Over $4 million spent on planning improvements for a dangerous stretch of State Highway 1 may be wasted money.
Under the National Government, approval was given for a four-lane extension for the State Highway 1 Piarere turnoff – a black spot for crashes between Cambridge and Tirau.
However, when Labour unveiled its 10-year plan for land transport, it included a huge investment in road safety and rapid rail at the expense of state highway upgrades.
Under the Official Information Act, Stuff asked how much the New Zealand Transport Agency had spent on the stretch of road between Piarere and Cambridge.
NZTA stated that one property was purchased prior to October 25, 2017, for $1.6 million plus GST.
While it’s undecided what will happen to the stretch of road, it’s unlikely the land will be on-sold at this stage.
As of March 18, there had been no physical work undertaken in the area. Up until then, work had included the completion of the initial business case, drafting of the detailed business case, consultation with the community and stakeholders and preliminary design activities to support the detailed business case.
Total money spent on the business case as of March was $2.6m, which was spent on delivery on the initial business case and the detailed business case phases of the project.
Routine maintenance spending wasn’t included.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford is satisfied the investigation and preliminary work into SH 1 between Cambridge and Piarere is within the usual range of expenditure associated.
“I’m advised no final decisions have been made around this stretch of highway and that the New Zealand Transport Agency is re-evaluating the project to better align with the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport 2018.
“The NZTA board makes all operational decisions around the prioritisation and timing of roading projects at arm’s length from the Government.
“Regardless of decisions made around this project, investigation and preliminary work done here is invaluable and will be used for years to come as there are a wide range of transport projects that could be considered in the future,” Twyford said.
National Party Hamilton East MP David Bennett said it’s early stages in the project and to get it started in 2020, those kinds of [monetary] investments are needed. But if improvements are cancelled, it would be a waste of money, he said.
“But if they carry on with it, then that would be fine. But all the indications we are getting at the moment is that it is not a priority for the Government.”