Government approval of funds to "accelerate" investigation and design of roading projects to improve access to Napier Port has come as a surprise to the chairman of the Regional Transport Committee.
Alan Dick was unaware of an announcement yesterday by Prime Minister John Key until contacted by Hawke's Bay Today. He noted it's election year and the announcement seemed to be "political doublespeak".
"I don't want to be seen as knocking it, and I'm not, but there are no great revelations in the announcement," he said later.
Mr Key announced a $212 million "Regional Roading Package" in his speech to the National Party conference in Wellington, including the Hawke's Bay component in a $12 million pool - the Port access package, along with Nelson's future southern link and Rotorua's eastern arterial.
The statement refers to a "Napier Port Access Package" estimated to cost $50-60 million and says: "In particular grade separation of the Pakowhai [road] intersection with State Highway 50, and upgrades to the Hyderabad Rd intersection with State Highway 2".
"Some investigation has been completed, with design and consent processes still to begin," it says. "If investigation and design shows the project is good value for money, it would be a candidate for funding through the Regional Improvements activity class ... " Mr Dick said that was nothing new and the grade separation - flyovers and other measures - is possibly decades away.
"There's no justification for it at the moment," he said.
Napier Port access has been in the plans of the RTC for some years, and the current plan for the Pakowhai RD-SH50 intersection is an "intersection rebuild".
"The Whakatu arterial, for which the Hastings District Council has agreed on funding in the past few days, leads into that," he said.
"In terms of real priorities we do need to see more focus on state highways north," he said.
Referring to the issues of heavy traffic on the Napier-Wairoa road, he added: "There's been some good input, but it's still a secondary highway, with significant problems to deal with.
"But there's not enough money to go around."
Charged against a future investment fund - the proceeds of the partial sale of state-owned assets in the past term - the major spend is on 14 projects, either already approved or with priorities already identified and approvals expected in the near future.
Just two are in the area from East Coast through Hawke's Bay, both being north of Gisborne.
Mr Key said the $212 million would be on top of $360 million already proposed for regional roads. "Each project is important because it makes roads safer, helps the region be more productive or improves the way the roading network operates," he said. "Until today there was no guarantee these projects would be funded in the foreseeable future."
Tukituki MP Craig Foss and National Party Napier candidate Wayne Walford welcomed their leader's announcements.
"National is getting on with the job and making it easier, and safer, for traffic to get around Napier and Hawke's Bay," Mr Walford said in a joint statement, in which Mr Foss said: "This work has the potential to be a huge boost for our region. It's another example of how National is backing the Bay."