The year is coming to an end so we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We hope that 2019 is a good one for you and your family.
We should thank all of the hardworking people of our city who have been putting in so much effort throughout the year: our business owners, civil servants, students, retailers, manufacturers, builders, service providers and everyone else who keeps Hamilton humming along.
Hamilton is moving forward with confidence and thanks in a large part to the solid infrastructure investment of recent years, which helps maintain confidence in our region and allows investors to take on bigger and more innovative projects such as Ruakura Inland Port and the freight hub at Horotiu.
Unfortunately, this year we have seen the Government turn away from infrastructure investment in our region and focus more on other things. Governments do have different priorities but it is clear the likes of Auckland and Northland have a much stronger sway in public spending decisions than we do.
First, the Government rejected extending the $450 million Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Piarere. NZTA's board had already approved the project and NZTA has spent $4.23m plus GST on the work so far planning the route, consulting with stakeholders and investigating its options.
The Government instead changed its priority to Auckland rail and trams so the work and money on Cambridge to Piarere are now largely wasted. It would have been the next major infrastructure spend for our region and an important link with Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty. The Government committed so much money to projects like the Auckland city to airport tram that it had to take money away from things that benefit us.
Second, the new Government announced it does not support the $250m third medical school in New Zealand, which the University of Waikato and Waikato DHB were leading the way with their proposed rural school of medicine.
The previous National Government announced a process for establishing this new medical school, which would have been announced in August this year. The new Government has taken this opportunity away, favouring Otago and Auckland universities, who showed no real interest in rural medicine until Waikato put forward its bid.
But we do not miss out altogether because the Government has identified an $81m railway option to take 150 passengers from Hamilton to Papakura, which works out at a $540,000 capital subsidy per passenger and $175 per passenger each day.
This spend does not include installing a toilet at Frankton station, which does throw doubt on how confident the Government is that people will use the service.
This diesel train service is hardly environmentally friendly and the Government would be better off extending the electric network from Papakura into North Waikato at Tuakau and using park-and-ride to link to the Waikato Expressway.
So sadly, 2018 is the year that the Government turned significant public infrastructure investment into a small trickle for the Waikato. We miss out on the expressway extension and the medical school, but we get a small train subsidy for a small number of people to use.
It is a real shame because investment in the Waikato had been so solid under the National Government.