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Andrew Dickens: Government can't put big road projects on the backburner

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Monday, 16 September 2019, 12:28PM
Some of these roads are no-brainers. (Photo / Getty)

When it comes to roads, this Government is confused.

National went into the last election with plans for ten big roads. Some were pie in the sky election promises which is not often mentioned but the majority were solid infrastructure for the long term. Roads were their major infrastructural push. 

But they didn’t form the government. The Government we got had different priorities. They wanted to resurrect rail which had seen decades of neglect, which was a false economy. Why build something and then break it. I don’t mind rail investment as trains powered by alternate energy sources will be traversing this country long after he diesel truck becomes extinct. So a billion odd went Kiwirail’s way.

They also decided to spend $1.4 billion making some of the roads we’ve already made safer.  I don’t mind that either because we did a shoddy job in too many places.  Drive a tourist down State Highway 1, 2 and 3 or 5 into Rotorua or 6 into Nelson and watch the whites of their eyes get larger.

But big roads can’t be put on the backburner.

There’s a big stink brewing in Levin.  A decade ago under another government the people of Levin were promised that they would be attached to the grand Kapiti Expressway.  The 40 kmilometres between Levin and Otaki is dangerous. When the 4 lane expressway hits Otaki and then turns into 2 lanes to Levin then there will be massive bottlenecks. The expressway will only get you to the traffic jam faster.

But the NZTA has told the people of Horowhenua that there is no money available for that 40 k stretch. Not until at least 2024. This is nuts. It’s a no brainer road.

It is the gateway from Wellington the Manawatu and vice versa. It would be the making of Levin that has suffered a number of business closures. 

It joins a small list of other no brainer roads waiting to be funded. Like State Highway 2 in Tauranga. Like putting a proper motorway through Hamilton.

Some ideological zealots will argue that the car is on it’s last legs. That might be so but it will still be easier to ride your horse, or your bicycle  to the cities and the motorways could easily be converted to alternative energy public transit options.

Here’s a little factoid to digest.  Laying rail tracks in Germany costs a quarter of laying rail tracks in Britain.  Because they have a policy to lay 200 kilometres every year. So the work is never ending. The supply chains are in. You don’t faff around tendering. IP is retained.

This country needs to subscribe to a long term bipartisan approach to road and rail spending.  And the Government needs to find some money for Otaki to Levin today.

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