The Waikato’s substantial roading problems are not due to poor lobbying, Transport Minister Pete Hodgson told today’s Regional Land Transport Committee meeting.
The Committee met with the Minister today to discuss key strategic transport issues and development of the Region’s Land Transport Strategy, as well as its submission on Transit’s draft 10 year State Highway Plan.
Mr Hodgson said later he had no doubt the Waikato had suffered more delays in more programmes than any other region but the reason was a mix of cost over runs, enhancements made to existing projects and the large number of projects in the first place. He suggested that a Joint Officials Group be set up as a partnership to deal with the issues.
“We can’t fix everything at once. Expenditure in the Waikato is greater than on last year’s funding plan. The safety record on State Highway 2 puts it in the top 10 death traps in the country.”
The Committee said completing the Waikato Expressway was the most important component in achieving the Region’s transport solutions. Completion of the four lane Waikato Expressway from Auckland to Cambridge was vital, both for the country’s development and for the Waikato Region.
“We regard the Expressway as a single strategic project that, while needing to be constructed in phases for financial reasons, should be planned and designed as one consolidated project,” Committee Chairman Angus Macdonald said.
Other Waikato projects such as Mangatawhiri, the Kopu Bridge and the east Taupo deviation were also vital.
Mr Macdonald said the Committee wanted to promote the delivery of an integrated transport system within the greater Waikato Region, with strong and effective links to neighbouring regions in partnership with stakeholders and Government agencies. As the work progressed, the Waikato Region expected to be consulting with Transit more regularly.
The Committee would be developing a robust medium-long term strategy over the coming year, and its submission to Transit’s Plan was an interim response for year one only.
Inter-regional corridors in the Waikato Region were a conduit for freight and traffic moving through to other regions, so restrictions along these corridors may inhibit economic growth in other regions, he said.
The combination of land use changes and strong population growth in Auckland, Bay of Plenty and the Waikato was accelerating the traffic movements in the Region.
The Committee was concerned that the Mangatawhiri deviation project kept getting put further back in the programme, and there were different views about the scope and extent of the works proposed. The area posed real safety concerns, some initiatives could be done quickly and because State Highway 2 had a high volume of Auckland traffic there was inter-regional support for improvements.
The Committee was concerned about projected shortfalls in funding and potential cost over runs from delays and the growing number of projects awaiting funding. Mr Hodgson acknowledged the Waikato’s situation as a corridor region, and the pressures on it from a period of unprecedented national growth.