Lee loses Mt Albert over waterview connection

by Jake Quinn

Any chance Melissa Lee had in tapping into National’s current popularity and taking Mt Albert off Labour is gone because of one very important issue for the electorate, an issue voters there largely agree on. That of the building of underground tunnels to connect State Highway 20 at Mount Roskill with the north-western motorway at Waterview.

It is obvious that the National govt wont be paying $2+ billion for the underground tunnel option for the SH20 Waterview connection. But poor old Melissa Lee is not allowed to say so. 

Hooten has also called it, indicating that this by-election is as good as over and Shearer has been handed victory because of the parties support, or lack thereof, for the tunnels.

Transit’s proposal to build twin tunnels to connect State Highway 20 at Mount Roskill with the north-western motorway at Waterview was their “preferred option” under the last government.

Transit New Zealand reports last year (referred to in Question Time) showed:

that 75 percent of the people who responded to its proposal favoured the Waterview Connection tunnel proposal, 8 percent were neutral, and about 17 percent opposed the proposal.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce, upon becoming the Minister, ordered a rethink and asked “NZTA to investigate alternatives to the earlier twin tunnel proposal to make this connection.”

This issue plays well for Labour; the tunnel proposal was designed during a time when spending money wasn’t tabu and investing in Auckland transport infrastructure was a good way to spend it (exactly how the project was going to be paid for however was never agreed upon). 

Labour supported the tunnels then and now in Opposition it can legitimately continue to support them – and in full knowledge that they never need to actually pay for them, as that’s Bill English’s problem.

David Shearer attacks Lee on getting the Nats to come clean here and in the same press release uses this relatively meaningless line, showing his support for err, everything:

“I am happy to make my position clear: I support the Waterview tunnel and more investment in public transport.”