Toughening up the transport backbone of Gisborne's economy to help move people and freight is the focus of a multimillion dollar transport package announced by the NZ Transport Agency today, including $100m for the upkeep of the district's roads over the next three years, and further investment on roading improvements.
The NZTA’s Central Regional Director, Jenny Chetwynd, says the investment in Gisborne, as part of the National Land Transport Programme, will help to improve the security and resilience of the roading network and unlock the potential of freight throughout the region.
This includes $45m on state highways and $55m on local roads.
Ms Chetwynd says the NZTA plans to invest regional funds in projects to improve roads leading to the Port of Gisborne, including around $10m to open up new routes to high productivity motor vehicles (HPMVs). A big focus will be improving SH35 from Tologa Bay to the port, mainly by increasing bridge capacity.
Ms Chetwynd said the investment recognises the value for the Gisborne economy of unlocking the potential of important freight routes, particularly transporting logs to the Port of Gisborne – a cornerstone of the local economy.
‘Gisborne needs a resilient, efficient and well maintained road network linking the forests to the ports.
‘We’ll be making lots of incremental improvements to the roading network to deliver big economic dividends. We want to make it easier to get large amounts of goods to and from the Port, and this will make Gisborne more competitive and productive.’
‘The improvements to bridge capacity mean larger, more productive vehicles can access the ports, which allows more goods to be moved in fewer journeys. What this means is fuel, money and time saved, safety gains from fewer truck movements, and overall a more streamlined and efficient freight operation for the whole Gisborne economy.’
Ms Chetwynd says strong investment in road maintenance will help to protect local communities who are vulnerable to weather-related road closures, particularly around the East Cape.
‘The East Cape has endured a lot of weather-related road closures over the years, and while these are declining thanks to recent investments in road improvements and maintenance, we acknowledge that these closures can be very disruptive for local industry and communities. We’re committed to investing continuously in maintaining East Coast roads to make them more resilient. It’s not an overnight job, and it’ll never be finished, but together with the council we’re in it for the long haul.’
Cyclists and pedestrians, and children travelling to and from school, will also benefit from the programme, with wheels set to moving shortly on the Awapuni Pedestrian Link, a shared GDC and NZTA investment, which will create a safe and convenient dedicated pathway over the Waikanae Creek near Awapuni School.
The programme also maintains current investment in Gisborne’s public transport system to help people get around by bus, particularly in lower socio-economic areas of Gisborne.
Ms Chetwynd says the investment also includes $6m for safety improvements and retrofits to reduce crashes in the region. While only one person died on Gisborne roads in 2011, there were 26 serious injuries – and these rates of trauma must come down, says Ms Chetwynd.
The investment in Gisborne is part of a $12.28 billion investment in New Zealand’s land transport system set out in the 2012-15 National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), including $9.38 billion from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF). The NLTP is a partnership between local authorities (who invest funding from ratepayers and prioritise activities and projects for funding) and the NZTA (which develops the programme and invests NLTF funds collected from road users through vehicle registration fees and fuel taxes.
Ms Chetwynd says the 2012-15 NLTP follows the direction outlined in the Government Policy Statement on land transport funding (GPS), with a focus on creating transport solutions that will support economic growth, improve safety, provide people with a range of transport choices and deliver the best possible value for money.
Ms Chetwynd says that while the 2012-15 NLTP represents a significant investment in New Zealand’s transport system, with the country facing tight economic conditions, not all proposed activities could be funded.
The preparation of the 2012-15 NLTP has been informed by 16 regional transport committees and Auckland Transport developing and submitting regional land transport programmes outlining activities to be prioritised for NLTP funding.
‘We’ve been working closely with Gisborne District Council (GDC) over the last year to ensure that funding is carefully targeted to the areas and the activities where it is needed the most and where it will deliver the best outcomes for the greatest number of people in the region,’ Ms Chetwynd says.
Ms Chetwynd says the NZTA will continue working closely with GDC as the NLTP is implemented over the next three years.
National and regional NLTP documents, Q&As and other information is available on the NZTA website at www.nzta.govt.nz/nltp.