Wellington Scoop

The government’s ethical duty: to find an alternative to the Kapiti expressway

by Adele Cherrill
With the Minister of Internal Affairs admitting that New Zealand has the worst debt in its history and is borrowing $1.5B per annum, how will spending $2.2B on a road that loses 40 cents for every dollar invested be justified? According to Nathan Guy (who is also associate Minister of Transport) investing in roads will help stimulate the economy. But it is only the freight and infrastructure industries which will profit and therefore feel at liberty to continue to promote and finance National’s electoral campaigns.

Packed platforms at the newly opened Waikanae Station indicate the necessity of increased rail funding and according to Nathan Guy, ‘12,500 people travel by road to Wellington every day from Paraparaumu alone’. Providing the public transport that is so desperately needed would immediately alleviate roading issues and increase profits for the kiwi-owned Kiwi Rail. However, the government’s answer to transport issues is to sell off the family jewels, in the form of crown owned services such as Telecommunications and Energy companies.

Guy says there are no figures on how much of the stock will be ring fenced for just New Zealand investors nor how much will be allowed to go overseas. The 100 per cent New Zealand owned slogan may have to be changed to ‘49 per cent of profits go abroad.’ And when the money from the short-term fix of selling off half of the state assets is gone, it is a small step to selling off the rest of the state owned 51 per cent, which then changes the motto to ‘Proud to be 100 per cent foreign owned’.

This explains some of the reasons why National’s investment in rail is only 10 per cent of that for roads, even though the John Bolland report showed rail transport of freight and passengers to be more efficient, more economic and more environmentally beneficial than road transport by $200M to $500M per year. Interestingly, the report which was commissioned by the government to investigate the relative costs of road and rail was never publicly released because the findings contradicted the government’s goal to cater to the trucking industry.

Additionally, the initial SAHA report commissioned by the government to determine the economic assessments of the Roads of National Significance was superseded by a second SAHA report which grouped the seven RoNS and included the unrelated Victoria Park Tunnel project though there are no linkages between them. By grouping the roads, those which have a higher benefit to cost ratio (BCR) can ‘boost’ those which have a low BCR such as the Kapiti expressway (which has a BCR of 0.6, or 40c lost for every dollar spent).

Over 4000 Kapiti people have signed a petition asking the Transport Agency to reconsider the environmental impact of pollution, noise, disruption to local lives, increased risk to cyclists, the division of their community by a motorway through the heart of residential housing and the lack of connectivity for local transport that the Sandhills Expressway will create. All issues that were addressed by the Agency itself when describing the Western link route as the worst option for an expressway.

With the world’s decreasing oil reserves, the demands to decrease fuel emissions and the effect of increased motor and freight usage on future generations, the future lies in the researching of alternative, cheaper solutions to infrastructure problems. We need solutions that will be environmentally sustainable yet economically profitable such as rail transport for freight and commuters. Ethically, we have a duty to pursue that which makes us the ‘clean, green 100 per cent pure’ country that John Key claims we are, and to capitalise on the eco friendly reputation we have with nations around the world. The question is; are Mr Key and the current government doing that? I think we already know the answer.

Dr Adele Cherrill is Ethics and Human Rights Lecturer at Cardiff University

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  1. Sridhar, 19. July 2011, 18:56

    The only way this can be changed is by a change of government. Unfortunately there is no credible alternative in Labour and people consider Greens to be green extremists and given an opportunity will annihilate all the greenies.

    Let me put it this way. National will carry on with their agenda of more roads = more profits to infrastructure and freight coys because there is no credible opposition to their plans. Future generations will be paying for all this.

    Oh sorry! the current National team may not be there to face that problem and members of the public supporting all this roading will neither be there to see how much their children are having undergo to do to pay for all this. So, who is worried?

  2. BD, 19. July 2011, 21:53

    I am glad to read an article that speaks the truth. It’s true that not everyone will agree with the anti-expressway brigade and most of the people who support the expressway will not be directly affected or they don’t live in that part of the Kapiti Coast. I spent my childhood on the Kapiti Coast and I do believe it’s a special community with a strong community spirit. I also realise that there are some serious traffic problems around the area that need to be dealt with in a way that makes most of the people happy.

    The expressway proposal does the opposite to that, it has made a lot of people unhappy. If something has to be done it should be done in the most environmentally friendly way that creates the least impact to the surrounding environment. It seems as though the government ministers are not interested in delivering a solution that works with what the people want but more to do with what National wants or what Stephen Joyce wants.