Close this search box.

Your Hub for NZ News

Government likes to announce big projects but have they got game?

In brief
  • This Government is quick to spend money pursuing huge projects.
  • Most of these couldn’t possibly happen for many years.
  • How many could NZ even handle at the same time?
  • Why is such a big deal made of what are usually preliminary scoping exercises?  

Think big

2023 has not slowed Labour’s penchant for making big infrastructure announcements with eye-watering price tags.

There’s the reconfirmed Auckland Light Rail and the Onslow Lake pumped hydro scheme along with the newly announced Auckland Harbour crossing. The projected numbers are just wild estimates, but in the order of $50-$70bn.

Some speculate “action” on the Harbour crossing has been announced to distract from the recent media miscues around Posie Parker or to reinforce what an action oriented group this government is (using the theory talking equals action). 

Talking about the Harbour crossing is noteworthy because, unlike the other two mega projects under consideration, it is uncontroversial something has to be done with the Harbour crossing at some time. But should it really be up to the central government in an election cycle to purport to set the timing? Or might that be better handled by a less political process, like with engineering and traffic studies? 

Government likes to announce big projects but have they got game? - Centrist
How many mega projects could NZ even juggle at one time?  Image by Tim Pierce

But then what?

It is noteworthy the bridge has more lanes than the motorway flowing into it, so it really isn’t a bottleneck. And bridges around the world seem to last much longer than the supposed life of the Harbour bridge (San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge upgrades mean a potential lifespan of 150 years compared to Auckland Harbour Bridge’s original 50+ years, but now at 64). Also, less people are driving these days due to more working from home and maybe improved public transport will also be a factor. 

So are they just talking about a Harbour crossing project so they can say they did before the other parties? Even under Labour’s plan, which seems to preclude that maybe nothing really needs to be done yet, it isn’t set to begin construction until at least two election cycles out. 

Somehow out of all this Prime Minister Chris Hipkins boasts that, by starting work in 2029, his Government is 11 years ahead of schedule on the bridge! But maybe that is a little self congratulatory for having done nothing but an announcement.

It appears the Government reckons splashy announcements garner more votes than the lack of follow through loses. 

National’s Simeon Brown says “projects delivered are much more important than projects announced” and notes Labour’s failure to start and complete one single major infrastructure project since forming a government.

One hundred and fifty year old Takapuna Elementary school echoes the same sentiment with its slogan “Deeds, not Words”.

Let me in, coach 

Like most things, it’s best to have a lot of practice before the big game. Based on track record, there’s not much evidence Wellington has the skills to make good on big promises (Kiwibuild is an oft referred to fail). Does Wellington have real world execution skills?

Auckland’s mayor Wayne Brown thinks not. In the case of Auckland Light Rail, Brown says Wellington hasn’t the expertise to pull off the multi-billion-dollar mega project. 

The Spinoff’s Danyl Mclauchlan says the mismatch between rhetoric and ability was summed up by Ardern when she explained away failures to deliver on several fronts by euphemistically describing her Government as “aspirational”.

Enjoyed this story? Share it around.​

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Read More


Sign up for our free newsletter

Receive curated lists of news links and easy-to-digest summaries from independent, alternative and mainstream media about issues affect New Zealanders.