Newly elected regional council chairwoman Fran Wilde has vowed to make Transmission Gully a top priority, and says she will ensure it moves ahead.
Though stressing that the controversial highway plan is just one of many issues her council faces, she said she would not be happy with any further delays on a project that was first mooted almost 70 years ago.
"I would certainly be wanting to make sure the timetable is adhered to. I do think it's important," said the former MP and Wellington mayor.
"Every time you push it out another year or two, there is more money and more costs in terms of air pollution, emissions.
"The key thing now is making sure Transit do maintain their focus. I have no reason to believe that they won't."
Ms Wilde replaced former chairman Ian Buchanan, who did not stand for re-election after it became clear he did not have the numbers to hold on to his job.
She has been a vocal supporter of the plan to build the $955 million 27-kilometre inland motorway, an issue she campaigned on when she ran for regional council three years ago.
Ms Wilde is also a Transit NZ board member, a post she will immediately give up because of a conflict of interest.
She said Transmission Gully was just part of a regional transport puzzle that included a "major injection" of public transport initiatives.
However, her support for the oft-debated project remained.
"The regional council clearly plays a very key role in making it happen," she said. "It simply gives greater Wellington and the country the alternative route reliability, plus clearer emissions."
The project is in the hands of Transit, which has awarded a series of contracts to test ground conditions, traffic growth, a possible route and a likely cost. The Government has promised $485 million toward the road.
Porirua Mayor Jenny Brash, a staunch supporter of the Gully plan, welcomed Ms Wilde's election. "I am sure Fran will support the progress of Transmission Gully," she said. "It's up and running ... and I expect progress will continue."
Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast said the Gully plan had a timetable and she doubted it could be sped up.
"I think the process of working through the final costs, a detailed costing, is some way off," she said.
Ms Wilde said she was not attracted to the position by the money and had no idea how much the chairwoman got paid.
According to a Remuneration Authority determination the council chairmanship attracts a salary of $134,424 a year, which includes provision for a car that can be used on private business.
In her acceptance speech, Ms Wilde said the most crucial issues facing the council and the region relate to sustainability.
"It is clear that business as usual is not an option."
Meanwhile, Ian McKinnon was elected unopposed as deputy mayor at Wellington City Council's swearing-in ceremony last night.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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