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Route protection information

The importance of route protection

Few events in recent memory have demonstrated how vulnerable horizontal infrastructure can be to water than the recent cyclone and 1-in-200-year rainfall that saw homes, businesses, roads and amenities flooded in the north of the North Island. 

Primarily, it was our legacy roads that became overwhelmed and suffered damage and we are now working through the complex process to repair them. 

Obviously, the safest and most ideal outcome is that a road doesn’t flood, in the first place, and we did see examples of how modern infrastructure coped better with such unprecedented rainfall. 

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport are working together to plan transport corridors across Tāmaki Makaurau, for the next 30 years. That’s because Auckland’s population is expected to reach 2.4 million by 2048. 

Around 30% of this new growth will happen in greenfield areas, such as Warkworth, Silverdale, Kumeū, Huapai, Whenuapai, Riverhead, Drury, Karaka, Paerata and Pukekohe – many of these areas are on, or adjacent to, flood plains. 

Consequently, we have an important role to play to ensure that this growth has been carefully planned for, well in advance, so that people can live, work, learn, play and travel safely around their neighbourhood, however they choose to do so. 

The level of required planning and investment is of such magnitude that any ad-hoc, out-of-sequence approach to this development will have major funding and travel implications. 

Route protection is the planning process that identifies and protects land for future infrastructure development. It provides economic and social certainty by giving clarity about where transport routes will be located. This helps communities, developers, utility and infrastructure providers and businesses make informed decisions about the future. 

Route protection also gives property owners, businesses and the community certainty on where transport routes will be located, which helps people make informed decisions about their land and its development. It guides future location choices for other essential community services such as recreational facilities, schools and hospitals. Once the land required for transport projects is protected, property owners can continue to use, own buy or sell their land right up until Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi need the land for construction. 

Now or later? The cost of route protection and the cost of not 

While route protection doesn’t guarantee funding for construction, the preplanning work enables good decision making around prioritising spending and can drive major efficiencies which makes funding more likely. It also allows flexibility to respond as development occurs, ensures land will be ready when it’s required and costs a lot less than ad-hoc acquisition. 

When corridors aren’t protected in advance of urban development occuring, we often have to retrospectively make transport interventions fit within the existing built environment and that can be much more invasive for many more landowners and expensive for taxpayers. 

Assessments show that taking a ‘wait and see’ approach (that is, not route protecting land now), has a higher risk-based cost when compared to route protecting now. This is further exacerbated when total expenditure is considered (as opposed to present value).The wait and see approach also often results in compromises which can also reduce the transport outcomes and benefits of a project. 

Route protection offers savings in relation to implementation including opportunities for public financing that recover some or all of the value that public infrastructure generates for private landowners (value capture). 

If we do not route protect, some projects may no longer be viable when they are needed and /or associated benefits are decreased, and possibly even lost. 

Flexibilty within designations 

It’s important to note that designations (which are effectively lines on a map), may seem vague. A designation only identifies the land required for a future transport project, it doesn’t stipulate how it will be used, when it will be used or what it will look like. 

However, there’s a robust process that informs where the lines are drawn including a multi-criteria assessment of options against engineering, environmental (including flooding), planning, cultural, social and economic considerations. It is further informed by engagement with the public, Manawhenua, subject matter experts and landowners. 

Once that process is complete, a Notice of Requirement to designate the land needed for each transport corridor is given. If confirmed, an official designation is then placed over the properties that fall within the lines. 

Unlike the permanent paper roads that were marked on maps in the 1800s and 1900s, today’s designations expire. They are placed over property for 10-30 years and lapse if the land is not acquired. 

While we support all impacted landowners through the route protection process, we acknowledge that having a designation placed over private property can be really distressing. We do, however, know that the earlier a designation is chosen, the fewer people are impacted and the greater the choices they have. 

While the lack of detailed design in a designation is often difficult for people living under it, the multi-criteria assessment provides reassurance that issues like flooding vulnerability will be designed for, when the corridor is constructed. 

It also provides opportunity for the area’s future community to be involved in the process of deciding how they will use the corridor, in the future. 

“That’s important because in 30 years from now people may not only want to travel down the corridor, they may even want to use the airspace above it.” 

– Randhir Karma, Regional Manager System Design, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency 

If we don’t route protect now, it will only be more challenging and expensive in the future. Not route protecting now would mean less flexibility to respond to growth and development as it occurs, resulting in a more costly and less effective transport response. 

When will transport routes be built?  

When will transport routes be built?  

Once route protection is secured, future project stages include concept design, resource consent approvals, procurement, detailed design and construction. For some projects, the time between route protection and construction is short, but in other projects it can be some years before construction begins. 

In the Te Tupu Ngātahi Programme, routes are being protected for transport connections that will be required over the next 10 to 30 years. Some of these projects have confirmed funding for construction this decade through either the New Zealand Upgrade Programme(external link) or the Auckland Transport Alignment Project(external link) (external link)(ATAP 2021–31) and the Auckland Regional Land Transport Plan(external link) (RLTP 2021–31). The rest of the projects will need to secure funding for construction at a later date.