ADVOCATE COLUMN 2nd WEEK JUNE 2014
As soon as you get it a car it seems like a great time to complain. The driver in front of you is too slow, the driver behind you too fast, the traffic light sequence is all wrong; most drivers have never used a zip so the concept of merging like one is totally foreign to them and let’s not get started on the road works. But no matter what the issues we experience on Northland roads we can always be a little bit smug and repeat the mantra “at least we are not in Auckland”.
With the suite of roading projects that NZTA and the Whangarei District Council have undertaken over the last few years to our urban road network now nearing completion the movement of vehicles around the city has been improved significantly. While roading is often far from ideal outside the urban centres of Northland one only has to travel between these centre to see that road works and the subsequent improvements they bring about are a constant element of travelling through the region. These individual projects combine to provide a more efficient regional roading network which in turn needs to combine and be integrated with the wider transportation network of the upper North Island.
This brings me back to my earlier comment and whether we really should be disparaging of Auckland’s transport woes. My feeling is whether we like it or not, just as there are benefits for people in the Far North from improvements to State Highway 1 north of Auckland, the inability of traffic to move freely around or through the metropolitan area of Auckland impacts on our region. If one of Northland’s competitive advantages is our proximity to New Zealand’s largest market and New Zealand’s main air and sea freight gateway, then anything which inhibits access to Northland businesses has an impact on our economy and productivity.
A transport network cannot be seen as a discrete unit confined within arbitrary lines on a map anymore than a natural ecosystem or catchment be contained within territorial authority’s boundaries. The issues facing Auckland’s transport system and the associated funding challenges are not isolated only to their residents. They do, and will continue to impact on their neighbouring regions. Making Auckland’s transport system work efficiently improves our access to market and our ability to do business with the rest of New Zealand and the world.