Greens threaten expressway with roadblock

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 07/08/2014

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Hamilton's Ruakura development may have received interim approval to move to its next stage but the Green Party has said it will not commit to completing a major expressway that would feed the transport hub site.

Green MP Julie Anne Genter said completing the Waikato Expressway through to Hamilton, past the Ruakura site, did not make sense, despite projections the hub would reduce road traffic by 65,000 truck journeys.

The backers of the Ruakura project, which won interim approval from an independent board of inquiry this week, plan to build a massive logistics hub, retail space, knowledge zone and residential area to the city's east.

The $3.3 billion development is projected to generate more than 10,000 jobs and $4.4b in gross regional product, while reducing traffic movements.

The $420 million Huntly section and the $700m Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway are scheduled for approval next year but Genter said the money would be better spent elsewhere.

"I don't think it makes sense to spend billions of dollars on projects that are going to do nothing to make New Zealand more resilient to higher oil prices and having a more sustainably balanced transport system," Genter said.

Work continues south of Hamilton and north of Rangiriri, and the two sections would complete the road from the Bombay Hills to Cambridge.

"A billion dollars to join up one road to another one is probably not the best use of a billion dollars," Genter said.

But Hamilton East MP and transport select committee chair David Bennett said the expressway was an essential link to Ruakura and the development was a "non-event" without it.

"The expressway is the biggest thing you can do for the city because it links to Auckland, and that makes things like Ruakura possible, it makes the growth to the north possible," Bennett said.

Hamilton had the most to lose from Green policy on roads of significance, with the two major sections scheduled for approval next year, he said.

"If you don't have that road there, then you don't have the intersection and it just falls off."

The NZ Transport Agency said earlier this year it would tweak the expressway's route to bring it closer to the Ruakura site. "They are the Huntly and Hamilton sections, the two big sections of the road, and the Green Party have said they are going to review the roads of significance, which is code for: we are not going to do them," he said.

Waikato Chamber of Commerce chair Sandra Perry said the interim decision to approve the plan change that allowed Tainui Group Holdings and Chedworth Property Ltd to take the next step was a breath of fresh air for the city.

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"We've had such a lot of negative hits of late, such as the actual loss of around 600 jobs, so looking forward there is a huge potential to employ people."

She said members of the chamber were largely positive towards the development. elton.smallman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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