25 Oct 2018

Whangārei MP says road plan change a letdown for the north

5:27 pm on 25 October 2018

Northland has been let down by the decision not to build a four-lane highway south of Whangārei, the electorate's National MP Shane Reti says.

SH1 south of Whangarei

SH1 south of Whangarei Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

The Transport Agency confirmed yesterday it would not be building the dual-carriageway with median barriers proposed under National, before the last election.

Instead it will make safety improvements on the existing road, from Whangārei to the Marsden turn-off and start long-term planning for a second two-lane road east of the present route.

But that fell well short of the four-lane highway Northlanders needed to be safe and prosper, Dr Reti said.

"Every single mayor in Northland, every electorate MP, the Regional Council and the Northland Regional Transport Committee were all saying the same thing, that the biggest economic driver for Northland is a four-lane highway."

The Bream Bay stretch of highway.

The Bream Bay stretch of highway. Photo: NZTA

The decision ignored community representation, the MP said.

"Let's also remember the safety factor to the four lanes, especially in view of the tragedy this weekend and recent data showing that the Whangarei to Marsden section of State Highway 1 has the highest number of deaths per kilometre of any of the recent ten policing hotspots," Dr Reti said.

Two people were killed at Labour weekend in a head-on crash near Oakleigh, and seven have died on the notorious stretch of road in similar crashes in the past year.

But the Transport Agency said it was not necessary to create four lanes to make the road safer.

National MP Shane Reti.

National MP Shane Reti. Photo: Supplied / National Party

The decision followed a re-evaluation of the proposal to see how well it aligned with the government's new roading priorities, with less funding for highways and more for regional roads.

But the NZTA Systems Manager Brett Gliddon said funding was not the reason for the change of plan.

"We would have re-evaluated it anyway. We are talking about widening the road; putting barriers down the sides and the middle where we can fit them and making intersections safer... whether that is roundabouts like we're doing at Loop Road or putting in right and left-turn bays with more width, so they're much safer," he said.

Dr Reti said he has asked the Minister of Transport further detailed questions around the safety profile of the notorious stretch of road and what more could be done to improve it .

"The four-lane highway from Whangārei to Marsden has one of the highest benefit:cost ratios along the whole road corridor from Auckland to Whangarei, basically, it pays its way economically and safety wise," Dr Reti said.

The Loop Road intersection on SH1 south of Whangarei.

The Loop Road intersection on SH1 south of Whangarei. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

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