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$500k Auckland pedestrian crossing costs quietly corrected

Feb 18, 2024

A Herald headline this week said Auckland Transport was 'pushing on with $500,000 crossings'.  The apparently outrageous expense was also aired on radio and in Parliament as evidence of the urgent need to reprioritise. But AT said the true cost was a fraction of what was reported.  

Transport Minister Simeon Brown had an attack line pre-loaded when he stood to defend his government's decision to drop the Auckland regional fuel tax in Parliament on Tuesday.

"This is all about the cost of living for Aucklanders," he said. "If someone's driving a Hilux they'll save around $9 every time they fill up their car. Someone who's driving a Corolla - around $5. And that's money that won't be funding $500,000 speed bumps in Auckland."

$500k "speed bumps" – or, as some call them, raised pedestrian crossings – may have been on his mind after that morning’s New Zealand Herald. 

Its page three lead by Super City reporter Bernard Orsman ran under the headline 'AT pushes on with project building $500,000 crossings'.

The story focused on Auckland Transport’s plan to build 29 new pedestrian crossings as part of some street upgrades in the suburbs of Point Chevalier and Westmere.

It was the latest in a series of reports from Orsman raising hackles about costly crossings, including one in Three Kings that had to be built, ripped up, and rebuilt at a cost of $600k and another on Williamson Ave in Ponsonby where unexpected stormwater issues pushed the price tag rise to $490k.

Another report noted that AT is installing 27 signalised crossings over two years at a cost of $12.7 million, or about 0.6% of its annual capital budget of $1.1 billion.

But none of the 28 pedestrian crossings in question cost anything like $500k. The estimated cost of the crossings was between $19,000 and $31,000 each.

AT confirmed to Mediawatch - and others - that the real cost of the crossings in question had been provided to the Herald before its publication date.

But the story repeatedly referenced the high cost of some past crossings without quoting the comparatively piddly price of the 29 planned for Westmere and Point Chevalier.

The story was republished by RNZ and on Facebook, where the high cost of crossings generated a flood of mostly angry comments.

Newstalk ZB host Mike Hosking also honed in on the allegedly costly safety upgrades ahead of his interview with mayor Wayne Brown the following day.

"Well how about Auckland's week eh? Half a million-dollar pedestrian crossings, trains that don't work in any sort of heat, scrapping between KiwiRail and AT," he said.

If Hosking had opened the Herald that morning he might have seen something which would have made him feel a bit better about Auckland’s week.

A correction on page five read:

"A headline about pedestrian crossings being built between Pt Chevalier and Westmere on February 13 said they cost $500k each. This was incorrect. The story also omitted AT’s estimate for the crossings, which it predicts will cost between $19,000 and $31,000 each."

It’s not really a surprise that Hosking didn’t spot that though.

The text ran in a small corner at the bottom of a column of news briefs on page five of the paper. Easy to miss. 

As the (slightly augmented) saying goes: Scream the error. Whisper the correction.

Listen to the full Mediawatch episode.

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