Govt ‘puts rail be­fore roads’

The Press - - National News | Politics - Michael Daly michael.daly@stuff.co.nz

Na­tional has taken a big swipe at the Govern­ment’s trans­port pri­or­i­ties, is­su­ing a slew of press re­leases, as sev­eral MPs crit­i­cised de­ci­sions be­fore the trans­port and in­fra­struc­ture select com­mit­tee.

The Govern­ment an­nounced in Au­gust it would spend

$16.9 bil­lion on the coun­try’s trans­port sys­tem, in mea­sures set out in its lat­est Na­tional Land Trans­port Pro­gramme.

To ease con­ges­tion, $4b would be in­vested in pub­lic trans­port, rapid tran­sit and rail, and $390m for walk­ing and cy­cling.

State high­ways con­tinue to re­ceive the largest share of fund­ing with a to­tal of $5.7b.

But the Op­po­si­tion said yes­ter­day the Govern­ment planned to take bil­lions of dol­lars from the road bud­get to use for a planned light rail link in cen­tral Auck­land – a charge the Govern­ment re­jects.

Na­tional iden­ti­fied these road routes as be­ing in need of more fund­ing:

❚ Tau­ranga to Hamil­ton ex­press­way ex­ten­sion pro­ject

❚ Auck­land east-west link

❚ Tau­ranga to Katikati ex­press­way

❚ Horowhenua ex­press­way from Otaki to north of Levin

❚ Belfast to Pe­ga­sus mo­tor­way ex­ten­sion and Wood­end by­pass in Christchurch

❚ Pen­link be­tween the Whanga­paroa Penin­sula and State High­way 1 at Red­vale

❚ a full four-lane mo­tor­way from Auck­land to Whangarei, par­tic­u­larly the stretch from Whangarei to Mars­den

❚ Napier to Hast­ings four-lane ex­press­way

❚ turn­ing Mill Rd in south Auck­land into a ma­jor ar­te­rial trans­port route

❚ Christchurch to Ash­bur­ton four-lane high­way.

Hous­ing Min­is­ter Phil Twyford hit back, say­ing the Govern­ment wasn’t ‘‘cher­ryp­ick­ing gold-plated high­ways at the ex­pense of ne­glect­ing the rest of our roads like the for­mer govern­ment did’’, as he de­nied roads were be­ing pe­nalised at the ex­pense of the light rail pro­ject.

Hunua MP An­drew Bayly was among the Na­tional mem­bers of Par­lia­ment to ap­pear be­fore the select com­mit­tee to highlight road is­sues in their area.

He told the select com­mit­tee the is­sue with Mill Rd now was con­ges­tion. ‘‘To even get on the [south­ern] mo­tor­way from parts of Pukekohe and Karaka it will take you up to 45 min­utes.’’

The Govern­ment had agreed to do part of the pro­posed Mill Rd pro­ject but that was just a ‘‘small com­po­nent’’.

Un­der the pre­vi­ous pro­posal, the Govern­ment would have taken over the full pro­ject from Auck­land Coun­cil, and it could prob­a­bly have been com­pleted in five years, start­ing in 2017.

Un­der cur­rent plans, it would prob­a­bly be 20 years away.

Rod­ney MP Mark Mitchell talked about up­grad­ing the Wark­worth to Te Hana route, which he said the Govern­ment had pushed out for 10 years.

‘‘This pro­ject has been pushed back 10 years, it’s cre­ated a lot of un­cer­tainty for prop­erty own­ers that have prop­er­ties on that des­ig­nated route,’’ he said.

Whangarei MP Shane Reti said he was rep­re­sent­ing 2128 peo­ple, who joined a pe­ti­tion to four-lane the road from Whangarei to Auck­land.

In March 2017, the-then Na­tional govern­ment an­nounced a four-lane route from Whangarei to Mars­den at a cost of $500 mil­lion.

The seg­ment of road was the dead­li­est on a list of 10 po­lice hotspots. ‘‘0.74 deaths per kilo­me­tre. We had two deaths three weeks ago at Oak­leigh, so it’s now ac­tu­ally 0.84 deaths per km.’’ The four lanes were scrapped by the Govern­ment in April 2018.

In its place, ‘‘we got some sticks in the mid­dle of the road.

‘‘That’s what we’ve got, they’re called soft hit posts.

‘‘They’re the stu­pid­est things I’ve seen.’’

Taupo¯ MP Louise Up­ston talked about the four-lane ex­ten­sion of SH1 from Cam­bridge to Piarere.

It had been de­signed and the ac­qui­si­tion of prop­er­ties was un­der way but now there was a big ques­tion mark over the route, Up­ston said.

Thou­sands of peo­ple used the turnoff from the high­way to ma­jor wa­ter sport venue Lake Kara­piro. She also men­tioned Kara­piro Rd, on the other side of the high­way from the lake.

Kara­piro School was on Kara­piro Rd. A con­stituent told her that ev­ery day they saw peo­ple risk­ing their lives at the in­ter­sec­tion with the high­way, Up­ston said.

‘‘Just this week we’ve had a truck vs car in­ci­dent, and sev­eral months ago there was yet an­other fa­tal­ity right out­side the school gate. So this is a road that kills. There’s been nine peo­ple that have died since 2005, and se­ri­ous in­juries are a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence,’’ Up­ston said.

Paku­ranga MP Simeon Brown said the Auck­land east­west link was im­por­tant to eco­nomic growth. More than 130,000 peo­ple worked in the area around the link, where more than $10 bil­lion a year in GDP was gen­er­ated. ‘‘It is a man­u­fac­tur­ing and in­dus­trial engine room of the New Zealand econ­omy,’’ Brown said.

‘‘At the mo­ment, we’ve had the road can­celled. At the mo­ment we’ve had no other al­ter­na­tives, plans put for­ward by the min­is­ter as to what needs to hap­pen, or what is go­ing to hap­pen.’’

Twyford said in a state­ment the Govern­ment was strik­ing the right bal­ance in trans­port fund­ing to cre­ate a mod­ern, sus­tain­able trans­port net­work and to en­sure all roads are safe.

‘‘We’re not tak­ing money from the re­gions to fund light rail. Un­der our plan Auck­land will only get its pro­por­tional share based on pop­u­la­tion and growth. We’re spend­ing $600m more on re­gional roads than the last Govern­ment,’’ he said.

‘‘Light rail is part of a plan to fix grid­lock in Auck­land that is cost­ing $1.3 bil­lion ev­ery year in lost pro­duc­tiv­ity.’’

Na­tional MPs are frus­trated by the Govern­ment’s trans­port de­ci­sions, in­clud­ing drop­ping a pro­posal for Auck­land’s east-west link pic­tured here as an artist’s im­pres­sion.

MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

Work on the new Otaki river bridge as part of an ex­press­way pro­ject. Na­tional wants the Govern­ment to get crack­ing on the next stage – from Otaki to north of Levin.

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