Pledge for lo­cal road­ing

Promised works a bribe – Labour

Taranaki Daily News - - Front Page - Taryn Utiger

Ma­jor road­works on two Taranaki high­way black spots have been an­nounced by the Govern­ment in a pre-elec­tion sweet­ener.

The Nor­manby over­bridge project will start next year, five years ear­lier than ex­pected af­ter a cash in­jec­tion of $10 mil­lion-$15 mil­lion.

Up­grades to the Mt Mes­sen­ger and the Awakino Gorge have also been in­cluded, with up to $25m ear­marked for 2017.

Prime Min­is­ter John Key an­nounced the mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar cash in­jec­tions yes­ter­day at the Na­tional party con­fer­ence in Welling­ton.

The Taranaki projects are two of 14 in­cluded in the $212m road trans­port pack­age, funded from the sale of state-owned as­sets.

Taranaki Re­gional Coun­cil chair­man, David Ma­cLeod said the in­clu­sion of the projects was wor­thy of cel­e­bra­tion.

The coun­cil and the re­gional trans­port com­mit­tee had long ad­vo­cated the need for ac­tion on the trou­ble­some Taranaki high­ways, he said.

‘‘This is the best road­ing news to come out of Welling­ton for quite a num­ber of years,’’ he said.

How­ever, Labour MP Andrew Lit­tle slammed the pro­posal as an ‘‘elec­tion year bribe’’.

‘‘Up un­til now Taranaki has been asked to choose be­tween Nor­manby and other projects, but now that it’s elec­tion year, well . . .’’

Lit­tle said that $25m for the Mt Mes­sen­ger and Awakino Gorge tun­nel was a drop in the ocean.

‘‘There’s about 100km of work that needs to be done there and a $20m com­mit­ment is not tak­ing it se­ri­ously at all,’’ he said.

Labour will an­nounce its trans­port pol­icy in the next few weeks and it would also in­clude works for Taranaki, Lit­tle said.

New Ply­mouth MP Jonathan Young said he was thrilled that Taranaki had re­ceived recog­ni­tion for its con­sid­er­able con­tri­bu­tion to the coun­try’s econ­omy.

Young said al­though the Mt Mes­sen­ger and Awakino Gorge cor­ri­dor were not in his elec­torate, he had been cam­paign­ing to the Min­istry of Trans­port for some time.

‘‘The road is used all the time by people go­ing to and from Taranaki,’’ he said.

Young main­tained that the party’s $212m pro­posal was not just a way to buy votes in the re­gions. ‘‘There is no way this Govern­ment makes a prom­ise and doesn’t stick to it,’’ he said.

Ma­cLeod said a clear mes­sage had been sent to Govern­ment in 2012 when of­fi­cials in the prov­ince were asked to de­cide be­tween the Nor­manby over­bridge or the traf­fic-clogged north­ern high­way out­let in Wai­whakaiho.

The re­gional trans­port com­mit­tee said it would not choose be­cause both were equally im­por­tant to the fu­ture of Taranaki.

‘‘We’re pleased that this mes­sage has been taken on board, so top marks to Welling­ton,’’ Ma­cLeod said.

Whanganui MP Ch­ester Bor­rows said he had spent 15 years re­lent­lessly cam­paign­ing for the work on the Nor­manby over­bridge and was pleased the lob­by­ing had fi­nally paid off.

‘‘We’ve lost too many people on that bridge over the years,’’ he said.

‘‘I have such re­lief know­ing the work is fi­nally go­ing ahead, and soon.’’

The work, sched­uled to start as early as next year, will re­align the cur­rent road, and change the cur­rent over­bridge to a new un­der­rail pass, he said.

Roger Maxwell, chair­man of the re­gional trans­port com­mit­tee, said the in­clu­sion of im­prove­ments at Mt Mes­sen­ger and Awakino Gorge showed the Govern­ment had ac­cepted the com­mit­tee’s strong case that SH3 north was a strate­gi­cally im­por­tant route for a re­gion that was one of New Zealand’s eco­nomic pow­er­houses.

Na­tional’s cash prom­ise also in­cludes works in Manawatu, Gis­borne, Marl­bor­ough, West Coast, North­land, Otago and Can­ter­bury.

Photo: ANDY JACK­SON/FAIR­FAX NZ

Long ser­vice: Waitara vol­un­teer fire bri­gade’s op­er­a­tional sup­port unit cel­e­brated 50 years in ex­is­tence on Satur­day. From left, Nigel Cash, Craig Zim­mer­man, Terry Part­ing­ton, Brent Shaw, Jan Ainsworth and Greig Bar­low.

Blocked again: Truck ac­ci­dents are com­mon­place in the Awakino Gorge, but the Govern­ment is promis­ing ma­jor road­works.

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