The stalling of some of Tauranga's key transport projects has done little to help alleviate the city's congestion woes. The delay of funding from New Zealand Transport Agency has thrust Tauranga City Council into a position where they have to choose to fund the projects themselves or wait for the agency to change their mind. This week, members of the city's Urban Form and Transport Development Committee met to decide on the future of the projects. We were there for that decision.
Tauranga's elected leaders have voted to push on with 11 key transport projects in spite of a lack of funding from the Government.
The near-unanimous decision will cost Tauranga City Council an additional $1.9 million to replace funding the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has said it is "unlikely" to provide.
Projects that will be progressed included widening 15th Ave, building cycleways and bus lanes in Arataki and finishing improvements to Pāpāmoa's Domain Rd.
Other projects - including implementation of most of the council's cycle plan - will be delayed to help the council balance its books.
The extra $1.9m was expected to be loan funded, with the impact on capital expenditure and rates to be discussed at an Annual Plan meeting on June 27.
The decision was made in an Urban Form and Transport Development Committee on Tuesday.
It follows the council's move in March to stall more than $22m worth of roading projects in an effort to spur action from the NZTA.
Last month, the agency sent a letter to the council saying it was unlikely to fund several projects - including the 15th Ave upgrade - in the next three years, forcing the council to re-evaluate its plans.
Councillor John Robson was the sole nay vote, saying there was a risk people would assume completion of the projects would be guaranteed, which was not necessarily the case.
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Each project has been broken into different stages, and some only had funding to produce, for example, a business case.
Others, such as the Domain Rd improvements, would be finished with or without agency funding.
Robson said projects such as the multi-modal transformation of Arataki, which has previously sparked community concern, needed more thought.
"Clearly, we are operating under pressure... We are reacting to matters. This is not the right way to approach significant issues," Robson said.
Cr Bill Grainger acknowledged Robson's concerns, saying "we should not have to be doing this, but I'd say we have to".
"[The community] have been waiting for so long. We've been telling them time after time it will be done. At least this is the first step towards the four-laning [of 15th Ave]."
Cr Steve Morris said Domain Rd, which was in the midst of road works, should not be left as is.
"This is a rural road and a city has grown up around it and it's not coping in its current state.
"We need to get on and do it."
Avenues residents association Phil Green said the move would help alleviate some of the traffic stresses created by 15th Ave congestion. He hoped any improvements were done before the closure of 14th Ave at Turret Rd.
Transport advocacy group Greater Tauranga's Heidi Hughes said children travelling to and from school in Arataki would be safer with the completion of the multi-modal project.
"They've already done parts. It would be a real shame to not connect it all up."
The NZTA's Ross l'Anson said funding had not been "cut".
He said projects had been prioritised to match the available funding in this three-year period, and the available funding would be reviewed every three months using updated information from the council.
The long and holey road
For Rick Walker, improvements to Domain Rd can't come fast enough.
Walker owns Inkster Tattoos opposite Westpac on Domain Rd. He said the past few weeks have been the quietest he's experienced in eight years because of the roadworks and "massive potholes".
Walker was glad to hear the council would finish the job.
"The sooner it's done, the better. You don't start something then stop it."
Rosemarie Turley travels Domain Rd every day and said it was a shame ratepayers would now have to pay "but you can't leave it like that".
She was concerned, however, that the decision would set a precedent for local government spending on things the Government should pay for.
Plans for Tauranga's projects
15th Ave and Turret Rd upgrade - Continue with stage one; create new southbound traffic lane, traffic lights at Burrows St and 15th Ave and restrictions at other side roads such as 14th Ave
Cycle plan - Continue planning and design work and discuss with NZTA
Domain Rd improvements - Complete project as planned
State highway intersection improvements - Relinquish potential funding
Maunganui Rd improvements - Complete business case and hold any further construction until funding is secured
Ngatai Rd improvements- Proceed with construction if funding is secured from NZTA
Arataki multi-modal project - Continue with project as planned
Cameron Rd multi-modal project - Continue with business case, engagement and planning
Seismic resilience - Continue with planning and discussions with NZTA
Smiths Farm access road - Continue with planning and discussions with NZTA
Tauriko West connections - Continue with planning and discussions with NZTA