All talk, no ac­tion

Katikati Advertiser - - Front Page - By CHRIS STEEL

A Gov­ern­ment trans­port min­is­ter and a po­lit­i­cal party leader had pub­lic meet­ings in Katikati in 2016 to hear of the com­mu­nity’s con­cerns trav­el­ling the no­to­ri­ous SH2 to Tau­ranga, and why a by­pass was es­sen­tial for the econ­omy and well­be­ing of the town.

Was that all po­lit­i­cal spin to get our vote? Clearly two years on noth­ing has hap­pened, ex­cept the high­way has claimed more vic­tims, in­clud­ing my­self in March this year.

I at­tended both meet­ings. On Au­gust 4 Na­tional leader Si­mon Bridges faced a hos­tile crowd de­mand­ing to know why, af­ter 40 years or more, the by­pass was still not on the gov­ern­ment’s work pro­gramme. He was given a clear mes­sage that Katikati not only wanted a by­pass — it needed it for safety, so­cial, eco­nomic and health rea­sons.

Three months later on Novem­ber 20 NZ First Leader Win­ston Peters spoke to a crowd of 300.

“Katikati has been call­ing for a by­pass for don­key’s years and been fobbed off. The ques­tion is how much longer will you have to wait to get one and how many more ex­cuses will you put up with for the de­lays? If the gov­ern­ment had seized the ini­tia­tive years ago this by­pass would have been put in place.”

Bridges did have suc­cess. On March 14, 2017 NZTA an­nounced that a by­pass would be added to its SH2 Waihi to Tau­ranga pro­gramme. In May Katikati cel­e­brated the news with a street party. How short­lived that was.

A change of gov­ern­ment. Peters is deputy Prime Min­is­ter, and still no by­pass. Trans­port Min­is­ter Philip Twyford said they have no in­ten­tion of build­ing a by­pass for Katikati.

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller said a pe­ti­tion to Par­lia­ment on Novem­ber 8 has been given to the NZTA of­fi­cials — “who will no doubt pro­vide a re­sponse con­sis­tent with Phil Twyford’s, ‘we will build it some­time in the never-never re­sponse’.”

“I in­tend to keep the heat on, con­sis­tently send­ing ques­tions to his depart­ment un­til he an­swers this ba­sic ques­tion — when will con­struc­tion start on the fourlane Tau­ranga North­ern Link (TNL) which was an­nounced in 2016, and was ready to be­gin last month?

“His re­sponse to date is woe­ful, he talks about safety im­prove­ments and more money for Auck­land in­fra­struc­ture, leav­ing my com­mu­nity with prom­ises of a two-lane TNL to be built some­time in the fu­ture.”

Western Bay Coun­cil­lor Peter Mackay said he was con­cerned about grow­ing com­mu­nity an­guish.

“Sev­eral lo­cal res­i­dents have sug­gested that “pork bar­rel pol­i­tics” are to blame and there are just are not suf­fi­cient Labour, NZ First and Green votes com­ing from Katikati to jus­tify Gov­ern­ment spend­ing on a by­pass for our com­mu­nity.”

Coun­cil tak­ing over the by­pass project is fraught with se­ri­ous cost im­pli­ca­tions. Mackay was told for ev­ery $10m Coun­cil bor­rows, in­ter­est costs would in­crease District-wide rates of about 1 per cent.

“When that is put against an in­dica­tive by­pass cost over $50m, the project is not af­ford­able, un­less Gov­ern­ment comes to the party with a very large cash in­jec­tion.

“Short of a mir­a­cle, I see no prospect of a by­pass be­ing built un­der the poli­cies that NZTA are oper­at­ing with at present.”

Deputy mayor Mike Wil­liams agreed.

“Katikati has once again been rel­e­gated to the for­got­ten pile and the qual­ity of life in the town will suf­fer and the Main Street shop­ping with lose cus­tom to

Beth­le­hem and ex­ac­er­bate the traf­fic woes along SH2 as peo­ple leave to do their shop­ping else­where.

“It is an un­der­state­ment to say the peo­ple are an­gry out there and feel that the road­ing pri­or­i­ties are tilted strongly in Auck­land’s favour.”

Wil­liams felt the two most im­por­tant projects were the O¯ moko­roa in­ter­sec­tion and four lanes from Te Puna to Tau­ranga.

“For these not to have any time frame around them is a stab in the heart for the re­gion. These roads were con­structed in the late 50s early 60s with very low traf­fic vol­umes. Since then traf­fic has sky­rock­eted and nei­ther po­lit­i­cal party has in­vested in this sec­tion of road — now mak­ing this a po­lit­i­cal hot potato.”

“As of now Coun­cil is in the hands of NZTA who will meet next on De­cem­ber 24,” Western Bay mayor Garry Web­ber said.

Coun­cil was tak­ing ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to meet with se­nior NZTA ex­ec­u­tives and politi­cians. He met with As­so­ciate Trans­port Min­is­ter Shane Jones last Fri­day.

“At the Smart­Growth level we have the full sup­port of Tau­ranga City Coun­cil and Bay of Plenty Re­gional Coun­cil that our road­ing projects are an ur­gent pri­or­ity.”

Katikati lo­cals made their safety con­cerns clear at a meet­ing on Au­gust 4, 2016 with Trans­port Min­is­ter Si­mon Bridges and of­fi­cials.

On Novem­ber 20 that same year Win­ston Peters asked how long the com­mu­nity was pre­pared to wait for a by­pass.

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