Myself, Northland MP Matt King and every Northland mayor all agree a four-lane highway from Whangārei to Auckland would be the single biggest economic driver for the region.
Main highways are funded and maintained by central government. Local roads are funded differently and are a mix of central government and local ratepayer funding. The amount the government pays for local roads is called the FAR (funding assistance rate), which is Far North District Council 66 per cent, Kaipara District Council 61 per cent and Whangārei District Council 53 per cent.
High-priority local roading projects can be funded by another mechanism called TEFAR funding (targeted enhanced funding assistance rates) and it is this that I want to address.
Recent changes in government policy have removed the TEFAR focus from provincial to metropolitan areas of New Zealand and from Whangārei to Auckland.
These changes particularly affect Whangārei. This is because projects under $1 million will continue and others will stop and FNDC and Kaipara do not have any TEFAR projects above $1m. However, Whangārei has at least four previously agreed projects above $1m that are now unlikely to proceed.
• Maunu Rd / Central Ave / Water St intersection upgrade
• Robert St / Walton St intersection upgrade
• Springs Flat roundabout with State Highway 1
• Kamo cycleway.
The total sum of these projects is $12.2m, which Whangārei District Council tells me is 40 per cent of its capital improvement programme.
The case being made is that not only do we have the four-lane highway from Whangārei to Ruakākā cancelled but now we have 40 per cent of the capital works to local roads also cancelled.
It is pointed out that the new light rail for Auckland that will run from Dominion Rd to the airport seems to have a 60 per cent subsidy and Let's Get Wellington moving has a 53 per cent subsidy.
The New Zealand Transport Agency website is very clear about the policy change:
The 2018–21 National Land Transport Programme funding constraints mean the application of a TEFAR to a range of national priority programmes is no longer possible.
Effective May 17, 2019, a TEFAR will only be applied to activities in the Safe Network Programme that have a high or very high results alignment.
TEFAR applies to these safety activities, whether they are over $1 million or are included in a low cost, low risk programme for delivery in 2018–21.
What is not clear is what exactly the Safe Network Programme offers Whangārei or indeed Northland unless it is the four lanes from Puhoi to Warkworth but exactly what we have traded off needs much further scrutiny.
To that end, my plan has been to write to the minister and seek an explanation and then I will work with our transport spokesperson and bring some lobbying pressure to bear on the Government.
I will provide the answers to those questions when I have them, but Whangārei is growing at twice its historical growth rate and has needs above and beyond what our big cities have.
I fully support our local council on this matter and will be working with them to redress or get the best deal we possibly can.
• Dr Shane Reti is MP for Whangārei.