Kiwi civil contractors and communities are calling on the Government to save jobs by bringing forward stalled transport projects such as the Cambridge to Piarere extension of the Waikato Expressway.
The weekend announcement by the Government to bring projects forward and lift spending on significant infrastructure projects in the short to medium term has been welcomed by Civil Contractors New Zealand.
The Government has signalled its intentions to take advantage of the all-time low cost of borrowing to bring forward a "significant" amount of spending on infrastructure projects.
But there is little detail about the size and scale of the spending package. The Government promised to unveil more information at the Half Yearly Economic and Fiscal Update, with Finance Minister Grant Robertson saying at Labour's annual conference last weekend the Government has a "once in a generation" fiscal opportunity.
National MP for Hamilton East David Bennett, who has strongly petitioned for the completion of the Waikato Expressway to Piarere, told Waikato News the contractors shouldn't hold their breath as he does not expect the extension to go ahead under the current Government.
"There is not much chance that the project will come forward, what the Government is talking about here is doing minor projects and bundling them into a package across the country and saying look at this great investment which really means nothing because they should already be doing that," Bennett said.
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However, Hamilton based Labour list MP Jamie Strange said the Government had been investing strongly in other sectors of infrastructure such as education and health, while also focusing on alternative forms of transport and safety improvements.
The Cambridge to Piarere extension of the expressway was put on hold by the current Government in favour of focusing on safety improvements on rural roads, such as State Highway 3 near Te Awamutu.
Civil Contractors New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock said the investment in transport projects was vital in a move to save jobs and boost the economy.
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"We need to get on with the job of overcoming our infrastructure deficit, so this announcement is very welcome. It's also a necessary move to save jobs which are on the line as major transport projects wind down," Silcock said.
"Projects to be brought forward could include Melling Link in Wellington's Hutt Valley, Tauranga's Northern Link which is pretty much ready to go, along with Cambridge to Piarere and increased investment in safety improvements and State Highway maintenance."
He said the civil construction workforce was project-based, so the lack of short to medium term work had been a major concern for the industry as jobs like Transmission Gully, the Waikato Expressway, and Kaikoura and Christchurch motorway projects are completed over the next year.
Bennett said the Government had had a complete stuff up in infrastructure, particularly in the Waikato.
"We are getting delays on the Hamilton section of the expressway because the workforce knows there is no work for them at the end of the project," Bennett said.
"The Government stalled it all in the hopes of doing one big tram in Auckland which they can't get off the ground and it has been an absolute disaster.
"The civil contractors were right to bring this up, but there is little hope for the extension to be announced."
Bennett said a roundabout was being considered by NZTA as part of safety improvements for the State Highway 29 and State Highway 1 intersection, but that it would cause more problems if a four lane highway was developed in the area.
"Our new road which we proposed would have had a new high speed interchange just up the road from the current intersection, but NZTA has now decided to go ahead with the third option of a roundabout.
"That is not a smart move because you can't incorporate that into the new road if it's built, all it would do is slow traffic down further," Bennett said.
He said the only smart option would be to build the four-lane highway with the interchange part of the project.
Strange said that despite the opposition saying there had been a lack of investment in roading, there was money being spent on improving the safety of travel, along with targeting different sectors such as tourism and education.
"We're taking a diverse view of transport, the Hamilton to Auckland commuter rail and metro rail systems are a big part of our investments, and we want roading to work together with rail rather than the National Party's view of just focusing on roads," he said.
Strange said the Government had been investing in the Waikato including PGF funding for the Waikato Regional Theatre, and funding for Te Aroha to create a tourism hub.
"Under the previous Government we did not see infrastructure investment in education and health, so we are fixing that by investing in those core infrastructure."
In Hamilton alone, 44 schools will receive $13 million in funding from the Government.
Speed signs off
Motorists are being urged to take extra care at the SH1/SH29 intersection with the intersection speed zone signs out of operation for two weeks following road resurfacing in the area, NZTA has said.
Intersection Speed Zones are electronic signs that detect when someone is turning into or out of a side road and temporarily reduce the legal speed limit on the state highway (usually from 100km/h to 60km/h or 70km/h). They also do this when someone is crossing the state highway from a side road.
The signs, which were installed earlier this year, are expected to be reinstated on or before December 10.
The components within the road surface that trigger the electronic signage needed to be removed during the resurfacing.