Monthly Archives: March 2015

Senior NZTA staff hiding conflict of interest? Not cricket if it is

Are Senior Staff of NZTA writing Letters to Editors and not declaring conflicts, or providing transparency, or worse – passing themselves off as the public to deceive?  Surely there are rules about this?  A very knowledgeable Murray Carpenter wrote this letter to the Indepentent Herald this week:


Is he the same Murray Carpenter, senior Engineer at NZTA, designing the exact same road his letter to the editor promotes? Here’s a link to Murrary Carpenter of NZTA, the author of a section of the scoping report for the exact road he’s promoting (flick to page 189). Here’s part of it below:



If they’re the same person, where does he declare his credentials and conflict of interest for transparency?

Would it therefore be appropriate that he should be passing judgement on Hon. Peter Dunne and people opposing plans of NZTA, given his job for NZTA (assuming it’s the same Murray Carpenter)?

Worse still, if this is the same Murray Carpenter, there appears to be an attempt to deliberately mislead readers and deliberately conceal his conflict of interest further by trying to pass himself off as a member of the public, saying:  “After attending the Open Day held last year at Tawa and studying the plans and information, I support the proposed new link …….The advantages are…”.  That public open day was created by his employer, and the report he ‘studied’ is the same one he helped write (if it’s the same person).


Here’s another letter to the Editor by Murray Carpenter attacking one of the fundamental problems of NZTA building new highways in Wellington – traffic volumes being static for a decade. Of course a roading engineer would argue this wouldn’t they?

Perhaps the Minister of Transport could look into this serious matter.  It’s really not cricket as thay say, but then anyone who has opposed NZTA’s plans will know that playing with a straight bat isn’t their strongest point.

 UPDATE 16 April 2015: A complaint was laid with the State Services Commission, and their response was:

Thank you for your 26 March letter in relation to a possible undeclared conflict of interest by a Mr Murray Carpenter and his work with NZTA.  We are satisfied that, while a Mr Carpenter worked for a company contracted to provide advice to NZTA several years ago, if this is the same Mr Carpenter,  we understand that he has been retired for the last two years, and would be acting in the capacity of a private individual.

This might be legally correct, but we’re concerned that this Murray Carpenter did not declare his professional connection with the proposal when he used a public forum to criticise people opposed to it – that’s not cricket.  The fact that he may have been retired at the time does not escape the fact that he was a part author of the report he tries to appear as an independent commenter of.  We think he should have declared his interest, and our concerns still stand.



CE Stitch-up for Regional Transport Committee

So, this report from the Wellington Region Chief Executives probably shouldn’t come as a surprise.  After all, despite promising an open working group to discuss roading requirements in the region, NZTA proved false (quelle surprise) and instead opted for secret closed-door meetings where they could spoon-feed the CEs their preferred option without having to worry about anyone calling them on their BS.

And BS it most certainly is.  If it weren’t, they wouldn’t need to work so hard to prevent alternate voices being heard, would they?  Here’s just one example:  back in December, we OIA’d the information NZTA gave to the CEs — the information that the CEs have had long enough to produce the report being tabled Monday — and have been told they still won’t be able to get it to US for weeks yet, 10 weeks after we submitted the question.  Yeah.

So what might NZTA not have told the CEs in their closed-door meetings?

That the resilience argument they’re leaning on to force through the Takapu Road option is pure fantasy.  The geotechnical report they’re basing all this on STOPS AT GRENADA VILLAGE.  That’s right.  Their analysis of the Takapu Valley route is based on, I kid you not, Google maps and a vague notion that most of the rock around Wellington is more or less the same.  Tell that to the poor sods trying to get the footings sorted for the Transmission Gully bridge over Cannons Creek, at the top of the valley.

NZTA’s “resilience expert” didn’t know — and didn’t do enough homework to find out — that there’s an active fault right where they want to put the road.  Anybody who’s claiming to be qualified to site a road in Wellington should know by now that tidy little valleys like Takapu are *created* by fault lines.  So, do you think they’ve included paying GNS to study that fault line into their budget?  Um, nope.

Did anyone point out to them that having two parallel highways could actually be a liability in a major event?  That it could well just leave them with multiple routes to clear instead of one, dividing their resources?  Ask Christchurch about triage.  Do you think they showed the CEs the map showing the bit of SH1 that are listed as earthquake vulnerable?  Including that controversial stretch above the school?  And that NZTA has already said that if they get to build their shiny new Takapu highway, they’re not going to bother strengthening SH1?  Because, you know, building a new greenfields road is ever so much more fun than maintaining an existing one.  People complain about the road cones.  Best to just let it fall down first, and then make people beg you to fix it — like they did with SH58.

How about consulting with Transpower and Wellington Energy, who are currently busy burying power lines right under where NZTA wants its interchange with TG to be?  Also, nope. And that consultation isn’t free, either.

Did they show the CEs that there are already three different ways to get from the Tawa junction to Linden?  Does adding a fourth through Takapu Valley really count as significant improvement to the network connectivity of theWellington Region?  If they’re going to be ploughing more routes where there are already routes, aren’t there suburbs that might want to upgrade to TWO, before we gift Tawa with FOUR?

Did NZTA remind the CEs that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has already shot down a highway through Takapu Valley once already, when it was proposed as part of the Transmission Gully project?  Evidently not, since the CEs are saying they think it’s a “logical” idea to extend TG down the valley.  Oh wait, but according to NZTA, it’s not the same road the PCE rejected, because, hey, they’ve moved it 500 meters to the left, don’t you know?  Totally different.  Won’t wreck the community or the environment at all, now.

Were the CEs made aware that if the idea is to move heavy trucks from Petone to Transmission Gully — because they make a big noise about how they can make a nice even grade for heavy trucks —  then SH58, being lower and shallower, is a much better choice…. oh wait!  NZTA is planning to DOWNGRADE SH58, lowering the speed limit and slapping in some roundabouts.  Making it safer by turning it into a slow, inconvenient road. See, that road’s no good anymore, so you’ll have to approve this new one.  No, you don’t get a proper interchange on SH58, either.  [UPDATE: Apparently, they found the money somewhere.  Maybe because most of the submissions on P2G were asking why they heck they weren’t fixing SH58?] They’re too expensive if we build them on SH2.  Fortunately, we can magically do them for half the cost on the other side of the ridge.

Yes, they’ve budgeted HALF the cost for the big interchanges they want to put in for P2G [$20M max] as they say SH58 would cost [$42M], or that Dowse actually did cost, despite the size and complexity being comparable, if not worse.

Speaking of budgeting, they’re also budgeting their earthworks — remember that 20-storey-deep canyon they want to blast through Korokoro? — at half what they were told was the likely cost back in 2011.  And that’s assuming they only have to take the stuff 6km, which won’t get most of it out of the project area. Planning on using that dirt for a runway extension?  Hope you have another hundred million lying around.

So if the biggest chunks of their budget are already off by a factor of two, what does that say about their Benefit-Cost calculations?  Which, by the way, include some generous “future benefits”, but don’t have to include the future expense of maintaining the kilometers of highway they want to build parallel to the existing one, plus all the superfluous interchanges.

What else shall we look at?  Time savings?  They’ve said you can save 15 minutes on your drive between Tawa and Petone.  Which is a good trick considering that drive usually only TAKES 15 minutes at peak hour.  So NZTA’s roads are so good, they’ll send you back in time?  And the time savings they want to bulldoze Takapu Valley for?  Ooh.  10 seconds. As much as 30 seconds on a good day, southbound.  Maybe a minute or two northbound.  If you live in Kapiti, since that’s the only place that Takapu highway will take you, northbound (one-way ramps!).  That’s if the multiple roundabouts and traffic lights they want to put at Tawa haven’t stuck you in a half-hour queue.

Here’s the kicker, though:  NZTA is pushing the wrong road.  Of the four options they analysed for the route north of the saddle, the one that was closest to the originally proposed route — what was “Option A” that came out at Grenada Village — was actually the best option, according to their own project goals AND their own internal experts.  It had good natural resilience, did the least damage to the environment, didn’t have bizarre snarly interchanges that tried to mash together two motorways with eight local streets, a train station and a footpath, and most importantly, IT MADE THE TRAFFIC FLOW BEST.  Seriously, they rejected the option that actually made the traffic flow best.