Today’s news that completion of the Eastern Busway project will be delayed by at least two years is gutting to east Auckland residents who have been waiting years for the delivery of the Eastern Busway and Reeves Road Flyover, say Simeon Brown MP for Pakuranga, and Christopher Luxon MP for Botany.
“Twelve months ago, in June 2020, Mayor Phil Goff told the people of east Auckland there would be no delays to the Eastern Busway project despite projected shortfalls in the Council’s Budget as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“He spoke of the Council’s commitment to this project given how critical it was to solving congestion issues in the wider transport network and because it would provide more reliability and choice in our public transport options.
“Yet now we’re told the Eastern Busway will be delayed by at least two years and with this Government’s poor track record, I am increasingly concerned that the next stages of the project, namely the Reeves Road Flyover and the Pakuranga to Botany Busway, may be delayed even further.”
Pakuranga Road remains one of the busiest non-State Highways in the country, they said.
“And as we seek to rebuild our economy, we should be investing heavily into infrastructure projects like the Eastern Busway to create jobs and ensure rapid growth in the East Auckland area can be managed,” the MPs said.
“Instead, the Government sees fit to take money from projects that have been on the books for years and prioritise cycleways over the Auckland Harbour, something that a fraction of people will use.
“This also comes after several years of the Regional Fuel Tax, which we were told would be used to fund important projects like the Eastern Busway to ensure they could be completed on time. We’re paying that tax, but where’s the money gone?”
They said the Howick Local Board area covers the largest population of any Local Board in the entire Auckland region.
“Yet we are severely underfunded in terms of services provided and projects delivered,”
Brown and Luxon said.
“The Eastern Busway is set to provide enormous benefits not only to east Auckland commuters but to neighbouring industrial hubs like Mount Wellington and Onehunga.
“The Government and Auckland Council need to urgently work together to find the money and reverse this funding cut now, to ensure the Eastern Busway is delivered to the promised timeframe. It is critical we invest in this project and secure the future of our local transport network.”
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told the Times he is worried but holds out hope the matter of funding could change.
“I am concerned that, following the completion of stage one of the Eastern Busway this year, there will be a delay of up to two years of the final stages of the project,” Goff said.
“However, I am assured that if there is a change in the funding situation, efforts will be made to again bring forward the completion date of the $1.4 billion project.”
Auckland Councillor Paul Young, for the Howick Ward, told the Times he was “completely shocked” at the news. Colleague Councillor Sharon Stewart was also reportedly upset at the news.
“The possible delay to the completion of the second stage of the Eastern Busway is completely unacceptable and is a huge blow to east and south Aucklanders who have been waiting for the busway for a decade already,” said Young.
Prior to the meeting, councillors received no warning or heads-up from Auckland Transport about possible delays to this, the second largest transport investment after the City Rail Link, he said.
“To discover these changes through a public agenda with no time to discuss options or find solutions to the funding issue was unbelievable and shows a culture issue with Auckland Transport. That is why I voted against the endorsement of the regional land transport plan,” said Young.
“Both south and east Auckland have suffered historic underinvestment in transport from both central and local government. The Eastern Busway is the first opportunity for us to change that story. Once completed it will provide a convenient and reliable connection from the east to the rest of the region. If we want to earn the confidence of Aucklanders and if we are serious about meeting our emissions reductions goals, we should be speeding the busway up not slowing it down.
“I am committed to finding a way to bring the funding for the Eastern Busway back to the earlier years as was originally consulted on by AT. We can’t to afford lose momentum on the progress we are finally making now. There must be a solution and I will work with Auckland Transport, the Mayor and councillors to get the Eastern Busway back on track.”
Auckland Transport has been contacted for comment.