- From parliament
Over the past two weeks there had been some superb infrastructure announcements for Northland. They all have potential and need the best analysis and information to get them right and to align with each other and the rest of the country. I think one of the most important projects is a reinstatement of the four lanes from Whangārei.
The Whangārei mayor and I were beside Simon Bridges when he announced the four lanes in March 2017. The plan was to start construction in 2019 from Oakleigh to Marsden over three to five years and from Whangarei to Oakleigh in five to seven years.
The cost of the 22km was between $400 million and $500 million and all our local government leaders agreed on its importance. The project was progressing and I was invited to many large community meetings discussing potential routes.
NZTA briefing papers from 2017 show an approved investment programme for the four lanes from Whangārei all the way to Te Hana.
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An incoming Government, however, had a different view and "could not promise a four-lane highway under the Government's priorities". The Greens preferred "targeted road safety improvements", NZFirst said it was a "pipe dream" and Labour referred to the four lanes as a "holiday highway".
In April 2018 all of our regional mayors and transport leaders travelled to Wellington to lobby for the four lanes, but came away disappointed. The key arguments for productivity, safety and regional growth did not seem to resonate.
From then to now, regional leaders, business and community have lobbied Northland MP Matt King and myself for the four lanes and we have responded on behalf of our constituents with a petition to the Government, media advertising, strong advocacy in parliament and billboards along State Highway One.
I also want to acknowledge here the many people who also did not give up hope and who wrote to us and called us and stopped us in the street and continued to press for the four lanes. This is your victory, too.
It now looks like everyone agrees and we can get on and start building, but, as one part of the highway advocacy stops another starts, and we turn our attention now to the remainder of the route from Marsden to Warkworth, and indeed further north. Remember, the NZTA investment case for Whangārei to Te Hana was already approved in 2017 so significant work has already been done.
It was with some delight then that we heard Simon Bridges announce at Waitangi that under his direction we will build the four lanes from Marsden to Warkworth. This would be a mammoth project that has been indicated to me would likely start at either end and build to the middle. This commitment is very exciting and lends itself to the argument, if we are already building from Whangārei to Marsden, don't dismantle the construction crews but just keep on going. There is a lot of planning to do on this project.
Northland will take all this good news and run with it, but one comment to close.
The initial cost in 2017 was about $450m and the announcement last week was for $690m. Has the two-year delay cost nearly one quarter of a billion dollars?
If so, then I need to point out that 1 per cent of the cost of delaying the four lanes these past two years would have paid for all Northland children to be vaccinated during the meningitis outbreak. This is the cost of delays, so let's start building.