The fate of Penlink – its construction heading into the far-distant future instead of releasing constraints that are jamming an entire sub-region – is a fine example of how talking up a strategy doesn’t necessarily equate to action.
In 2013, a year after Auckland Council endorsed its Auckland Plan – the overarching regional policy & strategy document with a 30-year horizon – Penlink had an expected construction start of July 2016 for an opening in 2019. Then the start date slipped back 2 years and, this year, council long-term financial plans were slashed.
Penlink – otherwise known as the Weiti crossing, the 7km of road & bridge linking the Whangaparaoa Peninsula to State Highway 1 at Dairy Flat – moved back into the never-never as work began on new subdivisions at Gulf Harbour, Stanmore Bay & Red Beach, and development continues apace at Millwater, between the peninsula & the highway.
Traffic leaving the peninsula hits a traffic jam at Red Beach at 6am weekdays – 40km north of Auckland’s central business district.
Auckland Transport has consent to develop a 2-lane Penlink, but the project is now in the council’s 2025-35 financial timeframe and the council-controlled transport arm has applied to widen it to 4 lanes. To give certainty to the project, if not the precise timing, this involves seeking a 20-year extension to the lapse period for its notice of requirement, a 20-year duration for the resource consents and a 35-year duration & 20-year lapse period for the operational consents.
The hearing began before commissioners Dave Serjeant (chair), Bill Kapea, Michael Parsonson & Cherie Lane yesterday, will continue until tomorrow, then resume in a fortnight for a closing.
Auckland Transport counsel Andrew Beatson told the hearing panel yesterday the wider road was necessary because of the 40% increase in people relying on the Hibiscus Coast Highway (leading to the peninsula) over the last 12 years.
“This residential growth has not been matched by commercial growth, which has resulted in a high proportion of residents relying on daily trips out of the area. This has resulted in significant congestion and therefore poor travel times & journey reliability along both Whangaparaoa Rd & Hibiscus Coast Highway. The route also has poor provision for multi-modal services as, while there are existing bus services, these are unreliable due to congestion.”
Mr Beatson said alternatives didn’t match a 4-lane Penlink – 2 lanes on Penlink plus widening Whangaparaoa Rd to 4 lanes would affect 780 properties but still wouldn’t alleviate pressure on the Hibiscus Coast Highway & Silverdale interchange, while buses would be caught in the slow traffic.
And, while the whole Hibiscus Coast is a growth area, submitters told the panel in written submissions yesterday they struggled to get approval for development as Auckland Transport opposed anything that would worsen congestion.
Asher Davidson, counsel for 3 submitters which own land just south of Silverdale – Silverdale Golf Range Ltd, LM Painton Estate & Runwild Trust – said they wanted a shorter lapse period, a maximum 10 years. He said the constraint on traffic while Penlink remained unbuilt severely limited what they could do on their land: “Penlink has the durect effect of unlocking otherwise appropriate & much needed development within the Silverdale area.
Emma Bayly, counsel for Weiti Forest owner Hugh Green Ltd, said it had a 359ha landholding next to the notice of requirement route where, with a zone change, up to 2000 houses could be built. The company was concerned at what access it might have to the Penlink route.
Note: I live on the peninsula, but for many years thought early provision of alternatives would negate the need for Penlink. While the alternatives have been less fruitful than anticipated, continued construction of housing without improving access means congestion can only worsen.
Image above: Auckland Transport impression of the 2-lane Penlink.
Attribution: Hearing submissions.