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Strong lobbying for vital roads in Bay of Plenty

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Strong lobbying for vital roads in Bay of Plenty
For immediate release: Thursday 23 March 2006

Environment Bay of Plenty plans to lobby Transit New Zealand strongly to ensure that plans for vital state highways are not deferred due to lack of funding.

“We need these roads. They are essential to the economic future of the region and we can’t afford any delays in their construction,” says regional land transport committee chairman, Athole Herbert.

The Bay of Plenty is one of the fastest growing regions in New Zealand, Mr Herbert says. “And Transit needs to take that into account when it’s developing national priorities for new roads.”

Environment Bay of Plenty’s regional land transport committee studied Transit’s proposed work programme for the next 10 years at a meeting in Whakatane on Friday 17 March. The committee’s appointed members include Transit, city and district councils, and agencies such as the police and the Bay of Plenty District Health Board.

All regions are invited to put forward their own region’s priorities for Transit’s 10-year programme. However, Transit then prioritises the work from a national perspective. As part of this national ranking, it is proposing to defer the construction of a number of major projects in the region, including the second harbour bridge in Tauranga (Harbour Link) and the Tauranga Eastern Arterial (from Paengaroa to Te Maunga).

Mr Herbert says Transit’s funding has been affected by a drop in revenue from petrol taxes and greater national spending on public transport and the rail network. “However, we feel they need to look at alternative means of funding, either from additional Government grants or by borrowing for the purpose. It is essential that these important roads do not keep getting put off.”

The regional land transport committee mostly agreed with Transit’s ranking for regional priorities, which gives top ranking to activities aimed at increasing the “life” of the Hewletts Rd/Tauranga Harbour Bridge corridor. Though not yet developed, this package could include travel demand management activities such as car-pooling or bus lanes. The next project on the list is Harbour Link.

However, the committee requested that the Katikati bypass be lifted from 14th place to 9th in the regional ranks because of “the depth of public feeling about this issue”, Mr Herbert says. It also wants a new project included to address issues at the intersection of State Highway Two with the turnoff to Omokoroa.

The committee supported Transit’s high ranking of projects that would help stop the eastern Bay of Plenty being isolated by slips and flooding during heavy rainfall events. These included a new bridge at Reid’s Canal at Edgecumbe and the widening of the Awaiti Stream Bridge. It also requested that a project be included on the list to address the frequent closure of State Highway Two at Ohope’s Wainui Road intersection because of flooding.

Mr Herbert says the committee also wants Transit to fund investigations into some of the projects that are “languishing” at the bottom of Transit’s list, such as the Rotorua Eastern Arterial. An investigation might help them move up the rankings. The committee agreed that if Transit did not decide to fund these investigations, it would request that the region’s petrol tax dollars be used to do so.

It also asked Transit to substantially increase spending on walking and cycling projects.

ENDS

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