Roading high on region's priorities

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 11/06/2014

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As general elections loom, Taranaki's civic leaders have made it clear what issues they expect an incoming government to address.

Taranaki Regional Council chairman David MacLeod, New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd, Stratford Mayor Neil Volzke and South Taranaki Mayor Ross Dunlop have drawn up a list of nine priorities including the region's transport needs, the allocation of oil and gas revenue and a response plan for a marine oil spill.

"It would be remiss of local government leaders for us not to make central government sit up and pay attention to what are priorities in the region," MacLeod said.

He said the Normanby overbridge realignment project ranked highly on the list. The Waiwhakaiho Bridge upgrade was given the nod before the last general election and MacLeod hoped this time was Normanby's turn.

"Judging by economic indications from central government the country is becoming well-positioned to invest in more priority areas around New Zealand. We believe this roading project is one of those that should be looked at seriously."

Money for transport needs was a pertinent issue for Taranaki because the system for allocating regional road funding is due to expire in April next year.

MacLeod said the regional council would be pushing for a new system to ensure Taranaki got the funding for transport networks and infrastructure needed to support growing industries.

Central government also needed to commit to major improvements to State Highway 3 north, he said.

Ensuring oil and gas revenue flowed back into the community, not just the government, was also identified as a priority.

"The community in which these operations are conducted is having to bear the potential burden of having these within their community.

"We think it's only fair that they should be recognised in some way."

Dunlop agreed, saying South Taranaki didn't get the support from oil and gas companies that North Taranaki did.

"It's really disappointing," he said. "Kapuni was the first gas field in New Zealand, it's been here for 50 years. They need to be doing more in areas they actually are taking the resources."

A collaborative response plan to a marine oil spill between central and local government was needed, which applied not just to Taranaki but other regions where the industry was ramping up, MacLeod said.

Completion of Treaty of Waitangi settlements, reforms to the Resource Management Act, a focus on development of tourism infrastructure and investment in pest control and upgraded physical assets in Egmont National Park also made the list.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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