For a long time there was a joke that the last government’s Roads of National Significance (RoNS) were missing the word ‘Party’ from the name. That amended name seems even more appropriate now following National’s latest move, to start a number of petitions asking the government to build the roads National promised during the election.
“Roads from Northland right through to Ashburton are being ‘reviewed’ while the Government attempts to divert billions of dollars to pet light rail projects.
“The National Government committed to a large number of important regional highway projects right around New Zealand as the next stage in the successful Roads of National Significance programme to build a modern highway network. These would greatly improve safety and travel times, better connect our regions and boost regional economic growth.
“But Transport Minister Phil Twyford now says a number of these projects are under review. That’s not good enough – our regional communities deserve them and the National Party is committed to fighting for them.
“These are the most crucial transport linkages in their regions and the Government has wrongly thrown them into doubt. You can’t argue that you support regional New Zealand and then immediately take these key projects away.
While some of the projects they list have been debated for a while, like the East-West Link, most of them weren’t even on the radar until National announced them in August as part of their election policy. It’s absurd to suggest these are planned projects when many have never been assessed and no money was budgeted for them. So it’s beyond hypocritical that they call out light rail, which has already been though business case processes, as being a pet project when they’re wanting investment in a bunch of projects, many of which have never been looked at before. Here’s the list of projects.
- The upgrade of the Redoubt-Mill Road corridor from Manukau and Flat Bush to Papakura and Drury
- The extension of the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to the foot of the Kaimai Range, and from Cambridge to Tirau
- The continuous four lane extension of the Northern Motorway from Warkworth to Whangarei.
- An East West Link Road project between the Onehunga-Penrose industrial area and State Highways 1 and 20
- The Tauranga to Katikati Road project as a continuous four lane State Highway with wide lanes and safety measures
- The four laning of the Napier to Hastings Expressway
- The Otaki to north of Levin expressway road project
- The Christchurch Northern Motorway between Belfast and Pegasus
- The construction of the four-lane State Highway 1 link between Christchurch and Ashburton
It’s unclear how the East-West Link and Mill Rd are about improving the regional economies given they’re both in Auckland.
It’s also unclear how many of these are “the most crucial transport linkages” given many of them are barely used. For example the road from Cambridge to the foot of the Kaimai’s carries only around 5,000 vehicles per day. As I pointed out at the time, while some of the initial RoNS made sense, the second batch were definitely scraping the bottom of the barrel and a lesson in diminishing returns.
That’s not to say that these roads don’t need upgrades, many certainly do, just not four lane motorway/expressway standard upgrades.
This all seems very desperate from National.