Your report Major Road Works Looking Likely, in a recent edition was a good summary of decisions by the HB Regional Transport Committee to support major strategic road construction projects in the Napier, Hastings area.
However, there was one inaccuracy that should be corrected, that is that the total value of the projects is a very significant $31.5 million, not the $23 million reported.
This is because, in addition to the $23.5 million of taxpayer funding, nearly $8 million is contributed by Hastings District and Napier City ratepayers.
But ratepayers will well and truly get value for their investment, in the most significant regional roading improvements since the construction of the Expressway a decade ago.
The result of years of preparation and skilful design by the region's planners and roading engineers, will finally result in a roading network across the Heretaunga Plains and to and from the port that is fully functional.
The key $17.8 million Hastings District Whakatu Arterial project, is a new road linking State Highway 2 at Mangateretere and collecting freight through the rapidly developing Whakatu Industrial area, to link with Pakowhai Rd and then progress to a new $7.5 million roundabout intersection with the Expressway at Links road, which will be much safer and remove interruptions to traffic flows, caused by the present traffic lights system.
Traffic then moves north on the Expressway or directly to the Port via Prebensen Drive, which will have traffic flow and safety enhancements through the $4.2 million Napier City Project.
The gains from these interconnected projects will include:
1. Heavy traffic using the Expressway instead of the Marine Parade
2. A clever and much safer connection of Havelock North (via Napier Road) to either the Coastal Highway or the Expressway, while importantly eliminating the danger hotspots at the Pilcher Rd intersection by the Mangateretere School.
3. Efficient roading infrastructure which will encourage economic development in both cities but particularly in the Tomoana and Whakatu areas. The new works mean that the Expressway will reach its full potential as the primary arterial connection between Hastings, Napier and the Port.
The HB Transport Committee includes political and technical representatives of all five councils plus the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and transport sector representatives.
It is a living testament to effective inter council cooperation, working without the need for drastic measures like amalgamation.
In the six years that I have chaired it, without exception and dealing with some very big issues, all decisions have been made on a consensus basis.
However, we have all been holding our breath waiting on project pricing finalisation, in order to confirm that we can do all of this work from the finite $26.8 million of "R" ( regionally collected) funds available to us, to supplement the ratepayer contributions from Napier and Hastings.
Fortunately we can, with about $3.3 million to spare as long as present costings hold up to further scrutiny.
The left over $3.3 million will also be spent on strengthening the Tukituki River bridge at Waipukurau and minor safety works across the region's state highways.
The problem for the future however is that "R" fund collection (5 cents per litre per person per region) lapses after 2015. We face a bleak future after that as "Roads of National Significance" (RONS), in the Waikato and Auckland soak up all the "N" (nationally collected) roading funds, meaning that future capital improvements to our roading infrastructure will be very difficult to fund.
Efforts are being made to persuade Government to extend "R" funds collection, to leave us with some regional project capability and discretion.
Fortunately, for the moment, if we can build the present projects over the next three years, we will have (on the Heretaunga Plains at least) a roading infrastructure which will be safe, effective and a major stimulus to regional economic development and jobs.
Alan Dick is a Hawke's Bay regional councillor and chairman of the Hawke's Bay Regional Transport Committee. He is standing in the local government elections.
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