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The National Party has started the new political year with gusto, yesterday launching a series of petitions aimed at saving regional highway projects.
National transport spokeswoman Judith Collins said the regional highway projects were at risk because of the Government's obsession with Auckland trams.
''Roads from Northland right through to Ashburton are being 'reviewed' while the Government attempts to divert billions of dollars to pet light rail projects.''
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Government ministers have mainly been missing in action during the Christmas-New Year period, despite having an ambitious 100-day plan of legislation.
Ms Collins has seen the opportunity to get some valuable publicity before the funeral today of former deputy prime minister Jim Anderton, which many Government MPs would be expected to attend.
The MPs involved in the roading campaign, apart from Ms Collins, are David Bennett (Hamilton East), Andrew Falloon (Rangitata), Todd Muller (Bay of Plenty), Scott Simpson (Coromandel), and Simon Bridges (Tauranga).
Ms Collins and Messrs Muller and Bridges are seen as likely challengers to National Party leader Bill English.
Ms Collins said National committed to a large number of important regional highway projects right around New Zealand as the next stage in the successful Roads of National Significance programme to build a modern highway network.
The roads would improve safety and travel times, better connect regions and boost regional economic growth.
Ms Collins said Transport Minister Phil Twyford now had several of those projects under review.
''That's not good enough. Our regional communities deserve them and the National Party is committed to fighting for them.''
To ensure the voice of each region was heard, National was launching a series of petitions so the public could show the Government how important the projects were, she said.
Each MP responsible for their road would be taking their online and physical petition to present to the Government later this year.
Late last year, Mr Twyford used a new study to claim the rail network generated $1.5billion a year of benefits to New Zealand through reduced congestion, fewer road accidents, lower road maintenance expenses, and less greenhouse emissions
He also used the report to berate National for its focus on roading.
''This study underlines the reasons for the Labour-led Government's plans to boost investment in rail - both in our cities and in the regions''.
For too long, rail had been on life-support, starved of government funding, he said.
The Labour-led Government would restore balance to transport funding, boosting investment in rail infrastructure both for passengers and freight, he said.
It would include significant investment in regional rail through the Regional Development Fund, as set out in the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement.
The establishment of a light rail network in Auckland would significantly increase the $1.3billion a year of benefits road users, including freight companies, experienced from reduced congestion, Mr Twyford said.
National’s list of affected roads
• Upgrade of Redoubt-Mill Rd from Manukau and Flat Bush to Papakura and Drury.
• Extension of Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Kaimai Range, and from Cambridge to Tirau.
• Continuous four-lane extension of Northern Motorway from Warkworth to Whangarei.
• East-west link road between Onehunga-Penrose industrial area and State Highways 1 and 20.
• Tauranga to Katikati Rd as continuous four-late state highway.
• Four-laning of Napier to Hastings Expressway.
• Otaki to north of Levin expressway.
• Christchurch Northern Motorway between Belfast and Pegasus.
• Four-lane SH1 link between Christchurch and Ashburton.