Where are the bridges, asks Peters

By Imran Ali

Northland MP and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.
Northland MP and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

Northland won't get a slice of the national revenue pie for infrastructure development over the next couple of years, according to Prime Minister John Key's state of the nation speech.

While Auckland gets the lion's share of spending, Northlanders will have to be content with two projects - Akerama Curves Realignment and Passing Lane and the Loop Road North to Smeatons Hill safety improvements that were actually announced in 2014 as part of the Government's Accelerated Regional Roading Programme.

On Wednesday, Mr Key outlined a plan to make an early start on Auckland's $2.5 billion city rail link in 2018 and a $1billion east-west connection between Onehunga and Mt Wellington, In addition, about $4.2 billion would be invested in transport in and around Auckland over the next three years.

Northland MP and New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters, questioned the National Party's promise on replacing 10 one-way bridges in Northland made during a by-election he won in March last year. He said National had gone back to its old ways and was thumbing its nose at Northland.

"It's no matter whether everyone agreed with the need for two-laning (the 10 bridges), it's that Northlanders should be able to have faith in the government of the day. The PM and government have made much of job creation, claiming that infrastructure projects bring tens of thousands of jobs, yet in Northland jobs are in short supply," he said.

Mr Peters said the PM failed to announce any significant new public works but the Government claimed it was doing much for the regions, and had the audacity to include Northland.

So far, he said the Government had only budgeted for the two Matakohe bridges and the Taipa and Kaeo bridges. Mr Peters queried where the $69 million earmarked for the replacement of the 10 bridges during the campaign went to.

"Northland is waiting for the full set of promises - 10 two-lane bridges, superfast broadband rollout, taxpayer funded cellphone coverage and the Puhoi to Wellsford highway," he said.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Simon Bridges did not answer specific questions other than to reiterate the twin projects already identified in the government's 2014 Accelerated Regional Roading Programme. In addition to these projects, he said the government remained committed to upgrading all 10 single-lane bridges on Northland's Twin Coast Highway over the next six years.

Construction start dates for Kaeo, Taipa and Matakohe bridges are dependent on design and consenting processes but the New Zealand Transport Agency is progressing these projects as fast as possible, he said.

The replacement of the Taipa Bridge will be considered as part of the 2018-21 National Land Transport Programme.

An assessment of what work needs to be carried out on the Tirohanga, Rangiahua and Taheke bridges is under way; so construction dates are still to be confirmed. The replacement of the Hallahans and Lowes bridges, as well as the Darby and Joan Bridge will be reassessed as part of their consideration for the next National Land Transport Plan in 2018.

- Northern Advocate

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