Government Transport Minister Phil Twyford has issued a blistering response to doubts raised by the National party in Horowhenua over the future of the Levin expressway.
Twyford said a meeting held in Levin last Tuesday by National's Nathan Guy, where party leader Simon Bridges and National's transport spokesman Jami-Lee Ross also appeared, was nothing more than "a political stunt designed to confuse the public."
He said nothing had changed with the progress of the Otaki to North of Levin (O2NL) expressway and that is was in the planning phase, exactly as it was before the recently released draft Government Policy Statement (GPS) on land transport.
"Once route selection is finalised, there will be public consultation, then it will be up to the NZTA board to make the final selection," he said.
"I can't tell you what their decision will be."
"The reason why the Transport Agency makes independent decisions about roading projects is that our Government refuses to engage in the disgraceful pork-barrelling we saw under the National government."
Twyford said that sadly for locals, they were being subjected to political scaremongering by the National party which was "singlehandedly responsible for the uncertainty the people of Horowhenua are feeling."
He refuted statements made by Ross at the meeting that the Government had made mistakes in allocating transport funding.
"The Government has not made errors in its calculations...nor are we taking money from the regions to pay for Auckland rail. We are rebalancing transport investment away from National's low-value highways," he said.
Twyford said the previous National government spent $11 billion on just seven handpicked expressways, sinking huge amounts into their super-highways that carry only four percent of vehicle traffic.
"Safety is one of our main priorities because the number of people who have died on our roads has risen every year since 2013," he said.
"We have a broad transport plan that's focussed on a sustainable future, and will invest in local and regional roads, and the maintenance of our state highways which have been neglected. We also have a plan for public transport, cycleways and footpaths."
He also said that contrary to comments made by Ross at the Levin meeting suggesting NZTA would have $5 billion less under the current government, under the GPS 2018, the National Land Transport Programme would be $1.7 billion larger than under National by 2022.
Guy said last week the draft GPS "all but signalled the that the Government would not be funding the Otaki to North of Levin stretch of the expressway," however both Twyford and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have publicly confirmed that it is not under threat.