Editorial: Another downpour, another closure

Last updated 05:00 18/07/2012

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OPINION: Here we go again.

That would have been the reaction of many to the news that State Highway 3 at Awakino was closed because of heavy rain - again.

Every winter it is almost a certainty. The west coast of the North Island is saturated after long periods of heavy, non-stop rain, and our fragile northern outlet once again succumbs to the elements and cannot cope.

Even in fine weather it is already a virtual obstacle course, especially for the truckies and their big rigs, but also for everyday motorists, as the grim reminder of numerous roadside crosses near Awakino attest.

On Monday night, after the latest closure, it was with some relief that motorists once again began crawling through a section of State Highway 3 north of Awakino after a slip closed the road in the afternoon. Hundreds of travellers were frustrated by the slip that cut Taranaki's access to the north.

It could so easily have been much worse, with only luck preventing a tragedy as tonnes of mud, rocks and debris crashed down in heavy rain, covering both lanes of the highway. Inevitably, motorists were advised to travel north via Whanganui. Logistically, that is a feasible alternative, but realistically, a three-hour detour makes the trip to Auckland a nightmare, five hours becoming eight.

While the road reopened on Monday evening, delays were still the order of the day and extreme caution was needed. No-one could guarantee there would not be more slips and that is very much part of the ongoing problems this perilous route offers to the people and industry of Taranaki.

Quite simply, it is not good enough. Every solution offered by the Government and its various agencies in recent years has been of the band-aid variety. A bold, incisive solution which fixes the problem once and for all is well overdue.

After all, the amount of money collected by the Government every time a litre of petrol is sold borders on the obscene. A reminder: 48.524 cents goes into the National Land Transport Fund; 9.90 cents to the ACC Motor Vehicle Account; 0.66 cents to Local Authorities Fuel Tax and 0.045 cents to the Petroleum or Engine Fuels Monitoring Levy.

On top of that, just to add insult to penury, GST is collected on the overall price of fuel, including excise. That amounts to 7.7 cents per litre - a tax on taxes. In other words, when you last bought petrol, more than 65 cents per litre was collected by the Government. It doesn't matter which government, but the reality is it has more than enough to be able to spend a considerable amount of money on State Highway 3 between New Plymouth and Te Kuiti.

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The challenge is now to MPs Jonathan Young and Shane Ardern to take this matter further, and urgently. They will be judged on deeds, rather than words, by many.

- Taranaki Daily News

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