Bridge to the Future

Dr Matthew Birchall
Insights Newsletter
3 April, 2024

The cancellation of KiwiRail’s $3 billion upgrade of the decrepit fleet of Cook Strait ferries provides an opportunity to finally build what New Zealand really needs: the Cook Strait Bridge.
This 27-kilometre monument to Kiwi ingenuity would show the world that we’re serious about infrastructure – and provide a handy escape hatch for those fleeing Wellington.
As New Zealand’s first Bridge of National Significance, the Cook Strait Bridge would boast a four-lane, grade separated highway, clip-on light rail and a dedicated walking and cycling pathway. Discussions are already under way to turn it into one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.
Supported by hundreds of structures plunging over 200 meters into the deep blue sea, the project would not only bridge physical gaps but also serve as a symbolic leap into the future – where even traffic jams might feel like a scenic drive through Middle-earth.

By investing $25 billion in just one bridge, we can help close New Zealand’s $210 billion infrastructure deficit. And just imagine if we were able to repeat this ten times. Our so-called deficit would be goneburger!
Now, you might be tempted to raise concerns about trivial matters like cost and feasibility. However, let me remind you – we are a nation of builders, where the spirit of can-do economics reigns supreme. Just look at our recent track record of completing megaprojects on time and under budget.
In any case, the funding and financing of the Cook Strait Bridge basically takes care of itself. We’d obviously turn this bad boy into a public-private partnership, slap on a $2 toll and ram it through the new fast-track legislation. Plus, if we borrow from the playbook of the last iteration of the Roads of National Significance, we could recover costs by neglecting routine maintenance elsewhere.
And then there are the tourism opportunities. Frankly, I’ve become a little tired of New Zealand’s 100% Pure sales pitch. But 100% Progress? Now that has a nice ring to it. I can already picture international tourists flocking to see steel and concrete soaring above the waves.
It would be more than just a structural marvel. Travellers would be greeted by traditional carvings and Kiwiana in a celebration of New Zealand's rich cultural heritage.
The time has come for New Zealand to embrace the Cook Strait Bridge – because who needs a ferry when you can build a bridge to the future.

Stay in the loop: Subscribe to updates