Personal and heartfelt stories were among more than 150 submissions verbally delivered to a hearing panel in relation to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's draft Regional Land Transport Plan in Tauranga this week.
The draft plan outlines an initial prioritised list of 35 transport projects from Waihi Beach in the west, including Rotorua, and through to Opotiki in the east, incorporating everything from state highway network and local road improvements, to public transport and cycling projects.
Regional transport committee chairman Stuart Crosby said it took a lot of courage from a number of speakers to share their stories to support written submissions – 1900 of which were received by the regional council.
"We know that transport in the region, and everything it involves including health, safety and travel times, impacts everyone in their day to day lives. This draft planning process provides a way for people to be heard.
"The committee asked people to tell their stories and for that we are grateful. For some, talking about issues around State Highway 2 is deeply personal, and we thank them for taking the time and effort to deliver their message."
While submissions around State Highway 2 dominated the three days of hearings, submitters also highlighted the way transport affected the economy, jobs, and quality of life.
"It's important to emphasise that this is a draft regional plan and this was reflected in the variety of submissions we heard which included Rotorua Airport, Port of Tauranga, Zespri, the region's District Health Boards and others," Crosby said.
"We knew when we released the draft plan that it would likely evolve, especially in light of the new government and their recently released transport policy statement.
"Our role is to balance all of the transport challenges, needs and priorities across the region, and then put our best case forward to NZTA."
The Regional Transport Committee will deliberate on the draft plan in early May with a recommendation to be made to Bay of Plenty Regional Council in June.
The final Regional Land Transport Plan will be submitted to the New Zealand Transport Agency at the end of June with the agency making the ultimate decisions on funding allocations.
The committee is a regional governance body made up of mayoral or mayoral-nominee representatives from the Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Tauranga City Council, Rotorua Lakes Council, Whakatane District Council, Kawerau District Council, Opotiki District Council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, as well as the NZ Transport Agency.