Media Release - Multi-pronged access to Northland - 1st August 2013

Multi-pronged approach to transport needed for Whangarei

With costly and unreliable flights, failing roading networks and the complete absence of an effective rail link, Northland faces a high possibility of being cut off from the rest of New Zealand unless something is done now to address this.

The Whangarei District and Northland as a whole has a high dependence on private vehicles for its transport due to the geographically dispersed and high rural population. As vehicle numbers increase, more pressure will be placed on our local roading network, and the main corridor north is a logistical challenge, beset by traffic delays, deteriorating surfaces and difficult conditions.

Whilst the likelihood of a motorway that runs all the way from Auckland to Whangarei is at least 20 years away, progress is already underway towards the construction of a second tolled section of motorway, running from Puhoi to north of Warkworth. The estimated cost is approximately $760 million and the project would take around 5 years to construct. The completion of other congestion easing roading upgrades in and around Whangarei will help to make the journey north smoother so long as an integrated approach is taken and projects are not piecemeal.

Improving our road infrastructure, whilst an important part of our economic development, is only part of the picture. For sustainable growth we as a council need to look at our transport needs as a whole, taking into account rail, air and sea as well as roading.

Whangarei Airport is a significant resource in providing valuable passenger transport services to and from the district. Although its operations are predicted to increase in the future, it is not the most economic option, nor is it currently very reliable. From August 12, Air New Zealand will be running larger passenger planes between Auckland and Whangarei for two flights a day.  Yes, this is a step in the right direction from our national carrier, but the cost of flights remains high compared to more popular routes of the same or greater distance in other areas.

The future of our rail link to Auckland should also be of high importance to Whangarei as it promises to bring the highest long term gain to our district than any other factor.

Linking our deepwater port at Marsden Point to Auckland by rail will make the Ruakaka area an attractive prospect for a wide range of manufacturers, producers and importers, bringing new business and revenue to the district and increasing our economy both locally and nationally.

The cruise ship market to Whangarei along with the expanding demands on our commercial sea port means other supporting services around the port would increase, in turn attracting more tourist and freight movements along with other developments.

Not only that, with a well-developed passenger rail corridor into the country’s largest city, Whangarei and other settlements en-route would become viable for commuting to Auckland. This would take significant pressure off Auckland’s straining residential market and increase local property values in areas in proximity to stations.

Investment in one area should not come at the cost of others, nor should it be left until demand exceeds capacity before improvements are made.

We can rehash the chicken vs egg debate about which comes first - the money for the development, or the development for the money – but when it comes to our transport needs for our district, a multi-pronged attack is best, and most reliable.

Northland and Whangarei has so much to offer the rest of New Zealand.  In my mind there is no better place. The potential is there, let’s tap into it.

However if we let one-track ponies run our district, we will always get what we have always got: a disjointed, hard to access, and hard to do business place that nobody else in New Zealand considers as a serious destination.

I choose to put Whangarei  First– how about you?

Choose Vince Cocurullo for Mayor of Whangarei