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Published: 2004-09-28 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is working with Transfund on barging aggregate and logs to help clear main highways of truck and trailer units.

This month’s Environment Committee meeting heard that barging had been a viable alternative to road transport in earlier times, but became less viable as truck and trailer units improved. Its viability depended on the type and volume of cargo, and bulk cargoes such as road metal, coal, timber in large amounts made it more competitive, even without the benefits of reducing heavy transport on overcrowded roads.

Coastal Programme Manager Peter Singleton said over the past 10 years volumes on major state highways had grown considerably, and 15 to 20 percent of vehicles were heavy commercial vehicles on main road corridors. Many state highways were becoming increasingly congested and road safety had become a major concern.

Road crashes involving heavy vehicles were increasing and were more serious, often involving fatalities.

The Land Transport Management Act had removed the emphasis on economics and required all projects to take into account five objectives – economic development, safety, access and mobility, public health and environmental sustainability. Barging was now seen as a true alternative to roading and Transfund would fund barging projects if they met criteria.

Former Chairman of the Auckland Harbour Board, Harry Julian discussed the potential to develop barging as an attractive alternative. He had been involved in barging on the Hauraki Gulf and Coromandel, as well as running three weekly cargo services from Auckland.

He said barging was not the answer to everything but it had been short sighted to stop it and put heavy trucks across a mountain range. Trucks and trailers were “hogging the roads” and there was an opportunity to get traffic off the road. Environment Waikato could be instrumental in getting roads clear, but volume and some assistance was needed.

Transport Programme Manager Bill McMaster said aggregate company H G Leach had proposed barging 40,000 tonnes of aggregate a year, which would remove 1400 trucks and trailer trips a year. However it was found not to be economically viable because of double handling costs. Other barging options would be further investigated.

With the change in approach Transfund had approved provisional funding for the first stage of a log barging project and were close to a decision.