Regional Land Transport Programme 2015-18 underway
Work has begun on an important plan that will serve as the blueprint for tens of millions of dollars spending on the region’s roading infrastructure over the next three years.
John Bain, chair of the Northland Regional Transport Committee, says the 'Regional Land Transport Programme 2015-18' will set out how Northland wishes to spend available funding on roading infrastructure, which includes things like roads, bridges, public transport, cycleways and footpaths etcetera.
Councillor Bain says the Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP) is a legally-required document the Northland Regional Council has the technical responsibility to produce.
"However, in reality this process is very much a collective effort involving the regional council, all three district councils and the national road funding body NZ Transport Agency. A lot of work will be put in by all parties over the next few months in a bid to achieve the best outcome from the available funding for the benefit of all Northlanders."
Councillor Bain says among a raft of issues the RLTP will attempt to address will be the trend for larger, heavier vehicles on the region's roading network, dust on road problems and route resilience and security.
However, while the RLTP will ultimately include plans to spend tens of millions regionally over its three year life, funding – or specifically, the lack of it – will continue to be the biggest issue facing Northland as the programme is drafted.
"As a region, Northland could always spend more on its roading and in many instances, you could make a very good case to do just that, but the reality is there is a finite amount of money available, both at a local and national level."
Councillor Bain says the well-documented "hammering" the region's roading network had taken from storms in recent months had seriously impacted on many local roads and Northland's state highways.
"These impacts will have an ongoing local cost for some years to come. A significant amount of rates money is spent on local roading each year and storm-related costs will be an added challenge that will weigh especially heavily on our district councils as the RLTP is being drafted this time round."
Councillor Bain says while central government has already indicated there will not be a lot of new money available for roading, Northland was fortunate to have secured funding to address one long-standing accident-prone area, the notorious Akerama curves, on SH1 south of Towai.
While the exact cost of the Northland work has yet to be confirmed, the government announced in late June this year that the Akerama curves project will begin early next year as part of a series of five national projects collectively worth about $80 million.
Councillor Bain says the government has also indicated tentative support for another six national projects worth a collective $115 million.
"This package includes safety-related work on another Northland trouble-spot, SH1 from Loop Rd, south of Whangarei, through the Portland turnoff to the top of Smeaton's Hill."
Councillor Bain says officials have argued for both projects for a number of years through existing Regional Land Transport Plans and it was fantastic to see all that work by so many parties so close to being realised.
Meanwhile, he says local authority staff have now begun preparing an initial draft of the latest RLTP, which is expected to be released for extensive, region-wide public comment later this year/early next year.
After that public consultation, a revised draft is expected to be finalised by the end of April next year and will formally be released on July 01 to coincide with the start of the 2015/16 financial year.
He says those interested in roading and other transport-related issues are welcome to attend meetings of the Regional Transport Committee, which are open to the public.
Details of upcoming meetings – including associated agendas – can be viewed online via www.nrc.govt.nz/agendas