ADVOCATE COLUMN 4th WEEK MARCH 2017
Earlier this month government announced further investment in State Highway 1 south of Whangarei. Obviously most Northlanders, particularly those based in Whangarei have welcomed the prospect of improved road links between us and the rest of New Zealand. At the same time commentators from outside the region have suggested that while popular within Northland this investment may be of limited benefit when compared with investing in other geographic locations.
Northlanders travel this road daily for all sorts of reasons. It is used to move goods in and out of the region, for business people in the course of their work and to provide access to health and education services that may not be readily available in Northland and of course by visitors who make a significant annual contribution to our region’s economy. This is a strategically important asset. Moreover, road users deserve a secure and safe land transport route linking their regions. This road is vital to the economic and social well-being of our region.
Direct time savings of this investment may not be large, travel time saved between Whangarei and Auckland may only be a handful of minutes on an average trip and it may not address the larger issues of a truly integrated national transport network capable of moving people and things throughout New Zealand and beyond or deal with what is the most appropriate mechanism for funding such a network, or the role of coastal shipping and rail should play in any such network if any. All of which are really important questions that need to be answered for our long term sustainability as a region and nation.
It does however provide a more positive outlook to the serious issue of travellers arriving at their destination safely. Education and enforcement may overtime modify driver behaviour and lead to a reduction in the road toll. Improved roads and more passing opportunities are likely to have a more direct impact by making our roads safer to drive on and reducing the frustration and impatience that so often accompanies the journey.
Along with the potential for improved safety and the heartache these incidents cause our communities comes a more resilient and reliable road link. Less road closures and route diversions can provide certainty as to just how long the trip south or north is likely to take. All of which makes Northland a region that is more attractive to do business with and one that has better access to health and education resources than may be the case at present.