Govt ‘puts rail before roads’
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.
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.