The government’s decision to scrap the proposed four-lane highway from Wellsford to Whangarei cuts a vital lifeline and will have a significant negative impact on the regional economy, according to Northland MP Matt King and Kaipara mayor Jason Smith.
Transport Minister, Phil Twyford, announced last week that the four-laning of State Highway One between Auckland and Northland will not go ahead, saying that instead, extensive improvements and safety measures are planned for the existing highway. Mr King says although a dual carriageway is more costly initially — they pay ‘huge dividends in the long run.
“For us, that motorway to Northland is our lifeline. It is vital for us, and it has been identified as the biggest driver of growth in Northland. The coalition government has told Northlanders they don’t care,” he said.
“You can’t just update an old road and expect it to do the job. There are a huge amount of factors as to why the dual carriageway roads are so good for the lifeblood of the country.”
A group of Northland mayors and the chairman of the Northland Regional Council met with Transport Minister Phil Twyford in Wellington last week, where he told them he could not promise four lanes or a median barrier for the State Highway One from Wellsford to Whangarei. He agreed the road is dangerous and needs improvement in some parts.
“It is an economic lifeline for the north, and the road is dangerous in parts and needs a lot of work done on it. There’s no question about that. We talked about the road in detail. Work will continue on State Highway One. It must be improved and it will,” Mr Twyford said.
Mayor Jason Smith says he and the other Northland mayors were disappointed the highway was not a priority for the government.
“I expressed clearly to the minister we have people commuting to Auckland every day from as far north as Ruawai on the existing State Highway One, and the safety of those people is very important.
“The four-lane highway is the top economic development priority and is key to social development for Northland. It’s also very important for safety and tourism.
“The current road is a very dangerous road, and we are all very concerned. We don’t want any lives lost on the dangerous road between Northland and Auckland.
“We have indicated we will be working with the government regarding meeting the Kaipara’s and Northland’s ongoing roading developments and we will continue with that.”
Road Safety campaigner Suzie Reyland from Matakohe was also discouraged by the announcement.
“The National government were making such wonderful progress and had plans in action for many roads of national significance. Basically the new government is turning it’s back on regional development.”