In recent years, Tauranga has had more than one false start in pulling together a long-term plan for what the city's transport network should look like. After a bumpy year where tensions between local and central authorities hit new heights, a new initiative with a draft budget of $1.7 million has been formed to have another go. Samantha Motion reports.
Work has begun in earnest on the third attempt in five years at creating at a long-term, government-backed transport plan for Tauranga.
Tauranga City Council chief executive Marty Grenfell laid out the recent history of the plans in a council meeting today.
He said a transport plan was developed in 2014 but it had no implementation programme.
Two years ago the council started working on the Tauranga Transport Plan with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the New Zealand Transport Agency, Grenfell said.
Last year, agency staff refused to present the plan to the agency's board for funding consideration, as it did not meet the goals set by the Coalition Government.
"How dare they," Mayor Greg Brownless declared at the time. The council suspended $22m in transport projects due to agency funding decision delays.
Grenfell said today the Tauranga Transport Plan had ultimately "not gone anywhere, either".
The new Urban Form and Transport Initiative was set up to make a third attempt.
Smartgrowth, the three councils and the agency launched the initiative in March following an acknowledgement that transport planning had fallen behind and out of step with the Government.
The 12-month initiative will review existing transport and land-use plans and research for the western Bay of Plenty sub-region and produce an integrated plan.
The initiative will be jointly funded by the agency and the three councils and has a draft budget of $1.7m. A final budget was yet to be set but the agency will pay 43 per cent.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford visited Tauranga on Thursday and met privately with the parties to hear about the initiative.
Today, Smartgrowth put out a statement saying the minister's visit affirmed the approach.
Robert Brodnax, project manager for the initiative, said a detailed "base case" report would show what the transport network would look like under the existing plans, to be released in July.
Next, the initiative would start work on an integrated plan intended to be rolled out during the next 50 years.
This week Brownless told the Bay of Plenty Times he had eased up on his previous hardline approach and believed "working together" was the way forward.
He said he accepted the Government's position that it wanted modern transport plans with integrated options for cyclists, walkers, public transport and rapid transport - not just four-lane highways for cars.
"It is the only way we are going to get anywhere."
He believed the initiative's work would give the council the evidence base it needed to produce a plan the Government would back.
Other councils such as Auckland and Wellington worked for years on their plans, he said.
Wellington announced a Government-endorsed $6.4 billion transport overhaul, Let's Get Wellington Moving, last week.
Grenfell said the Government's expectation was that Tauranga's plan would include rapid transport corridors in main areas, giving priority to forms of transport that moved more people at once.
The council also heard that staff expected to feedback from the agency by early June on individual project business cases put forward after the Tauranga Transport Plan was rejected.