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Speech notes – opening of Mangatawhiri Deviation

Hon Steven Joyce
Minister of Transport

December 18 2008 Media Statement

Speech notes – opening of Mangatawhiri Deviation

Good afternoon and thank you all for coming. I am delighted to be here at what is my first road opening as Minister of Transport. I hope to see many more, including a few in this region, but more on that later.

Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge a number of you here today – Mariana Ormsby, Toko Pompei, Iti Rawiri and the iwi from Mangatangi Marae; Mayor Mark Ball of Franklin District Council; Mayor Peter Harris of Waikato District Council; chairperson of Environment Waikato, Peter Buckley; chairperson of the Waikato Regional Transport Committee, Norm Barker; NZ Transport Agency Regional Director Harry Wilson, Don Shanks of the Matatangi Fire Brigade and the members of the local community affected by this project.

I also know that teachers and students from Matatangi, Maramarua and Mangatawhiri schools are here today. It is great to see the community get involved in projects like these.

And I thank everyone in the local community for their patience on this project.

I’d like to congratulate the New Zealand Transport Agency on their work on this project to get it completed before the busy holiday period.
Background to this project

As a link between Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsular, East Waikato and also the Bay of Plenty, this route has always carried large volumes of traffic. During holiday periods this stretch is especially busy, and unfortunately it has had a poor track record when it comes to safety.

The existing route was windy, lacked passing lanes and was accessed by several local roads and farms. The crashes on this route have included a large number of fatalities, and I know that the impact of these deaths is keenly felt by the community.

Benefits

We all know that roads and transport infrastructure drive the economy, but we sometimes lose sight of the great safety benefits they offer as well. Waikato has one of the highest regional road tolls in New Zealand, with over 60 deaths already this year. While the current toll for the region is tracking lower than at the same time last year, we can always work to improve road safety.

As you all know, there is no single factor to combat the road toll, but engineering plays an important part, alongside education and enforcement. This project replaces the old section of the highway with a straighter, wider route that incorporates passing lanes and restricts traffic access.

Other major projects

While the benefits to the region of this project are obvious, this is just one of many projects planned for Waikato. The New Zealand Transport Agency has begun planning work to upgrade the next section of SH2 directly to the east of Mangatawhiri. Work is underway on the design of the SH2 Maramarua Deviation and the investigation of the adjacent Kopuku Realignment.

The government is committed to delivering critical infrastructure, and will be giving priority treatment to the completion of the Waikato Expressway. A project that will fuel long term economic growth in this region, boost the national economy and, like this deviation, offer a number of safety benefits.
Conclusion
Finally, I would like to congratulate you all on your patience. Construction has caused disruption to your travel and I know that your cooperation has been greatly appreciated.

Ends

NB: Delivered 17 December

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