NZTA behaviour

Is the behaviour of NZTA Wellington appropriate for a Government Agency?

After a year working alongside NZTA over their plans to bulldoze the valley.  We’ve learnt a lot about NZTA, and not all of it is nice and respectful.

Things are getting bad. Government Agencies should work within decent standards, but things came to a head yesterday when our MP Peter Dunne front footed the unethical behaviour used by NZTA in Wellington.  This is serious stuff when blackmail is being accused.

Hon. Peter Dunne said:

“…The worst and most arrogant dinosaurs are those quasi-government bodies who somehow think the Government’s policies do not apply to them, and that they can just carry on doing what they have always done. The worst, by a country mile and then some, is the New Zealand Transport Agency which, leaving aside its precious and downright silly pronouncements on road safety, regards itself as a complete law unto itself when building new state highways is concerned, as my constituents in Tawa and Takapu are presently finding out.


NZTA’s sublime arrogance in proceeding with a link road proposal the neither local people, nor local authorities want or think is even necessary is breathtaking in the extreme. But what is more repugnant is NZTA’s clumsy attempts at blackmail –threatening to withdraw funding from the widely supported Petone to Grenada road unless it gets its own way on the link road.


If NZTA cannot understand and respond to the depth of local feeling on this issue, then maybe it is time to unceremoniously dump its current entire board and senior management and replace them who fully understand – and support – the concept of Better Public Services.”

Full text at:

This is not the first time Hon. Peter Dunne has called out NZTA’s behaviour, here is another of several:

Is this the tip of the iceberg?  You decide:

  • We’ve sat in Regional Transport Committee meetings and heard the unelected NZTA representative directly threaten elected representatives to either do as they’re told otherwise funding will be reviewed, and also denegrate public consultation by saying that it didn’t matter what the Regional Council thought anyway as she’d be taking matters to the NZTA board directly and the Regional view had little relevance anyway.
  • We seem to have caught out NZTA staff using underhanded tactics to influence public opinion – this coincidence with a Murray Carpenter seems too unlikely.  A complaint has been laid with the State Services Commisson.
  • The treatment regarding OIAs is bad.  One request to merely establish the RoNS status of the project took 2 letters, 4 ombudsman interventions and over 200 days, to elicit a 2 line reply.  So bad in fact that in the Ombudsman’s government wide review of OIA behaviour, NZTA have been given special attention, and the Ombudsman has requested they use this example as a case study.  There has also been bullying of OIA requesters by phone after hours trying to make them go away.
  • And of course, there is this well known bullying tactic by NZTA in Wellington where funding to other projects would be pulled from WCC if NZTA didn’t get their way
  • Very hard to get NZTA to front publically.  When pushed by our local MP and Councillors to attend a public meeting, the senior NZTA official finally agreed but required conditions before he would (like only written questions he could vet, and no interjecting), presumably because when you’re a bully you fear bullying?
  • NZTA’s standard operating procedure is to play communities off against each other by presenting 2 competing proposals that impact 2 communities that will invariably fight each other.  We were contacted by other communities to warn us, and that’s exactly what happened.  It’s harsh and brutal, and it’s hard work to avoid this manipulation.

What we see now is NZTA is a Government Agency not prone to listening.  It comes in over the top of regional planning layers, flops down it’s plans, creates total regional disruption and then uses coercion or blackmail to get it’s way past widespread local and regional concerns and plans.  This is exactly what it has done with Petone to Grenada and the last minute Takapu Valley tack ons.

They say ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely‘. Perhaps when you walk around with the power of the Public Works Act in your back pocket, that power does corrupt the culture of the organisation that welds it?

Is it time for this to change? Perhaps Peter Dunne is right to stick his neck out like this – it’s a very serious issue for NZ.  Hopefully the Chief Executive and the Board of NZTA will take note?.

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.

Endemic bullying culture in NZTA?

We’re fast developing an appreciation for how NZTA work.  They’re running roughshod through communities and have unleashed a strategy to divide and conquer locals via Option C (widening existing SH1 motorway), or Option D (Takapu Motorway), and giving people 6 weeks consultation to fight major plans, that have no public planning, from a cold start.  It’s unfair, unjust and unethical!  Peter Dunne MP has alluded to this last night.

So it’s not surprising when we find letters like this NZTA letter bullying the Wellington City Council into submission:

Is it time for Kiwis to take a harder look at our biggest Government agency’s behaviour and take the Chief Executive to task?

You’d think being chastised twice by a Cabinet Minister would be enough to halt the NZTA’s outrageous plans to bulldoze a 4 lane Motorway through Takapu Valley without due process, consultation or planning.

We’re slowly uncovering considerable incompetence by NZTA (such as watching WCC grant consent for a whole subdivision soon to be bulldozed – that could cost WCC ratepayers dearly I’d think), and an intrinsic culture of lies and deceit to the public and landowners.  We’ll be documenting this more, one action with possible criminal implications.  Not to mention the unethical and immoral strategy of playing neighbours and communities off against each other to do their work.  Questions need to be asked of this Government Department and it’s Chief Executive that condones such behaviour, paid for by the tax payer.  Peter Dunne is right to be concerned by this behaviour.

“Time to Drop the Link Road Proposal”

Ōhariu MP Peter Dunne is calling on NZTA to drop altogether proposals for a link road between the Transmission Gully Highway and the planned Petone to Grenada road “until it gets its act together.”

Mr Dunne says NZTA’s handling of the link road plan which emerged only three weeks ago has been a “public relations and planning disaster from the outset.”

“I think the plan is now doomed because of its own incompetence, and the sooner it is dropped altogether, the better.

“First off, was the announcement that the preferred option was to slice a link road through Takapu Valley, understandably angering the 80 odd residents who live there, and who had no idea that was being considered.

“Then, NZTA refused to front angry residents at a site meeting, saying it was not ready to talk to them yet, and would prefer to do so on a one-on-one basis anyway.

“Next was the announcement that if they could not proceed with the Takapu Valley option, NZTA would callously play communities off against each other by widening State Highway One by Tawa instead, affecting about 40 properties.

“That brinkmanship is simply disgraceful.

“Now comes this week’s news that people buying sections in a new subdivision at the top of Grenada Village find the proposed road cuts right through the land they are in the process of buying.

“NZTA was even not aware of that until I raised it with them earlier this week.

“These are inept blunderbuss tactics of the worst type – despite its assurances to me personally and in public, NZTA seems to have no comprehension of, or concern about the impact of its cavalier announcements on local resident who stand to be seriously adversely affected.

“In the circumstances, NZTA’s only credible option is to can the plan now, go back to its drawing board, and work with the local community, the Tawa Community Board, and the Wellington City Council on the best way forward,” Mr Dunne says.

Peter Dunne stands up on the appalling behaviour of NZTA on Twitter   | 1 Feb 2014

@nzta_news cowardly on Takapu Valley Road – you cannot ride roughshod over people & then refuse to front, so just drop this mad idea now”

Dunne Seeking Answers on Takapu Valley Roading Plan

Ōhariu MP Peter Dunne is seeking a full briefing from NZTA on its roading plans that are likely have an impact on Takapu Valley residents.

Mr Dunne says he first became aware of the specific proposals yesterday, and shares the concern being expressed by Takapu valley residents.

“Proposals like this which come like a bolt from the blue are understandably very disruptive of people’s lives and need to be handled with sensitivity, something government agencies are often not very good at”.

“However, it is not entirely clear how firm the plans are, which is why I want a full and urgent briefing from NZTA”.

“In particular, I want to know:

  • The actual status of the proposals currently being reported;
  • How, if at all, this proposal is linked to the development of the Transmission Gully highway;
  • The current status of the Petone to Grenada link road proposals;
  • The time frame for and projected cost of the construction of any link road through Takapu Valley;
  • The process and time frames for reaching any decision on the proposal;
  •  What alternatives and other options might be considered;
  • The rights of affected property owners”, he says.

Roads of National Significance – Greenfields to Motorway by stealth – Takapu Motorway

NZTA quietly decided the Petone to Grenada Link Road would become a Road of National Signficance (RoNS).  The minute note below shows.

This is very signficant.  It means that the road does not have to meet the same cost benefit analysis of other roads, and also gets fast tracked through planning and consent processes and environmental safeguards.

NZTA have suddenly tacked a ‘Takapu Motorway’ (Option D) onto the Petone to Grenada link Road (P2G).  The P2G has been discussed since 1975. In contrast the Takapu Valley Motorway was dropped on residents, farmers and landowners a mere 3 weeks ago out of thin air!  It exists in no planning or consultation documents publically available!  NZTA are giving 6 weeks consultation to fight a motorway from a cold start.  Is this how NZ works these days?

By virtue of NZTA quietly adding P2G to the RoNS (somehow they’re saying the P2G road is in the Wellington Northern Corridor [Wgtn Airport to Levin]), and then suddenly tacking a while new ‘blue sky’ Takapu Motorway on at the last minute, you get from green fields to 4 lane motorway with no District Plan, Strategic Traffic Planning, fair public process, or regard for communities.

Amazingly brazzen feat of total disregard for public process and democracy by New Zealand’s largest Government Ministry

Update from the 28 October 2009 State Highways Board Committee meeting
Resolved:That the New Zealand Transport Agency Board:
Wellington Northern Corridor (Levin to Wellington) Route of National Significance: State Highway/local road considerationa.APPROVES that the Petone–Grenada Link be included in the definition of the Levin toWellington Road of National Significance (RoNS);
b.AGREES to keep the Committee report in Committee until it has made a decision on the overall scope of the Levin to Wellington RoNS and the Minister of Transport has announced the Levin to Wellington RoNS
As I write this, the Petone to Grenada Road website says P2G IS a RoNS project and outlines its tenious link, while the RoNS website map show P2G ISN’T a RoNS?  I expect this to change or the links to die, as we’re fast discovering that NZTA are good at manipulating what they share with the public online.