Rail plus highway urged

By Mike Dinsdale

The next step in the proposed 18 kilometre Puhoi-to-Warkworth section of State Highway 1 has been welcomed by Northland Regional Council chairman Craig Brown, but he wants the Government to also commit to keeping the Northland-Auckland rail link.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced the creation of a new planning alliance that marks another step forward in the process to construct the Puhoi-to-Warkworth section of the 38km Ara Tuhono - a road of national significance.

The planning alliance, to be known as the Further North Alliance, comprises engineering firms Sinclair Knight Merz, GHD, legal firm Chapman Tripp, and the NZ Transport Agency.

"The value, innovation and flexibility of the alliance approach, bringing together companies with different engineering and other skills working together as one team, has already been demonstrated in the construction of large projects which this Government has prioritised and progressed," Mr Brownlee said.

Mr Brown said the alliance was a significant step. "The roads of national significance are something the Government are doing as matter of priority, which we are happy with, but is offsetting with no subsidies for local roading, which we are not happy with," he said.

"However, we don't want to detract from the fact this roading is important to us. People calling it the holiday highway are wrong. It's our lifeblood and we need that roading to go ahead.

But in setting those priorities it means less money for local roads."

Of equal importance to the regional council was ensuring the rail line between Northland and Auckland was kept and upgraded, along with constructing a rail link to the deep-water port at Marsden Pt.

"We want and need both [rail and road]," Mr Brown said.

The new highway between Puhoi and Warkworth is the first stage of a four-lane motorway project that will eventually extend to Wellsford, replacing the SH1 and expected to cost around $1billion. Mr Brownlee said it would help stimulate economic development in Northland, and provide a safer and more reliable transport connection between Northland and Auckland and into Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

"Northland is blessed with great agricultural, mineral, tourism and other resources but has been starved of proper infrastructure investment for too long.

Northland's economy currently accounts for just 2.5 per cent of GDP, even though the region has 3.8 per cent of New Zealand's population. Investment in new highway infrastructure through the Roads of National Significance programme will help Northland's economy to grow."

- Northern Advocate

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