$295m for roading in Otago

Otago roading projects are to receive $295 million over the next three years, $51 million less in subsidies than Otago land transport authorities were seeking.

The funding was part of the $8.7 billion national land transport package announced by the New Zealand Transport Agency in Wellington yesterday.

The Otago regional transport committee had sought $346 million of government funding for its $475 million roading programme.

While big roading projects for Dunedin seem assured, work in many rural areas has been cut back.

The agency's Otago-Southland regional director Bruce Richards yesterday said some walking and cycling programmes across the country had been "severely reduced", community programmes had taken "a bit of a hammering", work on local roads had been reduced and seal extensions had "just been knocked on the head".

"A lot of local authorities could feel some pain there."

Regional committee chairman Stephen Woodhead said seal extensions on the Nuggets lighthouse road (South Otago), Conroys Rd (Alexandra), the Leith Valley Rd (Dunedin) and Gardiners Rd (Oamaru) were listed in the programme as "possible" and would, therefore, have no government funding set against them.

He considered rural councils would "take the brunt" of the cuts, despite rural roads, and the freight they carried, being "absolutely vital" to the country's economy.

"While there might be only one or two families living on them . . . a huge amount of productivity comes off them.

"They really struggle and have missed out in a programme like this."

The major projects listed as "probable" include. -Four-lane status for the Caversham Highway (State Highway 1) from Andersons Bay Rd to Barnes Dr: to improve safety and help ease peak hour traffic congestion.

Work on realigning Frederick St to State Highway 88: to improve efficiency and to avoid the new Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Extending the SH88 Dunedin to Port Chalmers cycleway.

Renewing the Brighton Rd bridge.

Realigning SH1 at Waitati to improve safety.

They, along with almost 70 other projects listed as "probable" will still need approval from the agency board.

Mr Richards said some projects were "committed", but others might "drop off" as priorities were set.

The agency board is due to consider final approval for the SH88 project today and for the Caversham project at the end of September, at the earliest.

Mr Woodhead said, until then, the projects could not be said to be "definitely" going ahead.

The State Highway 88 project would not be "sitting so importantly" in the programme and in the agency's press release "without it being almost a certainty", he said.

The Caversham project was described, until earlier this year, as a $52 million project with four lanes and a traffic overbridge at Lookout Point.

In May, the scale of the project was reduced, with changes including substituting a walking bridge for a traffic bridge.

The new cost was estimated at $33 million.

Mr Richards said the project was likely to be done in two parts and he was "pretty confident" final approval would be given for stage one of the project - the $15 million four-lane highway between Andersons Bay Rd and Barnes Dr.

He did not know how the board would react to stage two - the $18 million of improvements to the Caversham Hill section to Lookout Point.

The completion of the cycleway between Dunedin and Port Chalmers is included in the programme as a "probable", with a budget of more than $7 million and design and construction due to begin in the 2010-11 year.

Mr Richards said without the public support for the cycleway it "might not have got there".

Mr Woodhead said despite uncertainty in some areas of the programme, it was important to have confirmation of the overall amount of Government subsidy that would be allocated to Otago over the next three years.

"It gives us some certainty."

Agency chairman Brian Roche said the spending was the "largest land transport investment in New Zealand's history" and represented a 17% increase on the previous three years.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the programme would deliver both short- and long-term productivity gains.

Labour transport spokesman Darren Hughes said that "hidden away" in the detail of the programme was a plan to "freeze" spending on the maintenance of local roads in the second and third years.

Land transport network

The spending
$8.7 billion to be spent over the next three years.

A 17% increase on previous three years.

Where it is going

Auckland: $2.8 billion.

Canterbury: $636 million.

Bay of Plenty: $495 million.

West Coast: $110 million.

Otago: $346 million.

Earmarked for

Public transport: $899 million (up 21%).

State highways: $4.5 billion (up 19%).

Local roads: $1.9 billion (up 14%).

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