5 October 2018

An unsolicited bid by an international group to establish a joint venture with a NZ construction company to undertake the Penlink Toll Road Project as a BOOT – Build, Own, Operate, Transfer – has been lodged with the NZ Transport Agency.

The offer is to provide the majority of the estimated $400 million capital needed to build a 4-lane tolled Penlink road – including bridge over the Weiti River, busway, cycleway and possibly park-and-ride - recovering all revenue on an extended concession and transferring back to Auckland Council for free at the end of the concession.

At the heart of the bid is establishing a pathway for the joint venture to carry the financial risk associated with the design, build, ownership and maintenance of the toll road that avoids impact on Auckland Council’s tight balance sheet.

It has potential to bring forward by some 10 years the completion of Penlink from the 2025-28 start set out in the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) schedule. “That will be hugely attractive to North Shore’s business and residential communities who are having to put up with traffic queues stretching up to 10km most mornings,” said Auckland Business Chamber head, Michael Barnett.

The Chamber’s Penlink campaign arose from a request by the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board and business community in 2016, following more than a decade of sitting on Auckland plans consented, ‘ready to go’ but unfunded. Thousands of responses have been made to the Chamber’s Penlink website and numerous enquiries made by potential investors.

The 7km Penlink road is consented to run between the Northern motorway at Redvale and the heart of the Whangapararoa Peninsula, reducing by around 50,000 of the nearly 130,000v/day that travel through the nearby Silverdale business area to get to-from the motorway.

“With the local board we have worked hard for this breakthrough.” The proposal to fund and build Penlink tabled with NZTA reverts to the original plan for a 4-lane road with provision for express busway, as opposed to ATAP’s 2-lane road, and so get in front of the ongoing business and residential growth happening on the Peninsula and nearby Silverdale.

 

New Zealand-wide confidence-boosting implications

Penlink is identified as one of around 30 opportunities for PPP investors listed in the trans-Tasman industry body Australia & New Zealand Infrastructure Pipeline website sponsored by government agencies on both sides of the Tasman.

Unlike the unsolicited bid to build Auckland’s multi-billion rapid rail network, currently being planned by NZTA, and other NZ infrastructure projects NZ is crying out for that are listed on the trans-Tasman website, Penlink is small scale. “But how well we manage this pioneer bid will be closely watched by other potential private sector investors for what is, for NZ, a relatively new way of funding and building our infrastructure – but common place internationally.”

But that won’t concern North Shore businesses and residents – they just want the certainty that Penlink’s construction is underway. “It could/should start tomorrow.”