Ross Reid Contractors provides the motorway connection for residential and business developments vital to Auckland’s growth in what has turned out to be a privately funded project. BY GAVIN RILEY.
A JOINT GOVERNMENT-COUNCIL push to ease Auckland’s housing crisis by building affordable homes across the city has been noticeable only for its slow start – the accord was struck 18 months ago but by late January this year had delivered only 350 houses.
However, in the wake of growing public criticism, accelerated progress can be expected this year. Under the accord, special housing areas (SHAs) are being identified in selected urban and rural pockets where fast-track development of affordable housing can take place.
Such developments bring work for civil contractors – earthworks and provision of infrastructure, including road links to and from the nearest motorway.
The kind of construction activity that can be expected under SHAs is currently to be found 30 kilometres north of Auckland city centre on SH1 at the Wainui Road overbridge near Silverdale where Ross Reid Contractors has nearly finished building motorway on- and off-ramps to serve important adjacent residential and business developments.
Work on the $16.8 million Wainui interchange began in May last year. When completed in late April the 700-metre-long, south-facing ramps and roundabouts will serve the Millwater subdivision, which will in time house 10,000 people, plus the 60 hectare Highgate Business Park, which will have accommodation for a further 500. The interchange may also eventually link to a proposed 876 home SHA development at nearby Silverdale North.
As well as constructing the motorway on- and off-ramps, Ross Reid has had to upgrade and widen 1.5 kilometres of the Millwater Parkway leading to the Wainui Road overbridge, a task which required closure of the Parkway and introduction and management of a traffic diversion from May to October last year.
Ross Reid has also strengthened the Wainui Bridge abutments and is carrying out a separate $8.8 million contract to upgrade Wainui Road, a project that began last November and will be completed this June.
The company has had to overcome several challenges. A sizeable slip last year on the on-ramp batter required remedial work and involved the installation of concrete piles and buttress drains. Then the construction crew had to battle through an abnormally wet winter to keep the overall project on track.
“In order to meet the programme deadlines we never stopped work through winter,” says Ross Reid business development manager Prutvi Kumar.
“The project carried on through winter with significant drainage and roading works, retaining-wall construction, and abutment-strengthening works.”
With the six-month closure of the Millwater Parkway to enable its widening, and single-lane traffic during the Wainui Bridge abutment work and Wainui Road upgrading, traffic management has been another major challenge.
“I’m pleased with how the guys handled that because the area carries significant traffic,” Prutvi says.
He is also pleased that the team performed so capably that no traffic management was needed through the Christmas break. “We had three days off at Christmas. The road was formed on Wainui Road, asphalted for the traffic, to avoid disruption through the Christmas break. That was a milestone.”
Given Auckland’s urgent need of more houses, it seems in retrospect unhelpful that the now-defunct Rodney District Council ruled that the developer of the Millwater subdivision, WFH Properties, should pay the cost of the Wainui ramps.
Rodney Council also said the structures had to be built before stage three of the residential development would be allowed to go ahead.
Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and the Transport Agency have declined to reconsider the Rodney decision and contribute to the cost, which is being shared by WFH Properties (69 percent) and business-park developer Highgate Commercial (31 percent).
The Transport Agency, which will take over operation and maintenance of the signalised ramps, worked with the developers and Auckland Transport in the planning and design of the structures.