Last week, we heard the Government is increasing its investment in the New Zealand Upgrade Programme (NZUP) to support New Zealand's economic recovery, and we also heard that our part of the upgrade – the 22km Port Marsden to Whangārei corridor - is no longer going to be a four-lane highway.
It's a shift in direction but a positive one and - I think - a game-changer for Whangārei, not least because it signals a big vote of confidence in the potential of Northport.
Whangārei is still getting the full amount promised: $692 million. This is not only the biggest investment in our transport infrastructure in decades but builds on about $200 million invested last year upgrading rail lines to Auckland.
However, given the increased costs of the road (nearly double what was expected after the geotech results etc to $1.35 billion) and our urgent climate commitments, it was important to rethink the programme.
We've rebalanced it to focus on road safety and on rail, better enabling us to both secure our economic recovery by supporting Northport's potential as a container port, and taking more trucks off the road, increasing road safety as well as reducing the hefty emissions that come from road traffic.
The Marsden spur line creates another option for moving freight from Northport and reduce reliance on the State Highway 1, responding to the Climate Change Commission's recommendation to shift more freight from road to rail, which produces 70 per cent fewer emissions.
The road still gets a big and much-needed investment. I know from my community meetings and from talking to individuals that one of our biggest concerns for that road is safety.
The new road investment focuses on safety, using measures we know work, because we've already seen the results of similar methods between Toetoe Rd and Springfield Rd.
That stretch gets about 20,000 vehicles a day. In mid-2018, Waka Kotahi installed centreline bollards, reflectors and no-passing lanes, and in the three and a half years since, that's meant we've had one fatality and five serious injuries compared with nine deaths and 25 serious injuries in the previous five years.
The investment in the spur line makes it easier for exporters in the Far North to get their goods to port and supports our economic growth.
Before the port moved from Whangārei, KiwiRail used to carry a million tonnes of freight in Northland – but after it moved to Northport, that dropped to about 100,000 tonnes.
We are the only major port in New Zealand to not have a direct rail link. The Transport Ministry's Northland Rail Business Case found the spur line could see volumes increase to about 2.5 million tonnes yearly.
Some government priorities had to change in the short term due to Covid-19, but we remain committed to tackling New Zealand's long-term challenges.
We're seizing the economic opportunity that climate action presents, as part of our Covid recovery.
Together, these measures will ensure the journeys we take are better for the planet and make our communities cleaner and healthier, as well as giving Whangārei a much-needed economic boost.
They're just the first tranche of our election promises to act on climate change and create a better infrastructure for the future.
• Emily Henderson is the electorate MP for Whangārei. She can be contacted at Emily.HendersonMP@parliament.govt.nz