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Funding proposal for the Western Corridor Speech

5 July 2005

Speech
Ian Buchanan
Chairperson, Greater Wellington Regional Council
Announcement of the government’s funding proposal for the Western Corridor
Tuesday 5th July, 2005
Duxton Hotel Ballroom
1.15 p.m, Tuesday 5th July

Minister Hodgson, Ministers, Wellington MPs, Mayors and fellow Councillors,
In January we met in this room to hear the government announce that it would be making $225M of new money available for upgrading this region’s bus services, rail network and strategic roads.

At that time Ministers committed themselves to considering a further contribution of government money for the Western Corridor components of the transport network once the preliminary results of the Western Corridor study were available. Today I am very pleased that the government has delivered.
The importance of this commitment cannot be underestimated.

The region can now work with LTNZ and Transit to fix the problems of one of our major transport routes in the context of a known and certain funding envelope. This is the first time in decades that we can proceed with planning for major transport projects in the region with confidence that they can be funded.

Today’s announcement of $660 million of new funding, together with the $225 million from the first part of the Wellington Transport Package, means that the crown has committed to providing a total of $885 million of new funding over the next 10 years. When combined with regionally allocated petrol tax, plus this region’s normal expectation of national road funding, we can look forward to unprecedented levels of spending over the next decade.

As well as funding improved roads, the extra government funding will allow us to complete the upgrade of the region’s passenger transport service. Major improvements to rail infrastructure and rolling stock will proceed. Indeed, these have already started - with contracts just let for full upgrading of 18 Wairarapa line commuter carriages. These improvements could not have happened if the region had to rely on transport rates alone.

As you have heard from the Minister of Transport, $255 million of today’s announced funding will go towards improving public transport and building the Petone-Grenada and Kapiti Western Link roads.

$405 million has been allocated for state highway construction on the Western Corridor. $405 million will not build Transmission Gully, but it is sufficient to upgrade SH1 from 2 to 4 lanes from Wellington to Kapiti – with the exception of Mana. Current improvements on this stretch of road will meet short term growth predictions, with the probable upgrade to a full four lanes through Mana required to meet growth needs after ten years.

This plan is based on the best and most up to date information available. The work done on the Western Corridor study and the Wellington Regional Strategy tells us that even on the highest growth estimate, a four lane highway is all that is needed to provide a safe, reliable road until at least 2025. If growth beyond 2025 warrants the building of Transmission Gully, then that is still an option. But for the foreseeable future four-laning of the coastal highway is the only economically viable option.

The region’s local authorities in partnership with LTNZ and Transit, must now get on and deliver this transport package for the region. Failure to do so as a result of continued argument over priorities will not be tolerated by our constituents. The results of the first stage of the Western Corridor review delivered the absolutely clear message that people want the roading problems sorted out, and that their priority is a safe, reliable road from Wellington to Kapiti. Today’s funding package gives us the chance to meet our constituent’s demands.

Today’s announcement also signals that the time for political rhetoric and unrealistic promises is over. The rhetoric and promises have been going on for over 20 years, and now is the time to start making real progress.
No matter which way it is considered, those that wish to continue to pursue Transmission Gully must put $1 billion of unencumbered money on the table.

It is no good talking about loan funding or public private partnerships - there is no free money out there. One way or the other, the public – be it government or road users – would have to pay an additional $500 million, above and beyond what has been promised today, to build Transmission Gully. That might be achievable in 20 years time, but it is not realistic today.

It must be accepted that the economic future of this region does not depend on the construction of Transmission Gully. Four-laning the existing highway will provide the same level of economic and transport benefits as the Gully route – at significantly less cost. The upgrade can be completed within 10 years if we get on with it now. Our travelling public deserve this, and should expect nothing less.

Minister, on behalf of the region, I acknowledge your government’s commitment to assisting this region in meeting its transport infrastructure needs. There will be some who will be disappointed that today’s package is not enough for their favoured Western Corridor roading options to proceed. However, I know that this unprecedented funding is based on government confidence that the region will get on with providing the best transport solutions it can within a known funding envelope. The government’s confidence is not misplaced – I know the region will deliver.

ENDS

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