Transmission Gully was scheduled to open on September 27. Photo / Mark Coote
Area council officials have been left to work on the base that Transmission Gully will open in 10 days, with no word from the transport agency to say otherwise.
This is despite the fact that Waka Kotahi NZTA and Transport Minister Michael Wood have publicly stated that they expect the recent Covid-19 lockdown to affect the planned opening of the road.
But Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) chairman Daran Ponter said no one had officially asked if September 27 was a spectator, or given any indication of what Plan B looked like.
“And the answer to that question about the date lies between what must be a heated negotiation between NZTA Waka Kotahi and the road builder,” he told the Herald.
The troubled four-lane highway is being built under a public-private partnership (PPP), the Wellington Gateway Partnership (WGP), with CPB Contractors and HEB Construction subcontracted to carry out the design and construction.
The GWRC acts as a regulator and processes a number of outstanding resource consents, which must be signed for the way to be legally clear.
Environmental management group chief executive Al Cross told a committee meeting today that the board had not received any formal notification from Waka Kotahi to move the opening date.
“I think it’s fair to say we’re expecting to see something, but we haven’t seen anything yet.”
Cross said Waka Kotahi’s call for the board to continue working on consents was also recognition of the sheer volume of work involved.
There was already doubt that the troubled $ 1.25 billion road would be completed in time before the Delta outbreak.
An August council report said there was a risk that the 44 environmental tasks requiring approval would not be completed on time, leading Ponter to say he was nervous.
Council officials said today that retrospective consent remains the “biggest red flag” for opening roads.
As the board has not even received a request for some of these consents yet, which can be complex, officials consider it “totally unrealistic” that they will be addressed by September 27 anyway.
Ponter said council officials could only work with the date given to them.
“They have not been notified of a new date, so for all intents and purposes they are working on the idea that the road builder will complete the resource clearances they are required to meet by the 27th.
“No one asked if it was September 27 or if it was a date in the future.”
The builder was going to be responsible for $ 250,000 per day in damage if the road didn’t open in time.
Additionally, $ 7.5 million of a $ 145.5 million settlement covering the financial impacts of Covid-19 was not going to be paid if the road was late.
But alert levels 3 and 4 are considered force majeure. This releases an affected party from their contractual obligations due to an event beyond their control.
A spokesperson for Waka Kotahi said the recent lockdown and restrictions were expected to impact the opening date of Transmission Gully, but it was too early to say exactly what that impact is.
“Waka Kotahi continues to work closely with Wellington Gateway Partnership and the builder of Transmission Gully to understand all of the impacts. We will update our partners and the community when we can. Until then, we will not be providing any further comments.
Transmission Gully spokesperson Natasha Utting said, “We do not have an update on when Transmission Gully will open yet, and the project will not provide further comments at this time. “