Aerial view of one of the slips that originally blocked SH1 over the Brynderwyns in February. Photo / Waka Kotahi
Most people by now will understand that I have a passion for infrastructure. I want to see good, practical, cost-effective, fit-for-purpose solutions for Northland, and I believe that good infrastructure connects us to the rest of New Zealand and the world.
This year alone, State Highway 1 has been closed for 83 days, and our only rail line to Auckland may not be open for another year due to storm damage. Today it is common for Northlanders to feel cut off due to this lack of investment and foresight in our essential infrastructure.
I often get calls, emails and messages relating to infrastructure issues around Whangārei, ranging from potholes and slip repairs to blocked drains and inaccessible roads. These issues can mostly be traced back to the amount of rain we’ve had (850mm of rain was registered at the Onerahi Airport for January and February alone this year) and the continued underfunding of work.
While we all agree that the weather is something that I cannot control (no matter how much I would love to), the rising costs of construction work are also out of council’s control.
It is estimated that since 2020, construction costs have increased about 20 per cent, and you can blame it on inflation, the cost of materials or a rise in wages, yet it remains that the cost of construction has increased.
At this year’s Annual Plan process, Whangārei District Council dedicated the first 2.5 per cent of this year’s general rates increase to try tocover some of these costs within the roading area. It is not going to be enough. We desperately need the Central Government to step in and help Northland.
When it comes to the four-lane highway between Whangārei and Auckland, all political parties are aware of Northland’s desire to have this as a priority, some even acknowledge that it will help Northland economically and socially if it was completed. We need to continue lobbying the Central Government for the funds to have this project started and completed sooner rather than later.
Our region is growing at a rate of around 2.5 per cent each year and is classified as one of the fastest-growing regions in New Zealand. We have the largest natural deep-water seaport in New Zealand, based here in Marsden Point.
Within 10 years, we expect to receive more than 100,000 containers into this seaport, and Northland has many companies supplying essential produce and materials to Auckland. It is painfully obvious that our capacity for economic growth is severely limited by our substandard transport connections.
It is my job, as mayor of Whangārei, to put the needs of our district front and centre. When I speak to Ministers of Parliament, I hear your voices telling me you want better roads and better connections.
So, while I might sound like a broken record when it comes to roading, it’s something that I think is important enough to continue pushing at every opportunity – until we get the support we need.