The sealing of 12kms of State Highway 45 and solar powered lights for the Moki Tunnel are two of the ideas the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is asking for feedback on.

Stratford mayor Neil Volzke says with just over a week left for people to submit their feedback, he encourages everyone to do so.

"This is a chance to have your voices heard, and to tell the NZTA what Taranaki residents think is most important."

Neil says sealing of the Tangarakau Gorge is essential.


"This is an absolute priority, in my opinion. Having that stretch of the highway sealed will be a game changer for tourism in our region."

Neil says as rental car and campervan companies openly discourage the use of their vehicles on gravel roads, many potential visitors to the region are put off. Many caravan owners are also wary of travelling on the highway in its present state.

"It is an inhibitor to increased visitor traffic in that rental companies and campervan users are advised not to travel on it because it is unsealed. That currently is a major block when it comes to increasing visitor numbers to the region. An increase in tourists means more money to be spent in our region, which is a win for everyone here."

A report, tabled at the Taranaki Regional Council regional transport committee last month, estimated the region would benefit by around $40m in tourism money if the gorge was sealed and more passing opportunities for vehicles created.

The call for feedback comes as NZTA works on developing a business case for improvements to SH43, which could be funded in part from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).

Neil says he is frustrated by the time it has taken to get this far.

"It is now exactly a year since Regional Development Minister Shane Jones announced up to $400,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund would be used for a feasibility study into an upgrade of State Highway 43. I am beyond frustrated that 12 months later we still don't have a final report or any chance of actual work being done on the road right now."

Another frustration is looking at the options feedback is being sought on.


"Two of the four options being consulted on are preventative maintenance and safety improvements. I consider these to be in NZTA's normal core functions, and they should be funded from the normal NZTA maintenance and improvements budgets, not relying on money from the growth fund.

The focus needs to be on getting the gorge sealed and then adding any nice-to-haves. Regular maintenance and safety issues should be done as needed, not packaged up in this report."

Regular maintenance is long overdue, he says.

"Some of the underslips caused by the June 2015 floods still haven't been repaired by NZTA. The road is in dire need of increased maintenance."

"I note the flyer requesting feedback states the sealing of the road would include widening it where possible to five to six metres. I believe we need to aim for six metres wherever possible, not five. If you actually measure out five metres, I think you would agree it doesn't give much room at all."

The final option proposes lights in the Moki tunnel as well as cyclist warning signs.

He says he thinks they are good ideas, but not the highest priority.

"A light warning oncoming cars of cyclists is great, but I would say the bigger danger to cyclists on that road currently is a lack of safety barriers, narrow roads and the amount of time taken to repair damage and slips on the stretch - all things which come under safety improvements and preventative maintenance. Once we have a sealed, safe road, then we can start looking at funding the extras."

■ Disclosure: Ilona Hanne is married to Stratford District Council CEO, Sven Hanne.