Personal and heartfelt stories were among more than 150 submissions verbally delivered to a hearing panel in Tauranga this week in relation to the draft Regional Land Transport Plan.
The draft plan outlines an initial prioritised list of 35 transport projects from Waihi Beach, Rotorua and through to Opotiki and incorporates the state highway network, road improvements, public transport and cycling projects.
Regional transport committee chairman Stuart Crosby said it took a lot of courage from speakers to share their stories to support written submissions – 1900 of which were received by Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
"We know that transport in the region, and everything it involves including health, safety and travel times, impacts everyone in their day to day lives. This draft planning process provides a way for people to be heard," Cr Crosby said.
"The committee asked people to tell their stories and for that we are grateful. For some, talking about issues around State highway 2 is deeply personal, and we thank them for taking the time and effort to deliver their message.
"It's important to emphasise that this is a draft regional plan and this was reflected in the variety of submissions we heard which included Port of Tauranga, Zespri, Rotorua Airport, the region's DHB's and others.
"We knew when we released the draft plan that it would likely evolve, especially in light of the new government and their recently released transport policy statement.
"Our role is to balance all of the transport challenges, needs and priorities across the region, and then put our best case forward to NZTA."
The committee will deliberate on the draft plan in early May, with a recommendation to be made to Bay of Plenty Regional Council in June. The final Regional Land Transport Plan will be submitted to NZTA at the end of June, with the agency making the ultimate decisions on funding allocations.
The committee is a regional governance body made up of mayoral or mayoral-nominee representatives from the Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Tauranga City Council, Rotorua Lakes Council, Whakatane District Council, Kawerau District Council, Opotiki District Council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, as well as the NZ Transport Agency.