Climate Change Minister James Shaw is defending the Government’s $12b infrastructure announcement, in which roads are the big winner, amid criticism from green lobby groups.
Greenpeace and Generation Zero have criticised the package as a missed opportunity to clean up New Zealand’s transport network.
Although Shaw said as co-leader of the Greens it should come as no surprise that the party would have prioritised a different mix, he backed the package as Climate Change Minister.
“You can’t take away from the fact that there’s $1.8-billion of this package that is devoted to rail, light rail, cycling, walking infrastructure, the $200m that we’re putting into the clean-powered public service.”
Major roading projects announced were being rescoped to include, where possible, things like public transport, he said.
Roads make up $5.3b of the $6.8b spend on transport in the infrastructure package announced today.
That gives the green light to several four-lane highways, including State Highway 1 from Whangārei to Port Marsden, Mill Rd in South Auckland, widening SH1 from Papakura to Drury, the Tauranga Northern Link and SH1 from Otaki to north of Levin.
It was a coalition Government and the Greens had influenced the shape of the package overall, Shaw said.
He was particularly “delighted” with projects like the Auckland Harbour Bridge “SkyPath” going ahead, and the $1.1b for rail.
“When you consider the overall mix it will it will lead to a real shift in a congestion-free network for New Zealand.”
But Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson has slammed today’s announcement as a missed opportunity.
More roads would lead to more cars, which would contribute to more emissions, she said.
“The climate crisis is fundamentally an infrastructure challenge. We can move away from our dependence on dirty fuels by building lots of solar, wind, batteries, electric trains, busways, and cycleways. All of this creates thousands of jobs,and gives people options that they currently don’t have.
Generation Zero was equally disappointed.
Spokesman David Robertson said the Government had allocated an excessive amount of money for roads.
“These roading projects are paving the way to a climate disaster. This money should instead be spent on accelerating public transport infrastructure across New Zealand which in turn would encourage a mode shift, and reduce both congestion and emissions.”
But Shaw wasn’t worried today’s announcement would come back to bite the party in this year’s election campaign.
“If you look at the scale of what we’re investing here in cycleways, in walking infrastructure, in heavy rail, in light rail right around the country and in some of our most congested cities, I think this upgrade is the most significant upgrade in public transport infrastructure in the time I have been alive.”