Prime Minister Chris Hipkins Meeting with the Tai Timu Tai Pari Collective team. Photo / Tania Whyte
Northland is absolutely not forgotten when it comes to the Government’s commitment to the region’s roading network, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says.
He said it was his priority to make sure roads were rebuilt in a more resilient way during his visit to Northland post-Cyclone Gabrielle.
“I think the fact that I’m here within, you know, within the first two weeks after this event is a sign that Northland is absolutely not forgotten,” Hipkins said on his visit to Whangārei and Kaipara yesterday.
“We spend a lot of money as a country in recent times rebuilding roads that then get disrupted again, and you can never guarantee any one road is always going to withstand any event.”
His comments come as Brynderwyns heads into its third week of closure after several huge Cyclone Gabrielle slips.
Further north, the closure of SH1 over the Mangamukas near Kaitāia is now in its seventh month as the result of the August rains.
The Prime Minister said we needed to rethink the one-road-in one-road-out concept that we have in many regions at the moment.
“What we have to do is make sure that we have a resilient roading network.”
Hipkins said this network needed to include alternatives to road transport, such as the strengthening of Northland’s railways and roads.
“Marsden Point is huge. It’s strategically important for the country as a whole.”
Hipkins would not rule out or commit to a four-lane highway from Northland to Auckland that has been repeatedly pitched by the Opposition.
“We are talking years. If we are wanting to build a new highway, that’s years,” Hipkins said.
The rebuild across the country will “have to include work between the central government and local government” the PM said.
Whangārei mayor Vince Cocurullo said Brynderwyn’s closure was putting pressure on the diversions along local ratepayer-funded district roads now being used by thousands of vehicles each week.
Cocurullo said the Government should stump up the $118.8 million needed to repair these alternate routes and get them up to scratch so they offered future sustainability for the under-pressure Cove Rd and Oakleigh-Paparoa Rds.
He said Cove Rd’s 37km would cost $47m to bring up to speed, Oakleigh-Paparoa Rd’s 40km $52.6m and Waipū Gorge Rd’s 12.5km $18.8m [which is currently closed due to cyclone slips].
Kaipara mayor Craig Jepson said diverting people along Cove Rd was sending extra traffic into Mangawhai Village and Mangawhai Heads.
Both mayors met the Prime Minister on his Northland visit.
Jepson said Northland was trapped in the mantra of the holiday highway for much of its network.
”It’s not a holiday highway, it’s a vital link to feed us and fuel us,” he said.
“The whole of the North is very vulnerable. We don’t want politics, we want action,” Jepson said.
Northland’s SH1 needed to be sorted, even if it came to tolls being part of getting that done, on a new route. Far North deputy mayor Kelly Stratford said roads were still the biggest issue in her district in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.
She said roading had been challenged. Other infrastructure was majorly impacted. There were still places in the Far North without electricity, a dozen days down the track from losing power as the cyclone hit. Northland Regional Council chair Tui Shortland said Cyclone Gabrielle had exposed deep vulnerabilities in the North.
The most impacted were those who were also most vulnerable .Shortland said were issues across multiple areas including for businesses, roading and marae and the impacts of multiple slips around the region.
All resilience options needed to be considered. The Prime Minister said recovery would have difference phases. New Zealand was just coming out of the emergency response phase getting power on, cellphone towers up and roads opening.
The big conversations would be happening next, over the next few years and longer .Newly-appointed Northland extreme weather recovery committee lead and Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis said he would be having a Cyclone Gabrielle cloud-based video conferencing meeting with Northland local government, business leaders, iwi and others in the next couple of days.
His focus would be Northlanders at the end of the road in places like Pouto, Mitimiti, Te Hapua and Rawhiti. Davis said it made sense that if these communities had electricity, supplies, water and other necessities, everyone in betwee n would also be resilient.
Davis told Northland leaders calling for the region’s infrastructure to be sorted that there were serious conversations to be had. ”It’s matter of how courageous you want to be,” Davis said it was not just a matter of looking to the Government for everything. Council rates were something to consider too when it came to funding.
Truck and trailer units were officially banned from the route by Northland Civil Defence Emergency Group Controller Graeme MacDonald on Monday after a truck and trailer were stuck on a bend in the road for several hours.
Northland District Commander Superintendent Tony Hill said police were increasing their presence along a vital detour link into Northland, supporting restrictions put in place for the public’s safety in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.
“There have been some instances in recent weeks where heavy vehicles have driven on Cove Rd and this has created blockages, delays and safety risks for other road users,” Hill said.
Heavy vehicles will be directed to turn around and use the correct detour in place on State Highways 12 and 14 via Dargaville.
“Drivers of heavy vehicles found to be ignoring the direction put in place as part of the state of emergency are liable to face infringements, as outlined under the act,” Hill said.
Police confirmed that the truck driver who got stuck on Cove Rd on Wednesday was spoken to by police and no enforcement action was taken.
“Checkpoints are being set up at northern and southern points to stop heavy vehicles from using the route, which is creating disruptions and safety risks,” Hill said.
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.