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'Light at end of tunnel' for regional highways

'Light at end of tunnel' for regional highways

16 June 2014

A proposed new funding programme for regional highway improvements has been welcomed by Taranaki’s key transport planning body.

The proposal – for up to $90 million a year to be spent in the regions from 2015/16 – is part of a draft Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Transport released today by Transport Minister the Hon Gerry Brownlee.

“It’s light at the end of the tunnel,” says Taranaki Regional Councillor Roger Maxwell, who chairs the Regional Transport Committee. “The old regional highway funding mechanism, R funds, expires next year and our remaining R funds are fully committed to the Vickers to City project in New Plymouth.

“Until today we’ve had no indication of how or even whether funds would be made available for new projects, so the draft GPS is very welcome. Taranaki has a strong case for new highway projects that are important for the country as well as the region, given how strong the regional economy is.”

Cr Maxwell says Taranaki played a leading role in pressing the Government to come up with a replacement funding mechanism for regional highway projects. “We enlisted support from similarly affected regions and districts, and made a strong, co-ordinated case to the Minister and his officials. We’re pleased they obviously saw some merit in our arguments.”

A replacement for R funds was also identified by the Taranaki Mayoral Forum as one of this region’s key matters for any incoming Government to address after the General Elections in September.

Cr Maxwell says the proposed new regional improvements fund would be contestable. “But we’re confident Taranaki can step up and prove its case. We have projects ready to go. And the key point is, it’s fairer to have a dedicated regional fund so we don’t have to compete against the likes of Auckland and Wellington.”

The Ministry of Transport is inviting stakeholders to provide comment on the draft GPS for an eight-week engagement period that ends on 11 August.


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