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Mayors in control of major roading plans

Wellington.Scoop
Big decisions on future roading projects in Wellington will be taken today by a committee of twelve people. Eight of them are mayors.

It’s the regional transport committee, set up by the Land Transport Management Act to make decisions every six years about regional land transport priorities.

It promises a “robust consultation process” for the seventeen projects which it has included in its draft regional land transport plan for the next six years. The process may be robust but it’s short, starting in mid January and ending four weeks later.

And consultation is part of a process with many layers. After the committee has listened to the public, it has to make final recommendations to the regional council, which must also approve them before they’re passed on to the NZ Transport Agency. And the Agency has the final authority – it has already announced plans to start work on some of the items on the list.

One of the top priorities is for a second Mt Victoria Tunnel. It’s budgetted at $326million, which includes the controversial intention of widening Ruahine Street (four lanes instead of two) and Wellington Road. This project is number five on the list.

Less importance has been given to a second Terrace tunnel. This project is down near the bottom of the list in fifteenth position, with a budget of only $23million. Doesn’t sound as if work will start within the next six years.

More important in comparison is the long-delayed cycleway between Ngauranga and Petone – it’s listed as tenth priority, and budgetted at $43million. But does this mean it might be happening at last? Though it was listed as a priority in plans for 2012-2015, there’s been no visible progress.

The Petone to Grenada motorway is near the top of the list, in number three position, with a budget of $151million. Final decisions on its route have yet to be made, with the Regional Council supporting unhappy residents in opposing plans for the road to go through the Takapu Valley. There’s been more general support for improvements to the Haywards Hill road (which have already been announced; they’re in seventh position, with a budget of $29million.

Integrated fares and ticketing for Wellington public transport are eleventh on the list of priorities, with a budget of $74million. And in thirteenth position: infrastructure and route investigation, design and implementation of Wellington’s much-debated bus rapid transit system, at a cost of $40million.

Big responsibilities for the committee:

Cr Wilde (Chair)(Greater Wellington Regional Council)
Cr Swain (Deputy)(Greater Wellington Regional Council)
Mayor Booth (Carterton District Council)
Mayor Church (Kapiti Coast District Council)
Mayor Guppy (Upper Hutt City Council)
Mayor Leggett (Porirua City Council)
Mayor Patterson (Masterton District Council)
Mayor Staples (South Wairarapa District Council)
Mayor Wade-Brown (Wellington City Council)
Mayor Wallace (Hutt City Council)
Inspector Peter Baird, New Zealand Police
Raewyn Bleakley, New Zealand Transport Agency

How powerful is the committee? In a report which members are considering today, they’re being told:

Even when activities are included in the final regional land transport plan, they are not guaranteed to be funded or implemented. The final plan is essentially a submission by the regional transport committee to the NZ Transport Agency as to the activities and priorities it would like included in the National Land Transport Plan.

If not with the mayors and their committee, then where does power ultimately rest? The answer seems to be the Boards of Inquiry which consider resource consent applications for the big projects. That was the process that stopped the Transport Agency’s plan to build a flyover at the Basin Reserve. A process involving entire communities. And communities which are now demanding a much earlier involvement in future transport planning.

Tom Hunt: ‘Dead duck’ among transport priorities