Photo: Florence Charvin

That’s not quite Martin Williams’ solution to Hawke’s Bay’s transport problems, but it’s not far off.

Public submissions on the draft Regional Land Transport Plan close on Sunday.

The headlines have been hogged by proposed initiatives such as widening the Hawke’s Bay Expressway to four lanes and significant remedial work to State Highway 2 and State Highway 5. All up, the draft plan for the next 10 years proposes spending $5.5 billion on rebuilding and improving the region’s roads – much of which will be spent on those State Highways.

HBRC Councillor Martin Williams

Williams, as a HB Regional Councillor and chair of the Regional Transport Committee, doesn’t doubt the merit of those projects. It’s just that he tends to look at transport in more nuanced terms and is urging potential submitters to do the same, between now and Sunday.

“This is what I would like people to think about: Are we a region that’s all about roads or do we look at the transport system as a whole?’’ Williams told BayBuzz.

“Now, I acknowledge that roads and connectivity from farm gate or orchard gate to the Port – and to the top half of the North Island – is absolutely critical to this region, which depends on the primary sector. But is there any point in building a four-lane expressway only to have it congested with cars for want of alternatives and choices, including public transport and active transport?

“We can’t ignore our transport emissions, with 20% of our total emissions as a region mostly [coming] from private cars. So, if we are going to four-lane the expressway, wouldn’t it be clever to ensure it remains free flowing for freight and business traffic and commerce and have other corridors that can provide for cycling and public transport so that everything operates efficiently.

“The real point for me – and I just wish New Zealand Inc would get its head around this – is that on a value for money, cost benefit basis, you can deliver huge wins through investment in public transport compared to the scale of investment we don’t seem to even blink at for roads.’’

Williams concedes that Hawke’s Bay is spread out and that there is a convenience to car travel.

But he also suspects that’s a consequence of our limited transport options. Take the expansion of the Hawke’s Bay Expressway, which he says has a budget of about $800 million. For a fraction of that cost “we could have buses flying around our two main urban centres every 15 or 20 minutes ad infinitum.’’

Then there’s “active transport corridors for cycling’’ which he believes would significantly reduce transport-related pollution. “We have very low rates of kids going to school by walking or biking. I think it’s the second-lowest in the country,’’ said Williams. “And look at our profile in terms of obesity and the number of people that are overweight. There’s a real opportunity here. If Hawke’s Bay as a flat, sunny region can’t get people onto e-bikes, who can?”

“If we want to show leadership as a region, if we want to ensure our roads don’t just get clogged up again, if we want to be healthy, then we need to look at the system as a whole.’’

Williams realises his opinions might not be universally shared, so he welcomes the public submissions and then the opportunity to act upon them.

Go here for consultation materials.

Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ On Air


Join the Conversation

1 Comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *