Roads still high priority

MICHELE ONG
Last updated 05:00 25/08/2014

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Labour's commitment to tackling Taranaki's biggest roading concerns are unaffected by a new transport policy switching attention from highways to public transport, MP Andrew Little says.

Yesterday Labour promised a major switch of funds into public transport and away from the Government's "pet" highway projects, with a rail line to Auckland airport slated within 30 years, as a key plank of its transport policy.

There was no suggestion though that switch of focus would mean anything for Taranaki's roading wishlist, including the much debated State Highway 3 route north, Little said.

Labour and National have been trading blows over the state of Taranaki's roads - a perpetual election issue in the region.

Recently, National announced a new $212m package to be implemented should it be re-elected. Funded through asset sales, the package included between $10m and $15m for the Normanby overpass upgrade and up to $25m for work to be completed at Mt Messenger and the Awakino Gorge.

Then, last month, Little said Labour was looking at Australia's "royalties for regions" scheme in which a proportion of mineral royalties went back into the community. "We're still working on that and I'll be speaking on behalf of Labour at a forum in Wellington in a couple of weeks time a little more about our thinking on that," he said. "We want to see some money coming back to help the region pay for roading upgrades and things like that."

Little said the latest policy announced yesterday concentrated on a small number of the big highway projects, like in Waikato and Auckland, but regional roading would be getting a "higher priority" in its transport policy.

"It'll be a question of reallocating resources from the roads of national significance projects back into regional roading," he said.

National's Taranaki-King Country candidate Barbara Kuriger said the Government had put funding into roading for "economic growth".

"We need to be able to transport our people, our products and our tourism. We believe roads are extremely important," she said.

Speaking from a Taranaki-King Country perspective, with its "very sparse population", roads played a key role in the everyday lives of its residents. "There's lots of big trucks, there's lot of tankers shifting milk. To shift what happens in the rural areas, we really do need the roading," she said.

Labour's transport spokesman Phil Twyford said the Auckland motorway system was "more or less complete" and the next priority was an integrated public transport network.

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The first step would be an immediate start to the City Rail Link, funded 50-50 with the council.

Labour would then hammer out with the council a 30-year plan to include rapid bus-ways in the northwest and southeast, electrification of the rail to Pukekohe, a rail line to the airport, and rail as part of the next Waitemata harbour crossing. Fairfax NZ

- Taranaki Daily News

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