Nelson and Tasman ignored
Nelson and Tasman needs were ignored by the Government in last week’s $8 billion infrastructure package of 40 roading and hospital projects around New Zealand. There was nothing for our region.
The congestion and road safety issues in Nelson and Richmond just keep getting worse. I am being inundated with complaints about the increasing congestion on Rocks Road, Waimea Road, Richmond’s lower Queen Street intersection and around Champion Road. Journeys that used to take 5 minutes are taking 20 minutes. Frustrated motorists are taking unnecessary risks increasing the number of accidents. Rat running to avoid the snarl ups is affecting suburban neighbourhoods. The problems on Waimea Road will just get worse when the new traffic lights linking Princes Drive are added in June.
Nelson also has the most earthquake prone hospital in NZ and our seismic risk is similar to Christchurch. The law I passed in 2016 as Building Minister requires it to be upgraded this decade. It has insufficient beds for our growing and aging population nor are the facilities up to scratch for patients, doctors and nurses. It should have been included in the list of hospital upgrades.
Labour Ministers like Grant Robertson and Phil Twyford justified the lack of local projects by saying the funds had been allocated on the basis of population and growth. Nelson and Tasman make up 2% of New Zealand’s population and our share would equate to $160 million. Northland got $692 million worth of projects. Regions with less growth and population like Gisborne, Whangarei, Levin, Palmerston North and Wairarapa all got significant projects.
I commend Tasman Mayor Tim King for pointing out that population growth in our region has been 2.1% per year and the same as Auckland’s. He and other South Island Mayors are right to cry foul. The South Island makes up 22% of New Zealand’s population but is only getting 2% of the investment with minor projects in Christchurch and Queenstown.
It rubs salt in the wound that this Government has also put petrol taxes and road user charges up three times for Nelson and Tasman motorists. They are taking millions more out of the region but not investing any back. They last year cancelled $6 million of work on upgrades to SH 6 in Stoke and Atawhai providing quieter and safer road surfacing. We are paying more for less.
National has a proven record of major transport investment locally. We built QE II Drive in the 1980s and the Stoke Bypass in the 1990s (against opposition by Greens and Labour). We built the Mapua Bypass, Spooners Range and Gentle Annie upgrades in the 2010’s. We rightly made the $1.4 billion fix of SH1 the priority after the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake. I lobbied hard to get the $135 million commitment for the Southern Link from then PM Bill English and Transport Minister Simon Bridges in 2017. My greatest disappointment last election from Winston Peters’ decision to go with Labour, was the deferral of this project.
Nelsonians are rightly angry with Labour over this neglect of our region.