Environment Waikato’s chairman is disappointed that the $227 million land transport package announced late yesterday does not include a plan to deal directly with the State Highway One expressway issues.
Chairman Neil Clarke said the Government was confronting the country’s many transport problems in the package but had failed to address the urgent need to complete the improvements to State Highway One between the Waikato and Auckland.
“It’s a matter of equity. While the proposals are good news for many parts of the country, particularly Auckland’s crippling traffic congestion, there’s no specific word on our major problem – the stalled expressway project.”
Mr Clarke, Waikato mayors and the Region’s transport leaders are meeting with Transport Minister Mark Gosche at Environment Waikato on Monday to push for completion of the expressway. Environment Waikato has called a meeting of mayors and Chief Executives next Wednesday to form a task force and establish a strategy to drive the project.
“There are some positive moves in the package. Regional Councils are empowered to fund and both own and operate public transport infrastructure and services, and there are plans to invest in rural roading and rail to assist regional development. There are also improvements in allowing local authorities to work together on roading issues, and toll roads – under special conditions - are now more possible.
“The efforts to increase public transport and promote walking and cycling are also commendable, but it doesn’t address the largest problem we have in this Region – a safe and efficient expressway to Auckland.”
Mr Clarke said Environment Waikato had met with Auckland Regional Council and it was in agreement about the necessity of completing the expressway.
“We need to have the importance of SH1 accepted and included in the financial package. We will work strenuously with our partners to achieve this end.”