Rocks Rd revamp views sought

Southern Link divides council over upgrade

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:58 18/07/2014
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Nelson residents will get the chance to give feedback on two concepts for the proposed revamp of Rocks Rd.

The jointly funded project between the council and the New Zealand Transport Agency includes an option of upgrading on-road cycle lanes and the footpath, costing between $9-13 million, and a second option of a shared 4m wide cycling and walking route on the seaward side of the road for between $11-15m.

Both would result in the seawall being expanded and a loss of parking spaces along the road - 37 in the first proposal and 83 with the second option.

A third option costing $34-37m will be put out to the public for information purposes only, which Mayor Rachel Reese said was a prudent decision as it came with "an unaffordable price tag for this community".

At a meeting yesterday all councillors welcomed the concepts going out for public consultation.

But a division emerged between those questioning the revamp in light of the potential southern arterial route and those who wanted something done sooner rather than later.

NZ Transport agency representative Andrew James told the council the agency supported the project progressing through public consultation to find issues not yet considered and for community views to inform future detailed design.

Deputy mayor Paul Matheson said there were some issues with the potential revamps as they did not provide solutions for traffic issues on the road that "we have to address sometime in the future".

"These issues need to be talked about now - we cannot overlook the fact at the moment that this is a $14m pedestrian and cyclist track," he said.

Councillor Eric Davy argued that the projected costs were much higher than when the road's redevelopment was discussed under the last council.

He was concerned about the upkeep and that the council was "dribbling" away its regional funds provided by the transport agency "on nice-to-haves rather than fixing our dangerous roads".

Davy supported developing the southern link and then creating a boulevard, but then said Rocks Rd would remain busy even if it was no longer the highway.

Councillor Matt Lawrey said the redevelopment "could be the deal of the century", with most of the funding coming from the transport agency, and it would give parents and children the chance to bike to the beach, creating a safer thoroughfare for all road users, while possibly injecting more than $10m into the local economy.

Councillor Brian McGurk said transport agency money needed to be used by July 2018. "We run the risk of getting nothing - bear in mind it is time-critical and the money will disappear and we will end up with nothing," he said.

Rhys Palmer, the council's senior asset engineer for transport and roading, confirmed that regional funding for transport could not "be banked" and it was a "use it or lose it" situation.

Councillor Luke Acland said it was important to look at the evidence about the road and demand was there for an upgrade.

"Traffic is reducing on Rocks Rd in terms of vehicles," he said. "Nelson is a leading region for cycling - it is a demand that must be met and it is an exciting prospect," he said.

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Councillor Mike Ward said locals had changed their transport behaviour over the years and upgrading the road would allow people to "make more appropriate choices where they can" and those worried about sharing a road should look at the railway reserve for a working example.

Reese closed off the debate, saying what was going out to the public was an "honest reflection of what is possible" and "we need to hear from the city of Nelson if they are satisfied with the concepts".

She did not see how the southern link could be taken into consideration with Rocks Rd as despite the political signals from the Government, the council had seen no designs.

Reese said councillors had no say over the highway status of the road and the redevelopment was not competing with the money the Government has assigned to investigating the southern link, but if there were any changes to the highway layout, the concepts could be adjusted.

- The Nelson Mail

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