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Published: 2010-10-04 00:00:00

More than $4.7 billion worth of central and local government transport spending is expected in the Waikato over the next 10 years, representing a 60 per cent jump in average annual funding, according to figures before the multi-agency Regional Transport Committee today.

Spending last financial year was $296 million but this is expected to jump to an annual average of $477 million between 2011 and 2021 as the Waikato Expressway, in particular, and other projects are advanced.

Some $2.1 billion will go towards maintaining and renewing existing infrastructure and providing passenger transport, while nearly $2.7 billion will go towards actual land transport network improvements. The bulk of the $2.7 billion on improvements will go towards the expressway.  

“The extra spending will contribute significantly to both regional and national economic growth, boost road safety and provide significant social benefits,” Environment Waikato’s transport group manager Vaughan Payne said after the meeting. 

The figures were discussed as a draft 30-year Regional Land Transport Strategy was put before the committee and adopted for public consultation today. The draft strategy’s development follows close collaboration between EW, local Waikato councils and the Government’s New Zealand Transport Agency. 

The draft strategy puts an emphasis on three priorities:

  • Focused investment in strategic corridors and infrastructure such as the current Waikato Expressway plan, the new Kopu Bridge, and the East Taupo arterial route. It also suggests the completed expressway might eventually be extended from south of Cambridge to the state highway 29 turnoff to Tauranga.
  • Greater emphasis on promoting alternative forms of travel to cars such as cycling, walking and passenger transport.
  • Improving road safety through better design, enforcement and driver education.

Mr Payne said these three priorities were all highly important given the Waikato’s central role in the economic life of the country, particularly its agriculture and tourism sectors. 

“We are part of the Auckland-Waikato-Bay of Plenty triangle which is expected to be home to 2.75 million people or more than half the national population by 2031. We need to ensure transport in this national economic engine room is as efficient and as integrated as possible. 

“With, for example, 40 per cent of all exports tonnages going through the Port of Tauranga originating in the Waikato, it’s essential that the transport cooperation between Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty is very tight as we move forward. 

“Our draft strategy envisages continuing close linkages between the regions to ensure we get things right.” 

The committee also adopted a plan from the NZ Transport Agency which is designed to facilitate the Waikato Expressway’s development by ensuring integration between the project and other transport infrastructure and land use. This plan will include looking at the role of existing parts of state highway one once they are replaced by the expressway. 

Meanwhile, the committee also heard about a decline in the road toll in the wider Waikato region. Deaths for calendar 2010 as at 20 September, were 43 compared to 67 for all of last year, 73 the year before and 89 in 2007. 

Information provided to the committee noted Taupo and South Waikato districts were largely responsible for the lower toll so far in 2010, as good progress was still being made in these areas where high profile police enforcement continues to be a key strategy. Progress was also being made in Waikato District and Hauraki and Thames Coromandel districts. 

The committee was told that a new Waikato Regional Road Safety Strategy adopted late last year aimed to halve the regional road toll over the next 30 years. 

Mr Payne said improving the region’s safety record was a key focus for the committee. “All councillors and agencies on the committee have a very strong focus on achieving a marked increase in safety on our region’s roads. We have collectively – agencies and road users – achieved a much better result so far this year. But each death is still one too many.”