Jo Luxton, the Labour Party’s Rangitata MP, has confessed that the timing of the unveiling of a new $785 million cycling and walking bridge across Auckland Harbour was “not the best” but she has defended the government’s reaction to the Canterbury disaster.
Luxton stated that there was still more work to be done to determine the entire financial impact of the one-in-100 year floods that slammed Canterbury on May 30 and 31 and are estimated to cost the area “tens of millions” in damages.
The incident and damage to Ashburton’s State Highway 1 flyover prompted demands for a long-planned second urban bridge to be expedited, with Ashburton District Mayor Neil Brown requesting that the project be moved up a year.
However, on June 4, Transport Minister Michael Wood revealed plans to build a bicycle and pedestrian bridge alongside the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
National Party Selwyn MP Nicola Grigg came out swinging in the House this week, slamming the government’s response as “woeful” and “out of touch”.
But Luxton said at this early stage, the government had “come to the party” for Canterbury.
“Until we get a really accurate picture of the exact amount of cost and damage… it’s still early days,” she said.
“Five hundred thousand dollars has been put forward at this stage but that’s not to say that there’s not the ability for potentially more once we get a better picture.”
Luxton said the Auckland bridge announcement was ill-timed.
“It didn’t come at the best time for us,” she said.
“Everyone was feeling quite stressed and emotional, so it didn’t help.”
Ashburton District Council is expected to unveil the second stage of an NZTA strategic business case by the end of the month.
The floods cut off numerous roads, including portions of State Highway 1, and illustrated how exposed the South Island’s roading network was, Luxton said.
“It certainly has shown our vulnerability here in the south without a doubt,” she said.
“The council still has to come up with the completion of its business case.”
Local Democracy Reporting