Auckland’s infrastructure projects need accelerating

5:00 AM Wednesday May 31, 2017 Colin Taylor

Auckland’s rapid growth is evidenced by the large number of construction cranes on the city’s skyline’. Photo / Colin Taylor

Auckland needs to find better and faster ways of getting to grips with its surging growth which is hampered by long delivery times on major infrastructure projects, says John Church, national director commercial, for Bayleys. 

Writing in Bayleys’ latest issue of Total Property portfolio magazine, Church says rapid growth is a much better problem to have than slow stagnation and the city’s momentum draws people to live and work here.

However, Church says it’s reasonable to ask: “Why does it take so long to build big, important projects? “

He says the much awaited $1.4 billion Waterview tunnel and associated Western Ring Route motorways have taken nine long years since getting the green light, with last minute software glitches creating further delay.

“The new City Rail Link (CRL) is at least another six years away and, based on past delays with big infrastructure projects, a 2023 completion date looks a very optimistic target. In the meantime, many CBD businesses face considerable disruption from multiple street shut downs.

“Take a weekend walk from the Britomart past the hole in the ground that is the Commercial Bay site and up fenced off Albert Street and perhaps wonder why the construction machinery is sitting idle and nobody is working? Contrast that with the round-the-clock working model used in some other big cities – Dubai being an obvious example.

“No doubt a host of reasons can be trotted out as to why we can’t build through the night and on a Sunday and nobody is suggesting the Dubai approach is necessarily the right one for Auckland. But we have to come up with improved models for progressing these big projects more quickly and look at ways of building greater speed into the process.”

Church says New Zealand’s “globally uncompetitive building industry, with its ever-spiralling costs”, is also not helping. “It’s a turn off for big international players and, understandably, is resulting in some of them calling for a more open market in which they can import both construction products and labour.”

He says greater local and global private sector investment in housing, tourism and transport infrastructure projects needs to be encouraged. New Zealand has been a slow adopter of Public Private Partnerships, with the Transmission Gully project in Wellington being the first motorway to be developed and managed under this well accepted international practice. “If it proves to be a success then it should become a model for facilitating other roading projects, with most of us willing to pay tolls if it leads to a less congested and safer journey.”

While central and local government are often criticised for getting involved in property development, there are some excellent recent examples involving partnerships with private sector developers, he says.

“Council controlled Panuku Development is doing a stunning job with its Wynyard Quarter rejuvenation and Housing NZ offshoot Hobsonville Land Company has also received plenty of plaudits for its Hobsonville Point development.

“Both organisations have focused on the master planning and partnered up with a variety of private developers to do the work. Given the success of these projects, it’s hardly surprising these two entities are now looking at transporting this approach across Auckland. It could be argued that more should be done to further resource organisations such as these and bring in greater international expertise to ensure that best global practice is being applied to shaping the city’s future.”

Another example of a public-private sector collaboration is Auckland Transport’s teaming up with Countdown to trial grocery Click & Collect points at five transport hubs across the city which service more than 95,000 commuters daily. Groceries can be ordered online in the morning and collected on the way home, with a plan to roll out the service to more locations if successful.

“This is just one small example of the many benefits that come from living in a rapidly growing major population centre.  Auckland Transport also has big plans for further large-scale commercial and residential development around transport infrastructure hubs.

“The real game-changer is the estimated $10 billion worth of possible development planned along the 3.5 kilometre CRL corridor. We are already seeing wily investors and developers taking positions in this location, particularly close to the stations,” says Church.

“It represents a huge opportunity for Auckland to really stamp its mark on the world. Let’s not only do it well – but also as efficiently and quickly as possible.”

True Commercial - John Church%2c Bayleys.jpg (3)

John Church, Bayleys.