A road tunnel under the Kaimai Range could sustain truck tolls of $25 to $30, New Zealand's heavy transport spokesman Ken Shirley told Western Bay District councillors.

Shirley, the chief executive of the Road Transport Forum, said a tunnel was the ultimate solution to the problems with SH2 through the Karangahake Gorge and SH29 over the Kaimais.

In a presentation on Tuesday that touched on the many transport issues impacting on the Bay, he said the forum had done its sums and a tunnel would stand a toll of $25 to $30 for trucks.

He said tunnel technology had come a long way since the 8.9km Kaimai Railway Tunnel opened in 1978 at a cost of $43 million.

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Shirley said Europeans did not hesitate to build tunnels. A proposed route for the Kaimai tunnel was through the range at Waharoa.

Interviewed after the meeting, he said the tunnel was a nice-to-have but it came down to affordability. He declined to put a figure on how much a tunnel would cost.

The growth in traffic volumes for the golden triangle of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga meant that planning for a tunnel needed to start now in order to achieve a 20-year target for completion.

''With all this phenomenal growth, what is the place going to look like in 20 years? A tunnel has to be in the equation.''

He said the New Zealand Transport Agency was looking at the tunnel conceptually.

Councillor and farmer John Scrimgeour highlighted the issue of the lack of a dump site in the Western Bay for the waste tanks on stock trucks. It was leaving long strips of effluent going up SH29 over the Kaimais as the tanks spilled.

Shirley said there was a desperate need for a site on this side of the Kaimais. Cattle beasts excreted 10 litres of effluent every hour and trucks held up to 65 head of cattle.

The difficulty with finding a site was that no one wanted them in their backyard. He highlighted legal consequences in other regions where regional councils had dragged their feet on the issue.

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Shirley said everyone had to play their part in combating the problem. Farmers had to stand their stock off green pasture for four hours prior to loading on a truck, drivers had to not dump waste illegally, and councils had to build dump sites.

The forum also wanted more truck stops to be built around the Bay, designated for heavy transport.

Shirley revealed that the SH2/Karangahake Gorge route to Tauranga from Auckland was 27km shorter than SH29/Kaimais route.

Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber said the council had real issues with SH2. Shirley responded that the real pressure on the Government needed to come from the grassroots of the community.

Councillor Mike Williams said the volume of traffic three-quarters of the way down the Kaimais was just over 11,000 vehicles a day, compared with volumes through Katikati of about 13,000 a day. The percentage that was heavy transport was the same at about 10 per cent on both routes.

Membership of the New Zealand Road Transport Forum
- Road Transport Association New Zealand
- National Road Carriers Association
- NZ Trucking
Source: Ken Shirley

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