28 August, 2010

The "holiday highway" debate

There does seem to be overall support for the so called holiday highway to the North - the road which will run from the Johnston's Hill tunnels bypassing Warkworth and Wellsford and ending at Te Hana, just on the edge of Rodney.

There are the opponents of course, those citing the importance of public transport and those who are concerned at yet further destruction of the habitat - perfectly reasonable arguments that need to be considered.

However the growth of the population overall, especially in Auckland does make the north a key holiday destination. In addition to that today's very large trucks are a nightmare for all of us and the statistics on the piece of SH1 to be bypassed clearly favour a new alternative. On a trip back from Warkworth recently, late on a rainy night, the relief at entering the motorway through the tunnels was immense as the safety of travelling on such a wonderful road was clearly felt.

What of the towns bypassed. Well Puhoi has already made its feelings felt after NZTA they put up a plan to see how it would fly. I think they now know that leaving Puhoi out was a lead bellied idea and they would be fools not to heed the local reaction.

Warkworth seems unfazed. They have had such a nightmare with the current upgrade of the part of SH1 which (fortunately) already bypasses the town centre that anything to take the traffic further away will be welcomed. Anyway, they will have good access to the motorway so that the Mahurangi playground will be easily accessible and the tourist opportunities will be even greater with Auckland so close.

Wellsford is the town that will greet the motorway with relief and perhaps some despair. The town will simply be bypassed. The huge trucks and constant stream of cars through its narrow main street will be gone - the relief. However those that did stop shopped at the cafes and the petrol station. Will this be a serious loss? Who knows?

However as one of the candidates for the Rodney Local Board explained to me the other day, Wellsford has the time to work this out. They have time to do the surveys, do the assessments and develop a strategic plan for the town. They can start with the simple question - "What will Wellsford be like in five years" and work from there.

Of greater importance to Wellsford is undoubtedly employment. The loss of Izard's manufacturing plant meant 300 people were put out of work. The surrounding area is good farming country but farming is not a greeat employer these days. What the Rodney Local Board needs to do is to work hard on planning for emplyment. They need to be convincing the new Auckland Council and the Government that the right investment in Wellsford will be good for all of us.

The workers of Wellsford can turn their hand to any decent manufacturing operation. With the right incentives and a motorway capable of delivering goods to Auckland within an hour or so will mean a great future for Wellsford.

There would seem to be many good reasons to get this road built.

No comments: