There was an interesting announcement yesterday from Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Māori Development and Associate Housing Minister Nanaia Mahuta yesterday that there will actually be some inter-regional strategic planning on the Auckland to Hamilton corridor.
First urban growth partnership signed
New Zealand’s first urban growth partnership between the Government, local councils and mana whenua was signed at a meeting of mayors, chairs and ministers in Hampton Downs today.
Urban Development and Transport Minister Phil Twyford said the Hamilton-Auckland Corridor initiative is an example of the Government’s strong commitment to working in partnership with councils, iwi and the private sector to improve the way our towns and cities grow and develop.
“Under this new partnership, we will strategically manage development between New Zealand’s fastest two growing metropolitan areas in innovative new ways.
“This is also the first time two regions in New Zealand have joined together with the Government to integrate and coordinate the planning and building of housing, transport and other supporting infrastructure and services. Waikato Tainui and the local councils are well-used to working together and I’m pleased central government is now to join them on this important project for both region’s future,” Phil Twyford said.
Also known as H2A, Hei Awarua ki te Oranga stretches from Papakura in the north to Cambridge and Te Awamutu in the south.
At the core of the Corridor are three key networks: the Waikato and Waipa Rivers, the Main Trunk Line and the Waikato Expressway.
It’s good to finally see this happening. It’s important we start to properly plan growth in this corridor so we don’t just end up with one big long urban sprawl area and horrific traffic as people try to get to Auckland or Hamilton for work.
But perhaps for me the most interesting part were these comments:
Phil Twyford said the partnership’s work programme includes initiatives that could strengthen the Corridor connections. These include blue-green connections such as walking and cycling trails along the Waikato River to the Manukau harbour, new intercity rapid rail services and a new mass transit network for the emerging Hamilton-Waikato metropolitan area.
“Work is underway on a Cabinet-mandated business case for a modern, rapid rail line connecting Auckland and Hamilton that would unite two of the country’s largest labour markets,” he said.
“This partnership aims to unlock the significant growth potential in Southern Auckland and the Hamilton-Waikato metropolitan area, underpinned by new rapid and commuter rail connections. The transport network will direct where much-needed housing will be developed and connect our people to growing employment opportunities in both the Waikato and Auckland,” Nanaia Mahuta said.
A business case for a “modern, rapid rail line connecting Auckland and Hamilton” sounds like it means something a step above the 5-year trial service expected to go into operation next year and perhaps something much more like stage 2 of our Regional Rapid Rail proposal from 2017. Furthermore the suggestion of new commuter rail connections in and around Hamilton is particularly intriguing and could help compliment the intercity trains by providing service to the townships along the route, thereby allowing the intercity service to stop fewer times and be faster. There are also four rail routes around Hamilton, two on either side of the river and that nicely sets up potential through route options for two lines, something like below (the destinations could just as easily be flipped).
Given much of the urban population of Hamilton is not on the rail line, I also wonder if the suggestion of “a new mass transit network” also means potential busways or light rail too. Given what we’ve learned in Auckland with rapid transit, and the general lead time for infrastructure like this, it would certainly make sense to at least start planning these types of connections.
I’ll look forward to seeing some more details.