A four-lane highway between Whangarei and Port Marsden remains a priority for Northland roading advocates after the release of the Draft Government Policy Statement.
The Labour-led Government released its draft 10-year transport plan on Tuesday, including cutting more than $5 billion from state highway upgrades and channelling the money into public transport such as light rail, urban cycleways and safety improvements on urban and regional roads in a bid to lower the road toll.
The Government has also boasted of doubling the funding for regional roads – it will spend up to an extra $230m more than National planned over the next five years.
National's transport spokesman Jami-Lee Ross said that was peanuts compared with more than $5b being stripped out of the state highway network over the next 10 years which would have benefited the regions.
The Northland Regional Transport Committee met yesterday and had discussion of the draft GPS on the agenda. However as the statement had only just been released, the discussion did not take place.
Chairman John Bain said he and committee members not yet had time to digest the GPS and its implications for roading projects in Northland.
He said the next step was to seek a hearing with representatives of the Ministry of Transport and NZTA to get the best advice about how to give the best feedback to the Government on the draft.
"We will put together a plan which will still hold the top three priorities of a four-lane highway to Auckland, including the section from Whangarei to the roundabout at Point Marsden highway, along with road safety and road resilience," Mr Bain said.
Regional Development Minister Shane Jones said he was expecting some flak from supporters of the motorway upgrades in the regions, such as the project to get four lanes to Whangarei on State Highway 1.
"I understand the pressure our civic leaders are under but my plea to them is that there are a host of other roading priorities in Northland that should not be overlooked."
He said he was shocked at the number of bridges used by logging and Fonterra trucks that needed attention. He also said there needed to be more passing lanes on the region's roading network.
Mr Bain said Mr Jones counted himself as a Northlander as did the other MPs from the region - Kelvin Davis, Winston Peters, Willow-Jean Prime and Shane Reti.
"They travel up and down that highway and will understand its importance. I would expect all the Northland MPs to push for this important economic artery for Northland," he said.
In February all four Northland council leaders presented a joint statement saying there was plenty of merit in the proposed bigger highway between Northland and Warkworth.
They said they would rather the Government spend more on that vital main link than on regional roads, but they'd like regional roads to be better funded too.
It was then that signs emerged the newly-elected Government was less enthusiastic than its predecessor about the Warkworth-Whangarei motorway when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggested that neglected regional roads would be better candidates for funding.
The previous National-led Government diverted money for regional roads on to the Roads of National Significance project, to upgrade and widen state highways.
The projected cost of the entire four-laning between Warkworth and Whangarei was just shy of $2 billion, but funding had not been allocated previously.
The approved stretch of 22km of highway south of Whangarei to the Ruakaka roundabout, which could have been completed within five years, would be $400m-plus.
What is GPS?
The GPS provides guidance on how over $3 billion of New Zealanders' money is spent. It also provides signals for spending of a further $1b each year on land transport through local government investment and another $1b a year of Crown investment is spent each year.
The GPS influences decisions on how money from the National Land Transport Fund will be invested across various activities, such as state highways and public transport.
It guides the NZTA and local government on the type of activities that should be included in the Regional Land Transport Plans.