Nats pledge boost for 'vital' Southern Link

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:44 30/06/2014
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ONE STEP CLOSER: An aerial photograph of Nelson City showing the cycleway on the Railway Reserve near Nelson Intermediate, left. The route suggested for the Southern Link road.
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The National government has put the Southern Link road proposal on its agenda in its $212 million regional roads package election promise.

Nelson MP Nick Smith yesterday announced funding for the investigation and design of the proposed $40-$50m route.

The package includes $12m for three projects which include the Southern Link.

"This is motivated by the fact that Nelson needs arterial capacity to be able to get people in or out of the city. Unless we address that the Nelson city area will wither," Smith said.

"The risk for Nelson if we do not make progress is that the city will stagnate and the investment, growth and jobs will continue to go to Richmond."

He said the announcement moved the project, which has been planned since the 1960s with multi-million dollars investments "off base one".

When asked about the impact of the road on the Victory community, he said the road had been a long time coming.

"The key point is that it's about limiting the impact on people and this route has the main highway going past far fewer residents than the existing route through Tahunanui and Rocks Rd, as well as the traffic impacts on Waimea Rd. I am keen to work with the Victory community on how we can get the detail of the design right to minimise the impact and ensure that it is done well," he said.

Smith said he has spoken to people in the Victory area who asked him to proceed with the road as it would increase the value of properties adjacent to St Vincent St because of the opportunities to transform the property to industrial and commercial usage allowing residents to move out of the area.

Smith rejected comments from those who said traffic volumes have been falling in Nelson making the road unnecessary.

"I just don't accept that people who are saying that traffic volumes are falling are playing with numbers. Tell anyone who drives on Waimea Rd each morning or on Rocks Rd that the congestion has not deteriorated on a long-term path over the last 25 years," he said.

"There are 18,000 vehicles per day down Rocks Rd, 1200 of them are heavy vehicles that are beyond the proper design limit. It is not possible to put a good-quality walkway and cycleway along Rocks Rd without huge expense or compromising the safety."

Nelsust convenor Peter Olorenshaw, who has long opposed the route, said the National party's announcements yesterday were "pure political interference" taking away the role of the New Zealand Transport Agency in deciding, rationalising and prioritising roading needs.

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Olorenshaw said there was also still the hurdle of the Environment Court's rejecting of the proposed route.

"The Environment Court previously said this was no place for a state highway so nothing has changed as far as that goes - it is still the wrong place for a highway," he said.

Olorenshaw said an arterial study carried out a few years ago had shown the road was not needed for 25 years.

"Traffic numbers are falling around Rocks Rd. The congestion time is only putting three minutes onto travel time. If you ask anyone from any other city, it's a joke as far as congestion goes. It is frustrating for people who do drive to work, but listening to another song on the radio is not worth spending $40-$50m on, is it?" he said.

He called the government's proposal "old thinking" from the last century.

The announcement was welcomed by Nelson's Waterfront Association chairman Jeremy Matthews.

"It's certainly very good news and it's clear that the government recognises that the Southern Link is the vital piece of infrastructure for the Nelson region," he said.

He said those who opposed the road needed to see the opportunity that would arise from the changes.

"I just think they need to look at the facts and the future for this region. I understand where they are coming from. Not every decision gets 100 per cent approval rate, but this has been happening and building for decades," he said.

"The folks that oppose it really have to get a wider community perspective on what is actually going on here."

- The Nelson Mail

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