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John MacDonald: This could be NZ's first road of insignificance

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Tue, 14 May 2024, 1:49pm
Photo / Christchurch City Council
Photo / Christchurch City Council

John MacDonald: This could be NZ's first road of insignificance

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Tue, 14 May 2024, 1:49pm

First we had roads of significance. Now we have roads of insignificance.  

And top of the list is Brougham Street, in Christchurch, with this decision by the Government to pull the plug on a $90 million upgrade of what would have to be one of the most congested and dangerous roads in the city. 

Because, up until yesterday, it was all-go. It was due to be underway by the end of the year and would have meant there’d be an overbridge for pedestrians and cyclists, lanes for car-pooling and buses and motorbikes, and a shared pedestrian-cycle path.   

And I don’t think anyone here would disagree that it’s desperately needed. Because even though, technically, it’s a road more often than not it’s a car park, isn’t it? 

Not that that’s a concern for the Government. You know, the government that likes to bang on about getting people moving, doing away with stupid speed limits, lifting productivity, but, at the same time, decides it’s a yeah-nah for Brougham Street. 

Not surprisingly, there is a lot of anger. And justifiably so. There are a few city councillors, for example, saying today that it just shows that the Government has forgotten about the South Island and is giving higher priority to North Island roads. 

Now, normally, I’m not one that buys into that whole North versus South thing. But, when it comes to this one, I agree. If the Government hasn’t forgotten about us, then it’s certainly turned its back on us with this decision which seems to have taken people completely by surprise. 

I see Labour MP Megan Woods is saying it’s a “slap in the face” for Christchurch. She’s particularly concerned about the kids going to-and-from Addington Primary School. Because, as part of the upgrade, there would have been an overbridge to get them across the road safely. 

She’s saying it’s not a luxury to ask for a safe crossing to get primary-aged children across a major state highway with trucks barrelling down it. And she’s right. 

Because Brougham Street is part of State Highway 76 and it’s a key link for freight going to-and-from the port at Lyttelton. That’s why there are so many trucks on it, let alone the cars. 

Guess how many vehicles go up and down Brougham Street on your average day? 45,000. That includes 4,500 freight vehicles and trucks.  

There is a crossing the Addington Primary School kids can use but parents are saying it’s frightening, given the volume of traffic, especially with all the trucks. 

So, the overbridge would have been a game changer in terms of pedestrian safety. Now, though, the kids are going to have to keep crossing the road, which the principal at Addington Primary is “hugely disappointed” by. Donna Bilas says it’s only going to get worse, and more dangerous, with increased housing density and more kids on the roll. And she’s spot-on. 

Another thing about this decision by the Government that people are commenting on is that, even though the upgrade itself isn’t happening this year —as it was supposed to be— it's still going to be spending $20 million on work behind the scenes to get the upgrade to what’s called “pre-implementation” stage.  

NZTA says it’s doing that so the upgrade can be “delivery ready” in the future “subject to affordability”. So, there you go. That’s what a $20 million sop sounds like.  

Because do you really think the Brougham Street upgrade is going to go anywhere anytime soon? Of course, it’s not.  

Which is why I agree with Megan Woods that it’s a slap in the face for Christchurch. Why I agree with the principal at Addington Primary that it’s hugely disappointing. And why I agree with a cycling advocate in the news today who is saying that the Government is focused on Auckland-centric policies at the expense of the South Island. 

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