Transmission Gully no 'unproductive motorway'

RICHARD LONG
Last updated 05:00 26/06/2012
Transmission Gully route

The proposed Transmission Gully route.

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Richard Long

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OPINION: "Tell that to the Marines" my mother used to say when we tried, as kids, long-shot excuses. I now find myself saying it back to the TV screen when Green MPs spout the new trendy phrase "unproductive motorways" as an example of what they see as wasteful Government spending.

It seems logical to bring the Marines into it, considering that last week, after a lifetime of debate, all hurdles were finally cleared for Transmission Gully, the new northern outlet motorway for Wellington.

The Marines supposedly offered to bulldoze the route through after they arrived here in 1942 for the start of the Pacific campaign and were housed at Paekakariki. They said the gully route was a more efficient connection with Wellington.

Now, after 60 years, we are about to get this fast high-speed motorway to replace the narrow, slip-prone, earthquake-prone coastal route, which is frequently subject to long delays.

But hold on, say the critics. We don't need it. We should be relying on nice, clean rail, as if this can somehow efficiently connect, at low cost, every hamlet in the land. On viable costings it could not even connect Wellington city and the airport.

I was left with my head slumped in my hands at a function the other day when experts with figures failed to convince an ardent Green that a Wellington city-airport train would cost billions and could never pay its way.

But "unproductive motorways" is the catch-phrase of the moment from the Greens and the Left. It does not seem to occur to these critics that inefficient roads clogged with goods and commuters would be the real loss of production.

Motorway criticism is linked with the demand that we should abandon fossil fuels. And new electricity generation, we are told, should be green and clean. No, not more hydroelectric dams to produce cheap power: that would affect the scenery and the fish. No, not clean green nuclear power: that's unthinkable. We need more windmills and solar panels, apparently.

And who would pay for the astronomical increase in the cost of electricity generation from these methods, which would leave pensioners and beneficiaries freezing in the dark? Well, obviously, the enthusiasts argue, the Government would initially subsidise a worthy cause.

This is the same frugal Government which is being savaged for spending cutbacks aimed at returning the accounts to surplus by 2014/15, or soon after, to keep on the right side of the lending agencies who are taking an increasingly jaundiced view of national debt. Their views will harden if the Greek tragedy eventually plays out in withdrawal from the Euro and is followed by a world recession.

Having our national debt reduced by the partial sale of state assets before then would be another useful signal, too, to the international lenders. And this would revive the flagging Kiwi capital market with gold-plated entities which investors could trust, after being burned in the 1980s financial collapse and by the finance house crashes after 2008.

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But the critics would call this off, too, with no regard to the consequences. A backdown would demonstrate to the international agencies that we have our own Greek dilemma, and that the Government is impotent.

Similarly the Government must maintain the fully funded model for ACC, to reduce the cost to future generations, while resisting the current hysterical demands that the scheme is "a sacred responsibility" which should provide whatever claimants demand from it.

There will be further hysteria over the High Court decision overturning the bid by Greenpeace and the local iwi to block Brazilian oil giant Petrobras from exploring off the East Coast. Hopefully, in spite of the costly delay to Petrobras, the court decision will now encourage other explorers to also stick their toes in our offshore waters.

Then there is the little matter of the estimated 1000 years of lignite coal in Southland, enough to provide all our diesel demands.

- The Dominion Post

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