have been working with the Agency on the projects.

Transmission Gully will connect with the Kapiti Expressway to the north, and once it is completed in 2020, Wellingtonians will be able to enjoy four lanes in each direction all the way from the Terrace Tunnel to north of Otaki. The projects form the central part of the Wellington Northern Corridor Road of National Significance, which will improve safety, journey times and reliability, and resilience between Wellington Airport and the lower North Island.

The project will be the first state highway in New Zealand to be delivered as a Public Private Partnership, by the Wellington Gateway Partnership. More details of the contract are here.

News from NZ Government – September 8, 2014
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says Wellingtonians will be delighted that after nearly a century in the making, work on the long-awaited Transmission Gully road is now officially underway. Mr Brownlee today joined Prime Minister John Key and United Future leader and Ohariu MP Peter Dunne, other local dignitaries and officials, in turning the first sod on the 27 kilometre four-lane highway, which is the first roading Public Private Partnership (PPP) in New Zealand’s history.

“Probably no infrastructure project in this country’s history has been so talked about, or been so eagerly awaited and well supported, as Transmission Gully,” Mr Brownlee says. “This is a monumental milestone for the region and for the country, and it’s exciting to know the motorway will be ready and open in 2020.

“Transmission Gully will be a truly transformative project, and there are several good reasons why it is so well supported.

“First, it will enhance road safety by providing a state-of-the-art motorway with cutting-edge modern safety engineering. Second, the peak hour delays and disruption we experience too often will be eased by having a shorter, higher capacity route to the capital.

“Third, it will offer far greater resilience in the event of a major disaster, meaning access to Wellington can be restored much quicker than is predicted with the existing coastal route. Fourth, it will greatly reduce the flow of traffic through coastal communities such as Mana, Plimmerton and Pukerua Bay.

“And fifth, it will enable Wellington to play an increasingly strong role in the national economy by providing an efficient freight route that will help to cement its status as a key commercial hub and a gateway to the South Island.”

Mr Brownlee says the project had proved an ideal candidate for a PPP.

“Public Private Partnerships allow large and complex projects to benefit from private sector innovation and funding sources. This can increase certainty of delivery and drive better value for money, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.

“The PPP journey for the Transmission Gully project began in August 2012 when I indicated to the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) that the Government was open to supporting the model to deliver the Transmission Gully motorway.

“Almost two years later, in July this year, NZTA signed New Zealand’s first-ever Public Private Partnership contract for a state highway with the Wellington Gateway Partnership.

“I want to congratulate the NZTA board and staff for the innovative way they’ve gone about landing this very important project.

“Under the terms of the contract the Wellington Gateway Partnership will design, construct, finance, operate and maintain the new Transmission Gully motorway for the 25 years that will follow the expected five-year period to build it.”

The project is valued at $850 million in today’s dollars and is part of the Wellington Northern Corridor Road of National Significance, which will support economic growth and ease traffic congestion on the highways and local roads by providing an upgraded four-lane route from the north into Wellington’s CBD.

It will also improve access to and from Wellington’s port, CBD, airport and hospital. Construction on the MacKays to Peka Peka Expressway section is now well underway after starting construction last year.

Flawed from the start
A broken promise: open by September

News from Wellington Gateway Partnership – September 8, 2014
Prime Minister John Key, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and Wellington Regional Council Chair Fran Wilde have taken part in a soil turning ceremony with the Wellington Gateway Partnership (WGP) to mark the Transmission Gully project contract award.

The group broke ground at the far northern tip of the project site, ahead of work that will move 6.5 million cubic metres of earth during five years of construction.

The 27 kilometre motorway is the first state highway to be built as a public private partnership. The WGP will finance, design and construct the project, and then operate and maintain the Transmission Gully Motorway from 2020 for a period of 25 years.

WGP Chief Executive David Low said: “Safety and quality, together with respect for the community and environment will be paramount throughout the life of the Transmission Gully Project”.

WGP has subcontracted Design and construction to a joint venture of Leighton Contractors and HEB Construction, who combined have more than fifty years of experience in road and bridge building within New Zealand.

“The LHJV integrates local and international experience to successfully address the challenges of constructing 27 kilometres of motorway and 28 bridges through steep terrain,” said David.

Project Director Mick O’Dwyer will lead the LHJV team to construct the new motorway route through 11 different geological terrains from rugged rocky outcrops through to rolling farmland.

“The terrain presents some challenges which will require diverse construction techniques and equipment – from bulldozers to mechanical scrapers, diggers and dump trucks depending on where we are working.

“Over the coming months we will be completing detailed design. The community will also see us out in the field progressively fencing, relocating services, establishing environmental controls and setting up our site office”.

Weather permitting, major construction work is scheduled to begin during the Spring/Summer of 2015.

The Project
The Transmission Gully PPP Project includes the financing, design and construction of a 27 km long expressway standard motorway just north of Wellington, with a 25 year operations and maintenance contract. The new motorway will bypass the existing SH1 coastal route, increase road safety and improve network reliability with high levels of seismic resilience. It will also be a catalyst for economic growth in the Wellington region.

Wellington Gateway Partnership
The Wellington Gateway Partnership is made up of Infrared Capital Partners Limited, Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), Leighton Contractors and HEB Construction. The consortium combines local and international experience in the financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance of substantial Public Private infrastructure projects.

Leighton Contractors
Leighton Contractors, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leighton Holdings Limited, is one of Australia’s leading contracting and project development groups, with over $13 billion work in hand and employing more than 14,000 people across Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Africa. The company delivers projects for clients across the infrastructure, telecommunications, civil construction, industrial, energy, health and services sectors.

Leighton Contractors has a strong presence in New Zealand and has previously worked with NZTA to successfully deliver major projects including the SH20-1 Manukau Extension (2010), the Newmarket Viaduct Replacement (2012) and the current SH16 Causeway Upgrade which is scheduled for completion in 2017.

HEB Construction Ltd (HEB)
HEB Construction is one of the largest and most successful privately-owned civil construction companies in New Zealand, currently employing more than 700 people nationwide.
Founded more than 35 years ago, HEB brings a range of essential services to the Transmission Gully project such as structures, roading, drainage, landscaping, temporary traffic management, surfacing and precast concrete element capability.
HEB’s current roading projects include Wellington’s Memorial Park Alliance, the Waikato Expressway – Cambridge Section, Tauranga Eastern Link JV, and Auckland’s Greville Road Interchange.



  1. Claire, 19. September 2021, 12:56

    I will be pleased when it does finally open. Then all that adjacent land can be opened up to housing.

  2. Mickey mouse, 19. September 2021, 14:18

    All those people in the photo have all changed places since then!

  3. Morris Oxford, 19. September 2021, 15:17

    The trouble about building houses on the adjacent land will be the lack of road access.

  4. Dave B, 19. September 2021, 18:04

    Five reasons for supporting Transmission Gully that former transport minister Gerry Brownlee rattles off (in the very poignant historical recap above). A sixth reason he didn’t mention which we now know to be a drawback not an advantage: It will generate more traffic overall and further cement-in New Zealand’s excessive dependence on cars.

  5. TrevorH, 19. September 2021, 20:39

    This further delay is a disgrace. This country is no longer capable of completing an engineering project on time and to budget. Next time bring in overseas contractors.

  6. Henry Filth, 20. September 2021, 5:24

    Let’s hope they finish soon, so they can head north to sort out the collection of lethal madness that is SH1 around Manukau/Ohau.

  7. Dave O, 20. September 2021, 10:25

    Trev mate. The majority of the firms involved in Transmission Gully are overseas companies. CPB is Australian, InfraRed Capital Partners are based out of London, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ is Japanese. The NZ entities involved are very much minor players in the project. National’s whole idea with the project and PPP generally was to get large overseas engineering companies and finance involved.

    The very complex Kaikoura earthquake Highway 1 rebuild project – completely run and constructed by NZ entities – was under budget and completed slightly early.

    Whatever you’ve been smoking the last few years it’s affected your memory.

  8. Stephen Moore, 20. September 2021, 10:33

    I agree that the surrounding land should be used for housing. Many people don’t want to live in the WCC’s vision of high-density housing. It does mean that Wellington will continue to creep north.

    I do think rather than fight roads – main access roads like this should be combined with Public Transport at the time of construction to form a transport spine (ideally through to the airport)

    TrevorH – yes – its a disgrace how we have lost the ability to construct ANYTHING fast. Case in point the Hataitai bus tunnel was dug in 18 months with pick and shovel in 1907.

  9. Dave O, 20. September 2021, 10:39

    Claire. The bulk of the Transmission Gully route runs through public reserve land or land which is completely unsuitable for large scale development. That’s a big part of why the project is so over budget. It makes zero sense to continue the 1950s idea of suburban low-density development when existing parts of the region are crying out for upgrading to infrastructure.

    The current model of increasing density around current public transport hubs has the benefit of both increasing the cost effectiveness of the PT network and helping to fund the rundown state of existing public infrastructure.

  10. Claire, 20. September 2021, 11:12

    Dave O: very close to the gully are Lincolnshire Farm and Stebbings Valley. These have been put up by the WCC for contesting the govt infrastructure fund. These houses will be mixed low and higher density and there could be as many as 10,000 between the areas.

  11. Yimby Jim, 20. September 2021, 11:18

    Claire (and others) – It amazes me that you push for more sprawl and car use over densification of our inner city. For what? To save a rundown old villa? The fight against change is why this city has lost so much of what we had going 10-15 years ago. A stubborn and self-entitled attitude that refuses to permit anything to happen and drags the rest of us down.

  12. Guy M, 20. September 2021, 11:59

    Claire and Stephen Moore – “I agree that the surrounding land should be used for housing.” – That is completely bonkers!! The hillsides are very steep and prone to collapse, they have been stabilised at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, they will be filled with the sound of a motorway, and you think this is a good place to build suburban housing? One of the few good things about Transmission Gully is precisely that because it goes from A to B without stopping, the traffic will not get snarled up in traffic from side roads.

    It is what it is: an expensive road through the middle of an inhospitable piece of parkland. Just leave it without the houses.

  13. Claire, 20. September 2021, 12:28

    Guy: Lincolnshire Farm and Stebbings Valley are not that far away from Transmission Gully.
    Yimby: The old villas are nothing to do with this – the land they are on is a very small part of Wellington. The housing crisis is not about villas. It’s the Govt’s inaction. Also I don’t push for car use but they are here to stay and will be electric. Personally I don’t own a car but walk and use PT.

  14. Ray Chung, 20. September 2021, 13:44

    Why is there always debate between have intensification and green-fields development? We should have both so that people can choose where and how they want to live. Personally, I feel that those who want greater intensification will be disappointed with the cost of the new high and medium-rise apartments in town.

  15. Yimby Jim, 20. September 2021, 13:54

    Claire: Stebbings Valley and Lincolnshire Farm are both before Transmission Gully (city side) so any development there won’t be benefitted by the new motorway. I’m not opposed to these areas developing – if done well (mixed-density housing w/ good PT routes) but the risk with greenfield is that this will just lead to more traffic and more unsustainable sprawl. Transmission Gully certainly isn’t a good reason to build more of it.

  16. Peter Steven, 20. September 2021, 14:20

    Claire, it is undeniable that a major component of our housing crisis has been the voices of people who reject the idea of increasing density in our cities. It’s crazy that we have so many restrictions against building in central suburbs. Young people want to buy houses and to do so they are being forced into isolating and antisocial lifestyles in far flung suburbs. You are in an extremely privileged situation to be a homeowner in a location where you are able to walk and use PT for your daily transport.

  17. Ray Chung, 20. September 2021, 14:26

    Yimby Jim, the reason for greenfield development is cheaper housing and a back yard and garden for those who want this. This gives those people choices rather than living in the city. I tend to think that the areas where the on/off ramps are will intensify like Tawa and Porirua.

  18. Guy M, 20. September 2021, 14:26

    Claire – Lincolnshire Farm and Stebbings Valley have absolutely nothing to do with Transmission Gully and don’t even belong in the same conversation. Both of those (LF / SV) are extensions of existing communities and are completely unlike TG in any way.

  19. Claire, 20. September 2021, 16:15

    Guy: I wouldn’t expect housing to go right next to the gully.
    Peter: I am not privileged, as hard work goes with my situation – buying a house, doing it up, getting hands dirty. Because I walk a lot for health etc it doesn’t mean I live close to the city. You have made assumptions. Please talk to people about community plans for housing. The majority are not blocking housing but they want it done really well.

  20. Mike Mellor, 20. September 2021, 17:02

    Interesting to read all that historic cheerleading, all conveniently ignoring NZTA’s prediction that TG would reduce patronage on the Kapiti rail line by 25% compared with what it would have been without it.

    So the net effect of TG will be to a shift from the most energy-, land- and carbon-efficient means of medium-distance commuting to the worst performer in each of these aspects, while the railway line still suffers from a 140-year-old single-track bottleneck.

    Ho hum.

  21. Dave B, 21. September 2021, 0:45

    Dead right Mike Mellor. We are still waiting for the government to upgrade the “Railway of National Significance” which, between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki, still suffers from many of the same problems used to justify the building of Transmission Gully.

  22. bssmith, 21. September 2021, 7:20

    “The Americans reportedly offered to build the highway during World War II to facilitate access to their military camp at McKays Crossing, but the perhaps apocryphal story is that the offer was declined by the Transport and Public Works Minister Bob Semple because he owned land just north on the Kapiti Coast and did not want to be accused of advancing his own interests”.

    The bottom line is if the usual crowd of nimbys and collective activists’ groups (who always know what’s right for everyone else), hadn’t put their spokes in the wheel, then this road would have been built decades ago, and this conversation would be irrelevant.

  23. Guy M, 21. September 2021, 8:09

    Mike – I’m willing to take bets that the new TG route will in fact cause morning commute congestion around Linden/Johnsonville just as bad as the existing SH1 does. Currently the morning traffic often gets caught up at Ngauranga and backs up back to near Tawa – as there has been no change to Ngauranga, it seems highly likely that the same congestion will occur after TG opens. Probably worse, as it will encourage people up the coast to leave later for work, and so even more people will arrive at the same time.

    But, the afternoon commute up the coast should speed up considerably, as no longer will the traffic have to crunch into a single lane through Pukerua and up the Coastal highway. For the people of Pukerua, this day couldn’t come soon enough!

  24. Ross Clark, 24. September 2021, 22:04

    TG was always about politics. Back in the day (1989) when I was first looking at the idea, two things were clear. First, the Kapiti Coast council were very supportive of the idea (and not at all interested in more public transport investment). Second, they did not want to be part of the Wellington Regional Council, but were lumped in there anyway as part of the 1989 reforms. It was clear at the time that much of the support WRC was giving to TG, was political: that is, about keeping the Kapiti Coast council ‘on side’.

    In terms of the traffic analysis, it will certainly help the evening peak, esp as one leaves Porirua heading north; but it will make no difference in or to the morning peak. That is obvious.