Editorial: Deliverance comes with duelling bridges

Last updated 05:00 27/11/2012

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OPINION: There something of an irony in the fact that, given it seemed to be so long in coming, the announcement from the New Zealand Transport Agency detailing the revamp of New Plymouth's northern outlet came early.

Politicians and the media were gearing up for a midweek announcement. Yes, the media.

It is not unusual for reporters to be given information under embargo on issues to ensure they can present a full picture immediately rather than a snapshot.

But when a small image of two bridges over the Waiwhakaiho River and an explanation was inadvertently posted on New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young's weekly blog on Friday, the cat was out of the bag.

From this newspaper's point of view that was good news, because it meant we were able to present the story immediately on Friday and bring readers the full map of changes on Saturday - our biggest selling day of the week.

Hence, the announcement Mr Young had waited so long for came a few days early, and the blog error made news as well. In his words that was the twist of lemon that added some flavour.

But regardless, this was a triumph for the New Plymouth MP. The road issue has been a millstone around his neck. For more than a year since the last election he has steadfastly maintained his Government would come up with the goods on the northern corridor, without being able to say how and when.

Taranaki Daily News journalists have made a point of quizzing visiting Cabinet ministers and Prime Minister John Key about the issue.

Had Mr Young failed to deliver, the finger would have been pointed at him. Having got a result, he is entitled to the credit.

The plan has come with whistles and bells. The city expected confirmation its notorious commuter bottleneck would be widened.

Quite what would happen remained a mystery though and it is now clear why, when the NZTA announced a $165 million investment into the city's main corridor in August, staff told us we could not say the Waiwhakaiho bridge would be widened.

That is because instead, a twin crossing of the Waiwhakaiho River will be built. Aside from avoiding what loomed as major commuter disruption during the construction stage, adding a second bridge may provide an extra level of protection to a city which now has just one route north.

The plans unveiled at the weekend provide for significant improvements in given areas along the corridor from Vickers Rd to Elliot St.

There will be two extra lanes on the Te Henui bridge, intersection improvements at Devon St East and Mangorei Rd, new cycleways and dual carriageways. The work will have significant economic and safety benefits and it was vital the Government came up with a suitable plan.

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Labour MP Andrew Little blew his own trumpet a bit loud in claiming the outcome was a consequence of his own campaigning to keep the Government true to its word.

But he is right in adding the rider that the region must now keep the pressure on to improve the road north over Mt Messenger and through the Awakino Gorge.

- Taranaki Daily News

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