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Waikato needs share of transport windfall

The Waikato wants a share of the Government’s $500 million tax windfall put into roading projects in the Waikato Region.

The Government announced yesterday it would plough $500 million into transport projects, thanks to a windfall company tax take understood to be from foreign-owned banks.

Regional Land Transport Committee Chairman Angus Macdonald said the Waikato was deserving of the money, and wanted Transit to fund the Region based on priorities decided earlier this year by the Committee.

“All the studies we have done in preparing our Regional Land Transport Strategy show we have 19 percent of the country’s freight traffic going through our Region but receive only 10 percent of the funding.

“We are a major arterial route through the North Island, and that is just the freight traffic. If you include tourism and general through traffic the figures are obvious. If they’re going to do a lot of the roads in Auckland, the materials to construct them are going to come from the Waikato.”

Vital transport routes awaiting funding in the Waikato include the Rangiriri bypass, the Avalon Drive –Te Rapa bypass in Hamilton, the Cambridge bypass, Coromandel’s Kopu Bridge, Taupo Eastern arterial and funding for the crash-prone State Highway 2 where fatalities are high.

The Waikato Region has 10 percent of New Zealand’s population, but 16 percent of the State highway network. Mr Macdonald said the population-based regional funding allocation model unfairly disadvantaged the Region.

The Region carried a high proportion of through traffic and heavy vehicles, especially heading to Ports of Auckland or Tauranga. The Region also needed to plan for increased population growth, particularly in Hamilton City, and the Waikato and Waipa districts, an aging population and growing congestion.

The extra revenue this year is likely to be one-off for the Government, rather than an ongoing increase in the tax base, and Finance Minister Michael Cullen said sensible fiscal policy dictated it should fund one-off initiatives.

Land Transport New Zealand and Transit, in conjunction with the Regional Land Transport Committee would decide where the money should be spent but it would go on projects nationwide and allow a more aggressive construction programme over the next three or four years, he said.

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