Last week I delivered my submission to Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure select committee to be the voice of very frustrated Waimakariri commuters, asking Government to deliver on the Belfast to Pegasus motorway extension and Woodend Bypass promised last year by National.
The question I put to the committee was: why would commuters in Waimakariri have a motorway cancelled to pay for public transport initiatives in Auckland?
This important roading project was promised by National as the second generation of Roads of National Significance following the success of the Christchurch motorway projects, which are delivering safer journeys and shorter travel times to our commuters. The announcement of the Belfast to Bypass continuous four-lane motorway, with separation of traffic from the other direction and a Woodend Bypass, was received by residents with relief.
Residents were then devastated when the project was left out of the New Zealand Transport Agency’s 10-year plan following the Labour Government’s shift in focus onto Auckland public transport projects.
It doesn’t make sense.
Waimakariri is a fast-growing area. We’re the third-fastest growing electorate in the country and the third biggest district by population on the South Island. We’ve had phenomenal residential and industrial growth following the earthquakes. This has put further pressure on State Highway 1 between Belfast and Pegasus when it was already at breaking point. The high volume of traffic on State Highway 1 between Belfast and Pegasus triggered this next road of national significance and we have to ask why this is no longer being considered under this government.
Earlier this year Transport Minister Phil Twyford said in response to my petition to save this roading project that there was no threat to the Belfast to Pegasus motorway extension and Woodend Bypass. Yet here we are today with the project off the table.
How does this benefit the people of our region? Woodend, the main town to be affected by the bypass, sits on State Highway 1. Woodend School students have to use a pedestrian crossing to get over the state highway and residents are battling to get on and off to access shops. Residents tell me they don’t feel safe and many are angry that $5.5 billion has been stripped out of regional state highway funding to go towards public transport initiatives in the main centres which they will never see the value of.
Some could ask why this motorway wasn’t undertaken under National. We had the 2010-11 earthquakes and seismic activity prevented us building a couple of years after that. Since then we’ve either turned the sod, completed or planned three main motorways to deal with increased population growth and projection in Northern Christchurch and North Canterbury. These included the Western Belfast Bypass, completed in 2017 and which diverted 50 percent of traffic out of Christchurch, and the Northern Corridor, expected to be completed in 2020 - a motorway that’s been on the books for decades and took a National government to get over the line. When the next tranche of RONs came up, I worked hard to advocate for the motorway extension and Woodend Bypass on the basis that in 2020, when the Northern Corridor is completed, we will have a private-public partnership sitting there that will now have to be disbanded.
Why should a high growth area like Waimakariri be penalised because investment is going into Auckland? North Canterbury residents are paying a higher fuel tax and deserve the investment in their region they should be getting.