Puhoi Critics Myopic


Transport Minister Steven Joyce turned his guns today on the critics of the Puhoi to Wellsford roading link.

He complained that “a few myopic central Aucklanders who don’t get out much don’t understand the importance of this link.”

BTW, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines myopic as:

1 : a condition in which the visual images come to a focus in front of the retina of the eye resulting especially in defective vision of distant objects
2 : a lack of foresight or discernment : a narrow view of something.

ARC Chair Mike Lee had coined the Puhoi project the “holiday highway.”

The Minister said those myopic critics “seem to think that for central planning reasons its fine to stop the current three lanes of traffic in a paddock just south of Puhoi.  Well it isn’t, and we will be providing this crucial arterial link to our largest city.

“No work had been done on this project prior to it being confirmed as a road of national significance last year so on our current timetable this will be the fastest ever major highway project completed in this country from start to finish.

“At this early stage, I am confident that the first half of the road from Puhoi to Warkworth will be complete within the ten year period but the second half - from Warkworth to Wellsford - will be more challenging to finish in that time.

Indicating he is determined to push it through he added: “That remains the Transport Agency’s goal and they know I’ll be on their backs about it!”

Addressing the two -day Transport Infrastructure and Economic Prosperity Conference in Auckland, Mr Joyce said that last month, the first big milestone was taken on this route with the awarding of a contract for the formal route investigation work.  Shortly NZTA will commence consulting with the community about the various route options for the road.

Puhoi to Wellsford was approximately 38kms long and will run from the northern end of the Northern Gateway Toll Road near Puhoi to north of Wellsford and he called it one of the busiest and most dangerous stretches of two-way carriage way in the country and links our biggest city to points north.  It was also vitally important to the economic development of Northland.

Joyce: Puhoi critics are "myopic Central Aucklanders"

Mr Joyce referred in his speech to KiwiRail but said he didn’t want to dwell on the money Labour paid to buy it back.

“Once you have spent a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money on an asset that is now valued at just $388 million - there’s some understandable cynicism around about what you do next. So given that’s the starting point, we do need some hard-nosed realism about future investments.”

But he expressed confidence in rail.

“While there is a very long way to go, I am confident that we are at last on the right track with rail, and that if we operate with a sense of realism and pragmatism and work together we can make this work and see rail make a significant contribution to our economic growth story.”

But he again repeated his messages from last week that all stakeholders had to buy into using rail for freight - and city commuters had to pay more for the big infrastructure improvements on Auckland and Wellington rail services.

  • The metro operations will have to meet the actual fair costs for the renewal and maintenance of the networks that they use going forward.  At they moment they’re not and services are suffering.  Discussions on that responsibility will start shortly.
  • If we’re serious about making this investment work and turning Kiwi Rail around we need the support of all stakeholders. That includes the crown, in providing capital, the big freight customers providing volume at a sensible price, which includes the management and staff of kiwi rail, rail enthusiasts, and the regions that provide metro passenger services.




  1. jarbury says:

    It seems myopic to me to be spending $11 billion on state highways over the next decade when the world is hitting peak oil…..

  2. Steve says:

    Touche Jarbury… I like :)

  3. jarbury says:

    You know… just saying ;)

  4. Geoff says:

    How can a wide shouldered, smooth sealed road, with few places you have to slow below 100, be unsafe? The answer is that people continue to drive like they are on the motorway. This road is not unsafe. The people who drive on it are. This road project is really about making the Marsden Point railway and NAL upgrade less viable by making it more cost effective to freight everything by road. That’s why the project is being fast tracked, as it needs to overtake the railway proposal which has already progressed.

  5. Andu says:

    Its not that the ‘holiday highway’ is a terrible idea and should be stopped at all costs, its just so insanely expensive, and there are surely far more important things the money can spent on at this point in time.
    I am seriously concerned about the whole peak oil thing and the consequences it will have for NZ. I fear it will hit us so hard that no one will take any pleasure in saying ‘told you so’ it’ll just be a nightmare for whoever has to fix the mess we find ourselves in.

  6. John Dalley says:

    Pompous Pratt.

  7. Sarah says:

    You are all confirming exactly what the Minister is saying. Sitting at home in your comfortable Herne Bay/ Ponsonby abodes pontificating about the end of the world and how public transport is the only answer.
    it is only part of the answer and as someone who has to go north regularly (not to a holiday home but for business) I agree 100% with Joyce’s assessment.
    You all need to put on some long vision glasses and lose your short sightedness.

  8. Matt L says:

    Sarah - no one is saying the road doesn’t need upgrading, what people are questioning is the need for a $2bil motorway for a road that usually carries less cars than many roads in the city. Upgrading the passing lanes, straightening some of the corners etc and bypassing the towns would make a huge difference for a fraction of the cost. That money saved could then be used to upgrade other infrastructure or could be put towards something like the CBD tunnel which is indicated to have a far better return for every dollar spent and would spur huge new developments in the city

  9. jarbury says:

    Furthermore, Joyce’s “big bang” approach means that the existing road won’t be touched for an upgrade in the next 5-10 years, as what’s the point upgrading a road that is to be replaced?

    In the meanwhile another few people will die on it each year, we will continue to have huge traffic jams at Warkworth and so on… just so Joyce can build himself a monument.

  10. anthony says:

    they are spending billions on making roads even higher standard and yet a 100 year old bridge on the Waitaki River in SC is falling apart and no one can replace anytime soon it because of lack of funding. if it collaspes it’ll break the only link to the other side of the river for 50km. the rivers frequent flooding is currently wearing it out even more.

    someone PLEASE sack Joyce!

  11. P.K. says:

    You can disagree with his policies but I can assure you Joyce is not a pompous prat.
    Completely the opposite.
    I have had numerous meetings with him over the years and he is refreshingly different from your average Cabinet Minister.
    He is down to earth, has just become a Dad again which has softened him and is colourful and straight forward in his language and approach.
    He has a radio background and can articulate his views well.
    He is however hard to change his views once he has had made up his mind.
    I look forward to his being Minister of Finance in National’s second term. As National’s Mr Fix-It, he will definitely rev up the economy as he is doing with infrastructure.

  12. Sacha says:

    Don’t doubt Joyce is a nice man and obviously been successful in business and as political campaign manager.

    Unfortunately he seems to have “made up his mind” that we’re all living in some 1950s land where motorways are it, public transport should be profitable despite under-investment and peak oil is fiction. If only confidence were truth and denial was in any way ambitious.

  13. ingolfson says:

    Joyce: “No work had been done on this project prior to it being confirmed as a road of national significance last year”

    The above is the same as saying “We don’t know whether it makes sense, but we sure as hell are going for it”. A mind-bogglingly blinkered view, especially with his insistence that public transport and rail have to have cast-iron business cases.

    Whether or not Joyce is a nice dad has ZERO to do with his policies, so why bring it up?

  14. ACT Supporter says:

    @ingolfson It was brought up because someone labelled him a pompous prat, which is very childish and Trevor Mallard-ish.
    @Sacha That’s a nice look at the world through green eco-glasses. The reality is that the country thankfully is no longer run by a party made up of people whose experience is that of school teachers with a protesting background on worthy issues who got paid by the State in a job for life and have never run businesses or really understand the engine room of the economy.
    We now have a party led by, mostly men, who don’t get emotional about worthy issues but just get on and fix the leaking taps in the house. They are people who have successfully run businesses and have come in to find the money cupboard bare, thanks to Labour’s spending on worthy things and then got hit by a recession.
    To climb out of the mess and keep young Kiwis here in NZ, which Labour didn’t, we need to grow the economy and that means getting rid of the blocks in the plumbing such as poor roading to move freight around.
    That’s not living in the 50s or not recognising there is an oil crisis coming. Right now those freight trucks are stuck on a motorway somewhere and we need to sort that out before we can address any other issue.
    Thanks to Labour’s misty eyed view of the world, it amazes me we still have people who think all roading infrastructure development is bad.
    The truth is National won and continues to get strong support and long may it continue.

  15. Cambennett says:

    “agree 100% with Joyce’s assessment” - Wow that’s a huge surprise there Sarah. The irony of Joyce calling others myopic is staggering.

  16. Cambennett says:

    “We now have a party led by, mostly men, who don’t get emotional about worthy issues but just get on and fix the leaking taps in the house” - Great stuff Act supporter, very rational, objective and non emotive analysis from you there there, i’m convinced Joyce is correct from you post, way to make a point. Seriously perhaps you would be taken more seriously if you didn’t argue in slogans and tired cliches?

  17. Chris R says:

    “The truth is National won and continues to get strong support and long may it continue.”

    They didn’t win - Labour lost! There are no winners/losers in the MMP environment, except the voters. That is why we have to go back to FPP to get rid of Rodney and his mates.

  18. Joshua says:

    If we went back to FPP we would definately end up with a National Led government. For the last number of elections National has had the majority of Voters, however Labour were able to gain the collition parties to make a governement, untill this term of course where the smart voters of epsom, combined by Keys critical skills saw the numbers insure they get in.

    I agree that Joyce is a great leader, and I give him all my support, I’m a huge fan, just not as Minister of Transport, as here he has a determined nature to invest all availible funds into roading.

    The fact is this roading link is critical, and definately needs to be completed, from a safety point of view we have to design to the driver, it’s easier that way than education as it hasn’t and continues to not work. It’s unfair for the family who suffers because of one incident, one idiot on the roads. So it definately needs to be done. However the issue is when, and the answer not now, there are other projects, such as the Central Rail Loop which will have a much bigger benefit on the community and economy, these project get ignored because Joyce is determined to push through roading projects.

    What we are arguing is about the priorities of these projects, how can they be put ahead of these other much needed projects. Surely they could do the Walkworth bypass, and possibly the Wellsford bypass, and leave it like that for the time being, untill the more crucial projects get completed. Then they can return and finish off the job.

  19. Brian says:

    Mike Lee has done more for Auckland than any recent politician I can think of and I trust he finds a place in the new local body structure.
    I haven’t commented here before but on two points under discussion I disagree with Mr Lee.
    I feel strongly on the retention of the Queens Wharf sheds. Too much of Auckland’s heritage has already been lost and the sheds can be incorporated into the use of the wharf,which is a large space.
    Brian Rudman’s excellent piece this morning on the disgrace of the Historic Places Trust giving in on this issue is a timely reminder that even the friends we thought would be there wont’t be fighting for this. I was previously horrified that the nonsense of maintaining a piece of the Jean Batten building as a “facade” instead of maintaining the historic building was allowed to happen.
    The Historic Places Trust should be ashamed.
    The other issue I’m irked by is Mr Lee’s cute description of the Puhoi project as a holiday highway. This is a political slogan that earned support in certain quarters but trivializes the complex issue of our northern neighbours.
    I have been involved for years in an initiative to help disadvantaged youths, many of them Maori, in North Auckland and it’s a difficult battle because the economy can not support any tangible help for them, by providing jobs and making the young and willing productive.
    Furthermore, my many efforts to even get Aucklanders to come and see the problem gets constantly thwarted by the fact the roading trip north is not a welcoming one.
    You have to be there to know how much potential the economy has and the potential of getting these young people working instead of drifting into crime and a sea of dope and hopelessness.
    Making the north more attractive and useful by improving the roading link is actually a big deal and a crucial one.
    I’m not a fan of more motorways -I enjoy public transport- but in this region, it is a matter of letting the hopeless situation continue to drift or trying to make a difference.
    For those trying to help in the region, I strongly support the minister’s efforts.

  20. Joshua says:


    Interesting read - show how focused our construction in roading is going to be in the next few years, also indicates he understands some of the importance rail contributes, but is lacked by much action.

    Worth a read!

  21. William M says:

    Well. Quite a heated argument here. Regardless of the government in power - it has always been a war of words. The MOT at the time is always talking the talk, but no-one is willing to put those words into action. In the case of SJ, I take my opinion (and that is all it is, and I recognize some will not agree), he is a smarmy prick.
    My problem lies with a highway that is truly a holiday highway, with a questionable BCR. This is the same issue in the Waikato where SJ wants to spend billions building expressway, rather than improving roads, on a BCR that is far lower than the BCR to return the Waikato Connection to service. Even though the facts stare at him in the face, that is; that the Waikato Expressway will cost more to the taxpayer and give little in return in contrast for the little expense for what is required on the NIMT which will return far more.
    Anyone who can avoid and ignore the facts is a smarmy prick to me. And that’s all I have to say about that ;-)

  22. Chris says:

    Pot kettle black. Joyce said: “Once you have spent a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money on an asset that is now valued at just $388 million – there’s some understandable cynicism around about what you do next. So given that’s the starting point, we do need some hard-nosed realism about future investments.”

    And various commentators have pointed out that the cost benefit ratio of the holiday highway means that for every dollar spent on it, you get something like 30cents back, effectively losing 70% right off. The same ratio applies to other roading projects so beloved of Joyce. He’s willing to drop a billion for a $300m return. That’s realism alright.

    @Brian - I hear you - I have friends in the north and yes, the economic situation isn’t all that flash. However, I would like to suggest that you turn your eyes the other way - to the rail road. Have a good look at the rail link, and think - now, if that could be upgraded to highspeed rail link so you could get to Whangarei in 40mins - wouldn’t that be a better thing to do for the North?

  23. Joshua says:

    William M - I tend to disagree

    With talking the talk, I can tell you that National is definately puting it into actions, you just don’t like the direction they are heading, I do like their direction in most things apart from Transport, however this is definately a government of Actions rather than our last government of words and reports.

    SJ Talks roads and builds roads, so how does your comment relate? - “Regardless of the government in power – it has always been a war of words. The MOT at the time is always talking the talk, but no-one is willing to put those words into action.”

    Also I don’t think its ignoring the facts, it’s how he interprets the facts. It’s changing his mind that hard.

    Chris - the ‘holiday highway’ is needed, it’s the priority thats given to it thats annoying. With you calculations and the CBR, how much cost do you give to death?

  24. Jeremy Harris says:

    I heard Joyce say in the house once that when built motorways, on average, provide 15 times the economic benefit that was in the BCR… How do you argue with that..?

    It really gets me annoyed that nobody voted for this guy, heck he didn’t even stand for an electorate…

    I am starting to wonder exactly which cabinet minister’s office Sarah works in too…

  25. Sarah says:

    @Jeremy Don’t be silly. And I’m not a member of any party. As for voting, I changed from Labour to National last election.
    I’ll be voting for John Banks. I like his transformation.

  26. Andrew says:

    Sarah, I have relatives who live up north, and I travel from AUckland to Mangawhai every couple of weeks, and I disagree 100% with you. We do not need the Joyce highway.

    SH1 North is not slow except for points inside Warkworth and Wellsford.

    Bypassing these two towns is necessary, yes.
    Safety improvements are also necessary. This road needs a median barrier.

    But that’s enough to make it a fast road. Congestion outside the Warkworth and Wellsford town pinchpoints is not an issue on that road.

    We don’t need a motorway costing $1,690,000,000 to achieve those improvements. Count the number of zeros there - that’s $1,690 million dollars. We’re getting too immune to the word “billion” and forget how much money that really is.

  27. ingolfson says:

    Hear hear.

    What I don’t understand is how the lobby behind part of this “lets build lots of big new motorways” policy is so focused on the big projects. Why not spread it out over lots of smaller projects (like such safety improvments as discussed). Why not do 10 x 160 million projects rather than one 1.6 billion project?

    They can make money out of a lot of mid-sized projects too, maybe even more than from one big one (big projects mean a lot more cost-shaving is possible by a hard-bargaining NZTA).

  28. Nick R says:

    “Right now those freight trucks are stuck on a motorway somewhere and we need to sort that out before we can address any other issue.”

    So the answer is to build more motorway for more freight trucks to get stuck on?!

  29. Gareth says:

    The critics aren’t myopic nor economically illiterate.

    I’ve written recently in the Auckland University magazine Craccum comparing the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway to another roughly comparable costed project the CBD rail loop.


    Here’s a little section:

    Like a gambling addict, Auckland fools itself into thinking it doesn’t have a problem. “Just one more bet or win and then I can finally quit.” “Just one more motorway will relieve congestion and then we can stop building them.” But one motorway leads to another, then another, until you’re building motorways to fix the problems caused by other motorways. Right now the Government’s planning to spend $1.7 billion of our cash on the Pūhoi to Wellsford ‘Holiday Highway.’ This road has a Benefit Cost Ratio of only 0.8 which means they’re predicting it will lose the economy $280 million – in other words it is totally uneconomic. A great example of addled, motorway-addicted thinking.

  30. Jeremy Harris says:

    I’ve been very impressed with your job in the transport spokeperson role for the Greens Gareth, keep up the good work…

  31. Joshua says:

    ingolfson - The government goes for these big projects because you get more value for money, which is absolutely right. The set-up costs alone make it more valuable, while if the contractor is going to get more guaranteed work, they will be willing to mark down contingency costs.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t be focusing on the smaller sized projects, just merely pointing out it is more economic to complete a bigger sized project than a series of smaller ones.

  32. Rationale says:

    I’ve read all these comments with interest, the biggest problem I have with this motorway is that there are way too many eggs going in a way too small a basket. Perhaps 25-30 years ago this motorway would have made more sense but what’s required today is a balanced approach to transport.

  33. Harry says:

    This guy is such an idiot

  34. Andu says:

    Anyone who says that a whole brand new motorway is needed is talking nonsense. I’ve driven up north many times to Whangarei and Dargaville. I’ve never had any major problems. Except for idiots on the road driving WAY too fast………

  35. Jeremy Harris says:

    @Joshua - “The government goes for these big projects because you get more value for money, which is absolutely right.”

    I’m not meaning to nit pick you so much lately but it is absolutely wrong - the BCR determines value for money and there are 6 - 7 smaller projects which add up to less than $1,600,000,000 in Northland alone with BCRs ALL over 1.5 from memory… This holiday highway is simply about undermining rail, paying back the RTF bribes, sorry campaign donations, and winning Joyce the Rodney seat after Speaker Smith is gone…

  36. Rationale says:

    National Party thinking I believe is, that this new motorway will create a lot of growth (and it probably will). I don’t think they have any concept of the growth that a CBD tunnel would create and the transformation(finally) of Auckland city.

    Auckland now is quite old worldish for a city it’s size and quaint. No high rise apart from the ugly apartement buildings in the vicinity of Sky City etc. I quite enjoy visiting Auckland(where I once lived) now and staying in the CBD for this reason, but I’m not sure if it’s the right reason for Aucklanders.

  37. Joshua says:

    Jeremy - Sorry Jeremy I miss-understood the comments earlier (after re-reading wondering how I managed that, anyways), I was thinking completing a bigger project in smaller parts (splitting one project into a series of smaller ones), referring to it makes more sense to do so on the large.

    However yes I agree there are whole lot of smaller projects out there which would provide a greater benefit on a whole, there are also major bigger projects (Rail Loop) which will provide greater benefit alone. Either way you swing this government has it’s transport priorities wrong, unless they are trying to justify the project purely on safety, which would ask why we will rank this by safety but previously use the BCR on other project like Vic Park, MHX etc. We need a balance and we need consistency.

  38. joust says:

    @Jeremy Harris, your point about the Rodney seat is an interesting one. Something similar happened in Mt Albert towards the end of Labour’s last term, though probably more detrimental to the locals than the Puhoi road would be.

    The whole thing reminds me of a line from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”:

    Lady Cynthia Fitzmilton: And I must say immediately what a great honor and a great privilege I think it must be, for you, the people of Cottington, to have this gleaming new motorway going through your cruddy little village. I’m Sorry, sorry, your little country village of cruddy Cottington. I know how proud you must feel at this moment to know that your obscure and unsung hamlet will now arise reborn as the very splendid and worthwhile Cottington service station. Providing welcome refreshment and sanitary relief for every weary traveler on his way.

  39. Jeremy Harris says:

    I’ve already seen the plans for the intersection upgrade in Wellsford (I think it is or Walkworth can’t remember) 7 lanes..! :O!

    Another thing that makes this project a waste of money, they are about to spend $10s of millions on road upgrades there, only to build a bypass a few years later…

    *shakes head*

    Cottington indeed…


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