Monday, March 4, 2024

New Ashburton bridge tops Canterbury priority list

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Plan sees doubling of investment in transport system over next decade.
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A proposal for a $10.8 billion investment in Canterbury’s transport systems has a new Ashburton River bridge as the No 1 priority.

Over the next 10 years, Canterbury councils and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency are proposing to almost double investment in the region’s land transport systems to manage risk from natural hazards, reduce emissions, enhance safety, increase maintenance and accelerate key transport projects.

In a meeting of the Canterbury Regional Transport Committee, which is made up of representatives from each district and city council, Environment Canterbury and Waka Kotahi approved a draft Regional Land Transport Plan.

The draft plan outlines the need for a $10.8 billion investment over the next decade to implement the proposed objectives.

Canterbury Regional Transport Committee chair Peter Scott said the proposed step-up in funding, which would kick in from July 2024, aims to address deferred maintenance work and support a robust transport system that can stand up to ever-increasing use, as well as more frequent and severe exposure to extreme weather or natural hazards.

“This draft plan outlines how we’d like to invest in future transport solutions for Canterbury, while also providing ongoing stewardship to our existing transport network.”

Scott said a lot depends on the new government and whether it will change the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport, which currently includes provisions for a second Ashburton bridge and the Woodend bypass.

“To deliver this plan we will need central government to come to the party to fund the gap we need, which will likely be around $4.6 billion.”

Funding for transport programmes and projects across NZ mostly comes from council funding, direct Crown funding, and the National Land Transport Fund, which is made up of road user charges and fuel taxes.

Road maintenance, operations and renewals work across the region accounts for at least 40% of the land transport investment proposed for Canterbury over the next 10 years.

Other key transport projects in the draft plan are ranked according to their regional significance.  

These rankings reflect their contribution to the vision and priorities for Canterbury’s transport system as they generate significant benefits and help shape the future of the region.

The top three projects proposed in order of priority are: a second Ashburton bridge, Greater Christchurch public transport upgrades, and the Northern Link, including the Woodend State Highway 1 bypass.

As well as the shift needed to support a growing population and economy in Canterbury, Scott said the plan acknowledges the need to support the transition to reduce emissions from vehicles and adapt to the changing climate.

The objectives and priorities for Canterbury’s transport system have been based on feedback gathered by councils across the region and early input from key stakeholders, land transport users and suppliers. 

Formal consultation on the proposal will get underway in early 2024.

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