National MP for the Auckland suburb of Botany. Christopher Luxon, has joined those opposing the $785 million cycling and walking Auckland Harbour Bridge project, saying the Government is “disconnected from people”.
It comes as the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union has launched a billboard campaign as it forges ahead with an ever-growing petition to halt the project, which is expected to take five years to complete.
Transport Minister Michael Wood made the announcement on June 4. The project is set to be a standalone structure next to the existing Harbour Bridge.
When announcing it, Wood called the new bridge "an outstanding piece of tourism infrastructure".
"Northern Pathway is the missing link in Auckland's walking and cycling network and Aucklanders finally will be able to get across the harbour by foot or bike," he said.
"It's important we get it right and make sure it's an enduring piece of infrastructure, providing alternative modes of transport across the harbour and helping reduce congestion on our Auckland roads."
The petition was launched against the original SkyPath proposal last year and received about 3,000 signatures but it was relaunched on June 4 and in just nine days has reached just over 50,000 signatures.
Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke said in a statement today that the bridge is a “vanity project” that will cost $370 for every household in New Zealand.
“The Government has made a serious misjudgement in choosing to allocate a massive chunk of taxpayer funds toward a project that will disproportionately benefit an elite group of Aucklanders," he said.
On June 10, Luxon accepted the petition alongside Michael Woodhouse MP and Mark Mitchell MP, which at the time had about 30,000 signatures.
Luxon says the Government is “divorced from people doing daily life”.
“There hasn’t been any consultation or discussion. There’s been no cost/benefit analysis and it’s just poor prioritisation.”
He says repairs needed for the recent flood damage to the Ashburton Bridge would cost a fraction of the Harbour Bridge project.
“Whether you are a striking nurse or someone living in Ashburton, there are a gazillion reasons to allocate this money elsewhere.”
Luxon says he has spoken to a number of Aucklanders who can’t understand the Government’s reasoning behind the project.
“The reality of living in Auckland is a lot of people face a long commute and it'll be over a billion dollar job once it's done.
“I was speaking to a tradie [tradesperson] on Friday and he said to me, ‘what are we supposed to do? Tow our tools across the bridge?'”
Houlbrooke told 1 NEWS figures so far show just over 41 per cent of people who signed the petition live in Auckland. That's higher than the proportion of Auckland's population to the rest of New Zealand.
He says billboards will start to appear across Auckland as first-time donors “chip in” to “spread the word and force the Government to reevaluate its priorities and how it is spending taxpayer money.”
The petition that was presented on Thursday will go to the Petitions Committee before it’s decided whether it will go to the Select Committee, which would involve producing a formal report, Luxon says.
Michael Woodhouse told 1 NEWS that he's not surprised there's been such strong opposition to the project announcement.
"There's no question it's not good value for money. The public mood is bang on".