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Published: 2003-04-08 00:00:00

Roading projects to relieve city congestion should not be given priority over serious safety issues, the Waikato Regional Land Transport Committee has told Transit New Zealand.

Outlining its regional priorities for state highway programmes, the Committee says it is concerned about the overall lack of funding available for state highways, and the change of government focus towards congestion relief, which may jeopardise other projects.

This week’s Committee meeting heard that the Central Government should be made aware of the Committee’s ‘grave concern’ at both the lack of, and reduction in funding for roading projects and regional roading infrastructure suffering at the expense of congestion relief in bigger cities. It urged Central Government to release money from the Consolidated Fund for roading projects.

“As lack of funding is the key problem facing Transit, the Committee encourages Transit to urgently explore other funding methods to enable more projects to be advanced,” the Committee’s submission to Transit says.

It said the State Highway 1 expressway was agreed as the number one regional roading priority.

“It is not fair and equitable for congestion projects to be given higher priority over projects with serious safety problems.”

The Committee also recommended that the Kopu Bridge be put forward as a suitable tolling project. The Committee says the project is particularly suitable for tolling in light of its strategic location and because there was an existing route around Paeroa on SH 26.

MP Martin Gallagher told the meeting that the recent visit from associate Minister Harry Duynhoven was an opportunity to relay to Transit the extent of city feeling about the issue. However there was a shortage of money around the country and the Waikato was still getting a significant ‘cut of the cake’ so was not getting sympathy from areas such as Canterbury.

He said he was concerned that if the projects were not ready to start immediately funding was available then other regions would grab the deal.

“I’m worried that we have to get in and make that firm commitment or there’s a risk that we could lose something to another region.”

South Waikato Mayor Gordon Blake said there was an imbalance in funding. There was also a real concern that the criteria for tolling would be so tight that it would be almost impossible to take up this option for suitable projects.

The Committee’s top 10 priorities for non block state highway projects for the coming financial year include: Longswamp to Rangiriri, Mangatawhiri deviation, Rotorkauri to Norton Rd bypass, Horotiu to Tasman Rd investigation, Tapapa curves realignment, Horotiu to Tasman Rd design and designation, Ngaruawahia bypass, Cambridge bypass, east Taupo arterial design and construction and Kopu Bridge.