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King: Turning first sod for Mangatawhiri Deviation

Annette King speech: Turning first sod for Mangatawhiri Deviation, SH2

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In the six months I have been Transport Minister and in the year I have been Police Minister I have been taking a close interest in the road toll and in the number of crashes occurring on our roads.

A few months ago, it seemed likely that this year's toll and number of crashes would end up well down on 2005, but each week now the total number of people killed on the road seems to creep closer to last year's figure, and we have now had more actual crashes this year than at the same time last year.

The sombre figures help explain why I am so pleased to be turning the first sod on the Mangatawhiri Deviation, and why I was also so pleased to open the Longswamp section of the Waikato Expressway.

The Expressway and this Deviation are about removing black spots, and helping people get where they want to get as safely as possible.

I noticed that the headline on this week's New Zealand Herald story on the Deviation referred to this stretch of highway as a "danger road". In three years' time the danger road will still be remembered in terms of lives lost, but the stretch of highway itself will be consigned to history.

I want to acknowledge Franklin Mayor Mark Ball and other members of the community who are here today to help celebrate this occasion. I also want to acknowledge Transit New Zealand chair David Stubbs, Transit chief executive Rick van Barneveld and Transit regional manager Chris Allen, who I know are also delighted that this important Government roading initiative is now underway.

This project will have important local, regional and national benefits. We are not building a long stretch of new highway --- seven kilometres of new roading is not a lot in the context of the 10,800 kilometres of state highways and major roads managed by Transit --- but targeted improvements provide benefits beyond the actual scope of the project.

As I said, this project is about safety. This stretch of highway carries a high volume of traffic. Approximately 14,000 vehicles use it every day and in peak holiday periods up to 25,000 vehicles per day travel on this road as Aucklanders head to and from Coromandel. There is a clear need to improve safety and provide safe passing opportunities.

In the five year period from January 2001 to December 2005 there were 305 reported crashes on the 40km Pokeno to Mangatarata section of the highway. Of these, 24 have been fatal crashes and a further 40 serious injury crashes.

And, to reinforce those figures in terms of this short stretch of the highway, five of the fatal and 16 of the serious crashes have been within this Mangatawhiri Deviation section. I have absolutely no doubt that this project will save lives.

When the type of accident between Pokeno and Mangatarata is looked at more closely, it can be seen more than half resulted from loss of control, and a further 12 percent were head-on crashes.

Local people often have to deal with the trauma of the crashes, and that's why I know that the local community will be so pleased to see this project get started.

I want to congratulate everyone who has played a part in getting this project ready to go. Work was originally planned to start in February this year, but initial tenders for the work were too high and the project was re-tendered. While there has been a delay, very little 'real' construction time has been lost, and at $45.9 million, this project represents significant safety and economic benefits.

While this project is essentially about safety, it is also part of the wider jigsaw involved in developing and expanding our country's transport infrastructure. Mangatawhiri is in what is known as the 'growth triangle' – the area that encompasses Auckland, Hamilton and one of the country's fastest growing cities, Tauranga.

As you all know, while the growth issues within this triangle are locally significant, they are of even greater national significance. It is absolutely crucial that we develop the quality transport infrastructure needed to move goods to ports and airports and from company to company.

We cannot afford a situation where it can take a truck two or more hours to get from one side of Auckland to the other – almost the same time as it takes an aircraft to fly across the Tasman. New Zealand's economic transformation depends on a quality transport network that helps us retain and expand our export markets.

To ensure we succeed in putting quality infrastructure in place, the Government is putting an extra $1.3 billion into transport over the next five years, bringing the total spend to $13.4 billion over five years.

That's an unparallelled level of spending. In fact, over the next five years the Government has not only provided far greater certainty in the state highway sector than there has been before, but we're actually spending some $300 million more on land transport than we will collect in petrol excise duties, road user charges and motor vehicle registration fees. We are quite rightly proud of that.

Transit's long-term plan is to develop SH1 and SH29 as the primary route linking cities within the growth triangle. Much work over the next 10 years is planned as part of this strategy, but I'm glad to say that this does not mean neglecting SH2, of course, as this project proves.

It gives me great pleasure to set this project in motion. In three years another piece of the great national roading jigsaw will be in place. Thank you very much for joining me today.

ENDS

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