Dawn chorus: A pivotal day

Govt set to decide on $1.3b Mill Rd project that could unleash thousands of houses, but increase carbon emissions; Climate activists oppose it; Auckland Council says it can't afford its $1b share


TLDR & TLDL: The Government is set to announce this morning whether it will go ahead with the $1.3b Mill Road four-lane project alongside the Southern Motorway, and whether it will use Covid-19 fast-track legislation to accelerate the development of motorway-fed South Auckland and the building of over 30,000 homes.

The project aims to improve links for new suburbs to house a further 120,000 people, but has been on hold this year because Auckland Council refuses to fund its $1b share of the infrastructure, arguing it can’t afford it under its self-imposed debt limits within a AA credit rating. Climate activists have also launched court action to block the project, arguing it is part of a broader plan that will increase emissions.

The decision is shaping up as a huge one for the Government and Auckland, as it sets the tone on both housing supply and climate change, and shows how restrained the Government is by its self-imposed debt limits. Stuff has reported the cost has blown out to $3b.

Connected to the project, Oyster Capital, Fulton Hogan and Kiwi Property want to rezone about 330 hectares in Drury East from future urban to a mix of residential, business and open space zones, Stuff has reported. The developers have applied for fast-track approval, which has to be given by the Government, and has been in talks with Auckland Council to use Milldale-style Infrastructure Funding and Financing tools to pay for the $1b of infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the NZ Herald reports this morning from an interview with Transport Minister Michael Wood that the Government has agreed to plans for a brand-new cycling and walking bridge across the Waitematā Harbour alongside the current Harbour Bridge - at an estimated cost of $685m. The timing may not be coincidental, given it answers a long-held complaint of cycling and climate activists.

My bet is the Government will approve and fund Mill Rd and help the Council with the infrastructure costs. The housing supply hit would be too great otherwise.

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