Opposition aspirants pan roading package

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 08:40 01/07/2014
Alex Williams
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ
TALKING NUMBERS: John Key announced that $212M would be spent on roading projects across the country. The work would include a new bridge across the Opawa River at the entrance to Blenheim.
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The Government's promise to fund replacements for the Opawa and Wairau River bridges north of Blenheim were "just blankets and beads" to buy votes, Labour's Kaikoura electorate candidate Janette Walker says.

Opposition MPs said Prime Minister John Key's announcement that $212 million would be spent on roading projects, including replacements for Marlborough's Opawa River and Wairau River bridges, was made less than three months out from an election.

Walker said she did not believe building bridges was economic development.

"There's more to economic development than that."

She was also concerned by Government plans to change the funding system for council roads. It was being phased in over the next three years and depended on where individual councils were ranked.

The changes would see councils carry more of the load paying for roads, Walker said.

In Kaikoura, that meant a rates increase of 1.9 per cent solely to pay for the repair of roads damaged in the storm at Easter.

Green Party list MP and Kaikoura electorate candidate Steffan Browning said the decision was aimed at big trucks, not regional communities.

It would be more efficient to get freight off the roads, Browning said.

"It does not address this increasing amount of road freight that should be handled through coastal shipping and rail."

There was no overall proper transport plan, just the roads of national significance and pork barrel politics, he said.

He also had concerns about the Opawa River bridge, as it was a heritage-listed structure. A bypass could be better for Blenheim as it would take trucks out of the town and off Grove Rd, he said.

However, a bypass would cost significantly more and people, particularly retailers, would be worried about traffic not coming through town.

Both Kaikoura MP Colin King and National Party candidate for Kaikoura Stuart Smith welcomed the announcement.

The bridge replacements were estimated to cost $20-25 million and construction could start as early as 2016, they said.

"Our region is growing and the replacement bridges, on main arterial roads, will improve the connection between Blenheim and the rest of Marlborough," King said.

Smith said National was making it easier, and safer, for people and freight to get around the country and those projects were a significant part of that plan.

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Marlborough Roads highway manager Frank Porter said it would be some time before work began on new bridge designs.

"We haven't really thought about those steps yet. It's a National Party announcement. We've been aware that these projects haven't been able to be funded in the past. At this stage, we're assessing how we progress forward."

Marlborough Roads would be working with its New Zealand Transport Agency regional office on developing the proposals. There were no details available yet, he said.

- Marlborough

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