A model approach to roading design – Ara Tuhono Puhoi to Warkworth

Auckland’s first state highway public private partnership, the Ara Tuhono Puhoi to Warkworth PPP project procurement is underway with contracts expected to be awarded in October 2016. By CATHERINE MURRAY.

THE PUHOI TO WARKWORTH project is setting a new precedent for our roading design. It’s the first section of the 38-kilometre Puhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance (RoNS) to begin development.

On completion the new motorway is expected to encourage and support economic and population growth in the North. Connections to the Upper North Island freight markets of Auckland, Tauranga, and Hamilton will also be improved.

The innovative model used to obtain resource consents and a designation is already gaining attention, with the project winning a Silver Award at the 2015 Innovate NZ Awards of Excellence competition.

“The model is offering the opportunity to do things differently and foster design and construction innovation in consenting motorway projects,” says Brett Gliddon, the NZ Transport Agency’s highway manager, Auckland and Northland.

The Puhoi to Warkworth project is the country’s second PPP transport project, with the first being Wellington’s 27.5 kilometre Transmission Gully motorway project. The 18.5 kilometre stretch of roading is a four-lane extension of Auckland’s Northern Motorway, SH1, beginning at the northern end of the Johnstone’s Hill tunnels and ending just north of Warkworth.  The project sees the longest new piece of motorway added to the Auckland network since the 17-kilometre Albany to Orewa addition in 1999. It is also the biggest extension to the Northern Motorway since it opened in 1959, increasing the length by more than 40 percent, and surpassing the length of the Southern Motorway.p36-Road-designing-770x470-2

Forging alliances

To foster design and construction innovation in its approach to the project, the Transport Agency formed the Further North Alliance (FNA) in March 2013. Members of the Alliance include the NZ Transport Agency, engineering and environmental consultants Jacobs and GHD, and lawyers Chapman Tripp. The addition of a lawyer is an innovative move, and takes a step towards the natural development of the alliance culture. With projects such as the Northern Gateway Toll Road showing the effectiveness of design and construction partner alliances, the next step was to bring together all partners under one roof in the earlier planning phase. The usual roading design practice, as Brett explains, has been to have one team complete the environmental and planning assessments for a new project, followed by the introduction of a legal partner to manage the evidence preparation and subsequent hearing process. This structure often meant that the legal team presenting the Transport Agency’s case at the hearing had very little input into the documents that formed the basis of the application.

“Incorporating a legal partner in the alliance from the outset kept the end goal – a Board of Inquiry hearing – top of mind for all participants. It also challenged the team to ask the question ‘why?’ when it came to considering the level of assessment needed to achieve resource consents.” Returning the answer ‘because we’ve always done it this way’ gave the team the opportunity to do things differently, building an innovative team culture, says Brett.

Number one

‘Flexibility’ is also a feature in the Puhoi to Warkworth PPP project with the exclusion of ‘condition 1’ from the consents package for the first time. Traditionally this condition states that the project is to be built in general accordance with the plans submitted at the time of application.

“The absence of this condition enables the Transport Agency to offer an unprecedented level of flexibility to a future contractor – to be innovative and deliver superior value for money in the implementation phase of the project,” says Brett in the agency’s typical techno-speak.

All aboard

Ongoing collaboration and engagement was another unique aspect of the planning process, with all stakeholders involved in the project from an early stage.

Brett says this enabled conversations with organisations such as the Auckland Council and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to ask questions and be comfortable with the idea of an outcomes-based set of conditions. There was also early consultation with neighbours of the project, with engagement beginning in July 2013, well before the final documents were lodged with the EPA, instead of the usual disclosure at the time of public notification. Documents were also made available online as soon as they were accepted by the EPA, giving the public three months to read the documents before making their submission to the Board of Inquiry.

Tight deadlines

The key objective of the FNA was to “achieve flexible resource consents and secure a designation by September 2014”. In March 2013 the team started working together, and Brett says they were faced with a challenging programme.

“The team had to ask the hard questions, such as what are the most flexible and appropriate resource consents to drive innovation and value for money through the implementation phase? Is it the same level of information we have provided in the past on other Transport Agency projects?”

Learning lessonsp36-Road-designing-300x300

The model in the planning phase of the project is already proving a learning curve for the teams involved. Much of the work has been around disrupting the norms of roading design.

“It’s about challenging business as usual,” say Brett. “The Transport Agency is embracing change and putting together a project team with the right attitude to take on the challenge, including tackling the back to basics approach to environmental assessments.”

Another aspect of the planning phase that has worked well is the co-location of team members in the same building, he adds.

“Time and time again this has proved to be a winning formula for alliance projects, particularly those with tight time frames such as the Further North.”

Flexibility was also key in the discussions and planning around the indicative alignment of the roading, which was produced for the purposes of assessing environmental effects. It was stressed to all involved, including the Board of Inquiry, Auckland Council and other key stakeholders, that the alignment could shift within the designation, either vertically or horizontally, with sensitivity tests included to take account of the potential movements.

“The designation will ultimately ensure flexibility through the detailed design and construction phase,” Brett adds.

Procurement prospects

The team undertaking the PPP procurement for the project comprises the Further North Alliance from the planning phase, in addition to Bell Gully and PwC, which worked on New Zealand’s first state highway PPP, Wellington’s Transmission Gully motorway project.

The three consortia shortlisted to develop a full Request for Proposal to finance, design, build, manage, and maintain the motorway are Northlink, the Northern Express Group, and Pacific Connect. Each is comprised as follows:


Cintra Developments Australia, InfraRed Infrastructure III General Partner, John Laing Investments, Ferrovial Agroman, and Fulton Hogan.

Northern Express Group 

Accident Compensation Corporation, HRL Morrison & Co Public Infrastructure Partners, Acciona Concesiones SL, Fletcher Building, Macquarie Group Holdings New Zealand, Acciona Infrastructure Australia, The Fletcher Construction Company, and Higgins Contractors.

Pacific Connect

Pacific Partnerships, VINCI Concessions SAS, ACS Infrastructure Australia, Aberdeen Infrastructure Investments (No.4), Leighton Contractors (now CPB Contractors), and HEB Construction.

• The Transport Agency anticipates announcing a preferred bidder in July followed by the signing of the contract with the successful consortia in October.

With construction planned to begin in late 2016, completion of this section is expected to be in 2022.

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