An uptick already?

In Newsletter Editorial4 MinutesBy Gavin MyersJune 14, 2024

I suppose it all amounts to one of those stark reminders of how quickly time moves… We’re mid-way through June 2024, it’s been about three months since we were at the TMS conference in Christchurch, and almost eight months since the elections. It all feels like yesterday.

That sudden realisation was sparked last week when I headed out from Tauranga to Hamilton to find crews from Downer had kicked off the SH29 enabling works for the upcoming SH29 Tauriko West development, which is part of the Roads of National Significance (RoNS) project. Apparently, they started on site in mid-March, which I’d clearly not noticed until the amount of vegetation cleared away in the past few weeks became blatantly obvious.

This work will net a new roundabout to link SH29 with Tauriko West via Redwood Lane and with Tauriko Business Estate via Kaweroa Drive. While the full upgrade from this point up to a new intersection with Cambridge Road (about time!) will only be complete in 2027, this roundabout should at least be the first step in easing the journey for trucks heading to and from the business estate. An entirely new section of SH29 that bypasses Tauriko village and expedites the journey to the Mount is proposed too – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

While the final Government Policy Statement on Land Transport will only be published in July with the 2024-2027 National Land Transport Plan to follow in September, the activity at Tauriko inspired me to trawl the projects page on the NZTA’s website to see if there are any updates on the other identified RoNS projects. There’s not all that much info available unfortunately.

Ōtaki to north of Levin and Cambridge to Piarere seem to be plodding along. Warkworth to Wellsford, the Whangārei to Port Marsden Highway and Petone to Granada proclaim they’ll be updated with the release of the NLTP, and there’s little else on any of the other proposals. Fair enough, I suppose – there will surely be more to report in the coming months.

And I’m reminded of NZTA regional manager, maintenance and operations, Peter Brown, who hinted at a real increase in construction and maintenance activity at the TMS Conference all those months ago. I get the feeling from all this that the uptick will turn into an escalation once policies and plans are published and adopted.

This week, Chinese Premier Li Qiang visited Wellington to meet with Prime Minister Chris Luxon. It appears Li offered to “actively participate in transport, investment and infrastructure development in New Zealand”. Looking at China’s participation in such development with other countries, that’s an offer I’d be less than enthusiastic about despite its undeniable construction ability. Happily, it seems Luxon is wise to China’s charms.

And really, I don’t doubt the local ability to pull it off. I also watched a flyover video of progress on the Manawatū Tararua Highway, which is slated for completion mid-2025. When one considers this and the likes of Transmission Gully and Puhoi to Warkworth, it’s clear that the ability to construct good highways is within the ability of local agencies and contractors – so long as they are funded accordingly and left to get on with the job without the governmental interference of recent years.

Hopefully, before we know it, there will be some big ticks over the list of RoNS projects.

Take care out there,

Gavin Myers