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Published: 2008-09-11 00:00:00

Transport Minister Annette King has today been told that the Waikato is doing its bit to get cracking on key regional roading projects.

Mrs King met with the Regional Transport Committee, whose members include Environment Waikato councillors, local mayors and representatives from other key organisations.

Committee chairman Norm Barker of EW said the minister was given a clear message.

"We told her that the region is, for its part, getting on with the research work necessary to secure Government funding for projects such as the Waikato Expressway and Kopu Bridge, as well as advancing the development of rail freight and passenger services in the region.

"Waikato, with 90 road deaths, had the highest regional road toll in the country last year. Getting on with making improvements to our road network is about saving lives and making sure the regional and national economies function smoothly by improving freight and passenger flows."

Cr Barker said new legislation has given regions more powers to set the priorities for the way Government funding was spent on transport infrastructure, particularly state highways.

"Bearing this new power in mind, the Waikato is doing its part to help secure more central Government funding for its priorities, such as the expressway. For example, EW and Hamilton, Waikato and Waipa councils are jointly carrying out the Futureproof sub-regional growth strategy project. Surveys are being carried out as part of developing a new regional transport model and studies are starting on inter-regional transport and freight.

"So we’re getting on with the job in the Waikato. The committee is also pleased to see central Government agencies are looking to work in a more collaborative way with regions on the way ahead.

"Given that the Waikato is a key, nationally important region for such things as the transit of freight and tourism, it’s essential that we all get on with getting things right.

"Otherwise we risk more unnecessary deaths and sub-optimal economic performance."

Mrs King said she believed the Waikato may need to consider a regional fuel tax if it wanted to accelerate transport-related projects faster than what current levels of anticipated Government funding might allow.

Cr Barker said after the meeting that there were no firm plans for a regional fuel tax in the Waikato but agreed it was a possible longer-term option to speed up projects agreed to by the Regional Transport Committee.

"It is something we will have to have a conversation with our community about at some point," he said.

Cr Barker stressed to the minister that committee members were very unified on making solid progress on improving the Waikato’s transport networks.