West Coast welcomes transport boost
West Coast leaders are praising planned commitments for the region's State Highway network, but say they are long overdue.
Prime Minister John Key yesterday announced a new $212 million road transport package using money from the sale of state-owned assets to upgrade 14 roads across the country.
As part of the roading package, the Taramakau road and rail bridge between Greymouth and Hokitika on State Highway 6 would be replaced.
The bridge has only one lane and is shared by cars and trains.
The Government also plans to realign State Highway 73, from Mingha Bluff to Rough Creek, in Arthur's Pass. The stretch had been the scene of several accidents, including a fatality in 2012.
The new Taramakau road bridge would be two lanes and would also have a separate cycling lane.
Information released by the Government showed the project would cost about $10-$15 million and the soonest possible start date was two years away.
Grey District Deputy Mayor Doug Truman said Coasters would be "very grateful" to see the Government making a commitment to replace the bridge, but it should have been done years ago.
"I think it's the last road and rail bridge in the country and it's got a high accident rate, especially for motorcyclists and cyclists because they slip on the rails."
Several million dollars was spent on recent bridge repairs, Truman said.
Grey District Councillor Tony Coll said the bridge replacement was "great news for the West Coast".
Westland mayor Mike Havill had also been on the scene of accidents on State Highway 7 between Mingha Bluff and Rough Creek and was happy that the stretch would be realigned.
"Obviously with a lot of trucks on the roads, even having room to pass on that section was a bit of a challenge."
John Key said National had always been focused on roads and was not merely buying votes.
"We'll also be campaigning on lots of infrastructure initiatives. This is just a part of it."
Transport minister Gerry Brownlee is proposing a further $90m a year be spent on roads, over and above maintenance.
However, Labour leader David Cunliffe called the roading announcement an election year U-turn.
"After six years in office and three months out from the election, the Government has suddenly decided to return some of the road funding it took from the regions to pay for its $12 billion ‘roads of national significance'."
The latest TVNZ/Colmar Brunton poll puts National on 50 per cent (-1 per cent), and Labour on 29 per cent (-1). The Greens were up slightly to 12 per cent (+1), and NZ First dropping to 4 per cent (-1). The Maori Party, ACT and Conservatives held steady on 1 per cent.
Key rose four points in the preferred prime minister stakes, to 46 per cent. Labour leader David Cunliffe held at 10 per cent.