The NZ Transport Agency released its Detailed Business Case (DBC) regarding SH43 today and it's good news for the district, says Stratford mayor Neil Volzke.
A report released today highlights the need for the 12km unsealed section of Tangarakau Gorge to be sealed. It is something the mayor has loudly and consistently advocated for over the years, as well as other significant improvements along the route.
Better known as the Forgotten World Highway, SH43 has been the subject of a detailed business case funded by the Provincial Growth Fund.
Key stakeholders including NZTA, Stratford District Council, residents, iwi and road user groups, identified a range of projects or activities to now go to a pre-implementation phase.
Neil says he is delighted the sealing of the Tangarakau Gorge is included in the final shortlist of recommendations along with a range of safety improvements.
The document released today states the unsealed 12km stretch of road is challenging to tourists and is one of only two sections of unsealed road on New Zealand's North Island State Highway network.
"The report is a welcome, positive endorsement of the need for significant improvements along the whole of SH43. Without doubt, the recommendation to seal the last 12km of the highway is the most significant outcome from this report.
"Sealing the highway will remove restrictions for tourists, rental vehicles, camper vans and the like. This will help facilitate tourism growth and increase visitor numbers to the district as well as benefiting regular road users."
The shortlist of projects contains six options in total, with improvements to the Moki Tunnel and preventative maintenance along the route also included.
Neil says while some projects have been left off the short list, he is pleased with the ones which have made it.
"While the report doesn't include improved cellphone reception on the list of projects, I am aware a separate project will address the issue of mobile blackspots along parts of the route at least, so in the near future we will also see progress in that area."
The step in the process stage is to apply for and secure funding from the Provincial Growth Fund to implement the projects, says Neil.
"While the complete package of six projects comes with a cost of $19.5 million, it is made up of a number of individual, bite sized chunks. The sealing of the gorge is a critical enabler for the economic development of our district and I will continue to advocate for it through the next stage of the process."
The package of projects identified in the report meet the criteria for the a Provincial Growth Fund application, says Neil.
"Minister Jones has already been supportive and shown he thinks the project has merit, by his decision to fund the Detailed Business Case in the first instance. I am optimistic we will receive a positive outcome when the funding application for these projects lands on the minister's desk in the near future."