More jobs - as much as roading and transport improvements - are seen as the key to easing worsening traffic congestion in Auckland's north-west.

Gridlock out west – why more jobs could help


Auckland Traffic - Getty
Auckland Traffic / Photo Getty Images

More jobs – as much as roading and transport improvements – are seen as the key to easing worsening traffic congestion in Auckland’s north-west.

Up to 13,000 new jobs are expected to be created in the area over the next 20-30 years and will, it is hoped, go a long way to combat increasing traffic gridlock in the district.

With a significant number of the 30,000 new homes planned for the area built or nearing completion, local roads are even now bursting at the seams with previously unheard of traffic jams in places like Kumeu a daily occurrence.

Sara Johnson, general manager marketing for Westgate Town Centre developer, the New Zealand Retail Property Group (NZRPG), believes more local jobs are a big part of the answer to this problem.

“Traditionally people have had to leave the area for work, squeezing themselves down the north-western motorway or over the Upper Harbour bridge to the North Shore,” she says. “Creating diverse employment in this satellite town can be one of the biggest ways to relieve the (traffic) congestion pain out here.”

Traffic movement has come into sharp focus as the massive urban and retail expansion centred on Westgate unfolds. A population the size of “two Hamiltons” – as it has been described – will be living in the area within 20 to 30 years.

While local business and ratepayer groups are putting real pressure on roading and public transport agencies to come up with solutions, Johnson believes creating local jobs is as much a solution as improved, safer roading systems and efficient transport options.

The new jobs are expected to flow from the additional 240,000 sq m of retail created by the Westgate expansion – along with many other commercial activities as the area develops into one of Auckland’s ‘big five” metropolitan centres. NZRPG itself is in the process of developing a commercial zone for office space as part of their on-going expansion plans.

Meanwhile an increasing number of people in the area are turning to the first “motorway” of the north-west – the ferry routes of the Upper Waitemata Harbour which feed into the CBD. Before railway and roads, ferries were the principal means of transport for passengers and goods round the upper harbour. Now, fast, modern ferries set out from both Hobsonville Point and West Harbour each weekday, cutting a drive that can take 75 minutes and over down to a 27-minute ride over the water.

David Long, general manager of Belaire Ferries which operates three ferries and carries 120,000 passengers a year, says he knows of passengers who drive to the ferry terminal at Westpark Marina from Helensville, Riverhead, Kumeu and Greenhithe to avoid the thick of the motorway traffic. “The ferry is incredibly, boringly, reliable,” he says. “It always takes 27 minutes.”

The service from Hobsonville – which started in February 2013 – is run by 360 Discoveries. Both operators are part of Auckland Transport’s network and share feeder buses from Westgate.

The MP for Upper Harbour, Paula Bennett, says improving the transport infrastructure for the north-west is one of the area’s biggest challenges: “It is something I hear a lot about from local and prospective residents. It is vital the existing infrastructure is working in a way that makes life easy for residents – there’s still work to be done and it’s certainly something I’m keeping an eye on.”

The New Zealand Transport Agency Board has begun safety improvements on State Highway 16 says NZTA Highway manager Brett Gliddon.

Meanwhile a series of transport options for the north-west are to go to the Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and the NZTA over the next few months including a bus Rapid Transit Network (RTN) next to state highways 16 and 18 from Kumeu and Westgate to the Auckland CBD and North Shore (and park and ride facilities for this service); further investigation into extending electric trains to Huapai and construction of an alternative “through-route” to bypass Kumeu and Huapai.

The options will also consider a direct motorway to motorway link between state highways 16 and 18, a city-bound motorway off-ramp at Westgate, improvements to the safety and capacity of State Highway 16 north of Westgate, an upgrade to the Coatesville-Riverhead Highway to four lanes and improvements to Brighams Creek Road.

Work is also expected to begin on a roundabout at the intersection of Muriwai Road and State Highway 16 at Waimauku later this year.

Johnson says NZRPG believes an improved motorway system will have a huge impact for the west and north-west, with more people being able to access the centre.