Highway upgrade halted following community input

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A consented street upgrade has been halted in Levin.
A consented street upgrade has been halted in Levin.

The consented project to upgrade SH1 north of Levin along the Waitarere curves has been halted, following ongoing community discussions with the NZ Transport Agency.

Last year, the agency received consent to upgrade a 4.3km, section of SH1 between Poroutawhao School and Clay Road which was the scene of several crashes. This year it was in negotiations with property owners to compulsorily acquire land along the route.

A group of Poroutawhao locals had argued that the proposed changes would make the road more dangerous due to having no feeder side road for some residents on the eastern side.

The group lodged an appeal with the Environment Court over NZTA's refusal to include the eastern side road in the project.

Following talks between the residents and NZTA prior to the appeal hearing, NZTA has halted the whole project, including the compulsory land acquisitions.

"This is an instance where further consideration of community feedback has encouraged us to pause and re-engage with our customers," NZTA highways manager Ross l'Anson said.

A new consultation process would begin in May.

The Waitarere curves project would also now be aligned with the Otaki to north of Levin roads of national significance project, he said.

Although the continued engagement would delay when the Waitarere curves project started, the result would be an agreed solution with the local community, Mr l'Anson said.

Heather Heron Speirs, from the Poroutawhao Community Group, said her group welcomed halting the project as the group had long urged a wider systems approach and improved engagement with the community.

"It is our opinion that previously, NZTA had not balanced the needs of the community with those of through traffic while developing its design," she said.

"We are pleased NZTA now recognises that there is considerable local capability and expertise available to work with them to create the best solution. A solution based on this improved approach can only benefit the local community and wider district."

Despite NZTA's withdrawal from compulsory land purchases, resident David Matenga, who was to lose around 30 metres of his section to the highway project, said he would accept an option to continue with purchase negotiations.

"I'm going to take the money. It's better to have $10 in my pocket than in theirs," he said. Other property owners are also planning to continue with the sale option.

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